Aki Basho Wrap-up

We’ve come to the end of the exciting Aki basho. Warmest congratulations to Shodai on his first Emperor’s cup and upcoming Ozeki promotion. Personally, I’ve been a huge fan of this good-natured, humble young man since I started following sumo, and I could not be more delighted with the outcome of the yusho race. Shodai always had the size and the skills, and it’s great to see him raise both his physical and mental game and have it all come together. While his final-day victory was close and understandably showed some nerves, his defeats of the two current Ozeki on days 13 and 14 were emphatic. Tachiai wishes him a long, healthy and successful career in sumo’s highest ranks.

Now that all the results are in, let’s take a look at what they’re likely to mean for the November banzuke. We’ll know more on Wednesday, when sekitori promotions are announced, as are any retirement decisions that are made in time to affect the next rankings.

The Named Ranks

Both Ozeki posted double-digit wins, but Takakeisho (12-3; jun-yusho) unquestionably had the better tournament, and will be switching sides with Asanoyama (10-5). Shodai, despite putting up the best performance of the three, will make his Ozeki debut at O2e, as is customary for the newly promoted.

West Sekiwake Mitakeumi (8-7) is the only member the Sekiwake/Komusubi quintet who will maintain his rank, even getting a nominal promotion to the East side. His Ozeki run is still technically alive at 19 wins over the past two basho at Sekiwake, but it’s hard to see him putting up the 14 wins he’d need to get to 33 in November.

Shodai’s promotion, along with demotions of Daieisho (5-10), Okinoumi (4-11), and Endo (3-9-3), will open up three san’yaku slots. I expect them to be filled as follows: M1w Takanosho (10-5) at West Sekiwake, M1e Terunofuji (8-5-2) at East Komusubi, and M6e Takayasu (10-5) at West Komusubi. Only the last of these is in any doubt, as M8w Wakatakakage (11-4) and M5e Kiribayama (9-6) have plausible claims, but I think that Takayasu’s case is superior based on both the rank/record combination and his past résumé. Assuming everyone shows up healthy in November, this would be a formidable san’yaku indeed.

Upper Maegashira

The top maegashira rank should be occupied by the aforementioned Wakatakakage and Kiribayama. After that, it’s a mess of a few winning records from lower down the banzuke (Onosho, Kagayaki, Tobizaru) and losing records by current san’yaku and upper maegashira (Daieisho, Hokutofuji, Myogiryu, Takarafuji, Okinoumi). Plenty of opportunities for the banzuke committee to make some head-scratching decisions.

Makuuch-Juryo Exchanges

The final-day results brought a lot of clarity to a messy exchange situation. Recall that the absent Abi and Kyokutaisei were already certain to drop to Juryo. His final-day loss ensured that Kotoshogiku would join them, unless he decides to jump before he is pushed and calls it a career. I also think that given the results in Juryo, final-day victories by Shohozan and Ishiura were too little, too late, and they will also be heading down to second division (I’ve heard talk of Shohozan retiring, but he seems a lot less likely to do so than Kotoshogiku).

On the other hand, final-day victories by Ichinojo and Hoshoryu, the two lowest-ranked men in Makuuchi, gave each a last-minute kachi-koshi and complete safety from demotion. That leaves one top-division rikishi on the bubble: M15e Shimanoumi (6-9). While this record at his rank would usually mean demotion, I think he’ll just hang on, given the 5 demotion candidates ahead of him and a dearth of promotion cases in Juryo.

Speaking of Juryo, only two rikishi posted records that definitely merit promotion: J2w Kotonowaka (9-6) and the Juryo yusho winner, J11w Chiyonokuni (14-1). However, given the strong case for 5 demotions, I think that J2e Kotoyuki (8-7), J4e Chiyoshoma (9-6), and J6w Akua (10-5) will be deemed to have done enough. This would mark a top-division debut for Akua and a return to the top division of “sumo villain” Chiyoshoma after an unmourned 7-basho absence.

