FUKUOKA – Asashoryu sent big man Baruto crashing down to move a step closer in his quest for back-to-back titles at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.
Fellow Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho also came blazing out of the blocks against sputtering ozeki Chiyotaikai to make it 9-0 to retain his share of the lead with Asashoryu as the 15-day meet enters the final stretch at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu and rank-and-filer Yoshikaze are one off the pace at 8-1.
Asashoryu, who is seeking Emperor’s Cup No. 25, waited for Baruto (5-4) to make the first move as the pair locked grasps in the day’s final bout.
Baruto tried to use his long arms to his advantage, reaching around for a belt grab only to have Asashoryu topple him onto his back with a hooking inner thigh throw.
Asashoryu beat Hakuho in a playoff at the autumn meet in September and chances of another mouthwatering showdown here between the yokozuna pair never looked better.
Hakuho, meanwhile, showed Chiyotaikai no mercy as he wrapped up the ozeki with a textbook frontal force-out to pick up his 80th win of the year.
Chiyotaikai, who is facing demotion for a record 14th time, fell to his seventh consecutive defeat and will ensure his relegation to sumo’s third rank of sekiwake with one more loss in the final six days of the basho.
Kotooshu never gave Kisenosato (3-6) a chance, getting his left hand inside for a firm belt grip before muscling the komusubi over the straw bales in a matter of seconds.
Ozeki Harumafuji (4-5) got his left hand on the belt of Bushuyama (3-6) before dumping the third-ranked wrestler with an underarm throw to pick up his first win in three days.