Both top men had tough matches today, and were well on the path to their first loss, when somehow each managed to find victory just inches from defeat. This is the hallmark of a champion, and it was unusual to see twice in one day’s matches. For Hakuho, this is just par for the course with him. For Terunofuji, this is fairly new. We had seen some of this in his early period as an Ozeki, but that was some world class rescue sumo from him today.
All around it was a great day for fans of technical sumo. A lot of high skill matches with rikishi showing us some of their better techniques. Readers may have guessed I love a day where I am compelled to step through the video frame by frame and watch the skill of these men as they fight it out on the dohyo, and today had that aplenty.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Tsurugisho – Ichiyamamoto attempts to set the match into a thrusting battle, but Tsurugisho locks in on the mawashi, and the struggle is on. Impressive use of the left hand outside by Ichiyamamoto, who was able to work to raise Tsurugisho, in spite of Tsurugisho’s excellent defensive foot placement. Ichiyamamoto abandoned his drive to get his right hand inside, switching to pushing against Tsurugisho’s chest while lifting with his left hand, and driving forward. Nice recovery today from Ichiyamamoto – showing a lot of promise. Both end 3-1.
Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Daiamami had the inside position at the tachiai, but he could not convert it into an effective offense as Chiyonokuni shoved him back, then delivered a mighty blow to his head. From there Chiyonokuni repeatedly tests to see if Daiamami’s head is firmly attached, and drives him over the west end into a shimpan. Chiyonokuni improves to 3-1.
Tokushoryu defeats Chiyonoo – Tokushoryu has that January 2020 vibe going on, where you ask “Where has this sumo been?”. He uses his enormous belly to just broom Chiyonoo out of the ring in short order, improving to 3-1.
Ishiura defeats Chiyomaru – Ishiura’s sumo today was just the tonic I needed. He moved out of Chiyomaru’s fairly narrow attack zone early, got to the side and gave the round one no rest. Applying force from Chiyomaru’s right side, Ishiura just kept moving, and Chiyomaru just kept struggling. First win for Ishiura, improving to 1-3.
Kagayaki defeats Ura – Ura had a solid start, but quickly found himself trapped by Kagayaki’s arm lock. From there he was short of options, and tried to pull to at least release the arm lock. But Kagayaki was going nowhere, and ran Ura to the tawara and won with a hearty final shove into his oyakata as if to say, “Take this guy back, sir!”. Kagayaki improves to 3-1.
Kaisei defeats Tochinoshin – Today’s loss to Kaisei increases my worry about Tochinoshin. At least today he was able to offer some level of defense, but he was unable to move Kaisei, or generate any offense at all. Its rare to see Kaisei win by a throw, but that sukuinage was dead on and well delivered. Tochinoshin now at 0-4 while Kaisei improves to 2-2.
Tamawashi defeats Kotonowaka – I really liked this match, as it showed the kind of sumo that Kotonowaka can employ when he is in good condition. He was inside at the tachiai, and delivered a solid opening combo. But Tamawashi has at least a dozen ways to disrupt an early advantage, and reset the balance of control, focusing on Kotonowaka’s face. Kotonowaka was having none of that, and drive center-mass, pushing Tamawashi back. Tamawashi’s heels touch the bales, and you can see him shift gears. Out comes the big right hand blow to the side of the head, and Kotonowaka staggers, and Tamawashi pushes him out. Excellent sumo from both today, but Tamawashi improves to 4-0.
Hidenoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi could not get any kind of grip on Hidenoumi, and was little more than practice ballast for Hidenoumi’s sumo today. Knowing what Terutsuyoshi is capable of, its tough to see him struggle like this. Hidenoumi improves to 2-2.
Shimanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama got his hands inside at the tachiai, engaged the V-Twin attack and had free fire against Shimanoumi’s face and neck for a while. But Aoiyama chose to try to pull Shimanoumi down, and found himself quickly run out of the ring. I am going to guess Aoiyama is suffering some kind of problem with that left knee, and will possibly have a tough basho ahead of him. Shimanoumi improves to 2-2.
