Act One is a wrap! By now everyone should have the ring rust scraped away, and should be in tournament form. We can certainly tell who is hot, and who is not. There is a solid block of undefeated rikishi at the end of the first five days, and that includes the entire Yokozuna population. As a result, the upper Maegashira and the Komusubi are getting crushed. This is typical for a basho where the upper ranks are actually participating.
5 – 0 Rikishi: Kakuryu, Hakuho, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Yoshikaze
Combined Komusubi – Maegashira 3 Records: 7 – 34 (Ouch!)
Mitakeumi is off to a 5-0 start, and today he beat an Ozeki, which counts as a “quality” win. On day 6 he will face Goeido, who is fighting well and got day 5 to rest thanks to his fusensho over the injured Yutakayama. Mitakeumi has started well enough to be seriously considered as bidding for an Ozeki promotion.
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – I can’t stop thinking about Yoshikaze’s disastrous 2-13 Nagoya, and how completely different things are for him at Aki. Chiyomaru gets a bit of offense in just after the tachiai, but Yoshikaze takes command and masterfully maneuvers the burly Chiyomaru to defeat. Given that he has finished act one 5-0, I am curious if the scheduling team are going to keep him fighting the bottom of the banzuke, or start seeing what he can do against the likes of Hokutofuji.
Kotoyuki defeats Takanosho – Kotoyuki reverted back to his (apparently better-fitting) light blue mawashi, and his sumo seems to have come back with it. His match today against Takanosho was more in control and focused than his first three. Kotoyuki got the inside position at the tachiai and set the tempo for the match.
Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma took the fight to Takanoiwa’s face… again and again. But Takanoiwa kept driving forward and working to disrupt Chiyoshoma’s slaps. It worked, and Chiyoshoma found himself arse-first into the zabuton.
Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – A great endurance match. Nishikigi putting on a great demonstration of persistent ottsuke, pinning Ryuden to his chest while keeping Ryuden away from his mawashi. Ryuden kept working, and kept wearing Nishikigi down, eventually landing morozashi and driving forward. Some solid sumo from both.
Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Notable because Aoiyama remains winless, and once again seems to have collapsed during the fight, rather than succumbing to a specific kimarite. The judges did rule it a tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Aoiyama’s right knee gave out.
Hokutofuji defeats Kotoshogiku – If you are looking for some first class battle-sumo, this is a place to start. Kotoshogiku was always going to try to go chest to chest with Hokutofuji, and launch the gaburi-yori hug-n-chug attack. Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” puts him in command before the first step, landing firmly on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, and preventing his left hand from getting a grip. Hokutofuji then endures a few face blows to get inside, and completely lock out Kotoshogiku’s primary attack. Kotoshogiku fights back with skill and power, but Hokutofuji stays inside and thrusting against Kotoshogiku’s neck and shoulders. A shift to hazuoshi (armpit grip) at the edge and Kotoshogiku hands over the shiroboshi. Hokutofuji starts Aki with an impressive 5-0.
Onosho defeats Shohozan – Perhaps Onosho has shed his ring-rust. His thrusting attack displayed the speed and focus that was missing on prior days, and he overwhelmed his stronger opponent. He gets Shohozan’s shoulders turned, and slams the motor into drive. Much better from Onosho!
Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Notable in that Kagayaki was completely shut down by the more experienced Tochiozan. This match was lost / won at the tachiai, when Kagayaki went for a thrusting attack at Tochiozan’s neck and face, then shifted to try for the belt. Tochiozan went center-mass with his hands at Kagayaki’s chest, and controlled the man and the match from there.
Abi defeats Myogiryu – Like a pair of tabbies battling for a feather duster, these two delivered a train of windmill tsuppari, with Abi’s superior reach being the deciding advantage. Fun sumo, if a tad repetitive in terms of Abi-zumo.
Asanoyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has been consistently a half step behind each match. Today he drove inside at the tachiai, with Asanoyama bringing him to his chest and setting up a see-saw battle for grip that ended with Chiyonokuni reaching over Asanoyama’s shoulder to attempt a pull down. With both men off balance, Asanoyama gambled on a hard drive forward and it paid off as Chiyonokuni became a dropping dead body before Asanoyama went spiraling into the dohyo. The monoii that followed affirmed that Asanoyama was the winner.
Ichinojo defeats Tamawashi – Notable because Ichinojo was not passive today. He rallied strongly with his heels against the tawara and drove forward to win the match. Tamawashi starts Aki with a surprising 0-5 record.
Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s signature move (like Kotoshogiku’s) is so effective, he tries to use it as his first choice every time. Mitakeumi knows this, and used it to distract Tochinoshin and secure the win. You can see Tochinoshin work for a left hand outside grip on Mitakeumi’s mawashi, but Mitakeumi pushed hard at the tachiai to get an inside position and lands his hands of Tochinoshin’s chest, thrusting him back strongly. Tochinoshin has lost about 3 feet of dohyo, but thrusts forward to try for the grip again. Again Mitakeumi is inside against his chest, but Tochinoshin gets his grip now and starts to lift. But he’s already too far back, and he’s too high. Mitakeumi has moro-zashi, and drives forward a few inches to push the Ozeki out. Masterful sumo from Mitakeumi today.
Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Takayasu landed a deep left hand inside grip at the tachiai, and was in command. Ikioi rallied and advanced strongly after a bit of leaning on each other, but a mis-step caused him to be on the wrong foot, and Takayasu helped him finish turning the wrong way around and gently shoved him out. Ikioi also has a 0-5 start.
Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Less brutal than expected, it seem Chiyotairyu thought this was a matta. Kakuryu quickly got his preferred grip, and it was an almost polite yorikiri after that.
Kisenosato defeats Shodai – Again, Kisenosato had to work much harder than a Yokozuna should to beat Shodai. But we saw some classic elements of Kisenosato sumo. Kisenosato locks up Shodai’s arms at the elbows and proceeds to constantly shift his weight and bounce around. This keeps Shodai from ever really establishing a firm footing to launch an attack. As the match progresses, Kisenosato keeps the bouncing on rhythm, and it forces Shodai higher, and off balance. The result is a fairly solid throw by the Yokozuna, and a great example of some of his great sumo. I fear for him in act 3, but for now, let’s enjoy a high-functioning Kisenosato.
Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – A bold and clear display of why Hakuho is a dai-Yokozuna, even if he is fading out. Hakuho loves to face up-and-coming rikishi with their own style of sumo. It’s kind of a dominance thing to say, “I am so good, I can beat you with your own techniques”. Today it got him to the edge of trouble when Takakeisho timed a side-step with digital perfection. Hakuho was falling forward towards the bales. But then the dai-Yokozuna DNA kicked in, and he re-asserted his balance and pivoted back to the attack before Takakeisho could finish him. In lunging at the Yokozuna, Takakeishio bet everything on that final move. But Hakuho was ready and a light touch on Takakeisho’s shoulder was all it took to send him rolling to the dohyo. The smile of Hakuho’s face after told the story.