- Fantasy Basho
Kyushu 2021 Day Thirteen
Katasukashi. The under-shoulder swing down is a favorite of Ura's, but he did an extreme slow motion one on Day Thirteen that still worked on the much bigger Ichinojo.
Match of the Day
Maegashira 15 West Abi vs. Ozeki West Takakeisho
This was always guaranteed to be a shoving match, and the question was which kind of oshi-zumo would dominate. Abi's long arms meant he could keep up the pressure with his two hands to the throat style, never allowing Takakeisho's big tsuppari to the torso. Abi just kept the momentum going until Takakeisho went out the dohyo.
Abi defeating Takakeisho is the big story of the day. Abi is not just still in the yusho race, but maybe controls his own destiny more than anyone else. He gets Terunofuji on Day Fourteen, no easy task, but is he can beat the Yokozuna he will have an easier opponent on Day Fifteen. Meanwhile, Terunofuji will see Takakeisho on the final day. Abi didn't just topple an Ozeki, but gave himself a decent shot at a yusho.
That is easier said than done. Abi and Terunofuji have never squared off. Abi's debut basho in January 2018 was the one where Terunofuji began falling down the Banzuke because of injury. Terunofuji's return basho was the one where Abi got suspended midway through. It's a classic clash of styles. Abi is as anti-belt as they come, while Terunofuji's main goal is to grab hold of the mawashi. Terunofuji is big and strong enough to withstand Abi's long arms pushing him away.
Meanwhile, Takakeisho absolutely needs Abi to win for his yusho hopes to remain alive. He also, of course, needs to win himself. He finishes with an Ozeki-Yokozuna closing kick. The Ozeki battle with Shodai favors Takakeisho over their careers by a 9-5 margin, but Shodai has won the last two. Then all he needs is to topple Terunofuji, which would trigger a playoff if Abi also loses on the final day. Takakeisho isn't done, but he needs to pull an inside straight.
This is also, by far, Abi's best performance in Makuuchi. His previous career high in wins in the top division was 10. He is the same Abi in most ways, a long pusher-thruster whose plan A is always to go for the opponent's neck and throat with both hands. If he gets in trouble, he can dance around the tawara better than most, but that's desperation. The main difference is that his plan A has gone from really good to devastating during his comeback. If he ever had a real weakness, more than a mawashi fight, it was focus and up-and-down intensity. So far, Abi has kept his focus.
It still remains to be seen if it works against Terunofuji. The Yokozuna has essentially secured at least a jun-yusho. That makes it 7 straight basho with a yusho or jun-yusho, and 8 of 9 since he returned to Makuuchi in July 2020. Sumo is still Terunofuji's world, and everyone else is fighting behind him. A playoff is possible, and would add excitement. But if we do get extra sumo on the final day, we can already say one riksihi is guaranteed to be there.