The sumo for this September continues to be good, and entertaining each and every day. We had some oustanding matches from the likes of Nishikifuji, Tobizaru, Tamawashi and Hokutofuji. But today was a tough day to be an Ozeki.
All three Ozeki lost their matches today. For Shodai that means he is kadoban, and need to get whatever is not right with his body back in working order by November. We all know he can dominate the dohyo when he is healthy physically and mentally. I just hope he can do it. But then there is Mitakeumi, who lost today and is down to 3-6. Already kadoban, 2 more losses and he will be Sekiwake for November, with a one-time chance to recover if he can turn in 10 wins. Now 10 wins for Mitakeumi is quite possible, if he is healthy. The guys at the top of the banzuke needs some time up on the hoist to get a full lube and alignment check.
Terunofuji – I still wonder why he remains in the basho. Maybe he wants to go down fighting. Maybe he thinks he owes it to the fans, and to sumo to remain in competition. But he’s not really able to fight at Yokozuna level this tournament. He’s not even Ozeki grade right now, and given the state of the Ozeki corps, that’s saying quite a bit. I just have to trust that this is all going to work out in the end.
Tsurugisho defeats Azumaryu – Facing make-koshi and a certain return to Juryo, Tsurugisho finds the additional motivation required to pick up his second win. He also has a strong career record against Azumaryu (15-7 now), which helped. They key to this one? Bulk! Tsurugisho was able to remain too heavy and balanced for Azumaryu to shift or throw. Tsurugisho improves to 2-7.
Ryuden defeats Mitoryu – Ryuden won this match at the tachiai, when his right hand found an inside hold, and he captured Mitoryu. At that point Mitoryu is on defense, and it’s up to Ryuden to keep the pressure high, and erode Mitoryu’s position. It took three tries, but Ryuden walked him across the bales to improve to 5-4.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi did not seem to have much in mind other than to keep his feet staggered, his shoulders square, and to push Terutsuyoshi away each time he lunged in. This worked pretty well until Terutsuyoshi managed to get a disorganized body grip, and Okinoumi pivoted to break away, but without breaking Terutsuyoshi’s hold. Terutsuyoshi improved his grip, and pushed from behind. Great way to make full use of your opponent’s mistake. Terutsuyoshi up to 5-4.
Takanosho defeats Hiradoumi – Hiradoumi launched from the shikiri-sen a bit early, and had an excellent first it. Points to Takanosho for going wide and low following that strike, he squared up against Hiradoumi, and engaged forward drive. This is the kind of sumo that I expect from Takanosho, and I am so very happy to see him employ it today. He’s now 5-4 following that yorikiri win.
Nishikifuji defeats Oho – A battle for the leader board, this one is a joy to watch on the slow motion replays for the subtle disruption Nishikifuji bundled into that tachiai. He hits Oho hard, and Oho charges out with full fury. But because of Nishikifuji’s hit, he is not quite balanced, and a half step out of sync. Oho remains off balance until the two go chest to chest, Now that we are squarely in “Nishikifuji’s brand of sumo”, Oho may have started to realize he had been played. I really like how Nishikifuji broke Oho’s stance to begin his drive to the yorikiri. That was solid top notch sumo today, Nishikifuji up to 7-2.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Kotoeko – Ichiyamamoto’s first ever win over Kotoeko featured two pulling attempts from Ichiyamamoto that were either going to lose him the match in a rather embarrassing way, or pay off brilliantly. The first one did little more than disrupt Kotoeko’s balance, but the second one, a moment later, sent Kotoeko into the zabuton. It was labeled uwatenage, but it’s a win for Ichiyamamoto, who improves to 5-4.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshoho – Tochinoshin continues to dominate his matches with Kotoshoho (now 5-0) with today’s win. This was a surprisingly mobile mixed-mode match. I did not think that Tochinoshin’s knee could support that kind of mobility. Once they established a grip on each other, Kotoshoho found Tochinoshin’s loose mawashi robbed him of any kind of attack plan. He played into it anyhow, and his attempt to throw was crushed to the clay by Tochinoshin’s superior strength. This is one of these cases where “uwatenage” does not adequately describe what happened. Both end the day 4-5.
Chiyoshoma defeats Onosho – Ok, we are about to end act 2, and Chiyoshoma looks likely to be part of the act 3 yusho forecast. I know Aki can be a topsy-turvy anything can happen basho, but I did not see this coming. That right hand outside grip did most of the work, and I am not happy to see what looks like Onosho’s left knee crumple as Chiyoshoma pivoted into a throw. He’s 7-2 now, and I hope Onosho is ok.
Aoiyama defeats Yutakayama – Points to Aoiyama for finding a way to squeeze out another win in spite of his injuries. He stood Yutakayama upright, gave him a quick choke and then threw him to the clay. Aoiyama dodges make-koshi to go to 2-7.
