Natsu Day 12 Highlights

In the day 12 preview, I made reference to an attempt to funnel as many rikishi as possible toward a 7-7 record at the end of day 14, to set up a series of “Darwin Matches”. To get there, the scheduling committee sometimes works to pair rikishi with middling records against each other, in hopes of steering as many of them as possible to that 7-7 outcome. If that had been going on, it was blown up today as many who needed a win lost, and many who needed a loss won. Does that mean no 7-7 “Darwin” matches on Sunday? Not at all. But I think the active effort to herd rikishi to that score fell apart today.

The two leaders, Asanoyama and Terunofuji, split their matches today, with Asanoyama losing to Daieisho, and Terunofuji beating Wakamotoharu. This gives Terunofuji sole possession of the yusho lead. But you will note when you watch the video of today’s senshuraku, Terunofuji had to leap from the dohyo at the end of his match, and you can see the pain written over his body. We just hope his knees hold out for another 3 days.

Highlight Matches

Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyoshoma – Ichiyamamoto picks up a very welcome win in an even match that was lost when Chiyoshoma lost his stance and dropped to the clay. There was at least two Ichiyamamoto pull attempts in there too, and it was a chaotic mess of a match. Ichiyamamoto now 4-8.

Myogiryu defeats Daishoho – It took a few matta to get them started, I don’t know if Daishoho was trying to throw Myogiryu off, or if Daishoho chugged a dozen coffees before mounting the dohyo. It did not help Daishoho at all, and he was quickly out by yorikiri. Myogiryu now 7-5 and could reach kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Takarafuji defeats Mitoryu – I know that Takarafuji has struggled with maintaining forward pressure for most of Natsu, but he was able to stave off Mitoryu for a fair amount of time. After they were both tired enough, Mitoryu charged ahead, Takarafuji escaped and they both stepped out. A monoii declared a rematch. In the second attempt, we got to see the spectacle of Mitoryu attempting an henka. He actually caught a surprising amount of air in that leap. It failed and Takarafuji never let Mitoryu get balance back or place his feet. Mitoryu now make-koshi as both end the day 4-8.

Oho defeats Onosho – Oho has now won 7 of the last 8, and 4 in a row. Like many of his matches, he let Onosho do most of the work. But superb timing counts for quite a bit more than power forward at times. Onosho is convinced he is about to drive Oho out, but Oho steps aside and applies the hatakikomi to get his 8th win. He is now kachi-koshi for Natsu.

Tsurugisho defeats Hiradoumi – I feel for Hiradoumi, who has lost 3 days in a row trying to get his 8th. Hiradoumi finds his left hand blocked by an ottsuke, and can never quite get a working grip. Plus there is quite a lot of Tsurugisho to try and overcome. Tsurugisho finds his hold, and just powers through Hiradoumi’s defenses for a yorikiri to improve to 9-3.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – A funnel match that went on the rocks, Sadanoumi showed us some speed today, but perhaps more than he should have employed. He was all forward power when Kotoeko pivoted at the bales and sent him into the salt basket for a loss by tsukiotoshi. Kotoeko now 7-5.

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji not ready to accept his obligatory make-koshi just yet. Ryuden had a few good combo attacks, but Hokutofuji took control at the tachiai and kept the pressure on. Ryuden ended the match falling sideways off of the dohyo by oshitaoshi, and Hokutofuji improves to 5-7.

Tamawashi defeats Aoiyama – In this battle of the grizzled veterans, it’s clear that Aoiyama is a bit more banged up than Tamawashi. Tamawashi is able to power through what passes for defense this month from Aoiyama, and the moment it is clear he is at the bales, Aoiyama goes soft and steps out. This is sumo from an injured man. Tamawashi takes the much needed win and is now 6-6, Aoiyama earns his 8th loss and is now make-koshi.

Mitakeumi defeats Kagayaki – Happy to say that Mitakeumi is not yet so far gone that he can be beaten by Kagayaki. Kagayaki gave it a good effort at the tachiai, but once Mitakeumi had him to his chest, he was all forward power to walk Kagayaki out. Mitakeumi now 7-5.

Ura defeats Tobizaru – These two are very inventive rikishi, and so it was surprising to see them throw more or less the same combos at each other time and again for the duration of this lengthy match. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good fight and the crowd loved it. But I was looking for more nonsense than we got – at least at first. That ending exchange – you have Tobizaru off axis pushing into an unbalanced Ura, who plants his feet, ducks down and head rams a charging Tobizaru. Tobizaru grabs Ura’s head, and Ura lifts with his back and pivots. Down goes Tobizaru and Ura crumples to the clay, with his knees clearly a concern. Kimarite is listed as zubuneri – a head pivot throw, which was last seen in the top division in 1998 when Asahiyutaka used it to defeat Terao on day 5 in Osaka. Ura now 6-6.

