Many fans were eager to see the Hakuho-Ichinojo match from day 10. I can tell you now that it was, in fact, a fantastic bout that saw each man give everything they could to win. The look on Hakuho’s face at the end speaks volumes. For people at the top of their profession, be it sports, technology, art or medicine, there is a sad fact that many tasks that some might marvel at can become rote and boring. Many top performers yearn for a proper challenge, a way for them to grow and excel. When a situation brings you an enormous challenge, skillfully overcome, it is quite rewarding. I think we saw a glimpse of that on Hakuho’s face today.
Aminishiki defeats Aoiyama – Uncle Sumo wins one by not pulling and against the massive (but injured) Aoiyama. Clearly, the big Bulgarian is having traction problems due to the injury to his right ankle in his bout against Okinoumi.
Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – Nishikigi teeters on the edge of demotion with a make-koshi, and rallies to force out Kaisei. Kaisei is no light fellow, but Nishikigi is clearly motivated in this match.
Okinoumi defeats Daishomaru – The chronically injured Okinoumi picks up his kachi-koshi on day 10, with a convincing win against Daishomaru. Should his performance in Kyushu signal that Okinoumi has overcome his chronic injuries, he makes a very convincing upper Maegashira.
Shodai defeats Ikioi – This match is tough to watch, because everyone wants Shodai to do better, and knows that Ikioi has a bad back. The match is very sloppy, as you might expect with these two, with Ikioi mounting a haphazard and uncoordinated pushing attack, which is countered at the tawara by Shodai.
Chiyoshoma defeats Daieisho – After yesterday’s slap to Hokutofuji, Chiyoshoma has seen his popularity plummet with the crowd in Kokusai Center. Today’s match against Daieisho started with thrusting, but both men went chest to chest early and struggled for grip. Daieisho touted a solid defense and had a strong left hand inside grip. Several times Chiyoshoma rallied, but Daieisho strongly countered. The win came when Chiyoshoma was able to lift Daieisho over the tawara, and the crowd reaction told the story of what they think of this fellow. Hey, Chiyoshoma – don’t feed the “Mongolians are jerks” meme in Japan, please. It’s bad for sumo.
Tochinoshin defeats Takekaze – Takekaze tried a hit and shift at the tachiai, but veteran Tochinoshin was expecting the move, and countered strongly, using his massive strength to slap away Takekaze’s “emergency thrusters”. Tochinoshin continued to swat Takekaze to the edge and then picked him up and shoved Takakaze over the tawara. Takakaze one loss from make-koshi and a likely demotion to Juryo.
Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Takarafuji seems to have been emboldened by his win over Kisenosato. His bout with Chiyomaru was a solid oshi match, and while Chiyomaru was landing the majority of blows, including a lot of nodowa, Takarafuji kept moving forward. Excellent effort from one of the surviving Isegahama rikishi.
Endo defeats Arawashi – Notable in that Endo gave Arawashi no opening at all. Endo charged strongly at the tachiai, put Arawashi on defense and then drove strongly forward. Endo looking very good this basho, and Endo fans hope that he has his body together and working now.
Hokutofuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Kaio’s doppelgänger faced off against sumo-Elvis, and took a pounding. Chiyotairyu at one point had a grip on Hokutofuji’s face and jerked it back and forth. Hokutofuji stayed focused, stayed on his feet and kept moving forward. Chiyotairyu realizes he is not going to be able to pull him down and the real tsuppari attack begins. Hokutofuji’s upper body is clearly on defense, and taking some punishment, but his lower body is on offense and after falling back for a moment, resumes marching forward. For a moment both men rest against each other’s shoulders, clearly, this match is close to a stalemate. In the end, Chiyotairyu may have run out of gas, and Hokutofuji pushed him out. Great oshi bout. Hokutofuji kachi-koshi.
Takakeisho defeats Shohozan – another solid battle between two rikishi swatting each other into submission. When they were fully engaged, it was a blur of fury as Shohozan’s well-muscled arms were punishing Takakeisho’s upper body. But Takakeisho did not give ground and launched a powerful shoving attack against Shohozan’s torso. This seems to be Takakeisho’s go to offense, and once again employed it for victory.
Onosho defeats Tamawashi – The return of the red mawashi seems to have marked a return of Onosho’s sumo prowess. Tamawashi has been a tough contestant this basho, but Onosho gets him face-down on the clay shortly after the tachiai. Onosho needs to win 4 of the next 5 to get his kachi-koshi, but maybe the magic red mawashi has enough power to get him there.
Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – So many Yoshikaze fights are freewheeling, running battles, and today was a great example of what happens when rikishi face the Berserker. Tochiozan gave as good as he got for a time, but Yoshikaze seems to think and move faster than nearly anyone else. He can and does spot an opening and then makes his opponent pay. Tochiozan is really not strong this basho, and we hope that his left knee can get healed by Hatsu.
Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – I am not going to fault Goeido in this bout, he was strongly committed to his offense. As described, Goeido 2.0 mode leaves no room for his own defense, and I applaud Mitakeumi for taking advantage of that to Goeido’s detriment. To be clear, Mitakeumi’s win shows his excellent ring sense and exquisite timing. Had Mitakeumi missed that one even by a moment, it would have gone the other way.
Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Sadly this marks Kotoshogiku as make-koshi. Kotoshogiku went strongly on offense, and Takayasu gave ground, but Kotoshogiku overcommitted, and Takayasu was able to slap him down at the edge of the ring. By staying airborne for a few moments, Takayasu ensured that Kotoshogiku landed first. Not a strong showing from Takayasu, but a win is a win. He is now one victory from clearing kadoban.
Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – This one lived up to its billing. Ichinojo came ready for some sumo, and everyone loved it. Although being enormous is not a strategy in upper division sumo, Ichinojo used his incredible size for all he could today, and it gave Hakuho a lot of trouble. Do yourself a favor, watch the replay and only look at Ichinojo’s feet. It was clear that he thought that his first task was not to overpower Hakuho, but to maintain a steady defense to prevent the Yokozuna from winning. Time and again Hakuho could not set up leverage enough to drop Ichinojo, and it was clear that Hakuho was really enjoying the challenge. But Hakuho kept moving a bit at a time, working to improve his position and his grip. At one point Ichinojo almost lands a left hand outside grip, and we see Hakuho make an emergency move. Outstanding effort form both rikishi, and I am really impressed with Ichinojo. Great sumo.