There must have been a memo that went around, directing everyone to try some manner of henka or limited tachiai today. I don’t really a day with more soft tachiai, henka attempts, side steps and general avoidance countermeasures in all my years as a fan of sumo. It made for some unusually tactics, some interesting results, and at least one frustrated fan (myself). It got so bad that in the second half of the top division matches, several of the athletes were expecting some kind of jack-assery at the start of the match, and more than once were right.
But in the final match, Takakeisho was unable to best Kotonowaka, I think in part because Takakeisho was a bit soft in his tachiai, perhaps expecting some dodge from Kotonowaka. As a result, he did not get his normal dominant position, and was gradually degraded, then defeated by the Komusubi. That loss puts the yusho race to a two way battle between two of our beloved tadpoles, as Onosho was able to defeats Kotoshoho early in the match day. I still like Takakeisho for the cup on Sunday, and we will see if we get a head to head match between Takakeisho and Onosho before the final weekend.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Oshoma – These two went at it like warriors. Oshoma did a fair job of disrupting Ichiyamamoto’s preferred attack style, and I was surprised to see Ichiyamamoto switch to an energetic head and neck pull. Credit to Oshoma, it did not work, and he countered by swinging Ichiyamamoto around. I can see what the fuss is about. Now finding himself in a mawashi battle, Ichiyamamoto does a surprisingly good job of working outside of his comfort zone to get Oshoma turned, and pushes him out from behind, improving to 7-4.
Chiyoshoma defeats Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho supplies all of the offense at first, but finds he can’t overwhelm Chiyoshoma. The stand chest to chest for a moment, and then Chiyoshoma switches on the power. He moves about 200kg of Tsurugisho back, an impressive feat, then gives him a hearty gaburi-yori to buck him over the bales. This is the kind of sumo I wish we would see from Chiyoshoma all the time, as he advances to 5-6.
Mitoryu defeats Hiradoumi – Hiradoumi supplies the offensive power in this match, right up until the end. Mitoryu wisely decides to remain as static as possible, be huge, and let Hiradoumi wear himself out. The end comes when Hiradoumi tries some kind of throw for the 4th or 5th time, and Mitoryu collapses the move for the win. He is now 4-7.
Takarafuji defeats Aoiyama – What the bloody hell. Now Aoiyama tries to henka Takarafuji? Look here, chubstance, it didn’t work. Takarafuji was more careful today, and when Aoiyama decided to try some real sumo, he was off balance and too far forward. Fitting end that as Aoiyama lunged forward to try and push Takarafuji out, Takarafuji got out of his way and let him fall into Oho. There is a moni-ii, and I am not sure how Takarafuji’s heel did not mark the janome, but so bet it. Verdict stands. Go take a shower, man-boobs. Takarafuji is now 7-4.
Endo defeats Azumaryu – Azumaryu was a bit lethargic in the tachiai, and Endo is able to grapple before the initial charge is complete. A quick rotation, and Azumaryu goes to confer with the time keeper and the gyoji-in-waiting. Endo improves to 7-4 by uwatenage.
Chiyomaru defeats Oho – Wow, how bad is it with Oho? Bad enough that an injured Chiyomaru can beat him now. The “Stand him up and slap him down” combo almost works, but only almost. Chiyomaru resorts to pushing Oho around, and manages to get him out on the third exchange. Oho now 1-10, Chiyomaru up to 3-8.
Onosho defeats Kotoshoho – As was said in “The Highlander”… There can be only one! It’s not every day that Onosho gets to win a match with a throw, but today he applied a “close enough” sukuinage to Kotoshoho to remain the sole person one behind the Ozeki. I am pretty sure he will face Takakeisho some time in the remaining 4 days, but I think they are saving that one. Onosho now 9-2
Kagayaki defeats Ura – Kagayaki suspects some Ura trickery, and does a tachiai even more lethargic than Azumaryu’s, and switches immediately into defense. After a couple of feigns, he is able to get his hands inside and start pushing, and then makes short work of Ura who seems to have no answer today. Both end day 11 at 6-5.
