Concern For Harumafuji
Day 2 saw things improve slightly for the top two ranks, but in the Ozeki there is a lack of dominance. For Terunofuji, it would seem quite clearly that his knee problems are quite significant, and keeping him from really producing much power. The amount of bracing and bandaging Terunofuji wore on day 2 was substantial, and his inability to counter anything Tamawashi was using identifies the problem squarely. In the past I have jokingly referred to Terunofuji as Kaiju – a tangential reference to Godzilla and other giant creatures of the cinema. When he is healthy and fit, Terunofuji is somewhat unstoppable by any normal means (much like Godzilla).
Goeido on the other hand seems to be healthy, but is making tactical mistakes in his split-second decisions on the dohyo. Today he seemed to want to get into a speed battle with Yoshikaze. That’s a bit like Wile E Coyote racing the Road Runner – it won’t end well. As of day 2, both established Ozeki have two losses and zero wins.
I would add to that score an unexpected name – Yokozuna Harumafuji. Normally Nagoya is the place where he shines, but for two days in a row he has suffered defeat. Today Shodai was somehow able to package him up and move him off the dohyo. For Harumafuji (“The Horse”) this is clearly a further manifestation of his many injuries that continue to degrade his performance.
Nishikigi defeats Gagamaru – After one basho in Juryo, Nishikigi seems well motivated, and overcame the greater mass of Planet Gagamaru, who seems to be injured or in pain.
Arawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni is looking very sloppy now. He drove hard into Arawashi, who countered brilliantly and used Chiyonokuni strength to speed his exit. Sometimes an up and coming rikishi makes it to the top of Maegashira for a basho, and get pounded flat. It then takes several tournaments for them to re-assert their sumo with any confidence or poise. I wonder if that is what has happened to Chiyonokuni.
Shohozan defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi suffers from a chronic and somewhat untreatable (while he is active) injury, but he put up a solid effort against Shohozan. I am going to guess that Okinoumi will retire before long as he has few options now.
Daieisho defeats Ishiura – No Ishiura henka means that Daieisho got to really toss Ishiura around. Daieisho was very impressive in this bout.
Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Not a powerful win from Onosho, he probably sensed that Tochiozan had a yorikiri almost ready to deliver. But Onosho showed amazing presence by timing a side step at the apex of Tochiozan’s forward thrust. A win by Hikiotoshi in this case was more impressive than a strong oshidashi.
Ura defeats Chiyoshoma – I think most were expecting Ura to dial the Jackie Chan module up to 11 in his debut in the upper Makuuchi. Instead what we are getting are quite excellent execution of solid sumo fundamentals. Ura remains low, powerful and moving forward. Sadly it looks like Ura took a finger to the eye in his win over Chiyoshoma.
Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Highlighted as a possible match of the day, this one did not disappoint. Both are amazingly strong young men, focused on advancing. This bout was all Mitakeumi, who got his hands under Hokutofuji’s armpits and marched him backwards. Impressive victory.
Tamawashi defeats Terunofuji – Tamawashi again is making the case that he has a lot of sumo left to apply, and today he was out to demonstrate that against a seemingly injured Terunofuji. Terunofuji was stiff and reactive, he was not able to bring his trademark hideous strength to play in this match, and Tamawashi tossed him around like a beach ball on a string.
Takayasu defeats Ikioi – The shin-Ozeki came roaring back in a really sloppy match that still counts as a win. Out of 6 Ozeki matches thus far, this is the only win. My pre-basho projection of Ikioi having a strong tournament is clearly wrong, as he looks unfocused and ill prepared for battle.
Yoshikaze defeats Goeido – I saw something really special again today from Yoshikaze. He deployed it on day one against Harumafuji as well, and he does not frequently use it: patience. It did not take long for Goeido to make a mistake, but Yoshikaze waited for it, and then exploited it for a win. Goeido really looks ragged right now.
Hakuho defeats Tochinoshin – It’s clear the Boss is having fun on the dohyo. He gave Tochinoshin a few moments to trade “strong man” moves back and forth. And at least once he was almost able to lift to Yokozuna off the clay. If Tochinoshin’s right leg were healthy, it would have been a different story, but Hakuho backed Tochinoshin to the bales and hip-rammed him out.
Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – I thought this bout was magic. We knew that Ojisan Kotoshogiku is pretty much just making a farewell tour now, but Kakuryu did in fact let him set up for a hip-pump attack, and then dropped him hard on the first thrust. This is one of the things that makes Kakuryu a worthy Yokozuna when he’s healthy. He can use almost any rikishi’s attack to his advantage.
Kisenosato defeats Takakeisho – Glad that the Great Pumpkin was able to get a win against the hard-charging Takakeisho, but Kisenosato struggled to pull it off. The Yokozuna is still clearly protecting his left side, and it’s only a matter of time before the problems grow to the point he will consider going kyujo again.
Shodai defeats Harumafuji – This one was over the a blink of an eye. Harumafuji won the tachiai, but was off balance quickly. Shodai showed why he remains the upper ranks by immediately exploiting that opening for a solid kinboshi win.