Nagoya Day 12 Preview

Tochiozan

It had to happen…

Day 12 seems to be the day the schedulers have decided to start combining the most volatile components in attempts to induce a big, smoke and fire producing reaction in the laboratory that is Nagoya. As is typical with every basho, once we get to act 3, the normal formula for matches gives way to a series of “Hey that’s neat” matches, which frequently feature huge banzuke gaps to bring rikishi with similar styles, records or fierce rivalries together.

At the end of day 11, Mitakeumi needed to reach at least 14 wins to mathematically eliminate his closest rivals, Asanoyama and Tochiozan who could reach (in theory) 13 wins by Sunday. So Mitakeumi needs to face the remaining Ozeki, no matter how banged up they are, to see if he has what it takes to beat all opponents. In parallel, Tochiozan and Asanoyama need stiffer challenges. Ideally they can bring everyone in this group to 3 losses by Sunday, opening the possibility of a broader competition with the remaining stragglers in the peloton.

Nagoya Leaderboard

LeaderMitakeumi
Chasers – none
Hunters – Asanoyama, Tochiozan
PelotonGoeido, Endo, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji

4 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 12

Kotoeko vs Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa comes to Makuuchi to fill in the gap left by Kotoshogiku, and for orientation for his return to Makuuchi. He can wave at poor Kotoeko who is likely to be headed back to Juryo for additional seasoning and ripening.

Aoiyama vs Ryuden – First time meeting between to 6-5 rikishi, who are still very much in the hunt for a kachi-koshi. For Ryuden, wins now are a must. Aoiyama may already be safe.

Myogiryu vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan is holding fast to his spot 2 wins behind Mitakeumi, hoping that King Tadpole can lose at least 2 matches. In the mean time I expect he will continue to execute his high-efficiency sumo. These two are evenly matched over their career at 11-12, and Myogiryu needs one more win to secure kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Yutakayama – Though it is toward the bottom of the banzuke, this one might just be the most anticipated match of the day. Both are already kachi-koshi, both are still in the peloton group, and both are fighting in fantastic form right now. Hokutofuji has been able to overpower some of his opponents, but I am going to guess Yutakayama won’t be so easily dispatched.

Arawashi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei tries once again to stave of make-koshi after taking a win from hapless Yoshikaze. Arawashi is already make-koshi, but he’s likely to continue to driver for wins to try and soften his demotion.

Meisei vs Daieisho – Maegashira 16 vs Maegashira 7, and the loser gets make-koshi. Their first ever match.

Kaisei vs Asanoyama – With Asanoyama 2 wins behind Mitakeumi, the schedulers decided it was time he played with some bigger men. Enter one of the largest available, the enormous Kaisei. Fresh from a loss to yusho leader Mitakeumi, the big Brazilian needs one more win to secure kachi-koshi.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Another “Winner kachi-koshi” match, this time against the enormous Chiyotairyu and the highly rhythmic Takakeisho. I will be very interested to see Takakeisho tries his “wave action” again today after Endo shut him down on day 11.

Ikioi vs Takarafuji – Even match up in skill, but Ikioi seems to be at full strength while Takarafuji seems to just be working to survive. Takarafuji leads their career series 11-9, but I am looking for Ikioi to bring a win to his column.

Shodai vs Daishomaru – Both 3-8, both make-koshi and both of them in dire need of a return to Tokyo to regroup and rest up. Daishomaru tends to dominate Shodai, which is sad news as I think Shodai has been dominated enough already this basho.

Tamawashi vs Chiyonokuni – Both favor a run-and-gun style of sumo, so I am looking for a highly mobile, highly kinetic, and possibly violet match between these two. Tamawashi holds a 3-1 career advantage, but Chiyonokuni seems terribly genki in the Nagoya heat.

Abi vs Shohozan – Clearly Abi is having an extra crummy basho, but how can we make it worse? Oh yes, lets feed him to “Big Guns” Shohozan to tenderize a bit more. Both of them are make-koshi, so this match is to help gauge how big a drop each of them face for Aki.

Ichinojo vs Kagayaki – I favor Kagayaki in this one, if for no other reason than I have not seen Ichinojo be motivated and aggressive two days in a row this tournament. He certainly was aggressive against Takayasu, but I think that his 6-1 career advantage over Kagayaki may not play much of a factor day 12.

Goeido vs Endo – This match had to happen, if for no other reason than to showcase these two rikishi, and to test Endo to see how he might fare in the joi for Aki. Both rikishi are kachi-koshi now, so this match is more of a test, and about racking up the wins. Their career history is 4-4, so it will likely come down to if Goeido is running the right version of GoeiDOS on day 12.

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – It’s time for the yusho leader to prove his mettle. Takayasu is not well, but is still a fierce opponent. A loss today would give Takayasu his kachi-koshi, release his kadoban status, and bring Mitakeumi within range of the hunt group. But fans would be right to suspect that Mitakeumi may use the same cold, rapid and effective sumo we say day 11 against Kaisei.

Nagoya Day 11 Highlights

Mitakeumi - Nagoya Day 11

Welcome to the first day of act 3! Overnight the brutal Nagoya basho claimed another kyujo – with former Ozeki Kotoshogiku withdrawing from competition due to injuries he suffered day 10 in his match against Tamawashi. Tamawashi used a kotenage arm-bar throw to win the match, and the pressure on Kotoshogiku’s elbow seems to have been enough to injure him. To add to matters, Kotoshogiku took a dive into the crowd, where it was clear that he was in some pain. With his withdraw, another odd metric is added to sumo history surrounding this basho. Not only did we have a single rikishi get two fusensho wins, we have now had two rikishi get two fusensho: Shodai and Chiyonokuni. I think Abi summed up the mood of this basho on day 9: “My stablemaster will probably yell at me back at the lodgings. I want to go back to Tokyo!”

Mitakeumi continues to roll on, defeating his nigate Kaisei for the first time ever to remain undefeated. Its clear now that Mitakeumi has crossed into new territory in his sumo, and may have made the step change we have been watching for. While some would say that “well this is basho-light with all of the big guns kyujo”, they would be correct. This is the natural order of things. Without the Yokozuna and Ozeki genki enough to cull the lower ranks, you will see champions rise and threaten the old order. With Mitakeumi in double digits in San’yaku for the first time, his next stop is a try for the yusho. Many commentators on NHK have discounted him as “not training hard enough”, or “always fades week 2”. Thus is the risk of attempting to predict the future by relying solely on the past – it leaves no room for the path of hard work, improvement and success.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Arawashi – Do you want to see a giant Bulgarian man-mountain grab someone by the throat and throw them into the first row? Then this is your match! Wow, Aoiyama launches Arawashi into his make-koshi.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Asanoyama continues to look solid, and is clearly going to run up the score. Nishikigi was at a disadvantage due to Asanoyama’s longer reach. But Nishikigi’s rally at the edge when he was able to get a double outside grip was impressive, and nearly carried the day.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – Yutakayama remains in the peloton, and picks up his kachi-koshi. Yutakayama controlled the match from the start, and Sadanoumi was unable to create much offensive pressure.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji blasts his way to his kachi-koshi, and remains in the peloton as well. Myogiryu opened strong, but in the split-second Hokutofuji was on defense, he could not seal the deal. I can’t stop watching Hokutofuji’s tachiai, its a brutal work of art right now. I wish NHK would get a dozen cameras and do a “bullet time” version of the thing so sumo hyper-nerds can study it.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Hey! Mainoumi style tachiai from Ishiura, and it worked really well. More more more! Chiyoshoma is now make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko’s initial offensive gambit seemed to do little more than annoy Takarafuji, who tolerated the slap-fest for a bit, then took over and handed Kotoeko his make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyotairyu – This match is a sterling example of just how efficient Tochiozan’s sumo is this basho, as it’s easy to compare it to Chiyotairyu’s frantic weaving, pulling and flapping about. Chiyotairyu will have to try again on day 12 for his kachi-koshi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze still on track for 0-15. I hate watching this stuff.

