The two men we expected to dominate the basho both are 8-0 following the middle day, and have their kachi-koshi. While there is plenty of sumo to enjoy for the next 7 days, this is really about the final match on day 15, and what it will inform us about not just the Emperor’s cup, but Terunofuji’s chances as being promoted to Yokozuna. If you watch his matches for the past year or so, he has been consistently mounting the dohyo and fighting at a tier above everyone he has faced. It is no coincidence this is the same year that Hakuho has largely been absent with persistent knee injury that was finally addressed surgically 4 months ago.
The two have 13 career matches, withe the last one being in day 14 in Osaka during 2017, more than four years ago. A lot has changed since then for both men. Out of those 13 career matches, Hakuho has taken 9 to Terunofuji’s 4.
With nakabi complete, we enter week 2 of the basho, and the depleted Ozeki ranks mean that the “tough” week will be somewhat light for Terunofuji and Hakuho, as the schedulers will reach lower down the banzuke to supply daily opponents for the two leaders to fight. Their goal – stay whole and healthy till day 15, and fight it out in the last match of the basho to decide it all.
Akua defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu got the better of the tachiai, and started moving Akua around. But it seems Akua had enough room to shift left as Tokushoryu advanced to the edge of the ring. A slap and a push from Akua, and he wins it by hatakikomi, improving to 5-3.
Tsurugisho defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru had his hands up and ready to attack before Tsurugisho could finish his tachiai. As Chiyomaru advanced, he leaned into the attack, setting up a Tsurugisho tsukiotoshi for the man in the brown mawashi to take the win. Tsurugisho improves to 5-3.
Ishiura defeats Ura – Ishiura’s first ever win over Ura, and it was Ishiura attacking well that took the match. Ura seemed to be looking to defend and entrap, as he has done for several days this tournament. Ishiura kept his arms and hands free of Ura’s vice-like grasp, and powered him out to improve to 5-3.
Tochinoshin defeats Daiamami – I am starting to think that Tochinoshin might just rally and pull this one out before it’s too late. Daiamami accepted Tochinoshin’s offer to get chest to chest, and once Tochinoshin had a right hand inside grip, he was ready to set up the shitatenage. Tochinoshin improves to 3-5.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Kaisei – The trick to beating Kaisei is to get him to start moving, as for most rikishi, he is too large to put in motion when Kaisei chooses to stand fast. Ichiyamamoto was able to do that, but even then it took 3 attempts to do anything to shift Kaisei into a losing position. Ichiyamamoto got the job done, and improves to 6-2 as he sent Kaisei stumbling over the bales.
Chiyonoo defeats Kotonowaka – A decent mawashi battle, that Kotonowaka should have put more effort into controlling. He allowed Chiyonoo a fair amount of mobility, and set both inside and outside hands up for a throw. When the throw came, Kotonowaka’s hand came down first, giving Chiyonoo his 3rd win.
Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni left his chest wide open, and there was no way Tamawashi was not going to drive for center mass. Once Tamawashi connected, it was 3 steps to the edge, and even a last moment pulling move from Chiyonokuni could save him. Tamawashi improves to 6-2.
Shimanoumi defeats Kagayaki – This match is great for demonstrating the power of ottsuke, as both rikishi used the blocking technique that brings the elbow next to the ribs with great effect. This was a favorite of Kisenosato, and he used it to shut down his opponent’s offense. Kagayaki does this with great effect as well, but got set up a bit late, and Shimanoumi had working hand placement for an attack. Once he started to advance, it was a quick trip over the bales for Kagayaki, and Shimanoumi improved to 5-3
Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Terutsuyoshi deploys a mini-henka at the tachiai, resulting in a solid capture by Myogiryu. But whatever injury Myogiryu is enduring prevents him from applying much force in the move, or in setting up a powerful stance. Terutsuyoshi consolidates, and powers ahead to drive Myogiryu out to improve to 3-5.
