Asashoryu dismantled Estonian giant Baruto on Thursday to remain in total control with three days of action left at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Baruto (7-5) made a bright start in the day’s finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan and quickly clamped onto the back of Asashoryu’s belt, but the Mongolian yokozuna hit back and bundled the sekiwake out of the ring with minimal fuss to stay one win ahead of idle yokozuna Hakuko on 12-0.
Asashoryu has already silenced his critics on his return from an elbow injury that forced him out of part or all of the last three tournaments and is looking to have the final word by claiming his 23rd Emperor’s Cup here.
Countryman Hakuho, winner of the last three tournaments, kept up the chase as he was gifted a default 11th win by ozeki Kotomitsuki, who withdrew from the 15-day basho earlier in the day because of a right ankle injury.
Kotomitsuki was suffering from the injury prior to the meet and dropped to a 2-9 record when he lost to Harumafuji on Wednesday.
Kotomitsuki will be demoted from sumo’s second-highest rank if he posts a losing record at the spring meet in March.
In other bouts, Kaio flexed his muscles and made short work of Takekaze (5-7), flipping the third-ranked maegashira over to complete yet another great escape.
Kaio came into the tournament with his rank on the line for a record 12th time but his eighth win means he will retain his ozeki status for the spring basho.
Bulgarian Kotooshu claimed European bragging rights to force out Georgian grappler Kokkai (4-8) and clinch a ninth win, while resurgent Harumafuji spun ozeki Chiyotaikai (7-5) around and ran him out from behind to level his mark at 6-6.
Harumafuji lost five of his first six bouts but now looks a good bet to secure a winning record on his ozeki debut.