Kotoeko defeats Myogiryu – Was that the rare double henka? Both men dodged to their left, and nobody impacted at the tachiai. They both seemed quite surprised by that outcome, and took to batting at each other while they made up a plan of what to do next. Kotoeko improvised better, getting his hands around Myogiryu’s body and trying for some gaburi-yori. It seemed to work, and he belly bounced Myogiryu out for the win, advancing to 6-5.
Takanosho defeats Hokutofuji – Takanosho decided he does know how to fight in the top division today. He went hard into Hokutofuji, getting his hands inside, and maintaining contact. With the pressure on, he found a lucky break when Hokutofuji could not maintain good foot placement, and Takanosho had him back and out in just a few seconds. Takanosho improves to 5-6.
Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – It took the power of Tamawashi to prevent Nishikigi from winning 4 in a row. I do hope this does not mean that he is going to start a losing streak, because I am really enjoying the fact that he is greatly improved. The key to Tamawashi’s win was never letting Nishikigi get close and get any kind of hold. I loved how Tamawashi had a bobbing and weaving element to his tsuppari volleys today, as it did not provide a stable target to allow Nishikigi to grab any kind of hold. That’s win number 8 for Tamawashi, and he is now kachi-koshi at 8-3.
Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – After looking solid day 10, Mitakeumi had no mojo at all today. Ryuden took control at the tachiai, and walked Mitakeumi directly back and out. Ryuden now 6-5.
Tobizaru defeats Abi – Both men execute a stand up tachiai, blink for a moment, and then attack. Abi has all the power, but no control for the brief period of this match. While he is busy getting ready to send Tobizaru into the zabuton for a little fan service, he neglectfully steps out, and loses the match via isamiashi. Tobizaru advances to 4-7, staving off make-koshi.
Daieisho defeats Wakamotoharu – Wakamotoharu manages to break through Daieisho’s offense and establish a body grip. Kind of impressed by his tenacity in doing so. He can’t quite get his hands on Daieisho’s mawashi, and keeps pressing forward to try. Daieisho exploits this to get him too far forward near the bales, and rotates him out as Wakamotoharu gets airborne. Nice, clever win by Daieisho, and he’s now 7-4, breaking a 3 match losing streak.
Meisei defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji should have known better. Yet another henka attempt, in the face of Meisei lining up well behind the shikiri-sen. He knew it was coming. Meisei closes the distance, grabs Midorifuji and gives him a hearty toss into the zabuton. Clown move, Midorifuji, enjoy your black star today. Meisei dodges make-koshi and is now 4-7.
Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – The salt baskets were thankful they did not get any non-standard interactions with Sadanoumi today. But we did get to see Shodai’s “Wall of Daikon” come out for a less than forceful deployment. It’s still good to see that he has it available to him. He uses that big body to completely screen out Sadanoumi, and hustles him off the dohyo. Shodai at 5-6, could he still get kachi-koshi?
Hoshoryu defeats Nishikifuji – Hoshoryu comes back from a single day kyujo, and picks up a quite welcome win. Nishikifuji tries at least three different combos, including the prelude to a throw, but Hoshoryu is having none of that, and puts him over the bales for his 7th win, now 7-4. Kachi-koshi tomorrow?
Kiribayama defeats Wakatakakage – Surprisingly off balance and clumsy sumo from Wakatakakage today. He lets Kiribayama grab and arm, and then Wakatakakage rotates into it, Kiribayama hooks his leg around Wakatakakage leg and unleashes a tottari, which was great to see. Time to upgrade your sumo again, sir. Kiribayama improves to 5-6.
Kotonowaka defeats Takakeisho – I am puzzled by Takakeisho today. No real tachiai (maybe he read the memo?), then he decides to ease into the forward attack, and does not really get Kotonowaka off balance. The result was the two trading blows, and eventually Kotonowaka getting Takakeisho off balance, then running him into those poor suffering salt baskets. Of course the crowd goes nuts, as Kotonowaka scores only his 5th win (5-6) of the basho, dropping Takakeisho down to even with Onosho, and setting up an at least 2 way race for the cup.