Natsu Day 4 Highlights

It’s a joy to wake up to a full 2 hours of glorious sumo, especially when you have as much fun as day 4 turned out to be. Some great matches, a glimpse of the kaiju of old, and a glorious henka-non-henka double header, and Hokuseiho showing just how big big can be. Bonus for Ura showing what everyone should do when a scrappy fellow grabs for your crotch.

Highlight Matches

Mitoryu defeats Azumaryu – Whatever physical problems led to Azumaryu’s 4-11 finish at Osaka seem to still be in full effect. He looks technically good, but has zero power to move Mitoryu in any direction. Mitoryu figures this out, and escorts Azumaryu out without much fanfare. Mitoryu now 3-1.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki was likewise technically good today. His hand placement was a bit all over the place, but eventually got a left hand against Ichiyamamoto’s chest. But the moment he was ready to start pushing, Ichiyamamoto grabbed and took Kagayaki to his chest. From there it was three steps to the tawara, and Ichiyamamoto picked up a yorikiri win to finish the day 2-2.

Asanoyama defeats Oho – Ozeki class sumo today from Asanoyama. Asanoyama gets a right hand in at the tachiai, and catches Oho completely unweighted. With Asanoyama at his chest, Oho seemed to not know quite what to do, but he was nearly upright and caught the point blank thrust full in the chest. Asanoyama stays unbeaten at 4-0.

Tsurugisho defeats Myogiryu – Compliments to Tsurugisho for today’s rock solid sumo. Excellent lower body defensive work, outstanding effort to set up and maintain that right hand inside frontal hold. Myogiryu worked hard to break Tsurugisho’s balance, or at least that hold, but Myogiryu was thwarted every time. Running low on energy, Myogiryu tried a grip switch, and that moment Tsurugisho surged forward to score a yorikiri win. Both end the day 2-2 after an excellent match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – Chiyoshoma with over the top tenacity today. He set up a hold early, and grabbed on against after Aoiyama broke his grip. Chiyoshoma went to set up a throw, and it looks like Aoiyama’s knee gave out. They scored it as an uwatehineri, but that was that bandaged left knee failing. Chiyoshoma gets his first win and is 1-3.

Kotoeko defeats Daishoho – It looked like Daishoho’s match plan was to stay wide, stable and just shut down all of Kotoeko’s mobility. It worked well for a short time, but his broad stance left his feet too aligned, and Kotoeko countered with a throw to bring Daishoho to the clay. Excellent choice at the right time, Kotoeko now 2-2.

Hokuseiho defeats Ryuden – Sure as I complain about Hokuseiho’s sumo technique resembling that of a 8 story apartment block, he shows me once again why that is in fact a valid sumo strategy. Hi, Ryuden! Say, let me put this right arm across you and take a hold. You do what you need for a while, I am going to take it easy and admire your efforts. Literally, Hokuseiho looks like he is just hanging out near Lawson’s shooting the breeze with his friends while Ryuden is applying maximum force any way he can. Being a polite fellow, Hokuseiho checks on him from time to time to make sure Ryuden feels he is making progress, but like any 8 story apartment block, he’s not going anywhere. Ryuden starts to tire, and Hokuseiho starts trying to rotate with that right arm, but only with a small amount of force. Hokuseiho does this every so often, and when Ryuden resists, Hokuseiho goes back to calmly standing around. Ryuden does wear out, and Hokuseiho finishes him with the uwatenage we saw coming from last week. Hokuseiho now 3-1 and declared ready for occupants.

Hiradoumi defeats Takarafuji – Sadly Takarafuji is back to being unable to withstand much if any forward pressure. Hiradoumi connects well at the tachiai, and immediately gets Takarafuji moving back. Three steps later it’s oshidashi time, and Hiradoumi is now 3-1.

Sadanoumi defeats Onosho – Onosho seems to be having one of his “cold” basho this May. He moves well enough, but Sadanoumi owns this match from the initial merge to the uwatenage three steps later, advancing to 3-1.

Takanosho defeats Tamawashi – Great effort and power from both today, a very evenly matched fight. Both had moments where it looked like the next hit would win the match, just to have their opponent rally. It ended with an odd mutual twisting fall, with each rikishi the mirror of the other. It was called a tsukiotoshi, which seems to be ancient yayoi for “damned if I know..” Clearly time for a rematch. The second try sees both men a bit more off balance an out of control, but it is Takanosho who keeps his feet. Takanosho gets his first win of May and both exit the dohyo 1-3.

