With the first day of act 3 complete, we get to scratch our collective heads and wonder about the yusho race. The middle of today’s action saw a head to head battle between Hokutofuji and Tamawashi – the two men with 9-1 records. Maybe they could have saved this one for Friday or Saturday? Maybe they thought they would not have an even match up in a few days, and wanted to get it done with now? Not sure, but what remains now is a clear path for Tamawashi to take the cup, though it is far from certain. Hopefully it will all make more sense later this week.
Later in the day, Mitakeumi lost his 8th match of the tournament, and will lose his Ozeki rank for November. He has a single chance to recover, if he can deliver 10 wins in Kyushu. Given that I suspect he is struggling to overcome some performance limiting injury, this could be a tall order. The good news is that Mitakeumi is one of the best Sekiwake in a generation, so he should feel right at home. (Hey, trying to be positive here)
Hiradoumi defeats Oho – Oho had a couple of poor choices in this match. The first was his attempt to pull that is almost always a bad idea, and it’s worse when your opponent has a stable stance and his hands firmly on your body. A consequence of that was Oho opened his chest to Hiradoumi, who used it to consolidate his attack, get his hands in a shallow grip, and just power Oho out with surprising force. Oho has now lost 4 of the last 6 matches, while Hiradoumi picks up a much needed win to advance to 5-6.
Kotoshoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – A battle of the 5-5 scores, it’s all Kotoshoho after he successfully blocks Terutsuyoshi’s submarine tachiai. As we have seen many times this basho, Terutsuyoshi has few choices if that all or nothing gambit at the tachiai fails, and Kotoshoho made easy work of him. Kotoshoho advances to 6-5.
Takanosho defeats Ichiyamamoto – I am starting to think that maybe Onigiri-kun has gotten his sumo together. He has 4 wins in a row, and is one win from kachi-koshi. Takanosho’s tachiai had little forward motion, leaving Ichiyamamoto off balance following his first double arm volley at Takanosho. Takanosho deftly grabbed Ichiyamamoto’s head and pulled him down. Takanosho improves to 7-4.
Nishikifuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Nishikifuji is having a great tournament. He takes Chiyoshoma to his chest, and gives him a solid fight. Chiyoshoma tried a number of moves to shift the fight, or break Nishikifuji’s balance or grip, and Nishikifuji held on tight and stayed firmly on offense. He’s 9-2, and oddly enough, still positioned to compete for the cup.
Kotoeko defeats Mitoryu – Mitoryu opened strong, and seemed to be consolidating his position, but then for some reason either released forward pressure or tried to pull. Kotoeko took the opening and blasted forward with power, taking Mitoryu out a few steps later. Kotoeko improves his score to 5-6.
Ryuden defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin looked like he really did not have a good route to bypass Ryuden’s opening gambit. With his left hand inside and shallow, Ryuden used his right hand to raise Tochinoshin up, and walked him forward and out. Quick win for Ryuden to go 7-4, one win away from kachi-koshi.
Tsurugisho defeats Onosho – Has Onosho’s balance issues become so pronounced that he struggles to execute a decent tachiai? I have to wonder given the number of false starts before today’s match. I am not sure it was intentional or accident, but it made a mess of whatever match plan he had. The result was one of the more bulky henkas ever, as Tsurugisho hops to the side and send Onosho to the clay. Tsurugisho now 3-8.
Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – This was a worrying match. Aoiyama does his best to get into the fight, and is hitting Okinoumi with a fraction of his normal power, but bringing what he can. Then, he simply falls down when his right leg refuses to support him any longer. Make-koshi for Aoiyama at 8-3, and I think he needs to see a medical professional. Okinoumi looks unconcerned, and improves to 5-6.
Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Joining the ranks of injured mega-fauna picking up their make-koshi today is dear Chiyotairyu. Nobody was surprised that Chiyotairyu tried to load a big initial hit followed by an immediate pull, especially Endo. Endo waited for the pull, turned up the forward pressure and ran the hapless Chiyotairyu out. Endo really needed that win, improving to 5-6.
Takarafuji defeats Yutakayama – With his make-koshi firmly established, now we get Takarafuji winning matches? The guy was a walking orthopedic case last week, but maybe they are matching him against other injury cases now, and he’s the least banged up of the lot. Yutakayama really did not want an 8th loss, and fought with everything he could bring. But Takarafuji’s defenses were up to the task of shutting down Yutakayama, and out of frustration Yutakayama tried a pull. Takarafuji pushed forward into the pull, and sent Yutakayama out. Both men end the day at 3-8.
