Kakuryu set up a final-day showdown against yokozuna Hakuho for the biggest prize of his career after a walloping of fallen ozeki Kisenosato on the 14th day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.
But Kakuryu, who controlled the bout from start to finish before swatting down Kisenosato to improve to 13-1, must now beat the undefeated yokozuna twice for all the marbles; once in regulation, and again in a playoff.
Hakuho (14-0), who is seeking his 28th career title, once again proved invincible as he gave ozeki Kotoshogiku a master clinic in the art of technical prowess.
After a short standstill, the yokozuna deployed a rarely seen uchimuso in which he used his left hand to sweep Kotoshogiku’s (8-6) knee, while twisting his opponent to the dohyo surface.
Kakuryu will have his work cut out against Hakuho, who has a 30-2 edge in career bouts against the ozeki.
Kisenosato, who was tasked with winning the tournament with at least 13 wins for a shot at promotion to yokozuna, was dumped to his third straight defeat and must win his match against Kotoshogiku on Sunday to finish with a winning record.
But another win will likely be a tough order for the struggling ozeki, who is suffering from an injury to his right big toe.
No. 10 maegashira Endo put another notch in his mawashi with a vicious expulsion of Satoyama (7-7) for his 11th win, adding to his ever-growing popularity in his third run in the elite division.
Sekiwake Goeido (7-7) put himself on the bubble for his kachi-koshi with his second straight win, grinding out Kyokutenho (6-8) in a textbook frontal force out
A day after seeing his bid for a return to ozeki go up in smoke, Kotooshu bounced back to twist down Tamawashi (8-6) with an overarm throw to get his eighth win. The Bulgarian sekiwake entered the tournament needing 10 wins to regain his rank after he was demoted following the Kyushu Basho in November.
In another early bout, Egyptian-born Osunaarashi and Kitataiki incurred the ire of the gyoji and ringside judges after committing three false starts.
Osunaarashi, who is appearing for the second time in the top class, sent Kitataiki (7-7) packing with an okuridashi rear shove out for his ninth win once the bout finally got off the ground.
Yoshikaze saw his winning streak snapped at seven bouts when he was knocked over the edge by tsukiotoshi from Tochiozan, leaving both men at 10-4.