Welcome to the end of Kyushu Act 1!
I am compelled to call out Takayasu. We fans have taken note that his matches are going long, several over 3 minutes. This is quite unusual for sumo, and I suspect it heralds a new combat form for the former Ozeki. The man has always possessed supernatural endurance. Even Kisenosato called it out back in the day. The man seems to have the ability to take a refreshing nap while holding a fully stocked refrigerator over his head.
His old technique was what I would call “Wild Man Sumo”. He would have arms and legs going every which way, mass energy looking for a way to discharge through his opponents body and win the match. Sometimes it worked, many times it left him out of position and off balance and just the wrong time. It was also instrumental in delivering career changing injuries to his body. But something seems to have happened after Araiso moved to the hinterlands to set up his marvelous new stable.
This new technique is actually a bit subtle, and it appears to be devastating. Objective one – get your opponent tangled up and in a somewhat yotsu fight, he does not need to consent, just prevent him from breaking contact. His natural reaction will be to try to escape, or to push into you. That’s what you want. Dial up the counter pressure just to the point he begins to slip, then back off enough to stalemate him, but be careful to keep your balance back in case they release pressure suddenly. Bonus points if you can turn them a bit to the side so it’s tough for them to drop pressure. Then wait. Wait some more. Think about repainting your deck. Wait some more. Think about that trip to Miyajima with the wife and baby daughter. Wait some more. See the time keeper, he’s got a lot of fingers in the air, this match must be going on a while. Maybe its time to balance your bank statement in your head. Wow, more fingers. Is the other guy still alive? Yes? ok, now go wild man on his ass, he’s too tired to care.
Honestly, I think with some refinement, this can take him back to Ozeki. I am eager to see him try it on Terunofuji, who does not tire easily. I think of it as an extension of butsugari into competition. Wear the other guy to the point of exhaustion, then throw what’s left the the clay. I can’t wait to see it again.
Also of note, no more Juryo visitors for now, the banzuke gap has been closed thanks to the return of Tochinoshin. I was strongly considering if he would try to return, as his absence from a full tournament would punt him deep into Juryo. He’s not going down without a fight.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Akua vs Abi – Can Abi make it 5 in a row? I would guess he will, Akua has never found a formula to best him on the clay, and right now Abi seems to have speed and a commitment to inflicting pain on his opponents going for him. So I am thinking he may start 5-0.
Chiyomaru vs Shohozan – Can anything get “Big Guns” to break out the hitting bashing wonder that is the Shohozan we all love? I am not sure he has it in him any more. He has lost the last 2 in a row to Chiyomaru, who seems to be able to get Shohozan off balance and down. With both of them coming into day 5 with dismal 1-3 scores, they need to pick up wins.
Sadanoumi vs Chiyonokuni – Is Chiyonokuni hurt? He’s fighting well below his capabilities right now, and at M14, he is well below the rank I would expect to find him if he is healthy. He takes his dismal 1-3 record up against lossless speed demon Sadanoumi today. I think Sadanoumi is going to have a fair time of it, if he can keep his feet against Chiyonokuni’s thrash.
Kagayaki vs Tochinoshin – Welcome back Tochinoshin! If he’s healthy enough, he should be able to capture Kagayaki with a left hand outside grip, and then choose what to do. Tochinoshin has won 3 of his last 4 matches with Kagayaki, and holds an 8-2 career advantage. A loss today might indicate just how banged up the former Ozeki might be.
Yutakayama vs Kaisei – I want to see Kaisei rally and win this one. Sure he’s part of the old guard who are likely on the sunset road, but one more ride for glory is always nice. At M17e, he will drop to Juryo should he end with a make-koshi.
Chiyotairyu vs Hokutofuji – Chiyotairyu may not have a chance to employ the “Stand them up, slap them down” combo he adores. So maybe we get the cannon-ball tachiai today? Hokutofuji comes in a 4-0, and is clearly in fine form and quite genki. He looks like a good pick to end act one at 5-0.
Ishiura vs Hidenoumi – We saw some actual good sumo from Ishiura on day 4, and I hope this means he has gotten settled into honbasho form. Given that Hidenoumi has not really been that strong so far, I think he will be struggling to deal with Ishiura’s agility and mobility today.
Aoiyama vs Terutsuyoshi – A traditional crowd pleaser, the big man / little man match. Much as I adore “Big Dan” Aoiyama, I would love to see Terutsuyoshi crank it up today. He has 2 wins for November, but has yet to unleash any of his brilliant techniques. With any luck we will see him evade the V-Twin smash and grab, and get inside to work some mischief.
