My compliments to the scheduling team at the Japan Sumo Association. Through skilled match making and probably as fair amount of planning, you have constructed a marvelous yusho race going into the final 3 days. The matches today were consequential, thrilling and so much happened today that it may have the most engaging day of the basho so far.
We exit day 12 with the yusho race tied up once more between Nishikigi and Hokutofuji, and one of the three Ozeki hopefuls likely relegated to trying again next basho.
Oshoma defeats Daishoho – Juryo visitor Oshoma puts the doom on Daishoho, handing him his 8th loss and make-koshi. It was kind of a weird match, with a mutual side step slow motion tachiai, and very tentative arm’s length mild fighting, and a soft step out by Daishoho. Not what I call sumo. Oshoma now 6-6.
Aoiyama defeats Kinbozan – Aoiyama now with 4 wins in a row, and I would be amazed if this arch-competitor can self-rescue from near certain demotion. He may be as flabby as a manatee, busted up and hurt, but he’s not giving up and going home, he’s fighting with everything he can muster. After an initial battery of shoves, Aoiyama gets Kinbozan turned around and sends him out by okuridashi. Both end the day 6-6.
Myogiryu defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji, on the cusp of a much needed 8th win, is sputtering. Myogiryu opens with an off-angle tachiai, which lets him get both hands inside for a body hold. Takarafuji does not quite have his feet set for defense when Myogiryu turns on the forward power and walks him back for a yorikiri. Myogiryu now 6-6.
Chiyoshoma defeats Takanosho – I was hoping for a Chiyoshoma henka, but instead I got him executing some fantastic disruptive sumo. Lots of slapping and knocking Takanosho off balance. It shows a great sense of the best time to hit someone to make them stumble. Granted, an odd skill to have, but it’s solid gold for sumo. Takanosho can’t keep his feet, and Chiyoshoma helps him visit the clay with a dandy hatakikomi. Both end the day 6-6.
Sadanoumi defeats Bushozan – Bushozan does a great job of shutting down Sadanoumi’s mobility, and the two trade volleys of thrusts trying to set up a working grip. When Sadanoumi gets his left on Bushozan’s belt, he goes for the uwatenage. But did I see Sadanoumi’s right hand on Bushozan’s mage? Perhaps not – the judges did not ask to review the footage. Both end the day 3-9.
Ryuden defeats Nishikifuji – Things start off very well for Nishikifuji, until the moment when he decides that moving forward was not going to work for him, and attempts a pull. The release of forward pressure is all Ryuden needed to charge ahead, and send Nishikifuji out by oshidashi, giving Ryuden his kachi-koshi win at 8-4.
Gonoyama defeats Takayasu – Shin-Goeido makes short work of Takayasu after Takayasu tries some manner of henka. Clearly hurt and not used to big lateral moves at the tachiai, it fails miserably. Gonoyama with the win, advancing him to 7-5.
Kotoeko defeats Hokuseiho – Hokuseiho has now lost 3 of his last 4, and seems to be on course for a make-koshi. Brilliant work by Kotoeko keeping Hokuseiho off of his mawashi for most of the fight. Once the giant landed a hold, Hokuseiho worked to contain Kotoeko and walk him out. It nearly worked, but somehow Kotoeko got a pivot in there, and against the odds completed the rotation to take Hokuseiho down by uwatenage. Kotoeko now 6-6.
Oho defeats Kotoshoho – Another match where Kotoshoho is too far forward over his feet. Points to Oho for understanding his opponent’s body position, and taking full advantage of it. He managed to get Kotoshoho airborne for a moment, which is always a good finish in my book. Oho now 5-7, Kotoshoho with his 8th loss is make-koshi at 4-8.
Tsurugisho defeats Onosho – Color me surprised that Tsurugisho found enough fortitude to handle a straight ahead match with Onosho given his level of injury and pain. Apart from a brief moment where he nearly fell forward, Tsurugisho had the upper hand and finished Onosho with a glorious rolling throw. They scored it oshitaoshi, close enough. Tsurugisho now 4-8.
Hiradoumi defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji worked hard to execute some kind of sumo move with that right hand grip, but when his best try failed, he also lost the hold on Hiradoumi’s mawashi. At that point Hiradoumi put power forward and walked Midorifuji out. Hiradoumi now 4-8.
Meisei defeats Shodai – Shodai managed to reverse on Meisei and put Meisei’s heels on the tawara. It looked like Shodai was about to ramp up the pressure when Meisei brought his right leg into the match, toppling Shodai with a sotogake. Power move from Meisei, both end the day 5-7.
Ura defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi can still execute the motions behind “his brand of sumo”, but they seem to be only about 80% of required strength and power. Great example today as he is unable to break through Ura’s “chaos defense”. Multiple times we see Mitakeumi have Ura bracketed, square his hips and push forward, only to see Ura break free and scamper away. Ura’s finishing tottari was messy, but glorious, he is now 6-6.
Shonannoumi defeats Nishikigi – Shonannoumi makes the yusho race interesting, by taking down sole leader Nishikigi with an arm bar throw. The key was that initial left hand inside hold from Shonannoumi, which he was able to hold through Nishikigi’s attempt to first break the hold, then grip shift. Shonannoumi gets his 8th win and is kachi-koshi at 8-4.
Asanoyama defeats Tobizaru – “Asanoyama risks career ending injury” is how I look at this match. Like that tape is going to do anything. This match is quite the mess, as Asanoyama can’t use his left to set up the throw we knew he wanted against Tobizaru. Tobizaru tries a counter move, and the two collapse in a heap in the middle of the dohyo. They scored it as a sukuinage, but the win went to Asanoyama. He is now 5-7.
Kotonowaka defeats Endo – Good lord! Kotonowaka not only blocks Endo’s opening move, but uses his trapped left arm as a lever to lift him up and into a throw. Sukuinage win for Kotonowaka, what a move. Kotonowaka is kachi-koshi at 8-4.
Hakuoho defeats Abi – The start of this match was a matta festival, as each man tried out a false start or two. When they finally got around to the match, Abi’s initial surge at the tachiai was nearly enough. Sadly he then resulted to a series of pulling attempts, that opened the door for Hakuoho’s offense. Hakuoho set his forward power to “11” and sent Abi into the second row. Hakuoho fell on that injured shoulder and was clearly in pain. He did score the win, and is now 9-3, while Abi is make-koshi at 4-8.
Tamawashi defeats Daieisho – Perfect execution from Tamawashi. He presenting an opening push to Daieisho, who responded by powering forward with everything he had, spot on for “his brand of sumo”. Of course Tamawashi pushed gently again, stepped back and to the right as Daieisho thrust forward into the open air. Scored as a hatakikomi, it was the exact way you let Daieisho defeat himself. Tamawashi now 7-5.
Hokutofuji defeats Hoshoryu – Hokutofuji’s upper body sumo today was good, not great. But his lower body sumo was amazing, once again keeping him in the match by keeping him upright. Hoshoryu was pouring in the power, but was not quite patient enough to move properly. A poorly executed step to the right gave Hokutofuji the opening to collapse Hoshoryu’s stance, and he crumpled at the tawara. Oshidashi win for Hokutofuji, and he pulls even with Nishikigi again at 10-2.
Kirishima defeats Wakamotoharu – Kirishima’s ottsuke shut down anything Wakamotoharu had in mind. Followed by an expertly timed left hand body grab, Wakamotoharu was done. With this loss, Wakamotoharu’s aspirations to reach Ozeki this month are likely gone, as Kirishima picks up the yorikiri win to improve to 6-6.