Fans around the world are ready to tuck in to a nearly endless buffet of sumo for the weekend, and readers of Tachiai are ready for more! I would like to give a shout out to some readers and friends of Tachiai who will be in the Kokugikan this very weekend, taking in live sumo in the flesh. No VPNs being blocked, no news highlight shows to step on the action – nothing but 10 or so glorious hours of sumo. So folks who are scanning the crowd during your favorite sumo show, look for friendly folks from around the world, wearing Tachiai T-Shirts, or maybe the long rumored bootleg “Wakaichiro Forever” shirts that seem to be in circulation.
Rumor has it we will see Takakeisho return on the middle Sunday of the tournament, just in time for the NHK World Japan’s live stream of the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi for the worldwide fans.
The big story is, of course, the yusho race. The view going into the middle weekend is that it will be between Tochinoshin and Yokozuna Kakuryu. Tochinoshin is pushing hard for 10 wins to take back his Ozeki rank, and right now he seems to be on track to hit that mark, needing only to win 4 of the remaining 9 matches. But it’s right to wonder if that enormous bear of a rikishi would ease up on the genki once he reaches his 10th, or is he going to take the fight all the way to the cup? From what we have seen thus far of Tochinoshin, he just may push it all the way to day 15. Kakuryu is another story. We expect to see defensive sumo from him for the duration of the basho. Tachiai assumes there is an undisclosed injury in effect in the Yokozuna’s body – his ankle or maybe his back – that has him limiting the amount of forward pressure he can generate. Contrast his day 6 match with that blast-off attack we saw day 1, and you can see what we are noticing. That being said, Kakuryu is a master of defensive / evasive sumo, and he just might be able to make it work for all 9 remaining matches. We wish him luck.
Who is waiting in the wings? Believe it or not, there are only 2 rikishi who have a single loss: Asanoyama and Enho! I would not give either a chance against a genki Tochinoshin or even an injured Kakuryu. But 9 days is a long time in sumo, and we will enjoy watching this one unfold.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura – Both of these henka connoisseurs have been fighting straight-forward sumo so far, and I love it. Ishiura’s day 6 match featured a chest to chest battle with plenty of misdirection and risky diversions, but it carried the day. Might really be some solid, action driven sumo to start the Makuuchi day.
Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie Battle Royale! There’s magic in the air, and I think we might just see Tinkerbell show up to help referee this match, if we just believe! No, I won’t encourage people to clap, as that got Hakuho in hot water, but… for Tinkerbell? Seriously, Enho’s going to eat him alive. [Terutsuyoshi holds a 2-1 career edge. -lksumo]
Tokushoryu vs Daishoho – Tokushoryu has not looked certain about his attack plan as of late, and he’s going to get rolled by Daishoho if he can’t produce some offense early. Daishoho has been coming off the line very well, and as a bonus holds a 4-1 career advantage over the low-slung Tokushoryu.
Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – When Sadanoumi wins, he tends to do it by seizing the initiative early in the match, whereas Kotoeko has strength and mobility to wait for an opening and rally to great effect. Sadanoumi seemed to get back in his “fast to win” grove on day 6, and if we see it day 7, it may spell a welcome turnaround for his fortunes.
Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” Shohozan pulled one of his signature punk moves on day 6 against Nishikigi, so I hope he got that out of his system, because if you get Chiyomaru fired up, he may just fall on you. While everyone might laugh about that, consider the physics involved.
Yago vs Onosho – Yago has been focusing on hitakikomi for most of this basho, and he’s got a fine opportunity to continue that streak with Onosho as an opponent. Onosho has chronically been too far forward in his stance, and practically begs his opponents to swat him to the clay. Don’ get me wrong, I am an Onosho fan. But I suspect his surgery last year has made it tough for him to center his weight properly, and his sumo is suffering.
