Possibly the best day of sumo in several months, it was packed wall to wall with solid action from everyone in the top division. Frankly, I don’t think anyone really just phoned it in today, and we saw good sumo in every match. The yusho race is going to be a barn-burner, and may go to day 15. The intra san’yaku matches are becoming the focus, and we are going to see some of the greats of sumo battle it out for the cup, with a couple of maegashira rikishi in the mix for good measure.
I have mentioned it already, but today we got another clear look at Takayasu’s subtle, but highly effective, change to his sumo. While I expected him to bring the shoulder blast back for this Tamawashi match, he stuck to his more focused, yotsu-style approach. The fact that I find Araiso Oyakata’s influence returning to Takayasu’s sumo makes me very happy. Without the pressure of trying to keep up appearances, and conserve himself for Honbasho, Araiso now is back to what made him great—relentless sumo, driving himself and his deshi to higher levels of performance. I predict many good things will flow from this man, who may end up being more powerful that he imagined post-retirement.
Shimanoumi defeats Yutakayama – The Juryo yusho leader brings his best sumo to his Makuuchi match, and flagging Yutakayama finds himself a half step behind. In a raging oshi-zumo battle, Yutakayama delivered more punishment, but Shimanoumi kept moving forward. Yutakayama needs to get his knees fixed; he can only generate token forward pressure. Shimanoumi is kachi-koshi and headed to Makuuchi for May.
Daishoho defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima opened strong, but could not finish the match. With Daishoho’s heels on the tawara, Toyonoshima’s foot placement went haywire, granting Daishoho an opening which he did not ignore. Toyonoshima is likely headed back to Juryo, and I am going to guess he has some issue with his undercarriage.
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Do you know how we can tell Yoshikaze has at least some of his genki back? He’s bleeding. This bout turned into a mawashi duel, with Chiyoshoma’s loose outer wrap trending towards a mighty prime-time wardrobe malfunction. Yoshikaze showed no fear at Chiyoshoma’s threatened nudity, and battled on, renewing his left hand grip on his opponents failing mawashi. Both men showed remarkable balance and stability, resisting multiple pivots and throw set ups.
Meisei defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko unable to active his “Hulk mode”, and Meisei taps his superior speed and maneuverability to win the tachiai, and the match. Kotoeko never had a chance to establish either an offense or a defense, as Meisei was left hand high, right hand on the mawashi.
Ishiura defeats Ryuden – Ishiura’s gambit of keeping Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) at distance payed off. Ishiura used his size and mobility to prevent Ryuden from closing the distance for a yotsu-hold or any effective oshi-target. As a result, Ryuden chased Ishiura around, until his balance was poor and Ishiura could slap him down. Very effective small guy – high mobility sumo today from Ishiura. His footwork was quite impressive. Note Ishiura’s efficiency, and how he keeps his feet near the shikiri-sen most of the time – he owned the center of the ring.
Yago defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tried everything against Yago, but Yago’s excellent balance, low center of gravity and mass made it tough for Terutsuyoshi to take the initiative. I think both of these rikishi may end up with losing records, this tournament. For Terutsuyoshi that could mean a return for a time to Juryo.
Shohozan defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki may have great fundamentals, but he foolishly ended up steering this match directly into Shohozan’s comfort zone. Any time you decide to trade blows with Shohozan, you are probably going to lose, and you are most certainly going to get beat up. Reminder to Kagayaki – you want to do “your brand of sumo”.
Tomokaze defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji worked to stalemate Tomokaze from the tachiai, and was clearly on defense. For a good period of time it was working, and Takarafuji held the center of the ring, and his sumo was both efficient and effective against his younger opponent. But a mis-timed step left Takarafuji vulnerable to a hatakikomi, and Tomokaze delivered.
Aoiyama defeats Ikioi – Because of course he did. Will the sadist in the Torikumi committee please take the day off? I am impressed that Ikioi managed to generate a fair amount of forward pressure out of the tachiai, but Aoiyama just kind of waited for him to stumble a bit due to his banged up left leg. To me it almost looks like Aoiyama catches him and eases him to the clay. Ikioi now has a painful, limping make-koshi.
