Asashoryu produced a classy win over Kotooshu and zeroed in on his 25th Emperor’s Cup on Friday after fellow yokozuna Hakuho was sentenced to a shock second defeat in a row at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Asashoryu pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the day’s penultimate bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan, the Mongolian magician breaking free from a mid-ring stalemate and deploying a rare “kainahineri” two-handed arm twist down technique to send the Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu crashing to the clay surface.
Asashoryu is two wins clear of Hakuho at 12-1 and he can now secure the title on Saturday by beating countryman Harumafuji. Kotooshu dropped to 8-5.
Hakuho entered the meet as the favorite but the Mongolian yokozuna returned to the locker room nursing a crushing third defeat after losing the plot in the final bout against record-breaking ozeki Kaio.
Kaio, who set the record for the most wins in sumo’s top makuuchi division earlier in the tournament, outfoxed Hakuho (10-3) at the tachiai and took control to barge out the yokozuna for a seventh win.
In other bouts of note, sekiwake Baruto (10-3) moved into double digits by bulldozing out sixth-ranked Aminishiki (9-4) at the second time of asking.
The Estonian giant ought to have been awarded victory in the first bout after TV replays showed Aminishiki’s hand touch the dirt first as both went tumbling out of the ring, but ringside judges felt it was too close to call and ordered a rematch.
Baruto was in the thick of the title race until he suffered consecutive losses to Toyonoshima and Asashoryu.