Endo defeats Takakeisho – Endo gets high marks in the sumo IQ test today, as he correctly cracks Takakeisho’s “wave action” offense and dodges a Takakeisho wave when Takakeisho opens up too much distance to his mark. Endo kachi-koshi and remains in the peloton.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – I wondered if this one should have had a monoii (it seems so did quite a few in the crowd). Abi opens in his expected form, but Kagayaki simply brute-forces his way inside and disrupt’s Abi’s offense. Now it’s a real battle as each man tries to rain blows on the other. Kagayaki’s intense training and focus on fundamentals of sumo appear to have once again carried the day, though that head-but was likely pure Kagayaki’s improvisation. (Sometimes we called it a “Glasgow kiss”)

Shohozan defeats Chiyonokuni – Shohozan unleashes his strength on day 11, and picks the optimum time to toss Chiyonokuni aside with impressive force. Although Chiyonokuni got a few good blows in, this one was all Shohozan.

Ikioi defeats Tamawashi – The first match ended in a monoii after Ikioi gave Tamawashi a flying lesson. But the judges were unable to decide who touched out first, although the gumbai went to Ikioi. So torinaoshi was ordered. Second time through – Ikioi slams into Tamawashi with a resounding thud that I am sure was heard in Kagoshima. A quick slap down and Ikioi wins without question.

Mitakeumi defeats Kaisei – It’s a new day for Mitakeumi, as he overcomes his 0-4 historical deficit with Kaisei by some really nice sumo. As we expected, Mitakeumi broke out the hazuoshi (armpit attack) again today, and Kaisei was unable to lower his hips to defend. From there, Mitakeumi ordered “all ahead full” and forced out his Brazilian opponent. Mitakeumi remains undefeated and in sole possession of the lead of the Nagoya basho.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is clearly hurt, clearly struggling and not having a good basho. Thus far this tournament, Ichinojo has largely been soft, vague and unwilling to put together a cogent offense. Sadly for Takayasu, “The Boulder” version of Ichinojo showed up today. Except for a half step back at the tachiai, Ichinojo could not be moved by any strength Takayasu could muster. Instead of fading fast and going soft, Ichinojo powered up, and with a pair of thrusts that could be heard clearly over the crowd, sent Takayasu to his 4th loss.

Goeido defeats Daishomaru – Goeido’s creampuff match was harder for him than it should have been. But he did win, he is kachi-koshi and has cleared kadoban. He is also still in the peloton, though the chances of him having any role in the yusho race are small. Daishomaru make-koshi.

Nagoya Day 8 Highlights

Nagoya Day 8 Banner

I admit, I have become addicted to the 2 hour NHK broadcast of Makuuchi. As more of the top level men have dropped out of this basho, NHK has been forced to find things to fill the air time these matches would have occupied. They have had lengthy discussions with sumo elders and former stars. Today they have a highlight show of the Wakanohana / Takanohana era. This was about the time I first began to seriously try to follow sumo, and it was really fantastic to see this retrospective. It’s interesting to compare that time to the present day, many of the good rivalries of even the recent past have been dismantled due to rikishi aging out and losing their edge. Rest assured, new and potent rivalries will spring up before too many more seasons have passed. As we have already seen there is a steady parade of outstanding younger talent that are making it to the top division. However much we lament a tournament like Nagoya where so many kanban rikishi are absent, this is part of the process of “changing the guard”.

In the present day, the facilities crew at Dolphins Arena in Nagoya have their hands full. The heat in central Japan has been lingering in the upper range of normal, which during this time of year can top 100° F. The venue for the Nagoya basho is an older building, and it’s thermal systems are failing to handle this load. Fans get hot, the rikishi get even hotter, and for those competitors who are not overly genki, the heat further saps their performance. There is hope for the future, as Dolphins Arena will be undergoing serious renovations starting later this year, and that may require a different venue for 2019’s Nagoya basho.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – Tochiozan has not looked this genki in perhaps a couple of years. His match against Hokutofuji on day 8 was a grand example of the catalog of sumo moves that Tochiozan can deploy. This battle when on for good length of time, and it was clear that Tochiozan was working to stalemate Hokutofuji. Watch how efficient Tochiozan is during this match. Hokutofuji is flailing away for advantage, and he is getting it. But Tochiozan is calmly keeping him from winning. Of course the pays off as Tochiozan catches Hokutofuji close, pinned in and off balance, and gets to unleash the seldom seen makiotoshi.

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Meisei continues to struggle. Sadanoumi went in with a plan, and executed well. Meisei got inside at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi’s outside grip was well placed, and he immediately raised Meisei by the left elbow. With Meisei off balance, Sadanoumi lunged to the inside and applied a series of thrusts to center-mass. Well executed oshi-zumo today from Sadanoumi.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – A sharp, short unsatisfying match that ended with a near-immediate hatakikomi.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – Asanoyama remains on the leaderboard, and does it with excellent sumo. The big Bulgarian was unable to enforce his desire to keep this as an oshi-match, and Asanoyama was able to drive inside and bring it chest to chest. Asanoyama left hand latched hard to Aoiyama’s mawashi, it was now Asanoyama who called the tune. Aoiyama was really unable to offer much resistance and went out with little struggle.

Onosho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi really only offered a forearm blast at the tachiai, and Onosho pushed through that and got inside and pushed hard. That was all it took. Onosho now seems to be in his groove, and he is a dangerous opponent this far down the banzuke.

Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Nishikigi looked sluggish today, but it was enough to dispatch Takarafuji. The critical element seem to have been Nishikigi’s early morozashi, which Takarafuji did not seem to have a good plan to counter. I have to assume that the oppressive heat must have been effecting them both, as there was not a lot of vigor in this match.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – A bout so nice, they did it twice! The first match was Myogiryu from the tachiai, but as he went to drive Endo out, Endo pivoted and they dropped into the front row. The monoii was inconclusive, and torinaoshi was called. For bout 1, that was an amazing rescue move by Endo. Second bout – Endo launches too early, and its matta time. By now the crowd is really wound up. Second tachiai, and Endo is low, really low. Myogiryu decides it’s time to go chest to chest, but Endo’s mawashi is loose, and Endo has a very strong left hand inside, deep grip. Pressing Myogiryu into his body, Endo walks Myogiryu out. Great pair of matches. Endo’s skill really shines today.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Increasingly plump Yutakayama forcefully ejects Chiyotairyu from the group of chasers with a masterfully concocted tsukidashi. Outstanding example of center-mass oshi, as Yutakayama takes the initiative after a brief clash just after the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu has no space to counter attack or mount any kind of defensive footing.

Daishomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei had the better tachiai, but Daishomaru quickly got the better rhythm going and overpowered Kyokutaisei. Sadly Kyokutaisei still only has 1 win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze make-koshi with zero wins. His fans (including me) are worried about what is plaguing the former berserker.

Ikioi defeats Abi – Abi’s always going to open with a two arm thrust to the shoulders of his opponents. Everyone knows that. So rikishi like Ikioi aim center mass, and knock him back, and get him out of any offensive stance. Abi, it was a good recipe for a while, let’s see you make something new.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – If you are a fan of nodawa, this is your match. Tamawashi spends most of the bout with his left hand at Shodai’s throat. Shodai overcomes a couple of times and tries to counter attack, but Tamawashi was in control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Shohozan has taken such a beating in week 1 that it seems his sumo is totally disrupted. For reasons no one can determine, he decided to go chest to chest against Kotoshogiku at the tachiai. Of course Kotoshogiku is like an excited 5 year old now, and is belly pushing Shohozan around like a shopping cart. Great match if you are a Kotoshogiku fan.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has been really impacted by the heat, but I doubt that can explain his total lack of offensive action during the first week of the tournament. Takakeisho spent the first part of the match confounding Ichinojo, delivering rapid thrusts to his upper body. To me this looked like a variation of his “wave action” tsuppari, and it was getting Ichinojo very anxious. Not sure what to do next, Ichinojo stands at the shikri-sen and tries to deflect the incoming thrusts. Takakeisho decides to try something else, and goes chest to chest for a moment. Ichinojo changes gears and starts grabbing for Takakeisho’s mawashi. Now forward and unbalanced, Takakeisho pulls him down. Masterful confuse / disrupt battle plan from Takakeisho.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Home town rikishi Mitakeumi is kachi-koshi, and sole leader of the Nagoya basho. This was always going to be a match where Chiyonokuni worked to apply is run-and-gun sumo, and he was on form today. Outstanding tachiai, which saw Chiyonokuni able to come in beneath Mitakeumi and raise him up, Chiyonokuni’s immediate attempt at a slap down nearly worked, too. But Mitakeumi recovered instantly and rallied, driving Chiyonokuni to the northwest corner and out of the ring.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Sadly, we did not get the much wished for Kaisei henka, which experts believe would be much akin to a mountain range dodging a lava flow. That being said, Kaisei nearly had him, except for a rescue move at the edge of the tawara that put Kaisei to the clay first. Goeido needs 3 more wins to clear kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki absorbed Takayasu’s strong tachiai, but then both of them struggled for grip. This was always going to favor Takayasu’ superior strength. Then Takayasu decided to try some sumo, and got a left hand outside grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi, then rotated him to the bales. A right hand to the throat to raise Kagayaki up, and a strong left hand shove against his chest and the match was over.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

Day 8 Dohyo Iri

Can you believe we are at the middle day of the Nagoya basho? Welcome to nakabi! (The name for the middle day of the tournament). Nagoya has been brutal to the upper ranks, and as of day 8, there is only a 25% participation rate, down from the 40% participation rate of Natsu, and that’s even with adding a new Ozeki! With 4 of the Yokozuna / Ozeki (or maybe Yokozeki?) corps out of action, it’s almost certain the yusho winner will be someone who has never received the Emperor’s Cup before.

After day 7, there are 4 rikishi with 0 or 1 loss. Mitakeumi is alone at the head of the pack, and both Maegashira 6 rikishi trail him with 1 loss apiece. Joining the 1 loss group is Asanoyama all the way back at Maegashira 13 West. Both Ozeki are nursing 2 or 3 losses, and are likely focusing on the safety of kachi-koshi first and foremost. But having reached the middle day, the bias of the torikumi will change. Had much of the joi survived, the upper ranks would focus on fighting each other, having consumed their appetizers and warm ups of the top ranked Maegashira. But with the upper ranks mostly sitting out, the entire final week’s schedule has all of the grace and structure of a 40 car pileup in the fog.

With us reaching nakabi, it’s time for the leaderboard!

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – Endo, Chiyotairyu, Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Kaisei, Myogiryu, Tochiozan, Hokutofuji

8 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kotoeko vs Ryuden – Both of these men can deliver fairly strong sumo, but both of them are now clearly in the danger zone. Their career records tie them at 1-1.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Both of these men are the “hottest” streaks at in the bottom third of the banzuke, coming in at 5-2. But of course the schedulers want to make sure that one of them eats dirt and the yusho race narrows still further. Although Hokutofuji leads their career series 2-1, I give a clear edge to Tochiozan who seems to have gotten back into his sumo.

Sadanoumi vs Meisei – Two more in the danger zone. With a number of strong performers in Juryo as of the middle day, its possible we could see a formula for a mighty churn between the two divisions for Aki.

Ishiura vs Arawashi – There is only one way this match should go: Double Henka.

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – Reports from Japan state that Aoiyama may have injured his hand as he feel forward following the Ishiura henka on Day 7. Asanoyama does have a formula for beating the massive Bulgarian, and has done so twice. But given how Nagoya is going, maybe Aoiyama goes kyujo as well.

Okinoumi vs Onosho – I think Onosho is starting to really get his rhythm, and we may see him disrupt and overpower Okinoumi on day 8. Okinoumi’s sumo is always very efficient, and he clearly enters each match with a few plans to try. But if Onosho uses the “hybrid sumo” he unleashed on day 7, he will be tough to beat. Onosho won their only prior match.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is really fading right now, and going up against Takarafuji may not help. He is 0-3 against the man with no neck.

Endo vs Myogiryu – This is a big match for a number of reasons. Their career record is 3-3, but Endo has won the last 2. Both are fighting well this tournament, and Endo really wants to remain 1 loss behind the leader, as chances are someone will put dirt on Mitakeumi. Endo’s sumo has been excellent in Nagoya, so this match could be the highlight of the day.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – When his sumo is in harmony, Chiyotairyu is tough to beat unless you can stay upright and in the ring for more than 10 seconds. That is likely Yutakayama’s game plan. If he can absorb the cannon ball tachiai, he just have to stalemate him until Chiyotairyu starts to run out of gas. Good luck Yutakayama!

Daishomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is 2 losses away from make-koshi, and he desperately needs wins. He holds a 3-0 career advantage over Daishomaru, so maybe he has a chance.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – A loss today and my favorite rikishi goes make-koshi.

Ikioi vs Abi – On day 7, Abi tried to tackle a freight train. Hopefully he was able to put himself back together, as his day 8 match has more potential for good sumo. Ikioi is a tough fighter who will likely not fall for Abi’s “go high” opening gambit. I would look for Ikioi to focus center mass and remove much of Abi’s mobility. This is their first career match.

