What an opener for act 2! One of the great things about act 2 is there seems to be some kind of mental / stamina barrier that arrives day 6 or 7, where suddenly rikishi who were on hot streaks go cold, and rikishi who were struggling find their sumo. As the Great Sumo Cat works its magic, thus we saw some fascinating reversals on day 6.
It’s clear that even though Hakuho is fighting better than anyone on the dohyo, his elbows are bothering him. That wince and flex on the left arm following today’s bout was a very broad tell. I fully expect Hakuho’s ego to drive him to the point of body failure in his focus to remain the dai-Yokozuna for another year. He might be able to pull it off, but the cumulative injuries from a long decade of fighting and defeating the best the sumo world can offer is degrading him, a piece at a time.
Kotoyuki defeats Kaisei – It’s not a surprise, sadly. Kaisei has no ability to do sumo right now in any meaningful way. Too many injuries, and with his big body, any damage to his hips or below and he’s more or less useless. Will he sit out? I think he believes that maybe if he gambarizes he can pick up a few more and soften his fall.
Enho defeats Yago – Any normal person would watch that match, see Yago completely envelop Enho, and think “Yeah, that little guy is screwed”. When really, once Yago had his “paper covers rock” body position, there was absolutely nothing he could do but wait and see what kind of fresh hell Enho was going to uncork. Like a chest-buster from the movie Aliens, it was no obstacle for the truly motivated to break free from that much flesh. Enho pivots and Yago gets to enjoy the physics of angular displacement first hand. You see, the inside part of the wheel moves a little, the outside moves a LOT.
Chiyomaru defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima can’t seem to buy a win. There are no reports that I have seen that detail what ails him, but he has certainly fallen apart during this tournament. Chiyomaru focused on Toyonoshima’s neck until Toyonoshima was doing nothing more than reacting to Chiyomaru’s attacks, then Chiyomaru swept to the side and pushed Toyonoshima down.
Sadanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – First of the undefeated to take a black star on day 6. Sadanoumi got inside early and set up sideways to Terutsuyoshi, who immediately went to throw, but found himself without the grip to execute. He attempted to pivot back to be chest to chest and establish a deep right hand grip, but by that time Sadanoumi had driven him out.
Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko’s poorly executed attempt to hit and shift left him with zero defense, and Mr Fundamentals cleaned up. After shedding an impressive amount of ring rust, I think Kagayaki is getting it in gear.
Shohozan defeats Nishikigi – Battle of the arm-locks, and Shohozan does them very well indeed. Hopefully Nishikigi was not injured.
Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan strikes me as frequently having a “Cunning Plan”, that frankly is amazing, but once a young, genki brute like Daishoho gets a hold of you, your plans are not worth much. Its great to watch Tochiozan try plans B and C, but the whole time Daishoho maintains forward pressure, and keeps advancing.
Okinoumi defeats Takagenji – Experience. Takagenji went in hard and strong, but Okinoumi wrapped him up, and waited. Like a fish on the hook, Takagenji tried a few gambits to change the calculus of the match, but Okinoumi waited for him to release just a bit of pressure (which unweighted Takagenji’s left side just a bit), and then rotated into the shitatenage. Great sumo from Okinoumi.
Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu had this one locked up due to Onosho’s well documented balance problems, but a really clever move by Onosho as he was airborne shoved Chiyotairyu enough that he had to take a step, and that step landed before Onosho did, giving him the match.
Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku was completely shut down and defeated in a blink of an eye. Myogiryu went chest to chest, turned the former Ozeki and advanced for the win.
Takarafuji defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze gets his first black star as he goes down to a combination of poor footwork and Takarafuji’s tachiai. I would say this is at least one part slippiotoshi. Nagoya is famous for these, as the humidity and heat make that clay surface slippery, as hundreds of feet pack the dohyo, and smooth it out.
Ichinojo defeats Shimanoumi – You can see Shimanoumi struggle for hand placement. At the tachiai they find Ichinojo’s enormous soft belly, and sort of sink in. While Shimanoumi is figuring this out, the Boulder already has a right hand inside grip and Shimanoumi is in deep trouble. As Ichinojo advances, Shimanoumi releases all forward pressure and just prepares for the fall. In the words of Patrick Stewart in Dune, “Gads, what a monster!”
Hokutofuji defeats Meisei – Meisei won the tachiai, and had a left hand inside grip on Hokutofuji, pressing him to the tawara before Hokutofuji could get his defensive footwork together and circle away. His rapid pivot left Meisei off balance, and in some damn impressive sumo, Hokutofuji switched to attack mode in the midst of the retreat, grabbing Meisei’s right arm and unleashing a kotenage. Brilliant stuff.
Mitakeumi defeats Ryuden – These two knocked heads at the tachiai, and I am going to guess that Ryuden was more than a little discombobulated by it, as he offered very little offense or defense against Mitakeumi’s thrusting attack.
Tamawashi defeats Asanoyama – Hey look, that’s the Tamawashi we know and love. Asanoyama went for his intended grip to set up offense, and found that Tamawashi was inside, thrusting against his chest, and it was all over. Tamawashi starts act 2 with his first win.
Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Takayasu’s foot placement was terrible in this match, and he was all over the place. It’s only by sheer luck and some solid one-leg sumo that he was able to stay in long enough to win. He ceded the inside lane to Daieisho, and when he discovered that Daieisho was out-thrusting him, Takayasu engaged reverse gear and tried for a pull down. The hatakikomi worked, but Takayasu looked like hell.
Shodai defeats Goeido – The sumo equivalent of losing to baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, Goeido lets Shodai’s cartoon sumo get the best of him. Goeido seems to go soft in the tachiai, so I have to wonder if that ankle is bothering him again. When the Ozeki gets in trouble, he starts moving in reverse, which he did today. Shodai was not one to let that opportunity go past, and made Goeido pay.
Kakuryu defeats Endo – Standard match for them both until the moment when Endo goes for that right hand shallow grip, the same one he has used at least twice this basho to dismantle an opponent. At this point, Kakuryu has the presence of mind to go “oh damn!”, and activate the “Break glass in case of emergency” sumo. For Kakuryu that is to step back and pull.
Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – A double-ladle of mind games prior to the bout, Aoiyama gave Hakuho a very good fight today, and frankly looked better than he has in quite a while. Hakuho was not unscathed at the end, and seemed genuinely sore. If I were a richer man, I would buy Aoiyama (Big Dan) the most obscene Harley or Indian I could find, as that man needs a hog to ride when his sumo days are done.