Juryo-Makushita Exchanges

For the moment, let’s leave aside possible sekitori retirements, as well as the uncertain banzuke fates of J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma, whose whole heya went kyujo as a coronavirus precaution.

There should be four “normal” openings in Juryo, created by Kizakiumi’s retirement, Oki’s disastrous 0-15 sekitori debut, Kitaharima’s near-record 8th demotion, and Daishoho’s two straight losses in “exchange bouts” with Makushita opponents.

The first two slots will go to Ms1e Takagenji (4-3) and Ms1w Jokoryu (4-3). I believe that the next two should be claimed by Ms4w Naya (5-2) and Ms5w Ura (6-1), the men who handed Daishoho the key defeats. I am sure I am far from the only one who would be very excited to see these two in the sekitori ranks. I think Ms2e Chiyonoumi (4-3) is 5th in line, and Ms5e Kotodaigo (4-3) is definitely 6th. When the sekitori promotions are announced on Wednesday, their fate will tell us a lot about how lenient the banzuke committee decided to be with Azumaryu and Fujiazuma.

And that’s a wrap for this series of posts for September. I’ll write a follow-up when the Juryo promotions are released, and a full banzuke prediction post once I’ve more fully digested the results. Thanks for following along, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Aki Day 15 Highlights

Day 15 was an absolutely fantastic day of sumo. In contrast to some previous tournaments, no one really phoned it in today. It seems that everyone found they had a bit of energy left in the tank, and they threw it all into their final match. It was possibly the best day of sumo, all around, of the tournament.

First and foremost, my congratulations to Shodai. I know readers of this blog think I dislike this fellow, but my complaints were always technical. His sumo was sloppy, and his tachiai was ineffective. But following his 3-12 record last Aki, he changed. These kinds of changes are never on accident, they are the result of hard, relentless effort. Yokozuna Kakuryu’s influence can now clearly be seen in Shodai’s sumo with one critical difference – Shodai does not yet suffer the chronic injuries that will soon usher Kakuryu into his post competition life. My compliments to Kakuryu for finding a proper student, and nothing but praise to Shodai for taking this knowledge and making it his own through relentless work, and I would guess toughening up some degree. Word has come that he will be minted Ozeki in the days to come, and I think if he can stay healthy, he will make a formidable Ozeki for years to come.

Several of today’s matches had the sad overtones of a goodbye. We may have seen final matches from Kotoshogiku and Shohozan. I continue to wonder how much longer Ikioi is going to endure as well. These mainstays of sumo have given their all to the sport, but it seems their bodies are telling their unquenchable fighting spirit that it is time to move on.

While the focus is (rightly) on celebrating Shodai’s yusho, and his elevation to Ozeki, it’s worth noting the Ozeki yusho drought continues. Both Asanoyama and Takakeisho finished with fine scores (10-5, 12-3) worthy of an Ozeki. But both must have considered this no-kazuna basho to be their best chance at starting the promotion process by taking the cup. For Asanoyama, the pre-basho pressure was huge, and I think it disrupted his focus, and cost him important early matches. I also cannot stress enough that the lack of degeiko, and frankly jungyo, with its mass joint training sessions among top division rikishi has degraded the fighting capabilities of the top ranks. This may be especially true for Asanoyama, whose Takasago stable does not have another Makuuchi ranked rikishi to spar against. Shodai has Yutakayama, and Takakeisho has Takanosho, and yes, I think it did make a difference.

Highlight Matches

Ichinojo defeats Chiyonoo – Ichinojo’s sumo returns for this final match of Aki, and it was good to see. I would think he could have dispatched Chiyonoo at the tachiai, but the match went to extra time after Ichinojo got his left hand outside grip and decided to let Chiyonoo try to out muscle him. Credit to Chiyonoo, he rallied twice, and survived holding up the boulder longer than I thought he could. Ichinojo gets his 8th win, and will remain in the top division for November.