Nishikifuji defeats Takanosho – When you are fighting as poorly as Nishikifuji has been this month, winning in reverse gear is “good enough” to be sure. He lets Takanosho supply the energy to power the uwatenage that wins the match, sealing Takanosho’s make-koshi at 4-8, while Nishikifuji advances to 3-9.

Abi defeats Meisei – Abi’s henka catches Meisei at the right time, and sets up the oshitaoshi one step later that wins the match. Meisei looks a bit hurt, or just knocked about and is slow to get up. Abi now 6-6.

Midorifuji defeats Takayasu – The powerful Takayasu of yesterday is nowhere to be seen today, as Midorifuji gets underneath and drives Takayasu out at a gallop. Midorifuji now 4-8.

Nishikigi defeats Kotonowaka – That’s 5 wins in a row for Nishikigi – what on earth? Nishikigi gets his preferred arm bar hold early, and Kotonowaka swaps to defense. With Kotonowaka moving back, Nishikigi keeps up the pressure and finds center mass. The results are an oshidashi that improves his score to 6-6.

Shodai defeats Kinbozan – The version of Shodai with some level of sumo skill mounted the dohyo today. Kinbozan had a good opening attack, but found Shodai reverse his position and grapple in for a quick yorikiri. Shodai now 6-6, and I wish I could buy that man some consistency.

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Daieisho takes Asanoyama out of his tie for the lead with a quick mega-thrust win. This is the sumo I expected from Daieisho I expected yesterday against Takakeisho, but good enough here. Because Asanoyama had the easier route to double digits, I wonder if maybe he is not quite ready to fight the san’yaku again just yet. The give away was that pull attempt that opened the door for Daieisho’s oshidashi. I am sure he will improve his sumo a bit more for Nagoya. Daieisho kachi-koshi at 8-4.

Hoshoryu defeats Hokuseiho – I did enjoy watching Hoshoryu come to grips with the size difference in real time. His body and his movements communicated “wow, what the hell is going on?” at least twice. To his credit he kept trying things until he found one that worked, and forced it to his advantage. The attempt at shitatenage fell apart, but broke Hokuseiho grip, and set up the okuridashi. Both end the day 8-4.
Hoshoryu: 8-4

Kiribayama defeats Takakeisho – As soon as Kiribayama got that right hand belt grip, it was two quick steps to the yorkikiri, and double digits for Kiribayama. Will it be enough for him to reach Ozeki for July? I think we will find out shortly after the tournament ends. He is now 10-2.

Terunofuji defeats Wakamotoharu – Wakamotoharu boldly goes chest to chest with the Yokozuna, and does an admirable job of keeping Terunofuji away from his belt. With a working hold Wakamotoharu surges forward toward the bales, but catches a pivot from Terunofuji and drops as he is placed out for Terunofuji’s 11th win. But the Yokozuna is badly off balanced, and hops down from the dohyo. He looks shocked with pain, and I have to wonder if maybe he did not just end his efforts for May. Terunofuji is 11-1 by yoritaoshi.

20 thoughts on “Natsu Day 12 Highlights

  1. Wow! Bumper day for Isegahama-beya.

    I’m delighted Nishikifuji won out today. I honestly don’t see how you can say he has been fighting badly this basho. We saw Nishikifuji fighting badly in January and this isn’t the same. He’s not getting the wins, but twice his bouts have been so close that it’s gone to torinaoshi and he’s mostly coming out strongly and with a plan. I think he was just up against the best opponents he’s ever faced. He’s put up good sumo but mostly not quite good enough. It’s not been the rout that Hatsu was, whatever the results say.

    Poor Takarafuji and Mitoryu to have to go to a rematch after that super long and exhausting bout. Really pleased for Midorifuji today. Terunofuji probably still looking at the yusho, especially with Asanoyama’s loss. But that was a proper slog today against WMH and I’m worried for his knees.

    Kiribayama gets a pile of cash and that all-important tenth win. Hope he gets Ozeki from it. Things are looking ropy for Takakeisho, though. I’ll be rooting for him from now on. Although this year’s performance does vindicate the YDC’s decision not to promote him, I wouldn’t want him to lose his current rank.

    Noooo! Meisei! I’m sorry his streak hasn’t lasted. I hope he wasn’t hurt, too, looks like he might have been.

    What the hell was that from Ura and Tobizaru? I guess it’s what you’d expect from the Espresso Crab and the Flying Monkey. Exciting to see a zubuneri at the end – 25 years since the last one in Makuuchi? Amazing stuff, another reason to love Ura!

      • Sorry, I meant to say the decision of the Committee to Present Ozeki to the Yokozuna Deliberation Council for Promotion’s decision not to present him to the YDC for promotion. You get my point.