Meisei defeats Hokutofuji – Can someone send me the recipe for whatever is in Meisei’s chanko? I could use that kind of boundless energy right now. I liked how he absorbed Hokutofuji’s opening combo, and converted that into controlling the match. Another day of excellent defensive lower body work by Hokutofuji, but Meisei had this one locked, he remains unbeaten at 4-0.

Kinbozan defeats Mitakeumi – This was their first ever match, and Mitakeumi made some solid tactical choices. But Kinbozan did a masterful job of deflecting Mitakeumi’s third combo attack, and turning Mitakeumi’s back to the tawara, and moment later stepping him out for a yorikiri. Well done, Kinbozan. Both are now 2-2.

Nishikigi defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho knew what his job was; keep Nishikigi away from his belt. He succeeded for the a couple of volleys, but Nishikigi found a hold, and proceeded to take control. Kotoshoho nearly broke the hold, but a moment later Nishikigi put Kotoshoho on the deck. Nishikigi finds his first win of Natsu, and both end the day 1-3.

Ura defeats Midorifuji – Wonderful example of what I mean when I talk about Ura employing “grab and tug” sumo. He knows Midorifuji is going to try to reach in for a katasukashi, and as soon as that hand comes down for Ura’s groin, he latches on with that impossible grip strength. Points to Midorifuji for trying his best to escape, but Ura has him and walks him out for a yorikiri. Ura improves to 3-1.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Shodai provided as much sumo power as a bowl of noodles today, with Daieisho completely dominating this match from start to finish. At no point was Shodai able to make any move save trying to keep his feet under Daieisho’s withering thrusting attack. Perfect 4-0 for Daieisho, as he finishes off Shodai with a hatakikomi.

Hoshoryu defeats Abi – Abi established and then lost control of this match. Excellent defensive side step by Hoshoryu caught Abi unable to defend against pressure from his left. A quick push and a shove, and it was oshidashi time, with Hoshoryu improving to 3-1.

Kiribayama defeats Nishikifuji – Some sumo fans on social media were up in arms about Kiribayama’s opening move. I thought it was tremendous! A Harumafuji style henka-non-henka that disrupted whatever Nishikifuji had in mind. It left Nishikifuji standing without any active defense, and an easy mark for Kiribayama’s follow up attack. A monoii was called, and the shimpan declared, “do that again, with none of that Harumafuji stuff”. Oh noes!! Kiribayama did it again! What the hell, Nishikifuji? How do you swallow that for the second time on the same day? I think at this point Nishikifuji is outranged, and his sumo goes a bit wild. Kiribayama steps out of the way at the right moment, and Nishikifuji falls to the clay. Kiribayama now 3-1.

Wakamotoharu defeats Kotonowaka – Wakamotoharu, by contrast, will have none of that evasive stuff in his match. Kotonowaka puts up an excellent fight, but Wakamotoharu hulks out and brutes his opponent out of the ring by oshidashi. Wow, what power that guy has! He remains unbeaten at 4-0.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – Ok, what the hell was that Endo? Takakeisho rotates to his right in the tachiai and just shunts Endo forward and down. Good enough for another win for the Ozeki. Takakeisho now 3-1.

Terunofuji defeats Tobizaru – To me Terunofuji still looks rather tenuous, but we did get to see a glimpse of kaiju form today, as the Yokozuna bodily lifts the smaller Tobizaru and carries him away. It’s been a while since we were treated to a Terunofuji kimedashi, but the Yokozuna delivered. He is also unbeaten at 4-0.

18 thoughts on “Natsu Day 4 Highlights

  1. Quick hits:
    – Kudos to Kotoeko. Great technique!
    – Demerits to Hokuseiho, even in victory. He looked so disinterested during the bout.
    – Takanosho looks scared to get in close right now. That would seem to indicate he’s favoring an undercarriage injury.
    – Onosho and Hokutofuji are both fighting hard and not getting much to show for it. They’ll battle for the Most Powerful Make-Kochi in Sumo
    – How did Nishikigi’s notoriously poor eyesight see that split-second opening to dispatch Kotoshoho?
    – Ura won, but I feel he should’ve tried a more straightforward approach against someone who he actually out-bulks.
    – You could see Shodai trying to dial up the WTF cartoon sumo, but Daiesho never gave him an opportunity. Good initiative, even in a loss for Shodai.
    – Ah, the WTF sumo was delayed to the Kiribayama/Nishikifuji match. That was a mess. Future Ozeki highlight tape material, that was not.
    – The match-up of undefeated rikishi didn’t disappoint. Both should be in contention week 2. But Wakamotoharu might top my early power rankings (followed by Daiesho and Asanoyama).
    – Takakeisho wants to keep the rank of Ozeki… but does he deserve it right now? Probably not.
    – Terunofuji was being moved backwards before he locked up Tobizaru. A worrying sign.