Shohozan defeats Ikioi – Shohozan has been struggling the entire tournament, but today he threw everything he had left into this fight against Ikioi (their 15th match). Both are heavily make-koshi, and I would expect at least one of them to consider intai following Aki. Shohozan will be ranked in Juryo for November, and Ikioi is just too hurt to really compete. But just for a moment, it was 2014 again, and these two were genki and beating the tar out of each other. Thanks guys.

Hoshoryu defeats Sadanoumi – I am happy that Hoshoryu was able to secure his kachi-koshi in his first top division basho. But the fact he was relegated to a Darwin match when ranked at Maegashira 16 shows that he still has work to do. I think because of his family connection to Asashoryu, people put a lot of pressure on this talented young guy, and just maybe it impacts his sumo at time. With luck he will shake that off one day, and we will see what he is capable of in his own right.

Wakatakakage defeats Shimanoumi – Absolutely brilliant tournament from Wakatakakage, and I am a bit surprised they did not award him a special prize. He will be riding a big wave toward the top of the banzuke, and I hope he can endure the intensity of the competition. To many it looked like Shimanoumi won this match at first glance, but Shimanoumi had clearly stepped out even before his throw attempt had completed rotation. An 11-4 final score for the leading Onami brother.

Tokushoryu defeats Onosho – Outstanding 10-5 final for Onosho, and we should see him back in the joi-jin for November. It was a bit troublesome that he dropped his last 2 matches. He ended up tucked in against Tokushoryu’s enormous belly, and from that position, it’s tough to do much. With the belly in control, even the remainder of Tokushoryu was forced to go where the belly demanded, and that was putting Onosho out of the ring.

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – By all rights, Ishiura should be trying to mend that ankle, but he not only showed up, we saw Ishiura’s quality sumo today. I was really impressed that he could shut down Ryuden’s forward power, and hold him checked at the center of the dohyo while he set up that throw. Ishiura finishes Aki 4-11. With any luck, lksumo may give us a hint on if that may be enough to keep him in the top division.

Kagayaki defeats Kaisei – The second “Darwin” match had a tough to describe kimarite. Really maximum effort from Kagayaki to keep Kaisei from establishing his desired hold, and preventing the Brazilian from overwhelming him. That attempt to finish the match fell apart in spectacular fashion, with each man counter-rotating and falling back to back.

Takayasu defeats Meisei – Takayasu controlled the center of the dohyo, and kept Meisei reacting to his sumo. Unable to really maintain his footing, Meisei found himself drive out of the ring. Both finish with respectable kachi-koshi, and we will see Takayasu in the joi-jin for November.

Kotoeko defeats Takarafuji – Holy smokes, what a battle! The third “Darwin” match was a long running chest to chest contest between Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo, and Kotoeko’s overwhelming drive to beat him no matter what. Takarafuji eventually had to settle for a left hand outside grip, but could not overcome Kotoeko’s defense. Excellent sumo from these two.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – This might have been the final for Kotoshogiku. My thanks to Terutsuyoshi for not employing some punk move or henka against the former Ozeki, and let him go out fighting.

Enho defeats Myogiryu – It gave me a smile to see Enho finish out with a solid match like this. Myogiryu went in with a solid plan, but if Enho is dialed into his sumo, you are sometimes just along for the ride. Both finish with 6-9.

Kotoshoho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi is another who seems to have lost about 30% of his power, and I have to wonder how long he will be able to keep up with the younger crop of rikishi who seem to be showing up in the top division, and coming into their own. Tamawashi had a big opening nodowa, but Kotoshoho just kept working forward, and overcame. A 10-5 finish for Kotoshoho – great stuff!

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin drove to get his left hand toward Hokutofuji’s mawashi, but could never connect. If you are Tochinoshin, and your main weapon gets shut down, what do you do? Why you pull of course! Hokutofuji is primed for that, puts the left hand death grip on Tochinoshin’s throat and moves him over the tawara.

Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Impressed that Takanosho was able to resist Aoiyama’s initial attack. But I guess that if you share practice with Takakeisho every morning, you are used to getting a hundred or so kilograms of force applied to your face and shoulders. Takanosho focused center-mass and pushed forward for the win. Another solid 10-5 finish, and I am curious where that lands him in the san’yaku for November.

Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Both end the tournament with more than 10 losses, and will be dropping out of the san’yaku. This match was dominated by Daieisho’s pulling effort at the close, which saw him galloping in reverse while tugging on Okinoumi’s head. Ok…

Kiribayama defeats Mitakeumi – Ah, Mitakeumi, the eternal Sekiwake. That last increment to Ozeki is outside of your grasp yet again. Mitakeumi was in reaction mode from the start today, and he let Kiribayama dominate the match. I am sure Kiribayama is delighted to return from kyujo and end the tournament with 9 wins, I just hope he did not permanently damage that left shoulder in the process.

Shodai defeats Tobizaru – A win here was all Shodai needed to finish his yusho run, and it was a great match. I have to compliment Tobizaru who contested strongly for the yusho in his first ever top division tournament. The opening gambit nearly overpower Shodai, and put Shodai’s heels on the tawara. Shodai rallied and bodily tossed Tobizaru nearly across the ring. Tobizaru grabbed an arm and reverse Shodai to the bales again, but an inspired pivot at the edge dropped Tobizaru as he lunged forward to finish Shodai. I would remind readers that, in my opinion, this is an early form of Shodai’s sumo, and a year from now, all of this stuff that looks rough and improvised may become polished and amazing to watch. I hope the Aki yusho winner and shin-Ozeki can stay healthy and compete with strength for many years to come.

Takakeisho defeats Asanoyama – Some might assume that with the yusho decided just minutes before, that this match would be anti-climatic. But to me it was quite informative in that Asanoyama, at the fundamental level, is a stronger and more versatile rikishi than Takakeisho. This was all about mental focus and stamina, and it seems, a bit to my surprise, that Takakeisho had more to bring to the dohyo today. I have not seen Asanoyama have to generate that much forward force in a long time, and it really distracted him from getting an effective hand hold, which is crucial to his sumo technique. With his offense disrupted, Asanoyama worked to break contact and re-engage. While that is solid sumo tactics, it merely set up Takakeisho’s penultimate attack. With all of that power now focused in Asanoyama’s chest through Takakeisho’s hands, Asanoyama found himself powerless to stop the fast run over the edge. Asanoyama has nothing to feel down about following this Aki basho, but I suspect he will assess his performance as falling short of expectations. Tip from an old man who has had wonderful successes in a few areas of life. Put the expectations aside, and enjoy what you are good at. When you can find a path to that, you will unlock your potential. You are an Ozeki, and the sumo fandom adores you. Have fun with it, like you did in your early days at the bottom of Makuuchi. The rest will take care of itself.

To our dear readers, thank you for spending the Aki basho with us. It’s been a blast covering this wide-open nokazuna tournament, and Team Tachiai appreciates you taking time to read and contribute.

Aki Storylines, Day 14

We’ve come down to the final day of the exciting Aki basho. Tomorrow, someone will claim the Emperor’s cup, special prizes will be handed out, a few rikishi will resolve their make/kachi-koshi status, and devision exchanges will be sealed. Let’s see where things stand.

The Yusho Race

Takanosho, Mitakeumi, and Takakeisho fulfilled their roles as barriers to lower-ranked challengers, knocking Onosho and Wakatakakage out of the race and leaving Tobizaru one off the pace. Shodai emphatically defeated an Ozeki opponent for the second consecutive day, eliminating Asanoyama and claiming sole possession of the lead at 12-2. Takakeisho and Tobizaru are still in the race at 11-3.

If Shodai can defeat Tobizaru tomorrow, he takes the yusho. Otherwise, the two would go into a playoff, where they could be joined by Takakeisho should he prevail in the Ozeki showdown with Asanoyama.

