“The Great Middling”
This basho should be called “The Great Middling”, and it has me crabby. Almost all of the rikishi corps is at 4-3 or 3-4. Only 9 rikishi out of 40 are in any position to try for a reasonable winning record, and everyone else is straddling the make-koshi / kachi-koshi line. Even kanban rikishi like Wakatakakage and Tobizaru are right there at 4-3. Current and former Ozeki? 4-3. Is it the water in Fukuoka? The food? Are we just phoning it in, lads?
To be certain, there is great sumo every day to enjoy, but few of the competitors is looking like they want to win it all. This is not the case for Takayasu and Hoshoryu, who continue to turn in excellent matches each and every day. Both of them are tack sharp and fighting well. Before you ask, yes, Takayasu won their head to head on day 4.
Azumaryu defeats Atamifuji – Poor tachiai from Atamifuji, you can see that he has his head down, is almost wincing in anticipation of the first hit. Atamifuji resisted well, but just seemed a bit soft, and Azumaryu was able to dance him around the ring and work Atamifuji out. Both end the day 3-4.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi jumps in low at the tachiai, but has no attack power, and is an easy mark for Ichiyamamoto to lift and drop by uwatehineri. Terutsuyoshi still winless at 0-7 while Ichiyamamoto improves to 5-2.
Oho defeats Hidenoumi – Today’s Juryo visitor, Hidenoumi, really had nothing to bring to the dohyo today. A bit of a hit at the tachiai, but Oho quickly wrapped him up, and a few moves later, had Hidenoumi on the clay. Oho improves to 6-1, Hidenoumi returns to Juryo 1-6.
Hiradoumi defeats Okinoumi – Hiradoumi establishes a double inside grip at the tachiai, then quickly converts that to a yorikiri win. Okinoumi continues to fade while Hiradoumi improves to 4-3.
Kagayaki defeats Onosho – I love the mechanics of this tachiai. Note that Kagayaki did not move his feet, choosing to let Onosho come to him. By not stepping forward, he puts Onosho too far in front of his toes, and as Onosho makes contact, his feet are aligned, and he has no stability. It’s simple for Kagayaki to switch forward pressure from below to above, dropping Onosho to the clay. Excellent fundamental sumo today, Both are now 4-3.
Chiyoshoma defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko once again brings a lot of fighting spirit to the dohyo, and attacks Chiyoshoma from the first step. After Kotoeko gets a left hand grip, Chiyoshoma stalemates him in the center of the dohyo. Chiyoshoma takes his time, sets up the uwatenage, and drops Kotoeko to pick up his third win, he is now 3-4.
Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – This battle was between two super-heavies who are fighting with limited mobility. But it seems Chiyotairyu’s more limited that Aoiyama. A single big combo at the tachiai was all it took to stand Chiyotairyu up and thrust him back, sending him out three steps later. Aoiyama improves to 3-4.
Kotoshoho defeats Takanosho – Takanosho continues to struggle with balance, I have to wonder just how bad his injury in July was, and if it really reduced his ability to compete in sumo. Kotoshoho plays with him for a bit, then slaps him to the clay, advancing to 4-3.
Abi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji continues to have no defense, and for a rikishi whose whole sumo style revolves around defense, it’s terrible to watch. Abi looks to take it a bit easy on the poor guy, and just gives him enough to the face and shoulders (note, he still has no neck) to send him out. Abi remains in the leader group at 6-1.
Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Excellent speed from Myogiryu, he took a quick step back just as Nishikigi was reaching in to get a grip, and dropped him to one knee for the win. Nishikigi was a bit surprised by the defensive move, but it was all over except for the kensho. Myogiryu up to 5-2.
Nishikifuji defeats Tochinoshin – Nishikifuji stopped Tochinoshin’s first two attempts to set up a left hand outside, and the continued focus by Tochinoshin on getting his hands set, robbed him of efforts to defend against Nishikifuji setting up a double inside grip. Tochinoshin eventually got his left hand outside hold, but Nishikifuji was on to lifting and shifting Tochinoshin over the bales. Brilliant strategy from Nishikifuji, and he’s now 5-2.
Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Excellent example of Hokutofuji’s “Handshake Tachiai” today, his right hand is up as he charges forward, landing first ton Ryuden’s shoulder, and swiftly moving to his neck for a nodowa. It moves Ryuden back for a moment, but he breaks Hokutofuji’s grip and recovers to counter attack. For yet another day, while their upper bodies are fighting for control, Hokutofuji seems to independently working to win the match. In spite of Ryuden having somewhat more favorable body position, Hokutofuji never lets him set is feet, keeps him moving, and nibbles away at the distance to the tawara. Excellent mobility from both, with Hokutofuji’s eventual yorikiri bringing both to 4-3 at the end of the match.
Endo defeats Sadanoumi – Endo finally gets his second win, thought yet again he can’t hold forward pressure for more than just a moment. He was able to channel Sadanoumi’s forward rush to power the throw, and pivoted at the bales with a shitatenage. Endo gets a much needed white star to improve to 2-5.
Meisei defeats Ichinojo – Meisei continues his dominance over the much larger Ichinojo, picking up his 9th career win. In hindsight it seems pretty clear, get Ichinojo distracted (face slapping), and his defense falls apart almost at once. Keep him distracted with ineffective slapping attacks while you slowly walk him out. Meisei up to 3-4. Ichinojo hopefully understands he was played for a fool.
Kotonowaka defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi continues to struggle with just a single win for the tournament following his yusho. Kotonowaka’s tachiai netted him a double inside grip, which shut down most of Tamawashi’s offensive options. Kotonowaka did not give Tamawashi a moment to regroup, and bundled him over the tawara for an oshidashi win. Kotonowaka now 4-3.
Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Takayasu puts yet another dent in someone’s Kyusho tournament score. Knowing that Daieisho is going to try to apply massive thrusts to the head and neck, Takayasu uses his longer reach to keep Daieisho back far enough that it does not matter. With his main attack blunted, Daieisho gets disrupted then slapped to the clay in short order as Takayasu stays in the leader group at 6-1.
Kiribayama defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi drops another bout, as his hopes of returning to Ozeki fade quite a bit by picking up his third loss before the middle day of the basho. You can see the moment the blows this match. With Kiribayama in tight, he decided he wants to pull, with no room to bring Kiribayama forward or to the side. All this does is release forward pressure, and bring Kiribayama into somewhat better attack position. It’s three steps to the bales, and Mitakeumi is out while Kiribayama improves to 5-2.
Hoshoryu defeats Wakamotoharu – I am enjoying Hoshoryu’s sumo right now. He thwarts Wakamotoharu’s attempt to establish a grip straight away, and only opens up the yori once he himself has a double inside grip. Wakamotoharu works to counter, and the response from Hoshoryu is a lift and trip combo that Wakamotoharu won’t soon forget. Brilliant stuff, Hoshoryu is 6-1.
Tobizaru defeats Wakatakakage – Another Sekiwake with their eyes on double digits takes a hit, as monkey sumo takes another win. Tobizaru throws together rapid, almost frantic combos, and Wakatakakage can’t really get any sumo going under the rain of attacks. Completely disrupted, Wakatakakage gets put in motion, and a step later, shoved out. Both end the day 4-3.
Shodai defeats Ura – Nice to see some level of offense from Ura today, he’s been fairly passive thus far. But it’s clear he’s hurt and not really his normal level of threat. Shodai handles the attacks well, give him a big shove and sends Ura into the front row. Shodai improves to 4-3 to keep hopes of clearing kadoban alive.
Takakeisho defeats Midorifuji – In a classic “what the hell was that?” moment, Midorifuji appears to attempt some kind of flying henka, but instead arrives at the point of contact airborne. Surprisingly able to convert from sumo to rugby on the fly, Takakeisho catches Midorifuji in flight, and runs him across the line for a goal.. or a win.. or a white star… or a try. Hey, a point was added somewhere, and Takakeisho is now 5-2.