I would like to call today “Slow motion replay day”. There were enough really good moves on the clay today that it’s worth it to take the time and watch the body mechanics of these athletes. As someone who was never graceful as a younger man, I marvel that these guys can combine strength, agility, ballet like grace and giant mountains of body fat like that.
With day 7 in the record books, we will start to track the yusho race with tonight’s day 8 preview. Much to my surprise, Mitakeumi is in the pole position now, and with a few hours to go before nakabi, I have to wonder what the conditons might be for him to earn an Ozeki promotion coming out of Hatsu. A yusho? A zensho? I personally think they will make him wait until after Osaka, to see if he can string together 2 good tournaments, but maybe with just 2 Ozeki today, they will be happy to create a 3rd.
I saw no evidence of Terunofuji favoring his left leg today, so maybe my fears that he might go kyujo soon are unfounded. I hope that is the case, as I can’t wait to see him take on Mitakeumi in week 2.
Kotoeko defeats Nishikigi – Both went for a chest to chest position at the tachiai, but Nishikigi missed his mark and had to settle for a hold around Kotoeko’s arms. This robbed him of any real leverage or anything more than a defensive block. Kotoeko was a bit over enthusiastic and went deep, and then found he could not really raise Nishikigi. With Nishikigi’s loose mawashi threatening to suffer and explosive untying, Kotoeko refreshed his grip, and thankfully got Nishikigi out before the cameras panned to the ceiling. Kotoeko improves to 5-2.
Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – In this battle of the mega-fauna, Aoiyama was able to immediately get to the side of Kaisei, and simply drive him out. 4-3 now for Aoiyama, maybe he can hang on after all.
Kotonowaka defeats Oho – Oho leaned in a bit to far in his contest of forward pressure, and was an easy mark for a step to the side and a hand on the shoulder pulling down. I am starting to worry Oho may not be able to hold rank in the top division yet. Kotonowaka ends the day at 5-2.
Wakamotoharu defeats Yutakayama – One Wakamotoharu got that right hand outside, Yutakayama was in trouble. He reacted to try and break the grip, but that seemed to help Wakamotoharu consolidate his left hand inside, and set up a text book yorikiri. Wakamotoharu picks up his 3rd win and both finish the day 3-4.
Tsurugisho defeats Chiyomaru – Tsurugisho won that match through great efficiency of motion, and it’s kind of a wonder to watch it. I am pretty sure he’s suffering some kind of lower body or lower back problem that has left him without much ability to generate forward pressure. So look at what he does instead. He get Chiyomaru chest to chest, swings him around, closing the distance to the bales, and then lifts rather than pushes forward. I love the adaptive sumo, Tsurugisho advances to 3-4.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyotairyu – If you want to win a match with Chiyotairyu, you have to survive his initial volley, and be ready to counter attack at just the right moment. Ichiyamamoto does this by catching Chiyotairyu, placing him at the bales, and giving him a firm shove to the chest to finish the match. Ichiyamamoto improves to 4-3.
Ishiura defeats Akua – There was a matta prior to the match, and I think Akua assumed the second tachiai was going to be a matta as well, as everything was off tempo. But Shikimori Kandayu did not call it, and the fight was on. Ishiura quickly had Akua in a very odd position, and delivered the seldom seen susoharai leg-sweep combo. Akua hit the clay with a meaty thud, and Ishiura took home his 4th win. I love the look on Terutsuyoshi’s face as Akua crashes to the dohyo.
Tochinoshin defeats Myogiryu – I am sure that is nothing like what Myogiryu was looking for in this match. Even in his diminished condition, you don’t hand Tochinoshin a left hand outside grip, or you are going for a ride. Points to Myogiryu for an attempt to rotate / uchari at the bales and bring Tochinoshin down first, but the gumbai went to Tochinoshin, and he picks up a much needed 3rd win to finish the day 3-4.
Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi put a lot of focus into trying to get his intended grip, and it looked like Shimanoumi simply reacted to every move, and focused on keeping his feet heavy and moving forward. When Shimanoumi is “on”, as he seemed to be today, he has a pretty solid lower body technique, and it carried this match for him. Shimanoumi was able to get behind Terutsuyoshi, and drive him out from the rear. Shimanoumi advances to 4-3.
