Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho and ozeki Kisenosato both powered to their 13th wins on Friday to set up a mouth-watering showdown at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.
Unbeaten at 13-0, Hakuho and Kisenosato are the only two wrestlers in title contention and they go toe-to-toe Saturday in a match that will go a long way to deciding the championship.
Hakuho is 30-8 in the head-to-heads against Kisenosato, but the ozeki has been something of a bogeyman for Hakuho in recent years.
Kisenosato famously ended Hakuho’s record-chasing winning streak at 63 bouts at the 2010 Kyushu Basho.
Hakuho wrapped up the day’s action at Ryogoku Kokugikan in style, getting into his favored migi-yotsu position and tossing down ozeki Kotoshogiku (9-4) with a pulling underarm throw.
Kisenosato soaked up a charge from Kakuryu (10-3) and launched a blistering offensive that his Mongolian opponent could not cope with, claiming ozeki bragging rights with power-packed “yorikiri” win.
Harumafuji (10-3) quickly rebounded from Thursday’s loss to Kisenosato with an easy win over relegation-haunted ozeki Kotooshu.
Harumafuji wasted no time in getting himself into an advantageous position and his cause was helped when Kotooshu (7-6) appeared to lose his footing and crumple in a heap at the edge of the ring.
Kotooshu, who came into the 15-day meet with his rank on the line after pulling out of the spring meet through injury, still needs one more win to stay at ozeki.
In the lower ranks, 11th-ranked Gagamaru, who hails from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, moved into double digits at 10-3 after shoving out sixth-ranked Yoshikaze (6-7).
Bulgarian Aoiyama, who won his first five bouts to share the early lead, suffered a losing record after his eighth defeat in a row at the hands of Kitataiki (2-11).