Myogiryu defeats Endo – Endo had the advantage at the tachiai, and a solid inside thrusting position. He was connecting against Myogiryu’s chest and moving him back. But Endo decided to lunge in for a grip, Myogiryu was ready, and swung him to the clay. Some days it sucks to be Endo. Myogiryu now 5-4.
Hokutofuji defeats Wakamotoharu – Hokutofuji got the faster tachiai, and Wakamotoharu only could muster a token defense. Might have been a matta, but they did not call it. Without any foot placement to speak of, Wakamotoharu could not withstand Hokutofuji powerful forward drive, and he tossed Wakamotoharu bodily from the dohyo. 9-0, sole leader, and maybe the man to beat for the cup in the final 5 days.
Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji, no defense, poor balance, the man is hurt. Chiyotairyu is not actually in better condition, but managed to stand Takarafuji up and them throw him down. Chiyotairyu staves off make-koshi at 2-7, while Takarafuji picks up his 8th loss and has a 1-8 make-koshi.
Tamawashi defeats Meisei – Just one win behind, Tamawashi is not throttling back one bit. Meisei had the gall to put up a working defense, so Tamawashi slapped that notion out of his head. Following that hit, Meisei’s defense collapsed, and Tamawashi ran him out for a win. Nice attempt to take Tamawashi out right there at the end, but Tamawashi stays in and is now 8-1 and kachi-koshi for September.
Tobizaru defeats Kotonowaka – When Tobizaru is dialed into his sumo, he is a tough man to beat. His high agility and high maneuverability leave him with offensive space, even when he’s clearly on defense. Kotonowaka may have thought that going chest to chest with Tobizaru would cut down his dancing monkey sumo, but really what happened is that it allowed Tobizaru to incrementally improve his grip, until we see Kotonowaka standing upright, with Tobizaru holding a double inside grip. Kotonowaka realizes he’s in trouble, and moves to throw, but again Tobizaru’s agility allows him to get outside the throw’s power arc and collapse it on Kotonowaka. That guy is tough to beat, to be sure. Tobizaru earns his pay today, and improves to 6-3.
Ichinojo defeats Midorifuji – For Ichinojo today, being enormous was a valid sumo strategy. Like an overcast Tokyo day, he blanketed Midorifuji in over 200kg of Mongolian pony tosser, and wore him out. Pure Snorlax sumo today, Ichinojo lumbers his way to 3-6.
Sadanoumi defeats Hoshoryu – I hope Hoshoryu goes back to the heya and watches this match a few times. He could learn a few things from it. First of them being that he did not take his time and ensure he knew where his feet were, where his hands were and how his throw attempt would work. Second, it seems he may have assumed where Sadanoumi was and how he would move. Hubris? Inexperience? Just figured he could power through it and make it work? This is a match that Hoshoryu should have won, but instead Sadanoumi collapses Hoshoryu’s throw and pancakes him to the clay. Sadanoumi up to 5-4 now.
Wakatakakage defeats Nishikigi – Wakatakakage goes for the inside grip at the tachiai, and Nishikigi sets up his preferred double arm bar grip. He tends to win matches with that grip and body position, but Wakatakakage is strong enough to break the hold, and marches Nishikigi out. Wakatakakage now 6-3, with 6 straight wins after a 0-3 start. Word to Waka, lose your cold starts and you are at least an Ozeki.
Ura defeats Shodai – Well, Shodai is make-koshi and kadoban again. There are some sumo fans who think he has just given up the will to be an Ozeki, but I have not seen the “wall of daikon” since May. To me that means he is hurt. Today Ura delivers his standard bamboozlement at the tachiai, and decides to see where it leads. Shodai suffers a slippiotoshi, and Ura drops him with a single thrust. Ura now 6-3.
Kiribayama defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho was a bit to eager today, and he accidentally closed the gap to Kiribayama on the second step. No longer having enough space to get a thrusting attack going, he was an easy target for a mawashi grip from Kiribayama, and what happened next is no surprise. Kiribayama grabs a hold and tosses Takakeisho down with a potent yoritaoshi. Both end the day 6-3, and Takakeisho drops out of the group one win behind Tamawashi.
Daieisho defeats Mitakeumi – With two Ozeki scalps on the wall, why not go for three? Mitakeumi continues to be underpowered this September, and can’t seem to find the power to withstand Daieisho’s greatly diminished mega-thrust attack. I have no idea if there was any kind of plan for Mitakeumi, but he left his chest wide open, and Daieisho went to work. Both end the day at 3-6.
Takayasu defeats Terunofuji – Interesting to me that Takayasu decided to start the match on defense, working to blunt Terunofuji’s sumo for the first few moments of the match. Terunofuji stayed caution but on the attack, as I think he was also expecting Takayasu to come in hot. It turned into quite the interesting match, with neither man putting too much into offense, and simply trying to out-last the other. Terunofuji decided, with those junkyard knees, to try a leg sweep. Oh no, so now he’s wide open, a bit off balance, and Takayasu pushes hard center mass. That’s a win, and Takayasu improves to 7-2, staying one win behind Tamawashi.