Myogiryu defeats Takayasu – As mentioned in the preview, Myogiryu has a clear career advantage over Takayasu (15-10 now), and was likely to cause him trouble. But it was a fantastic battle, with Myogiryu taking the fight to burly Takayasu, and dominating the first part of this fight. But Takayasu decided to employ his greatest weapon, his nearly inhuman endurance. He stalemated Myogiryu at the center of the dohyo, and would not let him make any further offensive moves. There they stayed, wearing each other down. Myogiryu knew the clock favored Takayasu, and needed to make a move. I am not sure if that half hearted pull attempt was a feint or a real attack, but it broke Takayasu’s stance, and opened the door to the Myogiryu shitatenage that won the match. Brilliant closing combo from Myogiryu ti advance to 6-5, and knock Takayasu out of chaser group.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Oh wow, loss by sagari! We knew they would come at each other with maximum aggression, and they delivered. Tamawashi attacking high, Hokutofuji with a left hand frontal grip attempt. The grip connected, and on the second step, Hokutofuji pulled to bring Tamawashi in for a good bashing. But he had a handful of Tamawashi’s sagari, and they came away with the pull, breaking Hokutofuji’s balance. Tamawashi instantly exploited this opening, and two steps later it was oshidashi time. Tamawashi in sole possession of the lead at 10-1.
Tobizaru defeats Ura – Both of these guys understood that this was their best chance to deliver their finest WTF sumo this September. That tachiai was ample proof they knew the other one was going to try something early. Followed by a lengthy series of probing attacks to discombobulate the other, and keeping their opponent at maximum distance. In a moment of lax defense by Ura, Tobizaru put a right hand inside, and it was time to fight, Tobizaru tried to load a throw, Ura countered. I really enjoyed watching these two guys throw counter-measures at each other for over a minute, really fine example of their unique sumo styles. But it was Tobizaru who completed the rotation first, sending them both to the clay, with Ura landing first. Tobizaru picks up his kachi-koshi at 8-3, and I have to wonder if we are going to see him in san’yaku in November.
Meisei defeats Kiribayama – I am a bit worried about Kiribayama, he’s not quite up to his normal level of sumo right now. Meisei overwhelmed him today, and made quick work of going from tachiai to oshidashi, picking up his 4th win to avoid make-koshi another day at 4-7.
Kotonowaka defeats Ichinojo – Kotonowaka got a right hand inside early at the tachiai, and just kept chipping away at Ichinojo.I notice that sometimes Kotonowaka brings out a bit of gaburi-yori, like the spirit of Kotoshogiku’s sumo may have found a new home. That makes me smile, because I always loved to see him bunny hop people out of the ring. Kotonowaka improves to 7-4.
Midorifuji defeats Daieisho – And… Henka! Not a fan of the henka in all cases, but Midorifuji sold it fair and square. He advances to 5-6.
Wakatakakage defeats Hoshoryu – This was another high interest battle between two future leaders of the sumo pack. I have to wonder what happens to Wakatakakage where he drops his first 3, looking quite lost, and then comes back with 8 straight wins. If he can ditch that cold start that he suffers many times, this guy could be a Yokozuna with that kind of dominance. Today’s match – big hit inside from Wakatakakage, which broke Hoshoryu’s stance, and a Wakatakakage follow through that pushed Hoshoryu out. Wakatakakage now kachi-koshi at 8-3.
Takakeisho defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi only fights yotsu, and commits every move to establishing a grip or enhancing it. This was easy to incorporate into Takakeisho’s battle plan. Early hit to blunt the initial reach in, a follow up push to encourage Nishikigi to ramp up the forward pressure, step to the side when he is mid stride. Works wonderfully when it’s tried, and Takakeisho advances to 7-4.
Sadanoumi defeats Mitakeumi – Sadanoumi had one job to do today, and he did it well. He was clearly dictating the form of the match, and like Takakeisho, coaxed his opponent, Mitakeumi, into over committing to forward motion just as he stepped away. That man is very quick, and Mitakeumi might have been wise to start the match a bit more on defense. Sadanoumi up to 7-4 now. Mitakeumi make-koshi and will be demoted to Sekiwake for November.
Shodai defeats Wakamotoharu – As sloppy as that was, I was happy to see Shodai deliver some manner of offensive sumo this September. He used Wakamotoharu’s overflowing forward pressure to power the tsukiotoshi delivered by pivot on top of the bales. Good enough, sir. Shodai improves to 2-9.