Sadanoumi defeats Tobizaru – This whole match was fighting for hand placement, and the moment that Sadanoumi found something that worked for him, look at that acceleration! This is why I think of him as one of the fastest men in sumo. He loaded that uwatenage before you could realize what was up. Points to Tobizaru for the sumo instincts to react to the rotation and try to bring Sadanoumi down first, but the gumbai went to Sadanoumi, and he improves to 4-3.
Hoshoryu defeats Chiyonokuni – I keep thinking Chiyonokuni is going to win a match, and each day he does not. Again we see him hitting with good force, but unable to move forward to press the attack. This make it fairly easy for Hoshoryu find an opening , grab Chiyonokuni’s body and take him down. Chiyonokuni tried to counter the shitatenage, but lost his grip and hit the clay first. Hoshoryu now at 4-3.
Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Takarafuji went defensive at the tachiai, and that paid off as Chiyoshoma lost his balance on the 3rd step, and Takarafuji slapped him the rest of the way to the clay. Takarafuji now 5-2.
Onosho defeats Abi – Oh, I love that Onosho seems to have studied and practiced how to shut down the Abi-zumo windmill attack. He matches Abi thrust for thrust, but he is striking upward on Abi’s elbows, removing any power that Abi might deliver if he connects. This also works to move him off balance, and set up the tsukiotoshi. That’s how you serve up Kokugikan clay facial! Onosho improves 5-2, handing Abi his first loss, dropping him to 6-1.
Ura defeats Hokutofuji – I thought this match was a mountain of fun. Hokutofuji was cautious, Ura was grabbing and tugging anything Hokutofuji managed to get within Ura’s area of regard. Twice Ura had a good hold and gave a cursory pull, but Hokutofuji’s lower body is just incredibly stable, and he was not going to brake Hokutofuji’s balance that way. So they locked up head to head in the center of the dohyo, where Ura surged forward and drove Hokutofuji from the dohyo. Ura improves to 3-4.
Ichinojo defeats Kiribayama – Ichinojo latched on early, and Kiribayama struggled to deal with 200kg of Boulder from the moment they were chest to chest. Ichinojo blocked every attempt Kiribayama made to engage with his left hand, and effectively shutting down Kiribayama’s offense. That reduced the match to Ichinojo being enormous (which he does very well) and just grinding Kiribayama down. Ichinojo’s first probing move must have come back positive, showing that Kiribayama was already tired, and Ichinojo walked him out for a win. Ichinojo now 4-3.
Daieisho defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage grabbed Daieisho’s left arm in the tachiai, I think in an attempt to shut down Daieisho’s thrusting attack. It worked, but just for a moment. Once Daieisho had his arm free, it was time to apply force center-mass on Wakatakakage. It was a fast walk to the bales, and a 3rd win for Daieisho, improving him to 3-4.
Takanosho defeats Meisei – Meisei came in a bit too strong, and got ahead of his center of gravity. Takanosho is never one to let something like that go, and slapped him to the clay to pick up his 4th win, joining the huge crowd at 4-3.
Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi had a great opening gambit, landing a hazu-oshi (armpit attack) and driving Mitakeumi back. But then, well, he decided he was going to pull. He was too high, and that release of forward pressure swung the door open for Mitakeumi to rush forward. He carried Tamawashi out in a hurry, clinching his 7th win, and his sole position at the top of the leader board in the emerging yusho race.
Okinoumi defeats Shodai – One of the challenges of fighting Okinoumi when he is “on”, he has such a deep catalog of sumo, both individual moves and combos, that he can really make his opponent look completely impotent. This happened today, as he did not let Shodai have a moment to set his feet, square his hips or unpack any cartoon sumo. This was more of a waltz than a sumo match, with Okinoumi rushing Shodai around the ring, never letting him get his footing or his balance. Brilliant stuff. Okinoumi now 2-5.
Terunofuji defeats Endo – I am sure Endo was thrilled when his right hand found Terunofuji’s mawashi. But it really only served as an anchor for the Yokozuna to bracket Endo in, and walk him out. Shame Endo could not connect that left hand, as this is his primary opening move. But everyone knows that now, and everyone worth 2¥ blocks it at the tachiai. Terunofuji improves to 6-1 and remains 1 behind Mitakeumi.