  2. I think the way to look at it is an active effort to herd rikishi towards a make koshi or kachi koshi…. the 7-7 Darwin battle is just the ultimate attempt to sort it

    With regard to injuries, wouldn’t be surprised to see Ura pull out, but I’d be absolutely shocked to see the Yokozuna withdraw. I hope they’re both OK – or as OK as it’s possible to be

    Re: Kiribayama, all the Japanese commentary that I could work out seemed to indicate he was given a target and he’s reached it and it’s a done deal now. Which I’m quite smug about as I felt since a couple years ago he would be likely to reach it before Hoshoryu, despite the latter being far more hyped.

  3. Bout of the day – Ura vs Tobizaru
    Most Entertaining bout – Ura vs Tobizaru
    Move of the day – Ura vs Tobizaru
    Crowd was crazy during and after this bout.
    It was totally opposite when Abi won with his Henka, there was a meager applaud, which died out very quick.

    • When I saw that head pivot throw, I had to rewind – “did I just see that”? was all I could think.

      • That is 2 days in a row now that Ura has performed some kind of dark sorcery to win. Yesterday he had totally lost his grip on Nishikifuji’s belt and yet won with a limbo-dance at the edge of the ring. Today he has pulled off a throw using only his neck. I am beginning to worry that despite his cute and cheerful demeanour he may in fact be a witch.

  4. I’ve been following Sumo for a decade and had never even heard of zubuneri.
    Ura’s fights are such fun, because you never know what will happen.

    I’ve posted this before but the raised dohyo is obviously dangerous (though won’t be changed). If the dohyo wasn’t raised Terunofuji would have had no problem.
    It’s good to have a yokozuna back doing yokozuna level sumo. I very much hope he finishes tha basho.

    • If the size of the dohyo were increased a bit to allow a larger “apron” I believe the number of injuries would decrease.

  5. I don’t grasp the skepticism on Kiribayama. 3 straight basho with 10+ wins (first basho at K, next 2 at S), won the last basho, 33 wins total, and there’s an ozeki shortage. The only times in modern history that wasn’t enough was when there were already 4-5 ozeki (see below). He’ll likely win at least once more so it’s a moot argument, but it’s funny how quickly the talk went from “they’ll have to relax the rules in order to have at least two ozeki” to “33 wins at the higher ranks and maybe he doesn’t get it.”

    • Not skepticism, it’s more of a “don’t try to anticipate what the NSK is going to do” approach to such matters. So it’s not “I don’t think he will get it” or “I don’t think he earned it”. It’s, these crabby old guys like to subvert expectations, so may want to hold on for 3 more days.

      • I mean, Hakkaku said explicitly he was on a run and needed 10 for Ozeki. I guess 3 ugly losses down the stretch could change their minds…

    • Baruto seems particularly hard done by when you think of more recent promotions. Especially as in his third basho he beat Hakuho plus all three of the Ozeki incumbents he faced.

        • Yeah. Fortunately he went 14-1 the next basho beating all 4 ozeki he faced, losing only to Hakuho – who was starting a nearly year-long undefeated streak.

  6. I always thought Kiri was good but he’s never been this good, even if he doesn’t win, the maturity he is showing in this tournament with the weight of expectations on top of him is surprising! The guy is looking like he is already an ozeki, with this poise and this level, even if he never wins a tournament again–he could be ozeki for a long time.

    Teru looks awesome and I am not the kind of person to bring out his knees as an excuse every time he loses, in fact, I never talk about his injuries as many times I feel people use them as an excuse when realistically he has lost simply because he was out pushed or out grappled but last night I winced in pain when he jumped down and now I am very interested in seeing what’s going to happen because he could barely get down to accept his envelope, he didn’t even go all the way down, if we see deterioration in the next days from him we know the reason, poor Teru man… but the guy has looked every bit as good as a Yokozuna should, which is impressive considering his long time off! I only gain more and more respect for his ability as time goes by, I hope we have him for a long time! (doubtful)

    Asanoyama had this loss all but guaranteed, when I saw he was fighting Daieisho who was going for KK, it just seemed like it was time for Asa to drop another one and Daieisho makes it tough for everyone.

    I can only hope the results hold until the last day to make things interesting but that will take an epic, never before seen effort from Asanoyama to beat Teru tonight.

    I am glad I slept well today and don’t have to get up early tomorrow because I want to watch live; it’ll be awesome.

    But destiny seems to be written though, a last-day match between Kiri vs Teru to see if we go to a playoff or not, it’s the confirmation of the greatness of our yokozuna or maybe the beginning of the run of another?

  7. Big fan of Kiribayama. He comes across as a seriously intelligent wrestler in the way he constantly probes and adjusts to find a path to victory.

    Geez it was painful watching Terunofuji after his bout. Not sure how much longer he can keep going without knees…

  8. I hope we see other rikishi attempt that move of Hoshoryu’s against Hokuseiho. If they do, it will be interesting to see how the big man adjusts to it.


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