Natsu Day 6 Highlights

Day 6 Sumo Really Was My Cup of Tea

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.

Highlight Matches

[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.

21 thoughts on “Natsu Day 6 Highlights

  1. Apparently, Abi’s Plan B was a desperation ballet pirouette because that’s what he tried to use to win at the end of the match.

    I am starting to react to Onosho’s wins like I do to Endo’s wins. Why can’t he win like that all the time?

    I really liked that Tochinoshin gave a pat of appreciation to Ichinojo after their match was over. I wish there was more of that from the rikishi, honestly.

    It’s entirely possible that we’re literally going to have the Ozeki flip statuses and have three kadoban Ozeki and one who is safe next basho. Sumo is ridiculous sometimes!

  2. I’m so proud of Ichinojo right now! What a good fight. You could tell he was exhausted after. The multiple different attempts to get Tochinoshin off balance and break the grip were great to see as well. Good fight big guy, but you’re a tosser of ponies, not bears.

  3. Mitakeumi is an interesting case – he’s been at sanyaku since March 2017, and seems poised to set a record for consecutive sanyaku tournaments without making Ozeki. Understandably, sumo watchers will argue about what’s the missing ingredient for him to make an Ozeki run. Is it, as Bruce suggests, his lack of diligence in training? If so, how does that manifest itself in his results?

    Just for fun, let’s compare Mitakeumi’s resume between March of 2017, when he parked himself at sanyaku, and the last tournament with the resume of the two other non-yokozuna rikishi who have also been in sanyaku for that entire period: Goeido and Takayasu.

    In those 13 tournaments, Mitakeumi had 111 victories, including 9 against Yokozuna (not counting fusenshos), and won 1 yusho.

    In those same 13 tournaments, Goeido had 108 victories, with 4 against Yokozuna, and won no yushos.

    Meanwhile Takayasu, who was promoted to Ozeki in the beginning of this period, had 116 victories, with 5 against Yokuzuna, and won 0 yushos.

    So it seems like Mitakeumi, ever since he stabilized his banzuke at Sekiwake/Komusubi, has performed at a comparable level to the two longest serving Ozeki. In fact it’s inarguable that his resume is significantly more impressive than Goeido’s, even though Goeido is the undisputed king of practice bouts. In bouts that matter, Mitakeumi has simply been more impressive than the Osaka man.

    So what’s missing from Mitakeumi? Let me posit that he’s simply been unlucky. Winning 33 bouts in 3 tournaments requires high performance, yes, but also some luck. Mitakeumi has had plenty of impressive tournaments in the past 2 plus years, but he has been unlucky in that he has not been able to string the right combination of results together. Remember, Mitakeumi was one win away from a probable Ozeki promotion in the tournament after his maiden yusho. He needed 10 wins in Aki 2018, but ended up with 9. Sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    • Great points. The only other true “sanyaku regular” over that time was Tamawashi, with 10 tournaments ranked K or S, two at M1, and one at M2. He accumulated 105 victories, with 6 against Yokozuna, and won a yusho. Not bad.

    • Comparing him to reigning Ozeki is not entirely fair, because they only need their 8, so they will get about the same number of wins or slightly less than a not-great Ozeki hopeful who wins 8 instead of 11.

      The thing is that Mitakeumi usually doesn’t manage to keep his level stable throughout the basho, and looks bad in the second week. And that may well be due to the lack of practice – either through lack of stamina or inability to react without thinking in those three or four matches against foes who require that.

      • I think the point of the comparison is exactly that ozeki only need eight to maintain their ranks. If we don’t distinguish between the san’yaku ranks, how does Mitakeumi stack up given the fact that he’s been facing the same roster of opponents as the actual ozeki?

        I think you’re exactly right about Mitakeumi’s second week endurance problems. Given that his overall record is comparable to the actual ozeki this implies that on average he somewhat outperforms ozeki in the first week and somewhat underperforms them in the second week.

  4. “[S]easoning the assault” — Nice touch there, Bruce!

    I keep replaying the Enho-Yago bout in my mind; what fun! As they prowled around each other, Yago looked like a bewildered Shrek, and (I imagine) was thinking “Must grab mawashi, must grab mawashi,” while Enho wore a cool “Make your move, big guy” expression. Yago made his move, wound up with a fistful of mawashi and an armlock on Enho’s head. Probably felt triumphant for an instant, but then the bewildered Shrek face returned and he clearly was wondering, “What in the world do I do now?!?” Until someone figures out an answer to that question, Enho will continue racking up wins.

  5. I said it before that I’m not really a fan of Tochinoshin, simply because I can’t appreciate his brutish, strength-focused approach to Sumo. But he is showing some insane fighting spirit this basho and it seems no one can escape his grip. And with many of the favourites underperforming he is a serious yusho contender.