Kagayaki vs Shimanoumi – Mr Fundamentals needs something to prompt him to turn this basho around. With only one win, he is in a 3-way tie to the first make-koshi of Natsu. Not a fine distinction for a talented rikishi who has a lot of great, basic sumo to bring to the dohyo. If it’s any consolation, Shimanoumi has looked quite lost thus far, and while he may clean up in Juryo, he’s pants in Makuuchi. This is their first-ever match.
Tochiozan vs Tomokaze – Both rikishi have a 4-2 record, and are thus far beating the average. With any luck this will be a solid “learning match” for the youngster Tomokaze, as Tochiozan has a lot he could teach. This is another first time match.
Shodai vs Nishikigi – Sad news Nishikigi, Shodai is your day 7 opponent. This is sad news because Shodai holds a 4-1 career advantage over Nishikigi, who has had a hard time putting his sumo in gear. The biggest problem for Nishikigi is Shodai’s mobility, which prevents Nishikigi from clamping him down and pushing him out.
Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – We are working on the assumption that Yoshikaze is nursing some kind of injury that has left him unable to move with his normal blinding speed, and unable to produce forward pressure that is the foundation of his long successful sumo career. What he is left with is a mismatched collection of gambits that have thus far only squeezed out 2 wins. Asanoyama had an unbeaten record until day 6 when Onosho took him apart at the tachiai, and we hope this is not the start of any kind of losing streak.
Kaisei vs Ryuden – Kaisei is generally not prone to much in the way of lateral movement. With his current condition limiting that further, he should be a fairly workable target for Ryuden, who specializes in applying lateral force to his opponents. Ryuden also holds a 4-1 career advantage over Kaisei.
Myogiryu vs Meisei – Both rikishi at 2-4, both rikishi struggling this basho to find their groove, and stuck too many times responding to their opponents’ sumo.
Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – Two more solid technicians face off, and I am going to predict they keep the battle going for a while. Takarafuji especially likes to wait for an opening and then attack.
Endo vs Abi – Hopefully Endo was watching Takarafuji dismantle Abi on day 6, because it worked brilliantly. If so, we will get to see Endo shut down the obligatory Abi-zumo attack, and Endo’s obasan army across Japan will swoon.
Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has been looking very sharp off the shikiri-sen so far, and Aoiyama has looked, for lack of a better term, like he is suffering. Hay-fever? A cold? Not sure, but he’s down at least 2 notches in intensity. Mitakeumi seems to be working carefully to line up for Tochinoshin’s soon-to-be-vacated Sekiwake spot.
Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – If anyone can put a hole in Tochinoshin’s recovery run, its going to be Kotoshogiku. Tochinoshin will man-hug any rikishi, and Kotoshogiku has a special battle-cuddle ready to go. In fact, in the 33 prior matches between these two, its 24-9 in favor of the Kyushu Bulldozer. But I will footnote that by saying that Tochinoshin has won the last 4 meetings.
Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a lot of work to do to nominate himself for a return to San’yaku, which for him would be a simple majority of wins. The career record with Ichinojo shows them evenly matched, so this will come down to Ichinojo getting the high-intensity attack ready for the opening seconds of the match, and not letting Hokutofuji land his nodowa.
Goeido vs Tamawashi – While Tamawashi won’t be pushing for the cup this time, he seems to be in better form than he has been for a while, and we think Goeido’s ankle is back to being in poor shape. As a result, you can expect to see Goeido focusing less on a strong attack at the tachiai, and more on evading and waiting for a chance to slap or pull down his opponent.
Daieisho vs Takayasu – This should be an easy walk over win for Takayasu, but with the Ozeki’s sumo in the first week being as ragged has it has been, you have to consider Daieisho a legitimate threat. I am guessing Takayasu will attempt to take Daieisho off of his attack with an all-or-nothing shoulder blast at the tachiai. [Daieisho pulled off the upset when the two last met on day 3 in March. -lksumo]
Chiyotairyu vs Kakuryu – In 10 matches, Chiyotairyu has been unable to beat Kakuryu. As a master of evasive and reactive sumo, it’s tough to get him to stay put long enough to be on the receiving end of one of your buffalo stampede charges. So I think we won’t see dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna today.