Tamawashi vs Shodai – Shodai gets discouraged, and then his sumo goes soft and stale. I would guess given the beating he took week one that he might be feeling a little down. Sadly Tamawashi probably did not bake him any cookies, so he will have to settle for piping hot tsuppari straight from the oven.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Both Komusubi have taken a right proper beating this tournament, as is typically the case. Now Shohozan starts fighting down the banzuke, and he has a chance to get the 7 wins in 8 days needed to maintain his rank. Kotoshogiku is moving well, but seems to lack about 5%-10% of the power needed to win.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho likes to confound Ichinojo, run him amok and push him out with his two hand thrusts. Ichinojo has been hit or miss, and mostly miss so far.

Chiyonokuni vs Mitakeumi – Chiyonokuni has never beaten Mitakeumi in 7 attempts. But this guy is a giant-killer when he can get his sumo to click. Mitakeumi has been impressively patient and well orchestrated in his sumo thus far. But the chaos of Chiyonokuni may disrupt him and find him in trouble.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Good chance that Goeido will get lost in this match. His blistering speed will be blunted by Kaisei’s overwhelming bulk. When faced with complex sumo problems, Goeido frequently resorts to pulling, which frequently spell his doom. +100 points if Kaisei henkas Goeido.

Kagayaki vs Takayasu – I expect Takayasu will tenderize Kagayaki before slicing him thin and serving him shabu-shabu style with sweet chili paste. As much as I love Kagayaki’s school of sumo, there comes a time when a giant hairy man moving at speed cannot be overcome by technical means. This is their first ever match.

Nagoya Day 7 Highlights

Mitakeumi Day 8

Delayed but not denied! It’s time to go through highlights of day 7 of what has become a brutal basho. As noted overnight, shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin has withdrawn from the basho with damage to the big toe of his right foot. He will be out of action for the remainder of the basho according to doctor’s orders. That leaves us with the the kadoban twins at the top now. But even then, Goeido’s escape from peril seems uncertain.

There were reports in the Japanese press that the air conditioning in Dolphins Stadium in Nagoya is either broken or not up to the task of cooling the venue in the heat, which reached 100° F / 38° C today. The Nagoya basho is famous for being a swampy affair, but Japan seems to be getting a period of intense heat. So much so, the rikishi are not going to be walking in via the front door, as there is a risk to fans standing in the hot sun to cheer them as they arrive.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Kotoeko – Hokutofuji seems to have finally dialed in his sumo, and is executing well. Today’s match against Kotoeko was a great example of his brand of sumo, and Kotoeko was never able to set up any kind of response.

Asanoyama defeats Meisei – Asanoyama has been holding in the mid to lower Maegashira ranks for several tournaments, and he may be ready to take a step up the banzuke. His sumo has been very strong this tournament, and his match against Meisei was one-sided. Asanoyama got his left hand outside grip at the tachiai, and went to work.

Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Tochiozan establishes morozashi almost at once, and proceeds to call the tune. Ryuden throws some great counter moves, but Tochiozan’s staccato hopping keep Ryuden from setting up counter attacks.

Ishiura defeats Aoiyama – Today’s comic relief is brought to you by Ishiura’s henka. Sadly Aoiyama went pretty hard into the tachiai, and almost made it past the tawara with his own momentum.

Arawashi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi opened strong but seems to be fading a bit as we get into the middle of the basho. Part of the problem was the near-matta at the tachiai left Nishikigi a half step behind. But he stuck with it and got morozashi on Arawashi, but could not put it to good use.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – The bounce back from Chiyomaru’s belly at that tachiai nearly puts Sadanoumi on his backside before the match can really start. But Sadanoumi keeps his mind sharp and gets a shallow left / deep right grip and removes Chiyomaru from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Yutakayama – I had to watch this match a couple of times, because Onosho does some wild stuff. Not Ura wild, but a bit of “what did he just do?”. I would call Onosho’s sumo today “hybrid”. It flowed rather smoothly from Oshi to Yotzu and back to Oshi. Yutakayama was always a moment behind trying to do something to adjust. Nicely done Onosho!

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – The kami in Chiyotairyu’s sideburns is really doing his job now. His sumo was strong, fast and unpredictable. I like where Chiyotairyu is headed.

Endo defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei can’t seem to buy a win. Endo takes his time and keeps Kyokutaisei moving around in a generally rearward direction, until Kyokutaisei loses balance and steps over the bales. Endo made it look quite easy. He, schedulers! Give this man some tougher opponents.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t want to talk about it. Whatever is plaguing Yoshikaze is breaking my heart.

Kagayaki defeats Takarafuji – As predicted, a lot of great sumo fundamentals on display here, and they both worked hard for the finish. It came down to Kagayaki getting the better grip at the tachiai, and try has he might, Takarafuji could not find a way to change it up enough to reverse the tide of the match.

Kaisei defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni attempted to battle him head-on. In doing so he was putting so much of his on body forward of his point of balance it was easy for Kaisei to move aside and lead Issac Newton decide the match.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – Tamawashi seems to have come into this match with the intent of winning by hatakikomi. He kept trying it until it worked. Shohozan stayed highly mobile, and it was only a matter of Tamawashi finding a moment when he was off balance.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi endures then shuts down Kotoshogiku’s signature attack. When Kotoshogiku stops pushing, Mitakeumi lifts him, Tochinoshin style, and moves him to the tawara. Mitakeumi’s the man to beat now. Some great sumo from him in the first half of Nagoya.

Ichinojo defeats Ikioi – The real Ichinojo mounted the Nagoya dohyo today, and his fans were glad to see him. Ichinojo landed a deep left hand outside grip at the tachiai, and absorbed Ikioi’s energetic pushes with all of the mass and immobility you would expect from a boulder. After his initial gambit failed, Ikioi decided to try and wear Ichinojo out. For whatever reason, Ichinojo kept backing Ikioi up, and deftly resisting Ikioi’s repeated efforts to change his grip. The match ended with Ichinojo lowering his hips and advancing strongly. Good sumo from the Boulder today!

Shodai fusen-sho over Tochinoshin – Shodai is likely glad for the shiroboshi.

Takayasu defeats Abi – I knock Takayasu for his tachiai style. But in the case of fighting a chaotic rikishi like Abi, the best approach is to just blow him away in the first moments of the match. Takayasu lauched into the tachiai, grabbed a chunk of crimson mawashi and sprinted like a man who had eaten prunes for lunch.

Takakeisho defeats Goeido – Sadly Goeido suffered a kernel panic, and in the process of trying to hit the reset button with his right hand, knocked Goeido to the clay. Seriously, Goeido is in trouble. He’s king of the surviving upper san’yaku and he gets turfed by a Maegashira 3. Granted that Maegashira 3 is the incredibly aggressive Takakeisho. Check out that pile of kensho!

Nagoya Day 6 Preview

Tochinochin Smile

With act 1 complete, let’s get into act 2! Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. As lksumo has already posted (see the post below this one), there are some rikishi are already in trouble. But among the already burning wreckage there are a handful of men who are clearly starting out well. Heading into Saturday, the schedule will flip, and the upper ranks will be more focus on fighting among themselves, and the lower portion of the joi will have their chance to pull in some much needed wins.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ryuden vs Okinoumi – A fun match as they are more or less the same rikishi 5 years apart. Near the bottom of Makuuchi, Okinoumi should be doing better than 3-2, but it’s a sign of just how hard some of the prior mainstays are fading.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Both of these guys come into this match 4-1, and as with the match above, they are kind of the same rikishi about 7 years apart. Both men are (in my opinion) over-demoted from May, so this will be a fun contest to see if age and skill can trump youth and vigor.

