Firstly, happy Thanksgiving to all of our American readers and followers. We deeply appreciate all of you, and the time you spend with us during the tournaments each year. Today I give thanks for our audience. I am grateful for the chance Andy gave me to write about my love for sumo, and grateful that anyone takes the time to read it.
If I had to label today, it would be “Funnel Buster”. I have been talking up the Darwin Funnel that was implemented in the middle weekend, and had been grinding away with great effect ever since. It has been driving a surprisingly broad cohort of rikishi toward 7-7 scores at the start of day 15. This is a tough plan to run, because in the final days of the basho, as it’s easy for anyone to break out either to the kachi-koshi or make-koshi side. There are a fair number of matches intended to squeeze the group toward a 6-6 score to end today, and almost all of them went the other way, instead dealing out a fair number of 7-5 and 5-7 results. There is still time to try and recover, but I think the much hoped for Grand Darwin event on day 15 is not to be this time out.
As a footnote to that, today was intended to be “make-koshi day”, with a large cadre of 4-7 rikishi set to get their 8th loss. Some of them did, but most of them found the sumo power to improve to 5-7.
That being said, some fantastic action today from Fukuoka.
Sadanoumi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin opened strong, and was moving forward. But between his bad back and his crummy knee, he was quite off balance. Sadanoumi turns him and, using what appeared to be minimum force, placed him over the bales. Kimarite is listed as amiuchi, fisherman’s throw, but it me it looked more like, “Here, just exit sir”. Sadanoumi advances to 8-4, and is kachi-koshi. Tochinoshin drops to 4-8, and is make-koshi.
Chiyonokuni defeats Ishiura – Not quite sure what Ishiura’s plan was here, but it looked similar to Hattorizakura, which I know was never the intent. Chiyonokuni easily improves to 7-5.
Kotonowaka defeats Shohozan – Shohozan opened strong, putting a lot of power into a double arm opening combo to Kotonowaka’s face. It worked for a time, but Shohozan could not keep up the pressure. Kotonowaka rallied, and drove him across the east side. Kotonowaka now 5-7
Kaisei defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi gets a left hand shallow grip, and digs into Kaisei’s chest at the tachiai. This is a strong position for Terutsuyoshi, but sadly Kaisei’s enormity prevents Terutsuyoshi from doing much with it. Kaisei stands his ground, and gradually moves himself to the center of the ring. With Terutsuyoshi’s back now to the bales, Kaisei drives forward for a text-book yorikiri. Kaisei up to 6-6 following today.
Akua defeats Chiyotairyu – YES! Mutual henka! Rarely seen and always a treat when it happens, the look of mutual surprise was priceless. Left guessing what to do next, Akua attacks first and is rewarded by connecting low and strong against Chiyotairyu, who had yet to set his feet. Akua improves to 7-5.
Yutakayama defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama first up the V-Twin, and at least stalemates Yutakayama for a time, but that bum knee betrays Big Dan as he moves forward. With his balance poor, Yutakayama picks him off in passing, and sends him down for this 9th loss in a row. Yutakayama up to 5-7.
Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko seemed to be holding his own today, but ate a full force hikiotoshi as he stepped forward to press the attack against Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru one of the few funnel rikishi to hold the line today, he’s now 6-6.
Tobizaru defeats Kagayaki – Tobizaru moves to his right at the tachiai, was that a partial henka? Kagayaki tracks him well, but that turn cost him valuable territory, and most of his forward power. Tobizaru the advantage and never gives Kagayaki a moment to set is feet, driving him out to advance to 6-6.
Ura defeats Hokutofuji – No handshake / nodowa tachiai from Hokutofuji today, which was the right choice. He tries to keep Ura at distance, and works to minimize his attack profile. Ura, of course, digs in and waits for the first grab and tug body part to present itself. Ura does some clever mini-pulls to try to get Hokutofuji to bring an arm forward, and those sumo reflexes of Hokutofuji kick in. Out comes that right hand to attack against the pull, followed by the left, and Ura is in business. Unable to convert it to a katasukashi (he would have needed the right arm for that), Ura had to settle for a tottari as Hokutofuji tumbles forward. Both end the day at 9-3. I hope Ura gets to fight Shodai this basho, as I think the “Wall of Daikon” technique would completely shut down Ura’s sumo.
Hidenoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – Hidenoumi got Chiyoshoma locked up chest to chest, and then waited it out. This was a solid choice, and his larger size did a lot of the work for him, draining Chiyoshoma’s stamina a bit at a time. The battle of attrition pays off when Hidenoumi consolidates his grip, lowers his hips and drives forward for the win. Hidenoumi advances to 7-5.
Abi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi gets inside Abi’s attack radius and lands a big shove to send Abi back. In a blink of an eye, Abi rallies and drives hard against Tamawashi’s neck, takes control of the match, and finishes Tamawashi in 4 steps. Abi improves to 11-1. Wow.
Okinoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Okinoumi needed a win today, and that big tachiai was just what the man needed. Not just the power into the initial merge, but the follow through as well, pushing through Shimanoumi, breaking his stance. With Shimanoumi on the move, Okinoumi just kept moving forward for the win. Both end the day at 5-7.
Takanosho defeats Onosho – Superior sumo mechanics from Takanosho. He read Onosho’s balance correctly, and timed the thrust to meet Onosho mid stride, deflecting him to the side. Onosho’s left foot tells the story here. It’s up in the air as Takanosho connects. A second push from behind was all it took to finish him. Onosho hits his 8th loss of a rough basho for him, and is make-koshi. Takanosho pick up his 8th win and is make-koshi, and may find himself back in the named ranks for January.
Daieisho defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu opened strong, but a minor pull down attempt by Daieisho breaks his stance, and opens up his chest for Daieisho to strike. Daieisho lunges in with both hands, find’s Hoshoryu’s neck and walks him out. Both end the day at 5-7.
Wakatakakage defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had early control of this match, but could not keep up the pressure. I am going to guess whatever robbed him of his sumo this November is still in play. Wakatakakage recovers, and the two lock up at the center of the dohyo. Myogiryu is still in charge of this match, but can’t generate enough power to finish Wakatakakage, and each time Myogiryu charges, he gives up a bit of advantage. Wakatakakage gets his left hand inside, raises Myogiryu and runs him off the dohyo for his 5th win, improving to 5-7.
Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji does get to set up his preferred defend and extend sumo, but Ichinojo seems to have better position in spite of the ensuing stalemate in the center of the dohyo. There is a moment of activity in the middle of it as Takarafuji swaps grip, and gets settled in to his preferred left hand inside. Locked into the Boulder, Takarafuji tries to generate some offense, but Ichinojo is just too big, and too well positioned to move. At this point Ichinojo just has to wait for Takarafuji to tire, which happens about 2 minutes in, and finish him off. Takarafuji takes loss number 8, and is make-koshi. Ichinojo improves to 5-7.
Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Endo gets his frontal grip at the tachiai, and gets to work, getting to the side of Mitakeumi. Unable to square his hips or his shoulders to Endo, Mitakeumi is in trouble. In an attempt to improve his stance, Mitakeumi raises up to turn toward Endo, giving up ground. From there it was a simple yorikiri for Endo, and he’s got his 6th win. The traditional Mitakeumi week 2 fade is now in full effect.
Shodai defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama’s left hand missed its target at the tachiai, and that was his only chance to generate offense. The “Wall of Daikon” technique comes in on Shodai’s second step, and Kiribayama is powerless to stop it. An 8th loss for Kiribayama, and he is make-koshi for November. Shodai gets his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi.
Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu just could not resist the invitation to bring his “wild man sumo” to the dohyo today. That was just what Takakeisho needed. With Takayasu’s arms wide of his body, his chest was wide open for attack. Sure, Takayasu got a good face slap in, but that was pretty much it. Takakeisho improves to 11-1. He gets Abi tomorrow, and I think Abi’s long reach could be trouble for the Ozeki.
Terunofuji defeats Meisei – I love that everyone in the top division seems to give an extra 10% when they fight Terunofuji this November. Every last one of them thinks “Hey, let’s get some dirt on this guy”. Almost all of them get their hopes up in the first moment of the match as they get the Yokozuna back, and they start to believe they can actually do it. Then Terunofuji gets bored with their itty bitty sumo, and throws them out. Terunofuji improves to 12-0.