We start our coverage with sumo news. Firstly, former Ozeki Takayasu has withdrawn from the tournament, due to a knee injury. He was fighting poorly this January, and it’s likely better for him to preserve what he can of his lower body. This is par for the course of Takayasu. He gets on the cusp of an achievement, and some gnarly problem slaps him down. Wakamotoharu gets the fusensho, improving to 3-3.
Also, it is reported that Okinoumi has withdrawn from the tournament after starting 0-5, and will announce his retirement from the ring tomorrow (Saturday). He owns a kabu, so we will see him in a blue jacket before long. As we mused earlier this basho, he was looking ready for a hair cut. He has been in professional sumo for the 18 years, since the age of 19. He had 67 basho in the top division, and a record of 3 Jun-Yusho, 1 Shukun-Sho, 4 Kanto-Sho, 4 Kinbosh. Well done, sir! Mitoryu picked up the fusensho, and is now 3-3.
In November, I lamented the poor quality of the competition in the tournament. Everyone was hugging the center-line, and it seemed that nobody wanted to really run up the score. Everyone was happy just to take it a bit easy and coast. What a difference 2 months can make. After the day 6 action, there are no unbeaten rikishi, and there are eight (8!) men tied for the lead at the start of the middle weekend. This is more like it, and I hope we get a big rolling battle for the next few days to sort out the dominant ones from the pack.
I will call out that in Juryo, one man remains unbeaten. None other than former Ozeki Asanoyama, at 6-0 at the end of today. He’s ranked Juryo 12, so even a zensho would be unlikely to boost him back to the top division, but I would not be surprised to see him return in May. Is he, in all honesty, the next man to be promoted to Ozeki? What a crazy thing that would be.
Chiyomaru defeats Akua – In a battle of the green mawashi whales, it’s Chiyomaru with his first win of the basho. Chiyomaru made contact first, stood Akua up, circled behind and pushed him out. Surprising agility from a fellow that large. Chiyomaru gets his shonichi, and is 1-5.
Azumaryu defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho allowed Azumaryu to set up a strong left hand outside grip at the tachiai. That left hand provided enough leverage and power to raise Tsurugisho up, and pivot him to the bales for an easy step-out. I am starting to get excited that after all this time Azumaryu may finally get his first top division kachi-koshi. Just 3 more wins to go at 5-1.
Takarafuji defeats Kotoshoho – Takarafuji extends his streak of wins over Kotoshoho to 4. Kotoshoho came in strong, Takarafuji gave ground and then as smooth as could be slipped to the side and let Kotoshoho tumble to the clay. Kotoshoho picks up his first loss and both finish the day at 5-1.
Kotoeko defeats Ichiyamamoto – Kotoeko won the match, but took quite a pounding in the process from Ichiyamamoto’s double arm thrusting combos. Kotoeko stayed as close as he could manage, and endured the rain of blows coming in second by second. Kotoeko was able to get his hands underneath, and in a lift and push combo, shoved Ichiyamamoto to his right, sending him to the clay. Kotoeko improves to 4-2.
Chiyoshoma defeats Takanosho – A wild, flailing match where both men spent time slapping each other at arm’s length, grabbing each other’s head and tugging and generally carrying on. But it seems that somewhere between the tachiai and Takanosho throwing Chiyoshoma to the clay, Takanosho pulled Chiyoshoma’s mage (top knot), and was disqualified. Chiyoshoma gets his first win and is 1-5.
Endo defeats Kagayaki – Endo employs a mini-henka, and Kagayaki buys it wholesale. The win gives Endo a 4-2 record.
Onosho defeats Aoiyama – Big early pushing attack from Aoiyama to start the match, and I thought he was going to overpower Onosho. But as it looked like he was about to rock the tadpole back, Aoiyama decided to pull. Sir, we already established that was not a good plan this month. Releasing forward pressure, he opened the door for Onosho to blast forward, shut down Aoiyama’s offense, and run him out from behind, winning by okuridashi. That’s Aoiyama’s first loss, and both end the day 5-1.
Hiradoumi defeats Oho – Oho is the only man in the top division competition that has no wins now. Fans criticize him, but he’s not that bad. I have to wonder what published injury shut down all of his forward power. He had a good tachiai, but Hiradoumi quickly took him to his chest, and pivoted into a sukuinage, slamming Oho to the clay. Hiradoumi advances to 4-2.
Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Impressively low early moves by Hokutofuji. He was so low that even his early, poorly executed pull attempt did not leave Myogiryu with an attack route. But there is “too much” of a good thing. Myogiryu realized that Hokutofuji was going to stay low. Myogiryu straightens up just enough to apply pressure from above to push Hokutofuji to the clay. Myogiryu picks up his second win of January, and is now 2-4.
Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden really showing some quiet excellence here at Hatsu. He absorbed Nishikigi’s tachiai and immediately went chest to chest. In prior matches, this is when Nishikigi ramped up the power and plowed opponents off the dohyo. Ryuden shut him down, and the two entered an endurance check at the center of the ring. In the middle of this contest of strength, Konosuke stops the match for a quick mawashi check, as it looked like Nishikigi was about ready to give the fans a show they did not sign up for. It was a race to see if someone could win before Nishikigi lost his mawashi. Fortunately for the sumo world, Ryuden turned up the power just enough to get an increasingly disrobed Nishikigi over the bales before much more could be revealed. Both end the day at 4-2.
Ura defeats Sadanoumi – Strong, potent, straight-ahead sumo from Ura today. He came off the shikiri-sen into a hazu-oshi, lifting Sadanoumi up by the armpits. Ura walked forward, and three steps later had Sadanoumi out with one of his traditional finishing flourishes. That’s 3-3 for Ura.
Mitakeumi defeats Nishikifuji – Much better form from Mitakeumi today, but it still seems to me that he’s only at about 80% power again today. I have to wonder what is going on with his body, and I hope it gets better soon. He kept Nishikifuji boxed up the whole match, and just ran him around until Nishikifuji stepped out. Mitakeumi now 3-3.
Daieisho defeats Kiribayama – Daieisho looks like he’s going to make a serious play for the cup, and I am delighted. He put wave after wave of hard pushing attacks into Kiribayama’s chest, leaving him no opportunity to recover, counter-attack, or do much of anything other than go along for the ride. 5-1 now for Daieisho.
Kotonowaka defeats Meisei – After an 0-4 start, Kotonowaka now has two wins in a row. Maybe he will revert back to good form? That’s not to forecast that he’s going to win all of his remaining matches, but I am starting to hope that maybe whatever was causing him to fight poorly has been resolved. Meisei had the forward drive in this match, but Kotonowaka opened up just enough space to push Meisei down before he had to step out of the ring. Kotonowaka now 2-4.
Wakatakakage defeats Tamawashi – Wakatakakage decided to leave his sumo at home today, and instead showed up with this crummy henka instead. Not even hiding it, just a blatant jump to the side. Lame. Both end the day 3-3.
Shodai defeats Tobizaru – The Monkey sumo is not very strong this month, as evidenced both by Tobizaru’s majority loss record coming into today, and his loss to Shodai on day 6. Tobizaru jumped about quite a bit, but never was quite able to escape Shodai, who was surprisingly stable in pursuit. A final shove pushed Tobizaru out, and both ended the day 2-4.
Midorifuji defeats Hoshoryu – When Hoshoryu picked up his first loss on day 5, I suggested it was time to see if he was ready to be a champion, by shaking off the loss and going back to winning form. It’s too early to be certain, but a second consecutive loss would seem to hint that the answer is “not yet”. Hoshoryu came off the line fast, grabbed Midorifuji, pinning his arms, then seemed to not quite know what to do next. He surged forward once, to have Midorifuji repulse the attack at the bales, to the cheers of the fans in the Kokugikan. A second rush forward a few moments later took them both over the bales, but a last minute pivot by Midorifuji dropped Hoshoryu first. Of course there was a monoii. The shimpan ruled that Hoshoryu was a “dead body” and the win belonged to Midorifuji. Both end the day 4-2.
Takakeisho defeats Abi – Undefeated Abi gets a physics lesson from the Grand Tadpole. After an opening blast from the double arm attack, he is off balance at the moment the counter blast from Takakeisho shows up. The second Takakeisho hit finds his chest wide open, and Abi is sent reeling. He manages to almost get his balance back, when the third blast sends him out. Abi takes his first loss, and both end the day at 5-1.