Its looking increasingly difficult for anyone to catch Yokozuna Hakuho, and the chances are growing that he will capture not only another yusho (his 42nd) but another zehsho yusho as well. Whatever his injuries or problems, Hakuho has fought with overwhelming skill and determination, and he has demonstrated an almost inhuman ability to escape even the most dire situations.
The only rikishi who might have a reasonable challenge to Hakuho is the amazingly genki Ichinojo. The chances that they would face each other in anything other than a playoff are slim to none, and to get to a playoff, someone would have to win over the dai-Yokozuna this tournament. Frankly, I don’t see it happening. Much like other great athletes, any time he chooses to compete, he completely dominates the event, and at times makes even the ridiculously impossible look easy and natural.
There are 3 days left in the basho, and for the most part, everything has been decided short of the yusho. But true to form for this tournament, each day continues to deliver great sumo.
Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Enho edges closer to his kachi-koshi, and possibly a bid to enter the top division in May. Hapless Toyonoshima really has sputtered and failed this tournament, after working very hard to return to Makuuchi. As is typical for Enho, he uses combo attacks to keep his opponent from settling to a single defensive strategy.
Tomokaze defeats Ishiura – Ishiura can be frustrating to follow, as he seem to be very easily disrupted from the tachiai, and when that happens his sumo quickly falls apart. Tomokaze did apply quite a vigorous series of jostles to Ishiura’s skull, treating it like a poorly mixed bottle of kombucha.
Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Kagayaki scores his 8th win, and finally can claim a kachi-koshi for the first time since May of last year. Kagayaki kept his hands low into the tachiai, and went immediately for a highly effective right hand hazu / armpit pin that kept Kotoeko from generating any offense at all.
Yoshikaze defeats Yutakayama – With his 9th loss, we can pretty much wave goodbye to Yutakayama, the one time leading rikishi of the Freshman group. Since he was injured at Aki 2018, he has not been even 80% genki at any point. Like most sumotori, there is little or no word on what is still wrong with him, but hopefully he can get himself and his sumo together in Juryo and come roaring back. Great to see Yoshikaze with 9 wins after a very weak start.
Meisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Meisei took the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyoshoma knew he had to do something straight away. Chiyoshoma’s gambit was to attempt a throw, which failed when he could not plant his feet, and Meisei plowed through the pivot point. Meisei gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi.
Daishoho defeats Ikioi – If I had a cat in Ikioi’s kind of condition, I would take it to the vet.
Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – The Aoiyama recipe is still paying off every time, so he keeps using it. Lift them up, slap them down. Ryuden is already kachi-koshi, so this match was all good fun.
Takarafuji defeats Yago – Takarafuji prevented any offense from Yago, except on Takarafuji’s terms. Yago gets his 8th loss, but is safe in the top division unless something terrible happens. Yago is a solid rikishi, but his second Makuuchi tournament has been a real struggle.
Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi’s deep sumo library brings us more fascinating technical action today. He took Shohozan’s primary offensive style off the table and kept himself firmly in control of the match. When this guy is a coach, he is going to produce some excellent future rikishi.
Abi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Added to the slow barge back to Juryo is one Terutsuyoshi, who many hoped would bring his high-energy, small-man sumo to a top division that is increasingly dominated by behemoths. Abi continues to rack wins with his back to the make-koshi wall.
Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku now has double digit wins. How high can he run up the score? Chiyotairyu has only beaten Kotoshogiku once, and his typical cannonball tachiai has little effect on the Kyushu Bulldozer.
Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – After 5 straight losses, Onosho claims another white star. Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and his overly forward posture was supported by Sadanoumi’s efforts to find his footing.
Ichinojo defeats Asanoyama – When Ichinojo is operating in this form, I am not sure anyone below Sekiwake can do much to slow him down. So the boulder will keep rolling down the hill, crushing anyone who tries to hug him. I am still confident that Asanoyama will get his 8th win this basho.
Daieisho defeats Tochiozan – As Tochiozan ages up, he increasingly has hot and cold streaks. I would chalk this up to his hit or miss health problems, whatever they might be. But for Haru he is clearly quite cold. Daieisho is operating at speed, and today he employed a well executed arcing turn to apply torque to Tochiozan that set up his defeat.
Kaisei defeats Shodai – Kaisei did not take my advice to change format to a dance-off, but he managed to score his second win, even without employing his moon walk skills.
Myogiryu defeats Mitakeumi – This match surprised me a bit, in that Mitakeumi let Myogiryu bracket him. (Bracketing – when used in naval gunfire, means the enemy has your range and can land shells on you at will. In sumo it means that your opponents feet straddle your stance, and you are going down). Myogiryu’s nodowa was especially effective, and Mitakeumi could not really decide on offense or defense, and paid the price.
Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s lightning fast “handshake tachiai” left Nishikigi unable to do much other than try to push back against Hokutofuji’s forward pressure. Its great to see that the pounding Hokutofuji took has not dampened his fighting spirit.
Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo had this one, but failed to maintain close cover on Tamawashi during an osha-match. As a result, Tamawashi’s perilous toes-out pose at the tawara was not his moment of defeat, and he was allowed to resume the fight. Endo now make-koshi.
Goeido defeats Takakeisho – A battle of local favorites, Goeido boxes and ships Takakeisho back to Hyogo in short order with a face full of Osaka clay for a souvenir of his fun on the dohyo today. I am eager for the day 13 match where Goeido brings his genki self up against Hakuho. Just a hunch that this might be the one match that could take Hakuho off the pace.
Hakuho defeats Tochinoshin – Quite the battle, as Tochinoshin lands his deadly left hand outside grip at the tachiai, with Hakuho lower and inside with a mae-mitsu. With his right hand now deep, Hakuho masterfully breaks Tochinoshin’s “Skycrane” setup, and it’s all down hill from there. The Yokozuna patiently sets up, with his feet in excellent position while Tochinoshin continues to work back towards his offensive stance. The end comes when The Boss goes morozashi and advances. Tochinoshin gets Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 13.
Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Takayasu made it clear he was coming out fast, but Kakuryu took the inside at the tachiai. But again, watch Takayasu’s position on the dohyo and his feet. He’s lower, he owns the center and he has enough of Kakuryu to advance. Kakuryu’s excellent mobility and balance keep him in this fight, but the improved Takayasu sumo is really paying off in this match.