Takarafuji defeats Myogiryu – Master class in defensive sumo taught by Takarafuji today. Myogiryu drove hard at the tachiai, but Takarafuji denied him any manner of hold, or even a working hand placement. Takarafuji angles his body, opens his stance, and he is going exactly nowhere now. He expertly read Myogiryu shifting his hips for a charge, and attacked, running Myogiryu out of the ring. Takarafuji improves to 2-2.
Kiribayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Kiribayama got the better of the tachiai, and managed a left hand inside grip in short order. This left Chiyoshoma’s right hand stalemated, and he switched to defense. With the two battling to improve their grip, Chiyoshoma lost traction while trying to move to his right, and Kiribayama swung him to the clay. Kiribayama improves to 3-1, but solid sumo from both today.
Okinoumi defeats Onosho – Onosho gets his body set at the tachiai, and goes into his favorite nodowa forward leaning mode against Okinoumi. Okinoumi is only on his heels for a moment, and comes roaring back with a tidy thrusting attack to push Onosho back and then out. Okinoumi improves to 3-1.
Hoshoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu had the advantage at the tachiai, but in an easy to predict move, Chiyotairyu tried to pull Hoshoryu down the moment after his opening thrust connected. Hoshoryu was ready, and charged ahead to run Chiyotairyu out. Hoshoryu improves to 3-1.
Hokutofuji defeats Kotoeko – Hokutofuji continues his dominance over Kotoeko (who has never beaten Hokutofuji). Hokutofuji opened strong with a pair of combo attacks, catching Kotoeko full in the chest. The first combo disrupted Kotoeko’s stance, the second propelled him back and out for a quick win for Hokutofuji, as he improves to 3-1.
Ichinojo defeats Meisei – Meisei worked really hard for any advantage he could find against Ichinojo, and had a tough road the entire time. He was stalemated at the tachiai, but managed to get his hands inside. He then found himself unable to attack, and worked to switch his grip. But Ichinojo was on the attack, and the sheer mass difference began to bite. Ichinojo took control, and strode forward, taking Meisei out with little fuss. Ichinojo improves to 3-1.
Takayasu defeats Endo – Takayasu did a great job at the tachiai, shutting down Endo’s opening try for a frontal mawashi grip, and setting up a right arm ottzuke to completely shut Endo down. Realizing he was not getting a mawashi grip today, Endo shifted to oshi, and traded blows with Takayasu, finding no better fortunes there. A neck pull by Takayasu took him off balance, and the former Ozeki battered him until Endo’s hand touched the clay. Takayasu improves to 2-2.
Mitakeumi defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru had the better tachiai, getting his hands inside and pushing against Mitakeumi’s chest. But Tobizaru’s foot placement was poor, and Mitakeumi was able to hold ground. Realizing he was stalemated, Tobizaru tried a leg kick – pull combo that fueled Mitakeumi’s charge that took Tobizaru out of the ring. Mitakeumi improves to 3-1.
Wakatakakage defeats Shodai – Shodai was slow off the shikiri-sen, and high at the initial hit. Wakatakakage tried for a grip as he took control, but Shodai’s defenses were good enough to shut that down. So Wakatakakage attacked center mass and found the Ozeki easy enough to move, and proceeded to piston-arm Shodai around and send him stumbling out. Both end the day 2-2. Get it together, Shodai!
Terunofuji defeats Daieisho – Both men got their desired position in the tachiai – Daieisho’s hands high and inside, Terunofuji with his arm bar locking out Daieisho’s thrusting attack. Terunofuji’s grip could not keep Daieisho contained, and Daieisho was able to begin to attack, and had Terunofuji in real trouble. But it seems Terunofuji has gotten fairly good at improvising, first rescuing himself from near certain loss as Daieisho tried to run him out, and then to win when Daieisho failed to fall to his rescue move. It was sloppy, but it was a brilliant example of Terunofuji’s mental endurance and agility. He improves to 4-0.
Hakuho defeats Takanosho – Hakuho had a strong match, but a pull attempt against Takanosho went sour, and nearly cost to Yokozuna his first loss. Frankly, only Hakuho could have rescued himself from that situation, and rescue himself he did. I had to watch it several times to try to figure out how he managed that, and it comes down to a deft left hand thrust at just the right moment to send Takanosho down. Hakuho remains unbeaten at 4-0.