Act 2 opened with some amazing technical sumo, and a lot of the level of skill fans hope to see in the top division. It seems fairly likely that both Kakuryu and Goeido are nursing their old injuries, as both of them have switched to lower intensity sumo. In fact both remaining Ozeki are at 3-3, and the prospect of a suite of kadoban Ozeki for the sweltering basho in Nagoya has made its ugly appearance. We already know that Takakeisho will be kadoban, but the assumption was that the rest of the Ozeki corps, with Hakuho and Takakeisho benched, would have an easy path to their 8. But in fact even Takayasu seems to be struggling with his joints, and we could see both remaining Ozeki struggle right up until the end of the tournament.
With day 6 in the record books, we are now looking squarely at the middle weekend of the basho. This is about the time it becomes reasonable to start seriously looking at the yusho race, and while the yusho contention roster looks clear today, if Kakuryu is hurt it could be a wide-open scramble for the cup. Stay tuned, as I don’t think that it’s going to be gentle, predictable or even obvious.
[All of them, frankly]
Daishoho defeats Kotoeko – Fantastic sumo from Daishoho who stuck his grip early and held on. Kotoeko tried any number of moves to get free, but could not shake Daishoho. The match ended with Kotoeko attempting to set up a throw, and Daishoho using the weight shift to drop Kotoeko to the clay.
Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu once again does not seem focused. He was (I think) looking for the henka, and stood straight up at the tachiai, and Chiyoshoma lunged forward, gaining a double inside grip immediately. Twice Tokushoryu loaded a throw with a hip pivot. The first time Chiyoshoma shut it down, the second time Chiyoshoma went over but landed last. Great sumo from Chiyoshoma.
Ishiura defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru may have also been anticipating a henka, and he minimized his forward motion at the tachiai, instead opting to put his hands out and break Ishiura’s approach. This left Chiyomaru’s body wide open, and like Chiyoshoma the match before, Ishiura went for a grip. Now a man of Ishiura’s dimensions could never get his arms around the oblate spheroid that is Chiyomaru, but the left hand digs deep and finds the mawashi knot. Ishiura ducks down and drives, seasoning the assault with a feint to the knee with his right hand that made Chiyomaru stand up and try to back away. Having gotten the big man to do the work, Ishiura just kept him moving and took the match. Great tactic, excellent execution.
Sadanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Sadanoumi had been looking slow for a few days, but today he was back to his winning form with a rapid attack at the tachiai that gave him a grip around Terutsuyoshi’s shoulders. Sadanoumi never relented and quickly took the smaller Terutsuyoshi out. Sadanoumi improves to 3-3.
Enho defeats Yago – Enho is, lets face it, on fire right now. This guy is operating at an energy level seldom seen, and fans are in love with this guy and his sumo. Enho starts the match without much of a tachiai, and focuses on keeping Yago back and flailing, a role Yago is happy to supply. Enho waits for his opportunity, then comes the familiar “duck and dive” as he latches into Yago’s belly, and suddenly Yago is not quite sure what to do. His only real grip is on Enho’s neck, and Enho is kicking at his shins while his right hand is latched to the front of Yago’s mawashi. Simply put, Yago is trapped. Enho spins and dives for the uwatehineri win.
Tochiozan defeats Shimanoumi – Tochiozan’s skill, technique and experience have really been on display this basho. His sumo has not been achingly strong or blindingly fast, just solid, good form. After back to back Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi needs to get his sumo in gear or forsake the top division.
Nishikigi defeats Shohozan – First match started with an all too common Shohozan matta / cheap shot to the face. This seems to have gotten Nishikigi fired up, because he gave Shohozan a good fight, but they touched down together and it was time for a torinaoshi. As with the first match, Nishikigi locked up Shohozan’s arms and used them as anchors to march him around, this time for the win.
Tomokaze defeats Kagayaki – A very simple match, Kagayaki was stood up by Tomokaze’s thrust to the chin, then slapped won. Kagayaki really needs wins at this point, he’s in a tough spot.
