Hakuho trusted his attacking instincts in a lightning victory over Yutakayama as he improved to a perfect 6-0 Friday at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.
But the sailing was less smooth for fellow Mongolian-born grand champion Kakuryu, who dropped to 4-2 after losing to No. 2 maegashira Tokushoryu (1-5), the surprise winner of the January tournament.
(Hakuho beats Yutakayama.)
Hakuho, looking for a record-extending 44th grand tournament championship, easily overpowered No. 3 Yutakayama in the penultimate bout of Day 6 at Edion Arena Osaka, where the tournament is unfolding without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 35-year-old yokozuna, who had looked less than his best despite remaining unbeaten here, claimed a quickfire victory to go 3-0 in his career against Yutakayama (2-4). After delivering a powerful left-hand slap, Hakuho took a double inside grip and drove the maegashira straight out.
"I finally got to the point where I attacked instinctively, so that was cool," Hakuho said of a bout that didn't take 2 seconds. "It felt like I just pressed the attack at exactly the right moment."
The grand champion will start Saturday in a three-way tie for the lead with rank-and-file grapplers Mitakeumi and Aoiyama.
(Kakuryu loses to Tokushoryu.)
In the last bout of the day, Kakuryu took a belt grip with both arms, but Tokushoryu used his 188-kilogram frame to twist his way out of the hold and bounce the yokozuna over the edge.
Tokushoryu -- who stunned the sumo world by winning the New Year meet from the lowest rank of No. 17 maegashira -- earned his first career "kimboshi" for beating a yokozuna as a rank-and-file wrestler.
The 33-year-old journeyman, whose January title propelled him upward 15 places in the rankings, said he had been determined to rack up a victory following a run of losses against tough opponents here.
"I've lost to several top-ranked wrestlers here, so I was adamant about winning today," said Tokushoryu, adding that his title-winning run was a distant memory.
"The previous tournament is in the past. This tournament is a separate matter."
No. 3 Mitakeumi, who aims to return to the three "sanyaku" ranks below yokozuna, handed sekiwake Asanoyama his first loss of the tournament.
In one of the day's most entertaining bouts, two-time Emperor's Cup winner Mitakeumi took a double inside grip from the jump and withstood multiple throw attempts on the way to a force out victory.
After the pair locked up, Asanoyama dragged the maegashira around the ring and looked primed for an arm throw, but Mitakeumi stayed tight and drove the promotion-seeking sekiwake out.
The 27-year-old Mitakeumi -- who not so long ago was an ozeki aspirant himself -- will face Hakuho on Day 7.
Following consecutive losses, sole ozeki Takakeisho got back on the winning track with an easy thrust out win against wildly popular No. 4 Enho (2-4).
Takakeisho (3-3) used his superior bulk to keep the diminutive maegashira at arm's length, denying him the opportunity to go inside before pushing him out.
Sekiwake Shodai (3-3) suffered his second straight loss, dropping to 3-4 in his career against No. 1 Daieisho. Former komusubi Daieisho (3-3) put on an impressive display of thrusting sumo, maintaining the momentum from the outset for a frontal push out.
Endo improved to 4-2, beating fellow komusubi Hokutofuji (2-4).
The Ishikawa Prefecture native got inside Hokutofuji's defense from the initial charge and used his stronger position to push his opponent out.
No. 13 Aoiyama stayed perfect at 6-0 by slapping down No. 17 Meisei (2-4). The big Bulgarian is on track for his first winning record since last July.