January 2017, Day 14, Hakuho v Takanoiwa

Hakuho needs to win today to have a chance at the championship tomorrow. Kisenosato’s victory earlier in the day means that Takanoiwa, at three losses, is mathematically out of contention. But he’s been on fire this tournament, and would love to play spoiler. He holds his ground at the tachiai and gets an early right-handed underarm grip on the Yokozuna’s belt. With his left arm he clamps down on the Yokozuna’s right, making it hard for Hakuho to utilize his belt grip on that side. Takanoiwa charges forward, using the left arm clamp to lift Hakuho’s torso and push him back to the edge of the ring. Hakuho is badly out of position and Takanoiwa turns on the jets, staying low and ferociously pushing against the Yokozuna. He grabs a left-handed overarm grip just in time, as Hakuho rotates and tries to push down Takanoiwa with a left hand to the ribs. But Takanoiwa holds his ground and uses the left-hand grip to hang on, locking on to Hakuho’s midsection and forcing the Yokozuna out of the ring. It’s Takanoiwa’s first kinboshi (gold star victory over a Yokozuna from the Maegashira ranks), and Hakuho’s third loss means that Kisenosato has won his first-ever top-division championship. Tomorrow’s head-to-head bout between Hakuho and Kisenosato will be ferocious even without the title on the line. Kisenosato wants to put a stamp on his performance with a victory over Hakuho, and Hakuho wants to remind Kisenosato that even without a championship, he’s still the one in charge.

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