Day 9 action worked to narrow the yusho race somewhat, with the goal for the next 5 days being for someone to get dirt on Takakeisho. A single additional loss at this point for the leader could open up a multi-way contest for the Emperor’s Cup going into the final weekend. I would call special attention to what may be an emergent Ryuden-zumo doctrine. Twice in the last few days we have seen him grapple with his opponent, stalemating them and wearing them down. This approach requires almost superhuman stamina, but its amazing to watch. I am hoping we will see him use it a few more times before day 15.
Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Visiting the top division to even out the holes in the torikumi, Tokushoryu gets the business from Chiyoshoma, who is working hard to steer himself to the safety of kachi-koshi. The match did have a certain “dancing with the stars” quality to it.
Onosho defeats Daiamami – It’s clear that Onosho is dialed into his sumo by this point. He starts strong and increases the pressure on Daiamami, who is completely overwhelmed. Onosho’s sumo is not fancy at this point, but highly effective. He raised Daiamami up with a quick nodowa, and then focused his pushing against center mass. Onosho stays in the yusho hunt for day 9.
Aoiyama defeats Meisei – After a rough start, Aoiyama has settled into the basho and 7 consecutive wins. For a man of considerable mass, his maneuverability is impressive. Coupled with his long reach and the power he puts behind his tsuppari, Meisei could only react and try for a desperation throw at the tawara. Aoiyama also retains his slot in the group 1 behind Takakeisho.
Takanosho defeats Chiyonokuni – Notable because we can clearly see Chiyonokuni trying to protect that right arm. How hurt is he? He’s still showing up for matches. But he is 1 loss away from a make-koshi.
Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru puts some effort into it, but in a battle of the walking wounded, Yutakayama was just healthy enough to prevail. One more loss and Chiyomaru punches his ticket for a trip down to Juryo to sort out his health and his sumo.
Daieisho defeats Arawashi – Daieisho maintains his spot in the group 1 behind Takakeisho, and hands the injured Arawashi his make-koshi, ensuring he will be headed down to Juryo for January. Arawashi has had a terrible time with that leg, and needs to find a way to get healed up.
Takarafuji defeats Endo – Endo had nothing, zero today. Takarafuji really needed the win, but this match lacked any vigor or drive. There is a growing number of rikishi who really need the New Years break to get their bodies back together. These two especially.
Shohozan defeats Sadanoumi – Local rikishi Shohozan has the crowd driving him on, and his sumo was fast and brutal. Inside quickly after the tachiai, Shohozan did not let Sadanoumi generate any offense, and quickly pushed him out to the cheers of the hometown crowd.
Ikioi defeats Abi – Ikioi defeats an effective counter-strategy to Abi-zumo, attacking Abi’s arms from underneath until he is forced to abandon his morotsuki attack, and is an easy target for Ikioi’s counter-attacks.
Kotoshogiku defeats Kagayaki – The Fukuoka crowd was cranked to 11 for Kotoshogiku, and Kagayaki allowed him to set up the hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku remains on a kachi-koshi trajectory for his home-town basho.
Takanoiwa defeats Nishikigi – Good to see some “A game” sumo from Takanoiwa. Though Nishikigi is getting quite close to the make-koshi line already, he has fared better than I expected at this high of a rank. There may be some future for him to visit the joi-jin and not be a completely free win.
Tamawashi defeats Asanoyama – Classic Tamawashi-zumo today, his stance, his thrusts, all of it is what we have come to expect out of him, and he gave Asanoyama little chance to respond. After an early volley to raise Asanoyama, he focused his attacks center-mass and controlled the flow and result of the match. Good sumo.
Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Myogiryu continues to impress, and derails the Hokutofuji express service with a boisterous clang. Myogiryu reacted perfectly to Hokutofuji’s now familiar opening gambit, and used his own predictability to shut down any chance at offense.
Kaisei defeats Tochiozan – The wheels have come off of Tochiozan’s parade float, as he has lost 3 of the last 4 matches after a fantastic start. We know Kaisei is injured, and came back from kyujo, but today he did put together a much needed win. Why Tochiozan decided to go chest to chest with nearly a quarter of a ton of Kaisei will forever be a mystery.
Ichinojo defeats Shodai – All the tricks in “Toon Town” can’t really do much against the Mongolian Boulder once he gets rolling. Its too early to declare that Ichinojo is going to finish strong and try to hold onto his rank, but it was nice to see him actually put some effort into his sumo.
Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – Much like his win over Takayasu, what is fascinating to watch is how much Ryuden works to bring the match to a stalemate, then slowly grinds down his opponent. Takayasu used to do this all of the time, and I watched Takayasu lose to this approach in total fascination and disbelief. Mitakeumi simply did not have the stamina to endure the contest. Ryuden expends every erg of his strength to bind and limit Mitakeumi from moving, and just ratchets up the pressure moment by moment. It must be fairly brutal to be on the receiving end of this. I hope he continues to evolve this strategy. While it’s not flashy, for sumo nerds its like watching a car being crushed – terrible and fascinating at the same time.
Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze tried a few things, valid and valiant moves, but Takayasu had his number from the tachiai. Better luck next time, berserker.
Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – A shameful henka. Absolutely shameful. Really Goeido, has it come to that? I know your sumo can defeat Chiyotairyu. For folks who may not know, this is perfectly legit, but quite disappointing for the top Ozeki in the sport to deploy against a rank-and-file rikishi (in my opinion).
Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin was completely disrupted by the “wave action” and his fall at the west side tawara did not look good, as his fragile right knee moved in an unnatural way to my eye. It almost seemed to collapse has the Ozeki worked to maintain his footing. Takakeisho remains the sole leader.