  6. A few notes from my end:

    Enho’s leg kick was straight out of the Hakuho playbook. It’s not a move designed to win but a move designed to distract so that the opponent gives a tell and allows Enho to consolidate his winning position. Hakuho has done this so many times over the years in stalemate positions to pull out a win, then gives the cheeky grin.

    I watched the Shohozan match a few times and thought he was hard done by on the first match.

    In as much as you can ever say anything was vintage Takarafuji this was it, defensive sumo to blunt the opponent. Abi had a chance there and blew it early and Takarafuji just wore him down.

    Goeido looks ok physically to me but a couple of the matches he’s lost have seemed like mental mistakes where he’s come off second best at the tachiai and then not had a plan B at all (whereas Takayasu hasn’t even had a tachiai and is clearly broken). It’s almost as if when he can’t execute his power offense, he freezes and it gives the impetus to the opponent. Likewise I think Big K has had a couple good wins so far but gets himself into bad habits, I still think he’s the presumptive yusho favorite as I did pre-basho even over Tochinoshin (but wouldn’t surprise me if Tochinoshin beat both Ōzeki at this rate).

    So spot on re Endo/Okinoumi as well, great day of sumo

    • I’m with Bruce on Kakuryu. He was talking about “bad habit” and all that stuff in previous bashos in which he pulled, only for us to later find out that he botched his ankle or his lower back. He went into this basho pain free, and when that happens, his “bad habit” disappears – he makes his opponents vanish. So if there is a bad habit here, it’s the bad habit of having your injuries catch up with you in mid-basho, and I don’t know a training regime that will cure him of that habit.

      Re Enho: It was not the only feint in that bout. He also did something like a harizashi – not quite slapping Yago but getting his hand up, and with yago lifting his hand to swat at that, Enho made his famous dive inside.

      • Chiyotairyu will be an interesting test then. The good thing for Kakuryu in any event is that he’s already had to deal with Mitakeumi, and Takakeisho’s out. So when you think about who’s going to actually drive him back from who’s left – it’s not going to be Ichinojo. He’s got a fairly clean dance card going into the second week with two wobbly ozeki. I could see Tochinoshin and Tamawashi being tricky customers. Abi will get drawn up into the mess now as well, but you’d think Kakuryu has enough about him to see that off, even if he does have to retreat against the double arm attack.

        • It looks like in addition to the two Ozeki, the two Sekiwake, and Chiyotairyu, Kakuryu should face Tamawashi, Okinoumi, Abi, and Myogiryu if we go strictly by rank, with the possibility that slightly lower-ranked folks with better records (Ryuden? Takarafuji?) could get swapped in for Okinoumi and/or Myogiryu if they continue to struggle. Abi is 1-1 against Kakuryu, Goeido defeated him the last two times they’ve faced off, Ichinojo did last basho, and Takayasu has beaten him 4 in a row, so plenty of potential stumbling blocks ahead, especially if he’s not 100%.

          • Fair enough, though I think in their current form, all of those folks at the end would still be upsets or even massive upsets even if he’s not fit. I don’t think he will win all those matches, but I would still make him the favourite for all of those matches, even with recent form taken into account. To me, all those folks appear to be in worse shape physically or mentally than him (apart from Abi whose sumo is just still a bit raw IMHO), though it will certainly become clearer over Day 7 and 8 if he is deteriorating at a quick rate.

            • Oh, I completely agree he will (and should) be favored against all these opponents, only wanted to say that some upsets wouldn’t be a huge surpirise.

  7. Sad to see my boy Abi lose, of course, but it was almost an exact replay of the last time he faced Takarafuji. You can’t rely on flying pirouette pull-downs as your default plan B!
    Good to see Ryuden win his mawashi chess match today, after slipping over yesterday. Even better to see Endo pull that beautiful throw. Ichi v. Tochi was epic, but Tamawashi v. Takayasu was utterly brutal. Thrilling stuff, red in tooth and claw.
    Is it too soon to start thinking about Enho for the yusho?!! On current form it’s not totally obvious to me who is gonna beat him down at that end of the banzuke.

    • Well, he’s 1-2 against tomorrow’s opponent, Terutsuyoshi, for starters, as well as 0-2 against Chiyomaru…and still likely to face the likes of Tochiozan, Shohozan, Onosho, Tomokaze, and probably even Asanoyama if both continue to do well. (He has faced everyone ranked below or just above him already.)

      • Fully. Impossible is nothing but as we discussed in the Tachiai podcast the sternest challenge is going to come from those folks who are established, technically competent top division rikishi, in a way that the folks he has faced around him in the banzuke are not.

        Take nothing away from Enho who has been extremely exciting and he’s still had to generate some amazing wins, but when he gets the likes of Shohozan and Tochiozan and Onosho and potentially Asanoyama, that’s when we’ll know a bit more about his ability to deal with the level. Kotoeko (who himself is not established at the level) really shut him down, and the other folks have mostly been Juryo mainstays or folks who haven’t really impressed in makuuchi.

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