Sadanoumi vs Hokutofuji – Although its their first time meeting, I would give an advantage to Sadanoumi, because frankly Hokutofuji has been a shambles this tournament.

Chiyomaru vs Onosho – Chiyomaru has been fighting soft the entire first act. And by soft I mean that his enormous bulk slows his motions, and blunts his attacks. When he gets his mass in motion it’s very tough to prevent it from continuing on its path, but his ability to strike with precision and effect has been terrible. Add into that he fights Onosho on day 6, who is underperforming like a grade school musical.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama got off to a shaky start, but seems to have settled into his sumo. He has a limited range of attack profiles, but he does them very well. This is why he’s never viable above Maegashira 6, but he beats the snot out of the middle and lower banzuke. Myogiryu seems to be in a sweet spot on the banzuke, and he in fact fields a wide range of offensive and defensive set pieces. This will come down to Myogiryu weathering the blows and working center-mass. I think he can make it happen.

Nishikigi vs Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi really lost the plot on day 5, and you have to wonder if Kyokutaisei is going to continue to sputter along. Clearly Kyokutaisei is only about 60% ready, and he can’t seem to finish his offense.

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – Yutakayama holds a 4-1 career lead over Daieisho, who has been struggling more than his 3-2 might indicate. Yutakayama, however, is ranked about as high as he should be until he can get more comfortable with his increased weight, and maybe tune up his sumo a bit. Its clear he has been working on bulk, and like the other young Makuuchi debutants, it takes some time for them to adjust to the higher heft needed to compete.

Kaisei vs Endo – Heft? Heft, meet deft! The king of bulk, the mighty Kaisei is going to take his dump-truck brand of sumo up against Endo on day 6. Endo is clearly doing more than just going through the motions. I think he understands that the promotion lanes are about to swing wide open, and it may be now or never for him.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Wow, this has great potential. I am really happy with Chiyotairyu’s sumo this tournament. He has been fast, aggressive and seems to have finally gotten used to his jacked-up body mass. Just outside the joi at this time, he’s a brick wall in the middle of the banzuke. Kagayaki has had some hard fought defeats in act 1, but he’s not the kind of rikishi who is going to give up and phone it in. I expect that Chiyotairyu is going to blast hard off the line, and Kagayaki is going to struggle to find a way to contain that much force. If he can survive the first 6 seconds (much like riding a bull), he is probably going to be in business.

Ikioi vs Shohozan – Both of these guys are likely very frustrated. Like all good folks at the top of the banzuke (below Ozeki), they are the punching bags of the upper ranks. Both of them have finished their tours in Yokozuna land, and now they get to express their frustration on each other. Both are big, strong, and like communicating though tossing their opponents off the dohyo. This could be explosive!

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – If Ichinojo likes his Sekiwake rank, he needs to get it in gear. He has yet to face to big dreadnoughts of the San’yaku battle fleet, and he is clearly struggling. There is no mercy at this level of the banzuke, as Kotoshogiku knows all too well.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – I am surprised to find that Shodai has a 8-5 career lead over Mitakeumi in head to head match ups. But Shodai has reverted to his bad habits, and Mitakeumi seems to have shed several of his. I continue to think that like Endo, Mitakeumi senses that the promotions lanes will open soon, and it may be his best chance at right rank for the remainder of his career.

Takakeisho vs Takayasu – The giant bruise on Takayasu’s forearm told a story on day 5. In his bout with Ikioi, there was a powerful scuffle for grip, and Takayasu’s arm took a lot of punishment. As he is kadoban, he’s got no choice but to tough it out. If he has banged up an arm, it’s going to be bulldozer sumo for him the rest of the way through this basho. Takakeisho is not looking crisp this tournament, and that was always a strong suit of his. He had several ideas to get his opponents to present him with opportunities to unleash his sumo, and he executed those ideas with flair and energy. But that seems to be largely missing in Nagoya.

Goeido vs Abi – Abi is certainly feeling rather genki following his kinboshi win over the lone surviving Yokozuna. And Goeido has been hit or miss this tournament. Some fans still think this may be his curtain call as Ozeki, but with Hakuho gone, I think he has a narrow margin of safety that he can exploit – if he can win out in act 2.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – Tamawashi has one job, keep Tochinoshin off his mawashi. But as we have seen in the past few days, everyone is going into their Tochinoshin match with that plan. Then they find out that it does not seem to matter.

Kakuryu vs Chiyonokuni – Herouth has reported that Chiyonokuni seems to have a bandage bracing a knee, and perhaps his stunt recovery with Takayasu did some damage. But we also suspect that Kakuryu has taken damage below the waterline. So Big K is possibly ripe for another unfortunate kinboshi. If the Yokozuna pulls, he is probably going down.

 

Nagoya Day 5 Highlights

Abi-Head

As a result of today’s action, we have to wonder about Kakuryu, and if he may have injured himself along the way to the end of act 1. He has given off two kinboshi in two days, and both times it was while trying to pull an opponent down in reverse gear. In the past this has correlated very well to Kakuryu having problems with his lower back or his drive train, and it could well be true now.

Having a portion of Nagoya go to a “Nokazuna” status would not be a tragedy, or even more than a footnote. But it once again underscores that the current crop of Yokozuna are all over 30 years old, and their bodies are banged up thanks to a lifetime of competition in a physical sport. Fans should be warned that we are in the middle of a large scale transition in the top division. Many of the “Stars” of Makuuchi are reaching the end of their careers. The team at Tachiai had expected a wave of retirements earlier this year, and we expect that there are quite a few fence sitters who are waiting for some larger event (Kisenosato retiring?) to decide their time to bow out and exit the stage has come.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – Ishiura had a plan, and executed well. Thank you for an excellent reminder that you have excellent sumo skills, and can win when you apply them. Ryuden gave him quite the fight, but could not prevail.

Kotoeko defeats Meisei – Another great battle that ended when Meisei started a throw, but Kotoeko finished it. Meisei starting to look like he’s headed back to Juryo.

Tochiozan defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi opened strong, but Tochiozan rallied and had control of the match shortly after the tachiai.

Hokutofuji defeats Arawashi – Arawashi can’t seem to buy a win, and today was no exception. Hokutofuji jumped early on their first attempt, resulting in a matta. The second saw Arawashi apply a solid nodawa, but then go for a pull, which only resulted in his own defeat launching backward from the dohyo.

Aoiyama defeats Onosho – Onosho was only able to generate any offense for the briefest moment, and it did not seem to really slow down Aoiyama’s overwhelming attack. Onosho needs to regroup, as he’s in a bit of a losing streak now. Aoiyama’s extra shove once Onosho was already out seemed gratuitous.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – After a matta, the two launch into a tachiai that leaves them chest to chest, and there they stay for a moment. Myogiryu, after seeming to think it through, executes an underarm throw which rolls Nishikigi across the dohyo. A simple bout, but a near textbook shitatedashinage.

Chiyomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Sadly, Kyokutaisei starts Nagoya 0-5 as Chiyomaru finishes him with a somewhat flabby yorikiri. I am going to assume that Kyokutaisei is probably hurt.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – To my eye, Chiyoshoma won the tachiai, and established clear advantage early in the match, but as Yutakayama started a shoving match, Chiyoshoma focused on trying to land massive round-house blows to Yutakayama’s face. This single targeting ignored Yutakayama’s center-mass, and Chiyoshoma was driven from the ring.

Chiyotairyu defeats Daieisho – Chiyotairyu shows us excellent form for an oshi fighter. Note how he focuses his thrusts against Daieisho’s chest and shoulders. A solid win, with the sideburns of Chiyotairyu leading the way.

Takarafuji defeats Daishomaru – Takarafuji seems to have found his sumo, and is fighting well. Daishomaru throws half the menu at him, and Takarafuji absorbs it with stability. Once Daishomaru starts to fade, Takarafuji advances and finishes the match with a win.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Endo was lower at the tachiai, and Kagayaki got his preferred inside spot, but Endo forced him high. Thus he could only push against Endo’s face, while Endo was able to respond closer to center mass. Endo reaches for a right hand inside grip, and gets to work. Kagayaki masterfully broke Endo’s grip, but now chest to chest, there is no way for Kagayaki to stop Endo’s advance. Some really solid sumo today from these two.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – The sadness that is Yoshikaze sumo for Nagoya 2018 continues.

Tamawashi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho looks unfocused and unaggressive. He was able to move Tamawashi back, but in the process lost his balance and Tamawashi tipped him over with a single, one-arm shove. I think at least one of the tadpoles is going to be in the top ranks of sumo in the year to come, but the two younger ones need to settle into their sumo, and overcome their injuries.

Mitakeumi defeats Shohozan – Meanwhile, Mitakeumi as grand tadpole (Ōkato / 大蝌蚪) appears to be king of this puddle. Shohozan focused on slapping Mitakeumi’s face, meanwhile Mitakeumi focuses on applying massive force to Shohozan’s body. Don’t blink or you will miss it. Mitakeumi finishes act one 5-0, tied with Tochinoshin for the lead.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Ichinojo shows some signs of life after a 3 day break. Shodai nearly bounces off Ichinojo at the tachiai, and persistently tries to get a hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi. The Boulder is having none of it, and blocks Shodai’s every attempt. Good to see Ichinojo not go soft and give up today.

Goeido defeats Chiyonokuni – I am relieved that Goeido was able to boot up in 2.1 mode today. Chiyonokuni rose from the tachiai to find Goeido latched onto him, and Chiyonokuni was never able to get any offense started. When Goeido is running well, this is how he operates. You don’t get a chance to attack because the match is already over.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin did a great job of forcing Kotoshogiku to shift his weight from foot to foot every few seconds. This stopped the hug-n-chug while Tochinoshin set up his mawashi grip. Try as he might, Kotoshogiku continued to block his left hand. So Tochinoshin worked with what he had, which was a deep right hand grip and the strength of a bear that has the strength of two bears. The look of overwhelming exertion on Kotoshogiku’s face tells the story as Tochinoshin gives him a belly bump at the tawara for good measure, and finishes him.

Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi launched with surprising force into Takayasu at the tachiai, and the Ozeki found himself struggling to block Ikioi’s right hand. Takayasu broke contact, and the match shifted to oshi, with Takayasu struggling to maintain pressure. As Ikioi moved forward, Takayasu pulled him down. Somewhere in the process, the Ozeki seems to have hurt his left elbow, I am guessing in that struggle to block Ikioi’s attempt to land a right hand outside grip.

Abi defeats Kakuryu – The lone surviving Yokozuna gives up his second kinboshi in 2 days. Abi, of course, attack with his double arm thrusts high against Kakuryu’s body. As is Kakuryu’s style, he works to stalemate Abi and disrupt his sumo. For a time it works, and Abi retreats. But Abi summons his fighting spirit with his heels at the edge, and catches the Yokozuna trying to pull, and make Kakuryu pay for his mistake. Abi advances and drives the Yokozuna from the ring. For the second day the cushions fly.

Nagoya Day 5 Preview

Mitakeumi Fan Club

Thus the first act comes to a close. We have lost a Yokozuna, and that dramatically changes the nature of the basho. We have only 2 rikishi who come into day 5 with no losses: Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi, followed by a huge crowd with 3 wins. We also have 3 unfortunate rikishi with no wins: Yoshikaze, Kyokutaisei and Arawashi. Given the goal of the first act, determine who is hot and who is not, I think we have a pretty clear indication that this basho is going to come down to a massive lateral brawl going into the middle weekend. This makes for great sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Ishiura vs Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have gotten his sumo under control, and is fighting well now. I might also say that Ishiura can still save himself from a return trip to Juryo, but he needs to stop rolling the dice with the henkas.

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Two veterans coming head to head with 3-1 records, with an 11-13 career record. Could this be a closer match up? Both are fighting fairly well this basho, so there could be some fine sumo during this match.

Hokutofuji vs Arawashi – Arawashi has zero wins, but I get the impression that he may take down Hokutofuji on day 5. Hokutofuji has been all over the map this tournament, and I think his sumo is out of control because his body is still injured.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – The man-mountain against the tadpole. Onosho seems to be struggling right now, after cleaning up handily in Juryo in May. Given the fact that he was demoted due to surgery on his knee, Tachiai dearly hopes that it was sufficiently healed for top division combat.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – What have they been putting in Nishikigi’s chanko? I have had a fondness for him since he proved he would work hard to excel. Did he finally find a way to higher performance? He and Myogiryu are both 3-1 going into day 5, and Myogiryu has been fighting very well. Seriously looking forward to this match.

Chiyomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is eager for his first win, and I dearly hope he can pick it up before act 1 closes. Chiyomaru seems really off right now, and I am going to assume that the heat plus his enormous mass are causing him more than a couple of challenges.

Daieisho vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu blasted Endo to bits on day 4, and he holds a 7-1 advantage over Daieisho. Its a fact that his sideburns are currently over 9000, so maybe it’s going to be a hard exit for Daieisho.

Endo vs Kagayaki – Interest galore for this one. Endo had no counter for Chiyotairyu, and today he faces Kagayaki. It’s easy to underestimate Kagayaki, but he has beaten Endo 4 times to Endo’s 2. I am looking for a wide stance and a center mass thrusting attack from Kagayaki.

Tamawashi vs Takakeisho – Tamawashi is due to start winning matches, and he may have a good chance today against Takakeisho. Takakeisho is still a fierce opponent, but he has been looking 10% less than his normal intensity. We did see one quick blast of the “Wave Action” on day 3, but so far he has kept his most lethal attack in the bag. Takakeisho, all of your fans want to see you blast someone past the shimpan. Please fire when ready.

