The start of act 3 delivered some great matches, as the final push by the 3 Ozeki hopefuls runs squarely into the tougher part of their schedules. Both Wakamotoharu and Hakuoho earned their kachi-koshi today with an 8th win, as the roster of rikishi with winning records grows to 7.
Following the loss by Hokutofuji to give Wakamotoharu that 8th win, Nishikigi stands alone on the leaderboard for the Emperor’s cup. Seriously, what kind of crazy time line / universe are we in right now? One party glorious, one part WTF. This is the sumo I am here for, as we have 4 more matches before someone goes home with the hardware. It could be a screamer down to the wire, and I could not be happier.
Ryuden defeats Daishoho – Ryuden keeps it simple, getting a left hand frontal grip at the tachiai which Daishoho manages to break. From there its morozashi and some belly bumping to bounce Daishoho back and then out. Ryuden is now one step closer to kachi-koshi at 7-4.
Bushozan defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma was far too focused on Bushozan’s head and face. That included head pulls, face slaps and generally focusing on attacks as high as he could. Bushozan got down to business center-mass and took care of business, still make-koshi, but now 3-8.
Aoiyama defeats Tsurugisho – Battle of the banged up behemoths, it was a classic Aoiyama “stand him up and pull him down” as the hatakikomi hit almost at once. Given Tsurugisho’s poor condition this basho, it was almost certain to work. Tsurugisho is now make-koshi at 3-8, Aoiyama improves to 5-6.
Kotoshoho defeats Kinbozan – Quite the straightforward oshi-zumo match from these two. They spent most of the time standing their ground and shove-hitting each other with as much upper body motion as they could muster while keeping their balance. It was Kinbozan who broke Kotoshoho balance first, but as Kotoshoho stepped away, Kinbozan lunged to finish him. Big gamble there, as he caught Kotoshoho’s hikiotoshi and stepped out. Kotoshoho now 4-7.
Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – For a moment I thought that Sadanoumi would dominate this match. He opened strong, set up a good working hand hold and immediately had Kotoeko stepping back. But at the third step, Kotoeko loaded up a sukuinage and laid Sadanoumi out on the clay. This guy cannot catch a break. Kotoeko improves to 5-6.
Hakuoho defeats Takayasu – Whatever is damaged in Takayasu’s body seems to limit him to about 5 seconds of sumo. After that he is easy meat. About about the “5” count, we see Takayasu shift his stance and try some kind of headlock rotation-pull-something. That works so poorly that it sets up an immediate okuridashi, giving Hakuoho his 8th win, and kachi-koshi for July at 8-3.
Hokuseiho defeats Myogiryu – Hokuseiho is still overly reliant on that right hand, but it was good to see him employ a somewhat modified form today. He was able to make some offensive moves with his left to keep Myogiryu from defending against the right, and that led to a workable yorikiri. Good to see. Both end the day 5-6.
Onosho defeats Gonoyama – Ah, youth. Gonoyama seems to want to go power-to-power with Onosho, which granted would be massive fun if you had the body and skill of Gonoyama. But this is not practice, it’s honbasho. Onosho works defense for 2 steps, then pivots and lets Gonoyama eat the sukuinage and a face full of clay. Both end the day 6-5.
Takanosho defeats Hiradoumi – Takanosho’s right hand did the bulk of the work in this fight, one that he very nearly lost. Hiradoumi was giving a lot of pressure back to Takanosho, but that right hand kept connecting high on Hiradoumi’s body, forcing him back. Hiradoumi cleverly deflected as he stepped back, putting Takanosho off balance, but Takanosho had just enough connection to earth to lay one more right on Hiradoumi, sending him out before he hit the clay. Hiradoumi, who has been fighting well, now make-koshi at 3-8. Takanosho improves to 6-5.
Ura defeats Nishikifuji – Good to see Ura continue his absolute dominance over Nishikifuji, and snap his 4 match losing streak today. Once Ura connected a hand to Nishikifuji’s mawashi, it was all forward pressure and quick, small steps to rush Nishikifuji out. Both end the day at 5-6.
Oho defeats Midorifuji – A wild, chaotic and out of control match that had the gyoji on the run trying to stay out of the way. It ended with both off balance and stepping wherever they could, and Midorifuji out. Midorifuji pick up his 8th loss and is now make-koshi, Oho avoids the same fate by improving to 4-7.
Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – This battle of the battered former Ozeki was all Shodai from the tachiai. Mitakeumi never really was able to get his feet set, or get any kind of defense started as Shodai ramped up the pressure and walked him out. Shodai now 5-9.
Tobizaru defeats Meisei – Meisei seemed to be committed to keeping Tobizaru front and center, which is usually a good idea. Tobizaru played along, to his advantage. After about 4 volleys between the two, Tobizaru stepped back, then to the side at the worst possible time for Meisei. The hatakikomi sent Meisei to the clay, and advanced Tobizaru to 6-5.
Nishikigi defeats Endo – One of the things I love about sumo is some of the small, subtle things that happen that you can only enjoy watching the video where you can pause, slow step and rewind as much as you want. One of Endo’s signature moves is that frontal grab at the tachiai. Watch Nishikigi’s block that he rolls into and inside body hold before Endo can defend. Endo breaks Nishikigi’s right hand loose, but the left hand is in play as Nishikigi powers forward and takes Endo out of the ring before Endo can counter. Whatever kami has a hold of Nishikigi, it’s glorious and I hope the whole lovely cinderella story continues. He is now 10-1.
Takarafuji defeats Abi – Long standing sumo fans were in on the joke embedded in this match. Abi’s double arm thrusting attack is always aimed at his opponent’s neck. Takarafuji has no neck, as it was surgically removed following a tragic accident when he was just a boy. Left with nothing to attack, Abi blindly tries to hit something that simply is not there, making him an easy mark for Takarafuji to bodily thrust and slap out of the ring. Takarafuji now 7-4.
Kotonowaka defeats Shonannoumi – Shonannoumi sets up a right hand outside grip early, and after a brief battle for stance, rotates into a throw. But he’s completely overlooked where he is in the ring, and steps well out before he can complete the rotation. Match goes to Kotonowaka, and both end the day 7-4.
Hoshoryu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi really wanted that nodowa, he worked to reestablish it after Hoshoryu broke through the first time, and was working for a third one as Hoshoryu put all of his force against Tamawashi’s chest and shoved him out. 9-2 now for Hoshoryu, who need just 3 more wins to get to 33.
Wakamotoharu defeats Hokutofuji – Impressive sumo from Wakamotoharu today. He endured Hokutofuji’s opening attacks, which tend to disrupt his opponents enough to allow him to finish. But Wakamotoharu stayed calm, focused and managed a left hand inside belt grip, which set the terms of the match that followed. Hokutofuji countered, but without more than a couple layers of silk in his hand, he did not have enough purchase to lift or move Wakamotoharu. Wakamotoharu countered with a strong advance and a commanding yorikiri, knocking Hokutofuji off the leader position and giving Wakamotoharu his kachi-koshi victory at 8-3. He needs all of his 4 remaining matches to hit 33.
Kirishima defeats Daieisho – Brilliant defensive strategy by Kirishima, he ensured that Daieisho could not square his shoulders or his hips, and deflected Daieisho’s first two volley attempts. The failed thrusts left Daieisho dangerously off balance, which his feet in the wrong spot as Kirishima delivered a hatakikomi to put Daieisho on the clay. Kirishima now 5-6.