With his loss today, Goeido will vacate his Ozeki rank in March, and assume Takayasu’s Sekiwake slot with a single chance to return to Ozeki with 10 wins. Takayasu likewise lost today to Enho and will vacate the Sekiwake slot for Goeido as he is following Tochinoshin down the banzuke. Sumo’s transitional era has cleaned out the last of the Heisei era Ozeki, leaving only the Yokozuna to consume. Given their ability to withdraw from tournaments at will, it may be most of this year before they too are consumed by the force that is refreshing the sumo ranks. For people who are not happy with changes, or have sentimental feelings to the unique period of sumo that was the last 10 years, it is somewhat disturbing to watch.
But the fastest way to make more Ozeki and then more Yokozuna is to have them step away. Right now the replacements lack consistency to make it to these special ranks. That consistency will come shortly, I believe. But as discussed in last night commentary, we must not expect them to be as dominating or as long-serving as Hakuho has been. I think I am urging sumo fans to accept that the new normal in sumo is likely to be more unpredictable, with a field of more evenly matched competitors.
Ikioi defeats Azumaryu – Ikioi staves off make-koshi another day by getting Azumaryu turned around and shoved out from behind. I really would love to see Ikioi eek out a kachi-koshi, but he has to win them all for the last 3 days.
Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tries a oblique submarine tachiai, but Shimanoumi’s wide-arm launch catches him, and its a simple pivot and thrust to bring him to the clay. Valid opening gambit from Terutsuyoshi, but Shimanoumi had the perfect response.
Tsurugisho defeats Kotoeko – Somehow, the injured Tsurugisho scored a win against the hapless double-digit loss Kotoeko. Kotoeko is a better rikishi than this, so I am going to assume he in injured.
Tokushoryu defeats Kagayaki – Yusho co-leader Tokushoryu takes on from Mr Fundamentals in fairly impressive style. Kagayaki long arms give him the reach to get to Tokushoryu’s mawashi, but Tokushoryu body ensures that in doing so, Kagayaki’s hips are too high. His fundamentals tell him he is wrong, and he tries to modify his stance and his grip to compensate. All the while Tokushoryu is pushing forward and consolidating his position. This is experience at work, and by the time Kagayaki advances to resume the attack, Tokushoryu rolls him into a throw. Great sumo from Tokushoryu today, perfectly played.
Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Kiribayama wisely shuts down Sadanoumi’s blitzkrieg offense at the tachiai, and never gives him a moment to set up any offense. Kiribayama kachi-koshi.
Ishiura defeats Kaisei – Ishiura’s “hop” tachiai superbly disrupts Kaisei’s tachiai, and leaves Ishiura with momentary control of the tone of the match. Ishiura uses his superior mobility to never stay in front of Kaisei for more than a moment, and is constantly hitting and moving. Its very effective against a big man like Kaisei, and suddenly an Ishiura kachi-koshi does not look impossible.
Takanosho defeats Kotoshogiku – Continuing the theme of Heisei legends fading away, Kotoshogiku is make-koshi with today’s loss to Takanosho. Takanosho gets the drop on the Kyushu bulldozer, being able to get both hands inside at the tachiai. Kotoshogiku knows at once he is in trouble, and never recovers.
Tochiozan defeats Yutakayama – But not all of the Heisei legends are ready to fade, Tochiozan switches to a much higher mobility mode, and really gives Yutakayama a fight. Kachi-koshi for Tochiozan, and really and impressive effort for Hatsu. I am expecting Yutakayama to score at least 1 more win and hopefully join the joi-jin for March.
Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – Day 12’s battle of the mega-fauna goes sumo’s own thunder-spirit, Chiyotairyu. He beats Aoiyama at his own sumo, grabbing a bit of neck, applying a loose kotenage and pulling Big Dan to the clay. Aoiyama now make-koshi, and Chiyotairyu survives to fight another day. I admire the way thunder-spirit Chiyotairyu is hanging tough following that arm-breaker throw from Ryuden.
Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden kachi-koshi as he asserts man’s dominance over nature by defeating nature’s perfect shape, Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru starts strong, but he’s easy to side step if your timing is good, and Ryuden’s seems to be just right, and Chiyomaru gets a face full of clay.
Onosho defeats Tamawashi – This match surprised me, as I expected Tamawashi to completely dominate this battle. Tamawashi’s opening volley was hugely effective, but Onosho was surprisingly fast to recover and respond. He worked a natural recovery gap in Tamawashi’s oshi attacks to grab the former Sekiwake and pull him down. I know some readers wonder what potential I see in Onosho, but here it was on display. You fight him on a good day, you may end up with a bloody stump. His problem – consistency.
Shohozan defeats Mitakeumi – Traditional week 2 Mitakeumi, he can’t quite seem to output the extra 15% power needed to overcome Shohozan, who decided rather than trade blows with Mitakeumi, he was going for the belt. With his heels on the tawara, and unable to push Shohozan back, Mitakeumi pivots for a throw, but Shohozan widens his stance and collapses Mitakeumi’s pivot for the win.
Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Have we guessed today’s theme? Consistency. Endo’s brilliant sumo lacks consistency, and that’s why we don’t have Ozeki Endo. Endo rocks Hokutofuji back at the tachiai, but that is simply flirtation to a rikishi like Hokutofuji, and he roars forward, with his left hand firmly on Endo’s neck (see, not the right hand this time, the man can change it up). Hokutofuji’s lower body is always in it to win it, and he advances with Endo at arm’s length like a father rushing his toddler to the nearest changing table.
Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu was very effective in stalemating Okinoumi, preventing him from really generating enough leverage to do more than lean against Myogiryu, looking for a hand hold. But every exchange, Myogiryu improved his hold just a bit, until he was morozashi and backing Okinoumi over the bales. No kachi-koshi for Okinoumi today.
Shodai defeats Abi – Yusho co-leader retains his lead by overcoming one of better displays of Abi-zumo in a while. When I talk about Shodai having almost cartoon like physics around him, this is a fantastic example. Abi is pounding away, and Shodai is taking it as best he can, then a lucky move brings Abi’s head into contact with Shodai’s face, and Abi loses balance as Shodai thrusts him down. Time and again, you see something happen in a match with Shodai where you wonder, “was that luck, was that skill? What the hell was that?”
Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji takes his 7th loss and is painfully close to make-koshi for a rikishi who has fought so well this January. Much respect to Daieisho for attacking Takarafuji’s non-existent neck, and somehow making it work.
Enho defeats Takayasu – With today’s loss, Takayasu will be vacating his Sekiwake slot to make room for Goeido in March. Enho’s grab and pull sumo completely disrupts Takayasu’s offense, and the best he can do is try to stalemate him. Enho is small enough that even when you have a hold on him, he is probably not immobilized (unless you pick him up like Tochinoshin did). Thanks for 2½ years of great Ozeki sumo, Takayasu.
Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Again we see Takakeisho go chest to chest and win with a throw. Takakeisho now at double digit wins. What did I just see?
Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Asanoyama has showed a lack of consistent sumo this January, but to be honest this is his highest ever rank, and even a rikishi with as much potential as he has will take a bit of time to settle into being a San’yaku regular. Today’s defeat of Goeido was a fine yotsu battle that Goeido really could not find a way to win. Thanks for over 5 years of Ozeki sumo, Goeido.