Shohozan vs Mitakeumi – Career record tie between 4 and 4, with Shohozan coming in with only 1 win, and Mitakeumi with 4. I do think there is a good chance we will see “Big Guns” put dirt on Mitakeumi today. Shohozan has a lot of pent up sumo he needs to resolve.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – Oh good lord, where to start with this one. The Shodai of May is away. Ichinojo of lore is here no more. It’s going to be a bit of a waltz for at least a few moments, and it comes down to which one gives up and goes soft first.

Goeido vs Chiyonokuni – Goeido, you better watch your ass. Goeido is teetering on mathematical peril in his struggle to escape kadoban, and Chiyonokuni already has one Ozeki scalp. Chiyonokuni seems to have caught the energy of the winds of change blowing through sumo. If he hits his mark, there could be a place for him in the upper ranks for a while.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – A critical match here, as Kotoshogiku has a workable formula for defeating Tochinoshin. However as our astute readers have noted, Tochinoshin has departed dramatically from his formulaic approach to sumo for the first 4 days of this basho. Given Kotoshogiku’s 24-8 career lead over Tochinoshin, it’s high time for the shin-Ozeki to bring a new set of moves to this match.

Ikioi vs Takayasu – It took less than 4 seconds for Ikioi to get Kakuryu flying backward on day 4. Given Takayasu’s chaotic sumo, he is ripe for a pasting from an experienced, strong rikishi who may not fight as expected. Please, Takayasu, bring your sumo back.

Kakuryu vs Abi – I am pretty sure Kakuryu got distracted on day 4. I am going to guess with Hakuho out, he knows that his path to a 3rd consecutive yusho is now easier, and he needs every win. So I expect him to keep Abi dancing and light on his feet, making him easy to launch into the zabuton.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview

Endo - Chiyoshoma

So far most of the rikishi have been true to form, and the basho is proceeding along expected lines. I would caution readers and sumo fans not to read too much into this. With Act 1 focusing on getting everyone to an actual honbasho competition level, the first week frequently offers few surprises until we hit Saturday.

The rikishi that really sticks out to me right now is Endo once more. I am not going to say he is (as he was once proclaimed) the savior of sumo. But the man is fighting well, and has overcome an amazing array of injuries and set-backs to be in the top half of Makuuchi. He is just outside the joi-jin this tournament, and that’s probably where he should be until his arm is 100%.

With Kisenosato likely to take his final bow this year, Japanese fans need another star to pin their hopes on. Many might think Takayasu is the likely candidate, as I once did, but frankly his sumo is chaotic enough that its causing him injuries. More and more I am coming to think that Aki 2018 will be the pivotal basho that may be later seen as changing point for the current era of sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Ishiura vs Takagenji – The rikishi with very poor manners (Takagenji) comes to Makuuchi to face off against Ishiura. As they have never matched before, this should be worth a good look. Like Ishiura, he’s a relative light weight at 126.2 kg.

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Ryuden seems to have regained his sumo, and his day 4 match against Asanoyama could be a bellwether. The two are fairly even with they are both healthy an in their sumo. My guess is that Asanoyama may hold a slight edge, as I am convinced Ryuden is still injured from Natsu.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Surprisingly genki Tochiozan will put Onosho to the test on day 4, and I think Onosho really needs to face vigorous challenges. His match against Nishikigi was a complete surprise to him and to me, and my have put a nick in his typical overwhelming confidence.

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Battle of the Maegashira 10s! Chiyomaru has been surprisingly soft thus far, so we may yet again see Nishikigi exceed habitually low expectations. The biggest worry being the sheer size of Chiyomaru.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – The battle of the yamas! Which mountain will reign supreme? Given Aoiyama’s injuries, he’s not quite the threat he normally is. Yutakayama has added some visible bulk (though his mass is still listed as 171 kg), so he is hefty enough to take Aoiyama haymakers.

Chiyoshoma vs Kyokutaisei – Both of these poor rikishi come in with zero wins. So the good news is one of them gets to be 1-3 at the end of Tuesday. Will we see another Chiyoshoma flying henka? Or will the Hokkaido man keep the match down to earth? Kyokutaisei leads the series 3-1.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Endo is looking surprisingly good so far, and for day 4 he gets to take on the burly Chiyotairyu. If Endo can survive the tachiai, he’s got plenty to work with. They are mostly even at 6-5 in their career records.

Takarafuji vs Yoshikaze – These matches are just painful for me to watch. I continue to be a Yoshikaze fan, but it seems to be a shadow of his original self.

Kaisei vs Kagayaki – Even though the 2-3 career record would seem to indicate this is an even match, I am going to guess that Kagayaki may find Kaisei’s enormity to be a real challenge. Kaisei looked completely lost and befuddled on day 3, and I expect him to bounce back with purpose.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – I am guessing the schedulers are giving Takakeisho a bit of a breather before he is fed into the wood chipper that is the Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Its another fairly close to even match, with Daishomaru holding a 3-2 career lead.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Our beloved boulder is not looking strong or aggressive, and today he’s going to face Shohozan, who has faced some pretty rough competition, plus one match where he fell down much to his embarrassment. Will Shohozan’s preference for a running, high-intensity brawl (dare I say broom battle?) intimidate the Mongolian giant, or will it be the motivation he needs to summon his overwhelming strength?

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – These two were Sekiwake twins for many tournaments, and while both of them fell from that rank, Tamawashi fell at a poor time when his bounce back basho was not good enough to return him even to the san’yaku. With only one win in Nagoya, he may have something to motivate him day 4 as he faces the unbeaten Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi holds a career 11-2 advantage, so Tamawashi should be looking to gamberize!

Abi vs Tochinoshin – Will Abi try for another henka? The day 3 one was fairly comical, and well timed. Or will we get another Tochinoshin sky-crane-tsuridashi? Abi strik es me as they kind of guy who would do things like drink a whole bottle of hot sauce on a dare. Maybe someone will dare him to grab Tochinoshin’s mawashi.

Shodai vs Takayasu – Don’t worry Takayasu, it’s only Shodai. But in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, keep up the offense until you see the shimpan raise a hand.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – a 48 match history between these two, and it somewhat favors Goeido. Kotoshogiku comes in without a win, but looking fairly well put together this basho. Once his tour through Ozeki and Yokozuna is complete, I am expected Kotoshogiku to rack quite a few wins.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Kakuryu is dialed into his sumo, and even a brave soul like Ikioi is not going to be able to offer much to slow him down right now.

Chiyonokuni vs Hakuho – After Chiyonokuni overwhelming display of fighting spirit on day 3, I would advise the Boss to take no chances. A quick, efficient win here. I know you like to try to beat people with their own brand of sumo to prove you are better at it than they are, but Chiyonokuni may be in possession of some kind of hot streak right now.

Nagoya Day 3 Highlights

Nagoya Day 3 Highlight

With the ring rust now falling away, we are starting go see some good sumo from the men in the top division. Today’s big result is of course Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu. I don’t know if Takayasu is injured, distracted or simply not quite up to fighting form yet. Takayasu of 18 months ago would likely find his current sumo almost comical to watch, and fans of his (as I am) have to wonder if there is some way he will return to the sumo fundamentals that took him this far.

In the meantime, there were some fantastic matches today, and act 1 is doing it’s job of dividing the “Hot” from the “Not”.