Onosho defeats Asanoyama – Onosho takes down the previously undefeated Asanoyama. Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and used it to dictate the terms of the match. Asanoyama was unable to set up any offense, and by the time he tried to defend, he was out of dohyo to work in.
Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to have no attack power right now. Injury? Poor health? Personal challenges? I could not say, but it’s tough to watch.
Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai put a lot of effort into the match, a lot of “hit and move” sumo, but Myogiryu kept his focus on center-mass, and that was what carried the day. Myogiryu really needed that win.
Ryuden defeats Meisei – I am continuing to be impressed by how consistently Ryuden is improving his sumo. Both rikishi go for left hand inside and deep grips, and get to work trying to overpower the other. Watch Ryuden’s feet, really outstanding placement, giving him the best possible foundation to move aggressively forward. His biggest challenge today was that Meisei’s legs are short enough that Ryuden could not drop his hips enough to make a difference. Meisie figures this out and pivots for a throw. Ryuden senses this and dismantles the move, with Meisei collapsing for the loss. A great match to watch on slow motion replay.
Takarafuji defeats Abi – Abi does what everyone knows he will do, but the technical skill and match-winning patience of Takarafuji lets him get underneath Abi’s arms, disrupts his attacks, and converts Abi’s advantage into his defeat. Great technical sumo from Takarafuji. Abi, always good to have a plan b.
Endo defeats Okinoumi – For technical sumo fans, this match was a delight. We always knew that these two were likely to pull out some of the less used recipes from the sumo cookbook, and they had a great time doing it. Okinoumi took the advantage first with a left hand inside grip, but getting there left him off balance and fairly far forward. Endo followed suit and got left hand inside and deep – the two were stalemated, but Okinoumi was still too far forward. After an attempt to raise Endo, Endo responded by a quick pull and drop, and Okinoumi hit the clay. Great example of an uwatedashinage.
Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is not typically this docile, so I am going to say “injury” for him too. His lone attempt at offense was a pulling move that only set him up for the oshidashi that followed. Thus begins the rehabilitation of Hokutofuji’s record.
Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – People knock Mitakeumi because he does not train like a maniac, and I think that’s why he has yet to make Ozeki, although it seems he is close to that level most basho. But check out this match against Kotoshogiku. Perfect tachiai from Mitakeumi gets him chest to chest with Kotoshogiku. For most rikishi, that’s a quick trip to the hug-n-chug express, but Mitakeumi shuts that down and keeps Kotoshogiku wigging like next-week’s bonito. Bagged and tagged, he keeps moving forward while lifting the former Ozeki. Great sumo from Mitakeumi today.
Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Everyone was looking forward to this match, I think even Ichinojo and Tochinoshin were keen to see how this one turned out. Simply put, it was brilliant stuff. Ichinojo put up a hell of a fight today, but Tochinoshin was not going to be denied. Yotsu – check, Lift and shift – check, Ichinojo fighting vigorously – check. One for the highlight reels. Tochinoshin moves to 6-0. Watch out.
Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – I think both remaining Ozeki are hurt, and are struggling to find a way to make it through this tournament with 8 wins. Takayasu tries his shoulder blast, but Tamawashi has known for a couple of years that is coming, and knows exactly what to do with it. While the Ozeki is dithering between oshi and yotsu, Tamawashi has position and stance to apply maximum forward pressure on Takayasu, and he has the inside position. As Takayasu realizes he has given every advantage to Tamawashi, Tamawashi starts piston like thrusts to Takayasu’s chest. A nodowa here, followed by a slap, back to thrusting. Takayasu has no way to slow it down, and takes the okuridashi for a loss.
Chiyotairyu defeats Goeido – Goeido is not operating well, and today Chiyotairyu was perfect for his sumo. A blast off the line rolling into an immediate slap down. As Goeido is usually 100% on attack, there was no recovery option backed into the plan. Goeido drops to 3-3 with Takayasu.
Kakuryu defeats Daieisho – The Yokozuna again wins in reverse gear, and you can see him favoring that ankle that he has had trouble with in the past. I am going to assume he stays in all 15 days out of dedication to the sport, even though his sumo is less than awesome right now.