Special Prizes

Three special prizes can be given to rikishi below the rank of Ozeki who put up especially impressive performances, and each prize can be shared. From Wikipedia:

The three prizes are

  • Shukun-shō (殊勲賞), Outstanding Performance prize
  • Kantō-shō (敢闘賞), Fighting Spirit prize
  • Ginō-shō (技能賞), Technique prize

Typically the Ginō-shō is awarded to a wrestler or wrestlers who display the most skillful kimarite, or techniques; the Shukun-shō is awarded to a wrestler who defeats a yokozuna or the eventual tournament winner, or who otherwise displays outstanding performance relative to his rank; and the Kantō-shō to a wrestler who has most clearly fought tenaciously and to the best of his abilities.

I would guess that the Ginō-shō will go to Shodai, that Tobizaru will receive a  Kantō-shō, and that the Shukun-shō will go to the winner of the bout between them (although I could see them both getting one depending on the outcome of the yusho race). Finally, I think that both Wakatakakage and Onosho will have a Kantō-shō on the line, conditional on winning their final bouts.

The Named Ranks

It’s nice to see both Ozeki with double-digit wins before senshuraku; the word “kadoban” barely came up this basho. Takakeisho could still start a Yokozuna challenge with a yusho, while Asanoyama will have to wait. Shodai has successfully defended his rank, can still hope for an Ozeki promotion and, barring that, should only need double-digit wins to finish a successful run in November. Mitakeumi (8-6) will maintain his rank, and his Ozeki run is still technically alive, but he’ll need 13-14 wins in November.

Daieisho (4-10) will drop far out of san’yaku along with Okinoumi (4-10) and Endo (3-9-2). That opens up two san’yaku slots, and they’ll go to Takanosho and Terunofuji, in that order. Should Shodai create a third slot by earning promotion, the contenders are Wakatakakage, Takayasu, Onosho, Kiribayama, and Tobizaru.

Darwin Bouts

Eight rikishi hold 7-7 records, their fate balanced on a knife-edge. Six have been paired up in classic Darwin bouts: Kotoeko vs. Takarafuji, Kaisei vs. Kagayakai, and Sadanoumi vs. Hoshoryu. Aoiyama will look to pick up his 8th by upsetting Takanosho, while Ichinojo fights for his top-division place against Juryo visitor Chiyonoo.

Makuuch-Juryo Exchanges

Certain to drop to Juryo: Abi and Kyokutaisei.

Hard to see how they’d stay up, even with a win and favorable banzuke luck: Shohozan, Ishiura, Kotoshogiku.

Safe with one more win; might already be okay given 5 demotion candidates ahead of them and a dearth of strong promotion cases in Juryo: Shimanoumi, Ichinojo, Hoshoryu.

Moving up to the top division: J2w Kotonowaka (9-5), Juryo yusho winner J11w Chiyonokuni (13-1), J2e Kotoyuki (8-6).

Next in line, but need final-day wins: J4e Chiyoshoma (8-6), J6e Chiyonoo (9-5), J6w Akua (9-5), J10e Akiseyama (11-3). Someone is going to get very, very lucky.

Juryo-Makushita Exchanges

There are three certain openings in Juryo, one created by Kizakiumi’s retirement and the other two by Oki’s 0-14 sekitori debut and J14 Kitaharima’s (5-9) near-record 8th demotion. J12 Daishoho (6-8) needs 1 win for safety. Complicating matters are the mandated absences and uncertain banzuke fates of J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma, as well as the possibility of Kotoshogiku’s retirement. So that’s at least 3 open sekitori slots, and as many as 7.