Kotonowaka vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru looked really solid against Ura, who can be a difficult, unusual challenge. He knew what to do and what to wait for, and pulled it off well. Kotonowaka continues is slump from September, and I can only guess that the injury that sent him kyujo on day 10 continues to trouble him.
Ura vs Chiyoshoma – I am really up for this match. Chiyoshoma is fighting the best I have ever seen him fight, and he has never won against Ura in 5 tries. If he pulls it off today, I am going to declare a new era for (formerly) sumo’s least favorite knucklehead. Ura has a solid recipe to take out Chiyoshoma, get behind him and push like a freight train. Can’t wait for this one.
Kotoeko vs Tamawashi – Will Kotoeko ever find a win? Not today, is my guess. Tamawashi is looking better than he has since July, where he finished Nagoya with 11-4 from Maegashira 10. Given the size and mass difference, Tamawashi may get him airborne today.
Takayasu vs Hoshoryu – Hooboy! What a match! Hoshoryu has been underperforming thus far, with a paltry 1-3 score going into the final day of act 1. Takayasu seems to be trying out a new, rather powerful technique. I can’t wait to see how these two work this out. Hoshoryu is going to be tough to capture and pin, and what will Takayasu do when his opponent can execute an effective hit-and-move match plan?
Shimanoumi vs Endo – I am surprised that we get to this stage of the tournament and Shimanoumi has yet to score his first win. He’s got Endo today, and that can’t be good for his chances at a kachi-koshi. Endo took a gnarly gash to the head on day 4, but I am going to guess it was just a flesh wound, and he may show up with one of those crazy giant bandages that Takayasu wore for a few days earlier in the year. Oh, and Shimanoumi has a 0-5 record against Endo. Tough day for him.
Onosho vs Takarafuji – Hey, junior tadpole! 0-4? What the hell. Get your balance down and mega thrust these guys out of your way. Oh, Takarafuji today? Well, good luck sir. He’s going to try to box you up and put you on hold until he’s ready to work with you.
Ichinojo vs Daieisho – Daieisho seems to be coming up short this tournament, in spite of his normal high-energy, somewhat frantic oshi-zumo style being in full battle mode. Ichinojo’s favorite response to this guy is to let him really get lost in his thrusting attack, let him get over his toes, and apply a giant boulder hand on the back of Daieisho’s neck for a quick drop to the deck.
Kiribayama vs Meisei – At this point, the whole Kiribayama may mostly be mental. Its the biggest problem with an up and coming rikishi getting into the named ranks, they gets spanked hard and sent home. It can really wreck some of them, but the best ones bounce back. On a good day, Kiribayama should be able to drop Meisei with a stout effort, but given that he has an 0-4 losing streak right now, the mental baggage make a win today a tough order indeed.
Mitakeumi vs Wakatakakage – Mitakeumi looks sharp right now. I know, we need to wait for his traditional week 2 fade, but I am going to revel in his sumo for now. Wakatakakage has only beaten him once, on his home turf of Nagyoa no less. The challenge Wakatakakage may face is that Mitakeumi is moving better side to side than I remember him doing for at least a year. Wakatakakage’s agility is his edge in this contest, and it may not be as useful as it was in July.
Myogiryu vs Takakeisho – Is today the day we get to see the full power “wave action tsuppari”? It’s been such a long time since the Grand Tadpole unleashed the doom weapon and blasted someone out of the prefecture. Given his 1-13 career deficit, I don’t think Myogiryu represents a large enough threat to power up the wave action system. Maybe week 2.
Shodai vs Okinoumi – Now that I am looking for it, I want to see more of the “Wall of Daikon”. Against Okinoumi it may be tough to execute, as the man from Shimane has a large body made for blocking and pushing himself. I look at it as a variation on the Kotoshogiku signature move, but rather than pelvic thrusts transmitted through a prominent belly, it’s a wide stance and just smothering your opponent with layers of pasty Kumamoto flesh. If anyone can land this beluga, its Okinoumi.
Terunofuji vs Takanosho – Takanosho has actually beaten Terunofuji 4 times, all of them in his run up to Ozeki. For today, I think he will go chest to chest early, and struggle to keep his arms out of the kaiju lock that is a Terunofuji staple. Chance for a Takanosho win are slim to none.