    • I also enjoyed the Kotoeko bout. He’s growing on me, I’m starting to see why he’s popular.

      Ura doing something straightforward??? That wouldn’t be “his brand of sumo” now, would it?!

      Also consistently impressed by WMH this basho.

      And that’s a totally legitimate question to ask about Takakeisho!

    • I didn’t consider a lower body injury for Takanosho. That would explain a lot. Great observation!

      Kiribayama is learning sumo from the former Kakuryu. If you haven’t seen the former Yokozuna’s bouts, they explain a lot about Kiribayama’s strategy today.

      The way we’ll determine if Takakeisho “deserves” his rank is his record at the end of the basho. If he makes it that far.

    • Might be just me, but it also seems like Kiribayama has turned up the aggressiveness in his sumo for these recent matches. Maybe some nerves behind him with the pressure of being an Ozeki potential?

  2. My issue with Hokuseiho: his sumo seems “lazy” even though he’s active. He uses “be big” more than even Inchinojo as a part of his sumo. It’s everything about his defense which is why if someone like Takarafuji gets his feet moving he’s doomed.. As soon as his opponent goes on the offensive, he literally stops doing anything, but leaning and resisting. I expect he’ll get a kachi-koshi this basho and move up the banzuke some unless he gets a couple of henkas thrown his way. I’m curious if Hokuseiho is doing this because it’s “easier” (since it’s what he knows) or if he’s literally just finding out how far it’ll take him. If he’s happy with just being a top division rikishi, then he won’t change much. If he wants to get into the upper ranks, he’s going to have to put in a lot of work.

    I’m wondering if Daishoho’s big tachiai yesterday either injured Takarafuji or tweaked something enough to cause him problems. Sad, if true.

    Kiribayama did a “hit and shift” in the first bout and then pulled a “dodge and pull” in the second bout. I’m unsure why he did so, unless he thought he needed to do that to ensure a victory. It almost didn’t work.

    I am hopeful that Kotonowaka and Wakamotoharu have started a rivalry. More of that, please! Both of them have definitely turned a corner and stepped up their skills.

    Wow, if Takakeisho is stepping aside for Endo he must be in a lot of pain. He barely managed the “jump to the side” part of the equation there. Definitely not a good sign and not “Ozeki sumo” based on previous definitions. I’m not surprised Endo fell for Takakeisho’s gambit today for similar reasons to why Hoshoryu got punked yesterday.

    Terunofuji locking up Tobizaru for a win feels like he’s running out his gas tank because he knows he’s near the end of the line. In other words, he’d rather go out on his own terms giving it his all instead of ending things on a whimper. I’m not surprised, but this makes me feel more like this is his last basho.

    • I’m pleased Terunofuji is getting wins (so impressed in that sense) but on reflection it’s not the awe-inspiring sumo that seems to be expected of a Yokozuna (most of the tournaments I’ve watched have been sans Yokozuna, so I suppose it’s just exciting for me to see him there)!

      Rivalries are fun! Will keep an eye on KNW v WMH!

      Re Kiribayama’s shifting and dodging, that does imply he took Nishikifuji seriously, I guess…

      I’m not really enjoying Hokuseiho “being big” pretty much all the time, but maybe there’s space for one guy like that on every banzuke! Curious to see whether he’s just lazy or is seeing how far it’ll get him, as you say.

      • I think one of the “problems” that sumo fans have these days is we expect everyone at the top of the banzuke to be Hakuho. He set the bar SO high for our standards that excellent sumo from other rikishi doesn’t seem “good enough” to us.

        It can be frustrating to watch Kirbayama (or Takakeisho) not perform “straight forward sumo”, but both Haramfuji and Kakuryu made a career out of it as Yokozunas. While there are definitely times where I feel it’s inappropriate (i.e. “big matches” where a lot is on the line) if a rikishi throws one in there every so often I don’t mind too much. They have to keep their opponents guessing if nothing else.

        I agree that Hokuseiho’s strategy is working, and there’s a place for it at times, but I think people (including me) are grumbling about it because there’s so much potential for him to do other things. I can understand him doing familiar things and not taking any risks, but that strategy will only get him so far.

        • Interesting perspective, something that comes with experience of following the sport. That’s why I really like some of the fan media like Tachiai! Always something to learn. Although of course now it’s harder to actually watch matches from the past… :'(

          Also re Hokuseiho, I probably wouldn’t think much about him except I feel like he’s been hyped up as the next big thing, Hakuho’s protégé etc. So that might be unfair of me.