Two slots will go to Ms1e Takagenji (4-3) and Ms1w Jokoryu (4-3). At the moment, the leading contender for the third is Ms4w Naya (5-2), but Ms5w Ura (5-1) will have something to say about that (and about the number of open slots) when he fights Daishoho on the final day. Ms2e Chiyonoumi (4-3) will be 4th or 5th in line, and Ms5e Kotodaigo (4-3) will be 6th. A long-shot candidate for a possible 7th promotion could be Ms8e Yago (5-1) if he wins, although that’s unlikely to push down Daishoho even if the latter loses.

Aki Day 14 Highlights

A fine day of sumo for all. I am starting to think that Shodai has his act together. I am going to be interested to see if he can keep this level of consistency up, because if he can, he will be a force to be reckoned with. If he is going to be regularly at the top of the division, he may need some kind of occasional use nickname. One internet sumo fan suggested “booger”, as Shodai has been found on camera this past week picking objects out of body openings while he waits for his match. Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

The whole thing comes down to Shodai’s match against Tobizaru as the second to last fight of the tournament. Right now, Shodai controls his fate. He is the sole leader in the yusho race, with only Takakeisho and Tobizaru able to challenge if Shodai should lose tomorrow. Pro tip to Tokitsukaze oyakata – go buy the fish now.

Highlight Matches

Shohozan defeats Nishikigi – I liked this match because Shohozan actually was able to generate some offense against Nishikigi. Of course Nishikigi worked hard to establish an arm bar (his favorite grip), and lost the hold at least once. But Shohozan got a nodowa in with his right, and then pulled. This is a risky move, which frequently gives the initiator a swift loss, but Shohozan got Nishikigi down before he stepped outside himself.

Ishiura defeats Ikioi – Watching Ikioi get up after a loss like that is painful. I can’t imagine what it’s like for him. Both end the day at 3-11, and maybe they can fight it out in Juryo in November.

Sadanoumi defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo never could set up any kind of defensive footing, and the smaller Sadanoumi moved him around the dohyo with minimal effort. Both are 7-7 and are headed for Darwin matches. Ichinojo continues to be an enigma, he will fight well one day, and be week and ineffective the next.

Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi could not come up with anything other than defense against Kotoeko’s attacks. But that was a really solid defense. Kotoeko kept working to get his hands inside, and kept moving Shimanoumi back. Shimanoumi gets his 8th loss, and Kotoeko improves to 7-7 and qualifies for a day 15 Darwin match.

Kotoshoho defeats Tokushoryu – In sumo, much of a rikishi’s defense comes from their lower body. This is a great example today, as Kotoshoho maintains his stance and balance under Tokushoryu’s offense. We saw Tokushoryu load up that “magic” tsukiotoshi that took him to the yusho in January, but Kotoshoho kept his feet. Tokushoryu’s 8th loss, and is make-koshi for September.

Ryuden defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really has no power left in his legs. I marvel at how gentle Ryuden is with him. Good show sir. With a 2-12 score at Maegashira 11, we may be saying goodbye to the Kyushu Bulldozer soon. He might hang in for the November basho if it were to return to his homeland in the West, but I am pretty sure November it will be another basho re-homed to the Kokugikan.

Kaisei defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama gave Kaisei a V-Twin attack, and Kaisei held his ground. Aoiyama found he could only move Kaisei a little, and tried for a doulbe handed slap-down. It was at that moment Kaisei lowered his hips and charged. His win leaves both of them at 7-7, and excellent candidates for a day 15 Darwin match.

Hoshoryu defeats Kagayaki – After getting multiple combos to his face, Hoshoryu shifted from direct attack to deflect and move. Kagayaki followed, keeping the pressure up. As Hoshoryu came perilously close to the tawara, he hooked his leg around Kagayaki and pivoted into kakenage. It was great to see, and some mighty fine sumo. Both end the day at 7-7, and its MORE DARWIN!

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Congrats to Meisei for a solid kachi-koshi (now 9-5) in his rebound match from his quick trip to Juryo. He was there long enough to pick up a yusho, and rough up everyone in the farm league. Hopefully he has recovered from his injury in November of last year. Myogiryu’s 8th loss, and make-koshi.