Kotoshogiku defeats Abi – I think Abi-zumo, in its current form, is past its sell-by date. Kotoshogiku can’t quite come in for his favored close coupling, but manages to break up Abi’s form and run him out anyhow. Abi did have Kotoshogiku perilously off balance for a moment, but as Abi was moving backwards, he could not use that moment to his advantage.
Okinoumi defeats Sadanoumi – Okinoumi’s sumo, taken over a period of months, is very hit-or-miss. But when he is healthy and his sumo is working well, the man is a library of smooth, controlled sumo excellence. We had a great exposition of that today, as the match shifted gears a few times, and Okinoumi stayed with everything Sadanoumi unleashed.
Asanoyama defeats Onosho – Asanoyama continues to improve his sumo, and we can get a good feel that Onosho is having balance problems. Some of that may be due to him favoring his good knee for a few months while he had been healing. This changed his natural sense of balance, and has left him susceptible at any moment he has more than 50% of his weight on that repaired right knee. Asanoyama works this brilliantly, and Onosho ends up with a face full of Osaka clay.
Nishikigi defeats Daieisho – After Nishikigi’s drubbing in the san’yaku, it would seem that many of his opponents (and some sumo fans) decided to write him off. With his normal calm, calculating sumo, he has won the last two with some fantastic form. Nishikigi slow-rolls the tachiai, and while Daieisho is pushing on Nishikigi’s head and shoulders, Nishikigi is pushing center-mass. Of course this works, and Daieisho finds himself moving in reverse gear, and unable to attack.
Endo defeats Myogiryu – Could we be seeing Endo bouncing back? Myogiryu focused on landing a face-slap during the tachiai, which is a bad move against Endo, as it gave him an open path to move inside and control the match. He wasted no time in getting Myogiryu turned sideways, and off balance.
Hokutofuji defeats Kaisei – Kaisei used his strength and size to great effect, and Hokutofuji was struggling to react after his initial pull down attempt cost him the initiative. Kaisei managed to bring Hokutofuji to his chest, but put his weight too far forward, and Hokutofuji dropped Kaisei to the clay.
Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – An intense, violent succession of canon-ball collisions. Chiyotairyu continued to throw his massive weight against Takakeisho, who absorbed it all. Takakeisho looking very genki right now, and I am keen to see him start his “hell week” against Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 10.
Ichinojo defeats Goeido – Goeido put it all into this match, but when Ichinojo is genki, he brings so much mass, so must stability, and a lot of strength into every match. Ichinojo was clearly in “boulder” mode today, as Goeido could barely move him. Goeido tried multiple times to load a throw, but Ichinojo could not be moved. Ichinojo picks up his kachi-koshi against the hometown favorite. Fantastic match from both.
Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Again we see this “smooth” tachiai from Takayasu, and rather than going for the mawashi, he keeps his hands high, and moves immediately to block Tamawashi’s thrusting attack, but it’s only partially effective. Tamawashi drove Takayasu back, but Takayasu continued to focus on center mass. He rallied at the bales, and charged forward for the win. Once Tamawashi was off balance, it was all Takayasu. I still think he may play a role in the Yusho race. Takayasu gets his kachi-koshi.
Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai made an excellent match out of it, and actually was able to get Tochinoshin on the defensive. But in doing so, he allowed the Ozeki his “sky hook” grip, and once that’s in, you are opening the door to Tochinoshin’s massive strength. Shodai continued to put up a great fight, but it was not enough. Stop it now, I am starting to feel sorry for Shodai, and that’s not right.
Kakuryu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan had zero chance to do any sumo. Kakuryu gets ideal hand placement and advances straight out of the tachiai for the win.
Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi, fighting hurt, gets Hakuho chest-to-chest, and holds him in the center of the ring. The Boss is patient, and waits for Mitakeumi to shift a grip for his balance. He does not have to wait long, and is rewarded with mae-mitzu and forward momentum. Textbook Hakuho sumo. Hakuho remains unbeaten, and leading the yusho race.