Top of the post, we have to salute Terunofuji, who is 8-0 at the end of Nakabi. The former and shin-Ozeki could go on vacation today, and not have to mount the dohyo again until September, and be just fine. But its clear that is not his plan. He is the favorite for the yusho now, and should he take the cup again in May, the talk of him beginning a campaign for Yokozuna would rightly begin. As we have laid out in prior commentary, Terunofuji’s win / loss record makes him the most dominant man in sumo right now. He has, at least by score, been turning in Yokozuna grade performance.
Further down the banzuke, Akiseyama has withdrawn from the tournament. He was 1-6 going into day 8, and was clearly not up to full power sumo this month. Whatever injury sidelined him, we hope he heals up and returns strong. This gives Akua a much needed second win to improve him to 2-6. Speaking of which, we look forward to seeing none other than Aoiyama tomorrow on day 9. It seems whatever crippling back pain he was suffering last week has passed, and he’s ready to come knock some heads. A rested up Aoiyama at the start of week 2 could be a formula for fun just as everyone is pushing to get their 8th win.
Ura defeats Kaisei – Ura follows the rules of get low and get inside very well. You can watch him not settle to grapple with Kaisei until he is good and ready, and when he settles in it would almost seem that Kaisei has him wrapped up and contained. But you can see that his right hand is fingers up around Kaisei’s shoulder. Kaisei did stop him from the first set up for the sukuinage, but Ura grabs for Kaisei’s leg, and Kaisei reacts. Ura immediately shifts his grip back to being palm up and pulls the sukuinage. Brilliant sumo from Ura today against a much larger opponent. The crowd loves it, and so did I. He improves to 7-1 and leads the Juryo yusho race.
Kotoeko defeats Daiamami – Beautiful counter-move at the tachiai by Kotoeko, deflecting Daiamami left hand grip attempt. By leading outside and left, Daiamami surrendered inside and right to Kotoeko, who attacked with gusto. Daiamami eventually got a right hand inside, just to be met by Kotoeko’s ottsuke, a heartbeat before Kotoeko lifted Daiamami across the bales. Its sumo like this that really impresses me with Kotoeko. That was such a solid match in so many ways. He improves to 5-3.
Okinoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru opens with a tradition attempt at his “brand of sumo” – standing Okinoumi up and trying to immediately pull him down. Okinoumi’s too dialed in for that to work today, so the two trade thrusts, but it’s clear that Chiyomaru’s getting nowhere. Okinoumi gets a right hand deep inside grip, and he’s in business. There’s a lot of Chiyomaru to lift, so he just settles for wearing the round one down. Chiyomaru bearing down on Okinoumi, using his enormous bulk to attack, actually changes Chiyomaru’s body position enough to give Okinoumi a chance to lift with his hips, bucking Chiyomaru out for a win. Okinoumi improves to 6-2.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi fans around the world cheer as he picks up win #2 of the tournament. If you ever wanted to see two guys start low and fight lower, this is your match. The glorious sukuinage to finish the match was marvelous to see. Sure, I am pulling for Ishiura to have a solid kachi-koshi, but how can you not love that throw? Terutsuyoshi improves to 2-6.
Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki – Did you see Chiyotairyu reach for the mawashi in the tachiai? I am having a bit more hope that Chiyotairyu has some kind of yotsu-zumo trying to break through. It did open the door for Kagayaka to take over the match, and blast a series of blows to Chiyotairyu’s face. It was looking bad for Chiyotairyu, but a twisting thrust down at the bales took Kagayaki apart, sending them both to the dohyo. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-2.
Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – This seems to be a very sloppy match at first, but if you look closely, you can see Kotonowaka doing some rather impressive off-tempo moves that leave Tsurugisho off balance and out of step. This opens Tsurugisho up for the uwatedashinage, which Kotonowaka uses to send Tsurugisho tumbling to the clay. Kotonowaka improves to 4-4 and still has a decent shot at a kachi-koshi for May.
Chiyoshoma defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really looks like he needs to regroup and find some way to bring that right knee at least partially back online. Once again we see the straight-ahead sumo version of Chiyoshoma, and for another day is solid fundamentals and good mechanics that hand him another white star. Chiyoshoma improves to 5-3, and I am enjoying his new format quite a bit.
Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi invested too heavily on that left hand near where Takarafuji’s neck once was, but Tamawashi right hand placement was really good. Twice Takarafuji was able to break contact, disrupting whatever match momentum Tamawashi thought he had already established. This was all about Tamawashi trying to block Takarafuji from setting up a working hand placement, but it fed Takarafuji’s natural inclination to prolong matches. As Tamawashi tired, he became susceptible to Takarafuji’s probing attacks, and once he had tired enough, a quick combo to Tamawashi’s chest sent him out. Takarafuji picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-5.
Endo defeats Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi came to this match looking to execute straight ahead fundamentals, but Endo had a plan. Three steps into the match, Endo had his right hand locked in, and loaded the throw. Hidenoumi went for a roll to the clay, and Endo improved to 6-2.
Ichinojo defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi deflected at the tachiai, and it was nearly enough to let Ichinojo’s own considerable momentum carry him out. But not quite enough. Ichinojo turns and puts his right hand inside, and just marches forward, driving Shimanoumi out. Ichinojo improves to 6-2.
Onosho defeats Meisei – Meisei came in strong at the tachiai, rocking Onosho back. Meisei took his second step to press forward, but Onosho was already off balance, and decided to just work with it, and stepped to the side. Meisei found himself lunging into open air, and landed for a loss. Onosho joins the 5-2 crowd that now seems to be a 6-2 crowd.
Hokutofuji defeats Tobizaru – I counted at least 5 pull down attempts between these two as the fight raged across every open inch of that dohyo. Seriously, I don’t recall seeing that much movement and frantic action since the last time that Yoshikaze and Harumafuji went after each other with gusto. Hokutofuji finishes this high-energy match with a mighty shove, and Tobizaru once again goes to greet the fans all the way up in the box seats. Needless to say, they were all thrilled to get some close up time with the Flying Monkey. Hokutofuji improves to 2-6, and is running the risk of putting his make-koshi at stake.
Takayasu defeats Kiribayama – Points to Kiribayama for really putting a lot of energy into his attempt to take down Takayasu. I think this indicates some good things in the future for Kiribayama, but his score this May is a pretty dismal 2-6 following today’s action. He made the mistake of locking up Takayasu, who in fact has super-human levels of stamina. It has been rumored that he will frequently spend afternoons pulling stumps out of newly cleared rice fields in his home town, putting several pieces of farming machinery out of work, and he will still be genki for evening matches against the former Kisenosato. The look on Takayasu’s face as this wears on clearly declares, “I have all day for this, kid. Please do continue”. Too late Kiribayama understands what is happening, and tries for something, anything to break the stalemate. Takayasu, only partially satisfied, tosses Kiribayama into an exhausted heap a the west end of the dohyo. That’s 6-2 for the human stump breaker.
Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – A grand demonstration of why Team Tachiai things Wakatakakage has a fair amount of potential for higher rank. I love how he expertly stays just a hair width outside of Takanosho’s optimum attack range, using hit and shift sumo to keep the Sekiwake moving where he wants him to go, and finishing him with a big shove. Wakatakakage improves to 5-3, while Takanosho needs to win 5 of his last 7 to hit the safety of 8.
Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Shodai is back to his crummy tachiai. Even Kakuryu, who was guest commentator on the NHK broadcast, pointed it out. Of course perennial spoiler Mitakeumi was happy to make him suffer for his sloppy sumo, wrapping him out and bundling him out of the ring before he could unleash any cartoon sumo from his bag of Acme kimarite. Mitakeumi joins the growing herd at 6-2.
Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – I love how efficient Takakeisho is in this match. If you look, he moves maybe a foot from where the tachiai takes place. Three hits and Myogiryu’s face down on the clay. That’s some Ozeki dominance! Takakeisho stays one win behind Terunofuji, improving to 7-1.
Hoshoryu defeats Asanoyama – Like Wakatakakage, we can see flashes of brilliance from Hoshoryu on the right day. Not with the same consistency, but its in there. I think he surprised Asanoyama with the force and aggression he went to the belt, and just drove the Ozeki down. A glorious uchigake, and a direct attack at that taped ankle for a win. Now Asanoyama needs to worry about what it will take to get to 8 wins over the last 7 days. I am guessing Asanoyamam’s ankle is becoming more of a problem as the honbasho days tick by. Hoshoryu improves to 3-5, and was giddy with joy at his win.
Terunofuji defeats Daieisho – Terunofuji missed his tachiai attempt at a mawashi grip, so he settled for just overpowering Daieisho, who ran out of space for his traditional thrusting attack before he could really start. Terunofuji is kachi-koshi for May, improving to 8-0, and is the sole leader for the cup 1 week from today.