Act 1 of the basho is complete, and only 2 men remain undefeated: Hakuho and Terunofuji. This is precisely the outcome most fans were hoping to see, and we start to get a whiff of the tension that should continue into the middle weekend. Both area far from top physical shape given their injuries, but both are driven to dominate each match and incredibly tough, and unwilling to let something like a bum knee stop them from winning each day. Both of them understand that they are being carried toward what all the fans hope is a day 15 show down, possibly for not just the Emperor’s cup, but the final verdict on Terunofuji to add one more impossible accomplishment to his already improbable redemption.
In the early hours of day 5, it was announced that Endo had joined the kyujo list, after injuring his left leg. Given the doctor’s directive of 3 weeks recovery, he is unlikely to return. Mitakeumi picks up the fusensho to advance to 4-1.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Tokushoryu – The obligatory two hand neck attack at the tachiai from Ichiyamamoto led to a pulling opportunity that surprisingly worked for once against Tokushoryu, who seems to have had a poor step in there somewhere. Ichiyamamoto advances to 4-1.
Chiyonokuni defeats Tsurugisho – Chiyonokuni shook off Tsurugisho’s big hit at the tachiai, and turned on the power. A strong left hand to face prompted Tsurugisho to try to respond in kind. Chiyonokuni stepped aside and slapped with his right to bring Tsurugisho to the clay. Chiyonokuni joins the group at 4-1.
Ishiura defeats Daiamami – I am happy to see some solid Ishiura sumo today, and it brought him a much needed win. He had excellent lateral motion, getting to the side of Daiamami and putting him on “spin” before dropping him to the clay like a sack of potatoes with a kirikaeshi. Ishiura improves to 2-4.
Chiyonoo defeats Kagayaki – Chiyonoo gets close and has both hands inside one step past the tachiai, disabling Kagayaki’s preferred thrusting attack. Kagayaki tried to force Chiyonoo back, but that just devolved into a belly bumping contest that Chiyonoo dominated, raising Kagayaki up and putting him across the tawara. Chiyonoo improves to 2-3.
Kotonowaka defeats Ura – Ura’s submarine tachiai is not working well at all thus far in July, and most of his opponents are able to blunt its effects. Ura is hard pressed to come up with much offense from that position if he does not end the tachiai inside his opponent’s reach. Today its Kotonowaka who shuts it down, then send Ura tumbling into the zabuton. Kotonowaka improves to 4-1.
Chiyomaru defeats Kaisei – In this battle of the mega-fauna, Chiyomaru got in the first attack, and it worked well. The thrusting under the chin raised up Kaisei, and Chiyomaru made short work to send him back and out to improve to 2-3.
Tochinoshin defeats Terutsuyoshi – I am delighted to see Tochinoshin pick up his first win before the end of act 1. He is still in grim shape, but fears of him ending July winless are now gone. Sure it’s was a cheap ass henka, but I would expect Terutsuyoshi to be ready for that one, given Tochinoshin can’t actually do much sumo in his physical state.
Aoiyama defeats Tamawashi – Aoiyama stayed much lower than he typically does, and expertly exploited a pull attempt from Tamawashi, giving the Mongolian a hearty blast from the V-Twin to propel him back and out. Aoiyama improves to 2-3.
Takarafuji defeats Shimanoumi – I love to see how Takarafuji shuts down his opponent, and works to keep himself in the center of the dohyo, and his opponent attack from the outside to the middle. By dominating the middle of the ring, he grants himself control of the match, and when he does this, he tends to win. Points to Shimanoumi, who knew exactly what Takarafuji was up to, and fought him for every inch, hand and foot. Both men got low on stamina, and broke their deadlock at the center, with Takarafuji applying a tsukiotoshi to improve to 3-2.
Hidenoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma lost this match with a moment of poor balance and stability when Hidenoumi connected with a sharp left to Chiyoshoma’s shoulder. Hidenoumi improves to 3-2.
Hoshoryu defeats Myogiryu – Solid, commanding grappling sumo from Hoshoryu today. He took control early and danced Myogiryu round until Myogiryu had had enough and was escorted out. Hoshoryu’s sumo is looking better than ever right now, and he improves to 4-1.
Kiribayama defeats Okinoumi – Kiribayama got the edge at the tachiai, and converted that into a left hand inside grip. Okinoumi defended well, and shut down at least 2 attempts by Kiribayama to lift him up and send him out. Okinoumi rallied, and marched Kiribayama out, but stepped across the tawara as he shifted his opponent out. A monoii reversed Kimura Konosuke’s gumbai and gave the win to Kiribayama. Kiribayama improves to 4-1.
Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu attempts his traditional blast and pull at the tachiai, and Onosho is well prepared to receive. As Chiyotairyu starts to pull, Onosho dials up the pushing power, and runs Chiyotairyu out in a hurry. Onosho improves to 2-3, and Chiyotairyu is 1-4, and in desperate need of better sumo choices.
Takanosho defeats Kotoeko – Takanosho’s tachiai had a few problems, his head was down, and he did not follow Kotoeko’s shift to the left. But Takanosho managed to get a left hand inside, and halted Kotoeko’s advance. Kotoeko attempted to rally, but received a slap down from Takanosho as Kotoeko charged forward. That’s a first win for Takanosho, as he improves to 1-4.
Daieisho defeats Wakatakakage – Wow, Wakatakakage had at least 3 escapes in that loss to Daieisho. Daieisho had his mega-thrust dialed up to “murder”, and was moving at speed against Wakatakakage. Even thought Wakatakakage lost that one, I am quite impressed how well he moved and kept himself in the match. Daieisho picks up a well earned first win, improving to 1-4.
Meisei defeats Takayasu – Takayasu picks up his first loss of the tournament as Meisei effectively disrupts Takayasu’s attack plan, then upsets his foot work, disrupting his balance, and then unleashes a really nifty katasukashi (under shoulder swing down) to roll Takayasu to the clay. Meisei advances to 2-3.
Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji started low, with a solid tachiai, getting his hands more or less where he like to place them at the start of a match. As Terunofuji counter-attacked, Hokutofuji tried twice to pull the Ozeki down, neither attempt finding any success. Really impressed with Terunofuji’s ability to absorb all of that, and not just stay in the match but to stay on offense. Terunofuji set up and rapidly delivered a blistering kotenage that sent Hokutofuji to the clay. He remains undefeated at 5-0.
Tobizaru defeats Shodai – I had to watch this match a couple of times, as it features Tobizaru rapidly switching from push to pull to grab and tug and back to push again. It completely shut down any kind of offense Shodai wanted to deliver, and in the end I think Shodai went out just to make it end. I am starting to worry about Shodai at 2-3 headed into the middle weekend.
Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – Anyone else notice the appliance under Hakuho’s knee bandage today? I am not sure I saw that on prior days. But it raises the question: How does a one legged man beat a giant in a fight? Hakuho did not seem to try and run any power through that right knee, but managed to yorikiri a nearly 200kg boulder with apparent ease. He remains undefeated at 5-0.