Hidenoumi defeats Onosho – Onosho had the power in this match, but as is usual for him, his balance was all over the place. This robbed him of the ability to focus that power into moving Hidenoumi, and set up Hidenoumi throwing him down. Hidenoumi improves to 4-4.
Takarafuji defeats Kiribayama – Another brilliant example for Takarafuji’s “Brand of Sumo”. Kiribayama comes in strong and powerful, and proceeds to run Takarafuji, putting him on defense. With each step, Takarafuji works to dampen Kiribayama’s attacks, and in a few moments has him locked up in the center of the dohyo. From there, Takarafuji sets up his grip, and walks Kiribayama out. Patient, in control, and improves to 5-3.
Okinoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma had the better initial attack, but Okinoumi locks him up chest to chest. I note that Okinoumi spent no time to refine his stance or hand hold, expecting Chiyoshoma to be able to break his grip and shift up at any time. Okinoumi executes a throw, sending them both to the clay, but taking the win. Solid sumo from both, with Okinoumi improving to 5-3.
Aoiyama defeats Hoshoryu – Traditional Aoiyama sumo, stand them up, then pull them down. I am surprised that Hoshoryu was captured in that manner, but Big Dan took him apart. Aoiyama improves to 4-4.
Takanosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Great, Chiyotairyu went straight to yotsu at the tachiai, and looked solid for a moment. But for whatever reason did not seem to be able to generate any kind of forward power to move Takanosho. Maybe some kind of back problem? Takanosho takes control and wins to improve to 4-4.
Ichinojo defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage looked like was trying some manner of henka. He ended up to the side of Ichinojo, but terribly off balance. This left him with few options as Ichinojo pivoted and applied an immediate pull from the left to drop Wakatakakage for a loss. Ichinojo improves to 5-3.
Meisei defeats Daieisho – World class thrusting duel between these two, lots of mobility, lots of attack energy, almost zero defense to be found anywhere. But these matches almost always comes down to who is off balance when, and Meisei caught Daieisho over-extended, and thrust him down. Meisei improves to 4-4.
Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu continues his dominance over Mitakeumi, picking up his 19th win of the series. Takayasu used a Kisenosato style ottsuke with great effect, blocking out Mitakeumi and leaving the home town favorite without any attack routes. The match then devolved into a stamina contest, which always favors Takayasu, no matter who the opponent is. It’s kind of brutal to watch Mitakeumi tire out as Takayasu seems to be focused and waits. Realizing he’s about out of energy, Mitakeumi rallies, but can’t make a dent in Takayasu’s position. It seems that Mitakeumi just runs out of stamina, and Takayasu walks him out. Takayasu improves to 4-4. Frankly if Takayasu did this every match, he would be an Ozeki again. It may be a tad boring to watch, but it seems largely unstoppable.
Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Ozeki Shodai shows up today and decides to mount the dohyo. Did anyone else laugh out loud as Hokutofuji came in, full of fire and fury, just to be lifted and dumped out with one fluid motion by Shodai? Bonus point was that Shodai’s facial expression seemed to read, “Hmm… Nope!” Both end the day 4-4.
Terunofuji defeats Tobizaru – It seems Terunofuji took note of Tobizaru’s day 7 match against Hakuho, and made it his focus to cut down on Tobizaru’s mobility early. Tobizaru was able to escape Terunofuji’s grasp twice, but each time Terunofuji re-engaged and shut him down. The final break and capture resulted in a thrust down that sent Tobizaru rolling along the dohyo. Terunofuji improves to 8-0, and is kachi-koshi for Nagoya.
Hakuho defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko brought some decent sumo to today’s fight, and had Hakuho primed for some fun move / countermove yotsu. But Kotoeko chose makekae, and in the process of switching his grip, opened the door for a Hakuho to blast him out of the ring. Hakuho improves to 8-0, and is kachi-koshi for Nagoya.