Enho defeats Terutsuyoshi – We all expected there to be a parade of shenanigans when these two were already make-koshi and facing off late in the basho. Enho employed a flying henka, a reverse battle hug, a quick spin on the Enho-go-round and a push out by the rear for Terutsuyoshi. Bye!

Takayasu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji kept looking to get a nodowa in against Takayasu, and this caused him to reach in a few times toward the former Ozeki’s neck. Takayasu exploited Hokutofuji’s gambled and slapped him to the dohyo. Takayasu improves to 9-5.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – These two threw everything they could think of at each other. It was a wild and chaotic match, and the sumo on display here underscores how far both have degraded from their genki forms. Points to Tochinoshin for sticking with the shifting fight modes, and keeping his balance centered.

Takanosho defeats Onosho – Look at Takanosho’s stance. His amazing defensive posture and footwork robbed Onosho of his offense, and at one point his frustration leads to a pull attempt. But Takanosho is planted and is going nowhere. When he finally gets Takanosho on the move, Onosho’s too far forward and wide open for Takanosho’s hatakikomi. Not sure how Takanosho applied that much force when only his little toe had a grip on wrong edge of the tawara, but he made it work. Seriously genki pinky-toe. Feed it some roast beef, sir!

Kiribayama defeats Okinoumi – Very evasive sumo from Kiribayama, with a step to the side at the tachiai. But it was enough for kachi-koshi today, after sitting out a few days earlier in the tournament due to a shoulder injury.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – This is a great match to watch a few times at regular match and in slow motion, as Takarafuji has much to teach today. As is frequently his plan, he comes on with a strong defense and works to endure his opponent’s opening attacks. Note where his hips are relative to his feet when Daieisho attacks his neck. Takarafuji his high, but stable. His body is at the extent of Daieisho’s reach, so Daieisho can only apply fraction force. As the fight continues, Takarafuji keeps his feet as close as possible to the center of the ring. Although Daieisho is attacking like mad, Takarafuji converts any attempt by Daieisho to move forward into Daieisho circling around. It only takes a few exchanges before Daieisho notices this and tries to change up his attack. It’s at this point that Takarafuji engages offense, and Daieisho find he is nearly out of territory to work with. The match ends shortly after that. Lesson learned – control the center of the ring, and a strong stance correctly balanced can be a tool to overcoming a vigorous opponent’s energetic attacks.

Mitakeumi defeats Wakatakakage – Mitakeumi recovered after a rough start that saw Wakatakakage claim the attack position from the tachiai. Mitakeumi’s attempted a pull down, and that nearly cost him the match. I do wish he would cut that stuff out. A few moments later, Mitakeumi settles into the fight and gets a proper body position and hand hold on Wakatakakage, and takes him apart. I think this match is a great example of what may fans perceive as Mitakeumi’s inconsistency. He’s an opportunist, and frequently he has a tough time with his second step. Opponents have this figured out, and can goad him into trying to pull, and use Mitakeumi’s release of forward attack to beat him. Fortunately, Mitakeumi prevailed for his 8th win and is kachi-koshi. But yet again his campaign to reach Ozeki are likely reset to zero.

Shodai defeats Asanoyama – Good heavens, that version of Shodai is quite the overpowering monster. Asanoyama’s grip attempt at the tachiai failed, and he found himself turned to the side, with his right flank exposed. Shodai latched on and rapidly dispatched the surprised Ozeki. Excellent sumo, and excellent match plan from Shodai today. He is now the sole leader for the yusho.

Takakeisho defeats Tobizaru – Really impressed with how well Tobizaru did in this match. Takakeisho was trying whatever came to mind, and it was clear that Tobizaru was on defense, but his ability to hang in and stay on his feet was notable. I predict in a year or less, their future matches will have a different tone. Both men end the day 11-3, one win behind Shodai, whom Tobizaru will meet on day 15.