      • Yeah, Terunofuji’s sumo is kind of an acquired taste if I have to be honest, he can be too passive at times, but the beauty of what he can do is that he is a defensive master, so he uses his size and strength to neutralize whatever is being done to him first, then it seems once he figured he stopped all possible means of attack–he gets to work. This is why what works best against him is trying to push him out of the ring as soon as possible before he gets his bearings because once he stops you and gets a hold of you the chances of winning the match are close to 0.

        He can blow you out of there right away though, if he sees weakness he will go for it but it’s not his usual style.

  3. I was impressed today by Daieisho, Hoshoryu, Wakamotoharu, Terunofuji and unimpressed by Hokuseiho and Takakeisho but obviously came here to talk about Nishikifuji and this abysmal 0-4 record (matching his Little Green Buddy, Midorifuji).

    Some thoughts on what might be behind it, in no particular order:

    1) There’s a quote of wins for Isegahama and they’re all going to the Yokozuna (fair enough).
    2) It’s his first time in the joi so naturally tougher at the start.
    3) He’s relatively new to the top division so is lacking in some experience and still finding the right spot on the banzuke.
    4) He just got married so is distracted / was distracted from training.
    5) He’s injured, as has been suggested on this blog.
    6) He didn’t change his mawashi colour.
    7) He’s just massively unlucky this basho!!!

    To my not very experienced eye, he doesn’t seem to be doing bad sumo once he gets going but come on, two torinaoshi on consecutive days that played out exactly the same way in terms of results?!!!

    (On a related note, are the shimpan being a lot more liberal than usual with torinaoshi this basho?)

    Nishikifuji’s worst start to a basho in Makuuchi. I hope it’s good experience for him, especially as he’s now fought two more bouts than most against two tough opponents.

    To think that in Natsu 2022 he won the Juryo yusho…

    • Nishikifuji has been hot and cold throughout his career. He definitely has skills, but hasn’t advanced things enough to really stick around in the banzuke where he is right now. I definitely agree that he shouldn’t have an 0-4 record right now, but as you said sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles. He and Onosho are definitely having similar tournaments.

      Midorifuji is a slightly different case because a) he was in the running for a Cup in the last basho (and then flamed out spectacularly) and b) he’s more of an unknown quantity at this point. He’s fighting more skilled opponents and he’s dealing with fumbling the Cup away the last time he competed. There’s a lot going on there and he’s having to make adjustments. I think he’ll be okay going forward, but we’ll see.

      • You’re right about hot and cold actually. Nishikifuji’s not settled on the banzuke yet. Hadn’t thought of the similarity with Onosho. Will be keeping an eye on him and Midorifuji, too, for sure!

  4. With all due respect, hokuseiho has no tachiai. The moment he makes contacts, he is one inch from losing. The ordinary rikishi will have no chances. Yet, he wins. Sort of a force of nature. Pretty? No. Skillful? No. Entertaining? Hell yes!

  5. I felt that Kiribayama pulling a 2nd henka, after already trying it on without much success the 1st time, was a superbly unexpected and daring bit of double-bluffing. But then I have always firmly subscribed to the school of thought that there is nothing wrong with a henka if you can pull it off – all part of the rich game-theory of sumo.
    Having said that, I also loved the crowd reaction to King Tadpole’s henka against Endo – the disapproving, murmuring near-silence as Takakeisho received his kensho made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up…

    Although the poor chap is now 0-4 I don’t actually think Nishikifuji has fought badly at all this basho. This is just what happens when it is only your 2nd time in the joi-jin and your first 4 match-ups are all against elite guys who are in good form.

  6. Midorifuzi now lost 9!! in a row since last basho, after win 10 in a row. Gosh. That indicates there is a fine line around joi-line that he cannot overcome. I think he needs more time, or weight?, to be eligible to be a sanyaku.

    Regarding Hokusiho, I’m totally enjoying his style. Hey we have 10’s of rikishes and why not having some outliers? His style reminds me of a judo fight- totally relaxed and pure react! I want to see how top level rikishes fare against him.. umm Takayasu?

  7. Hokuseiho fought Ryuden on Ryuden’s terms. Ryuden thrives on these long, drawn-out belt battles, usually outlasting the strongest opponents. But he couldn’t outlast Hokuseiho, who is becoming a master at deploying the leverage his great body length can create.

    • I think that’s getting lost in the shuffle. Hokuseiho has incredible stamina for his size. He’s specializing in these long drawn-out battles and since Makushita I don’t think I’ve seen him lose many battles that go over a minute. His entire goal is to neutralize the tachiai and then wear down the opponent before striking.

      It’s not pretty and it probably won’t work against the highest level but it’s good enough for right now.


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