Highlight Matches

Ryuden defeats Daiamami – Ryuden seems to have broken free of his off-season rust, and showed some great, strong, high-stamina sumo against Daiamami, who I hope will make it back to Makuuchi soon.

Ishiura defeats Hokutofuji – Ishiura starts with a mini-henka, but follows up with some great high mobility sumo. Hokutofuji is already a move or two behind as Ishiura gets to his side, and applies the pressure. It’s all over for Hokutofuji, who has no way to face Ishiura, or plant his feet. Nice work Ishiura!

Kotoeko defeats Tochiozan – Kotoeko gets his first win ranked in the top division. He tried a henka and multiple pull downs before finally using a nodowa to force Tochiozan out. Sloppy sumo, but a win is a win.

Asanoyama defeats Arawashi – Arawashi had the better tachiai, but Asanoyama dug in fast, lowered his hips and advanced with purpose. With a 0-3 start, I worry Arawashi is out of gas.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama also seems to have shaken off his ring rust, and he was back in form, blasting away at Sadanoumi straight from the tachiai. Sadanoumi stood up to the blows, and fought to go chest to chest, which he eventually achieved. With a the man-mountain’s mawashi firmly in hand, Sadanoumi advanced and won. Great effort from Sadanoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Onosho – The first “what did I just watch?” moment of the day. Most sumo fans think of Nishikigi as this guy at the bottom of Makuuchi who is always just scraping by. Then he comes up against a real up and coming power like Onosho, and swiftly puts him away.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyomaru – The crowd certainly thought that Chiyomaru prevailed, but the gyoji’s gumbai pointed east, and the judges concurred. Myogiryu starts Nagoya 3-0.

Yutakayama defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei can’t seem to buy a win so far. After a rather sloppy tachiai, Yutakayama advanced, but could not finish Kyokutaisei, who rallied. They battled back and forth, finding themselves at the tawara, and both went to throw, with Kyokutaisei stepping out first.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – Daieisho put a huge effort into trying to land a nodawa against Takarafuji’s nonexistent neck. That being said, Takarafuji gets his first win of the basho and needs to regroup.

Endo defeats Chiyoshoma – Fantastic sumo from Endo today. Chiyoshoma tries the flying henka, but Endo reads it like a boss. Endo hooks the left arm around Chiyoshoma, and latches his right hand at the front of Chiyoshoma’s mawashi. With his opponent laterally tethered, Endo backs Chiyoshoma over a waiting kneed for a really well executed kirikaeshi. The crowd goes wild. Endo with a 3-0 start.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – As a Yoshikaze fan, these matches are tough to watch. Clearly the Berserker is injured in some way, and just cannot maintain forward pressure. Kagayaki employs his excellent fundamentals and keeps moving forward. A clean and straightforward win.

Abi defeats Kaisei – Bizarre tachiai, it starts in slow motion, with Kaisei rising slowly, and Abi pulling a delayed action henka. From there it’s a fairly simple okuridashi / rear push out. Glad Abi got a win, but that is one strange match.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – My most anticipated match of the day, a battle of two tadpoles on the rise. Both of them stayed incredibly low, with the entire battle being fought well below the average person’s knee height. Mitakeumi succeeded in tying up Takakeisho and preventing him from getting any offense started. Takakeisho is fun, and potent, but if he gets his yotsu together he is headed much higher.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo once again goes soft after Tamawashi slaps him around a couple of times.

Chiyonokuni defeats Takayasu – Readers of the site know I take exception to the changes Takayasu has made to his sumo in the past year. Much of it is due to no longer training with Kisenosato, I suspect. But today he took an oshi battle against Chiyonokuni. Chiyonokuni is smaller, lighter and built for a run-and-gun sumo style. Takayasu, who has been looking iffy so far this basho, struggled with Chiyonokuni from the start. Surprisingly, Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi first, and now Takayasu is completely unbalanced, and in trouble. After a failed throw at the edge, Chiyonokuni continues to attack, and Takayasu seems completely off tempo, and disoriented. After his second trip to the tawara, Takayasu reaches out and gets a left hand inside grip, and the two go chest to chest, but its clear that Chiyonokuni is still on offense, and in control of the match. Takayasu shrugs and turns, believing he has thrown Chiyonokuni, who maintains his right hand grip, and somehow stays on his feet. Meanwhile Takayasu has stopped trying to win, and is standing upright watching in disbelief. Chiyonokuni recovers and puts the big Ozeki down. Outstanding effort from Chiyonokuni, and Takayasu – get your sumo together man!

Goeido defeats Ikioi – Ikioi really taking a beating to start Nagoya, and today Goeido seemed to be more in form than prior matches: fast, tight, low inside and driving for the win. That was good to see. 6 more like that to clear kadoban, please!

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Shohozan goes in with gusto, but Tochinoshin quickly goes chest to chest, and implements the sky-crane-tsuridashi / lift and shift sumo. With Shohozan supplying the obligatory desperate kicking in mid-air, it was all over.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku tried to get inside and start the hug-n-chug, but Hakuho contained him, and had him rolling to the clay in the blink of an eye.

Kakuryu defeat Shodai – Shodai was little more than a plaything for Kakuryu, who kept Shodai rocking back and forth, and unable to establish either offense or defense. Once the imbalance was great enough, Kakuryu walked him to the north side an sent him diving for the cushions.

Nagoya Day 2 Preview

Hakuho Dohyo Iri

While we were enjoying day 1 action, so news surfaced about injured former Ozeki Terunofuji. Fans may recall that Terunofuji has suffered multiple injuries to his knees, along with diabetes and numerous other maladies that robbed him of any ability to execute sumo. As a result he lost his Ozeki rank, and then rocketed down the banzuke, where the Nagoya ranking sheet finds him in ranked Makushita 6 East. As reported prior to the basho, Terunofuji underwent a second set of surgeries to try to repair his knees, and is reported to still be recovering in the hospital. It is quite possible we may never see him on the dohyo again, and if we do it will be part of a long, painful restart of his sumo career. Terunofuji is currently a physical wreck, and likely a mental wreck as well. His sumo had been questionable for a time, but really took a dive following the Harumafuji scandal. To some fans, it seemed the events robbed him of his natural fighting spirit. But his drive, his energy, his cunning and his sumo skill remains. If he body can be repaired, it would be an overwhelming comeback story. We hope whatever path he takes, that he does well.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Hokutofuji vs Akiseyama – With Hokutofuji at the very bottom edge of the banzuke, he has a real opportunity to recover if he indeed has resolved the injuries that had plagued him for the past few tournaments. Today he faces Juryo man Akiseyama, whom he has never matched against in the past.

Meisei vs Ryuden – Both men lost their day 1 matches, but over their 8 career bouts, Meisei has won 6. Right now Ryuden needs to get back to a winning formula after a disastrous 3-12 record in May.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – These two would seem to be a very even match, although Asanoyama holds a 3-0 lead in their career series. Like many of the 30+ crowd in the top division, Okinoumi is slowly fading. His skills are still amazing, but his body is a half step slower than his peak.

Arawashi vs Onosho – Arawashi is fast and mobile, and Onosho works that kind of sumo ver well. I am sure this will be a match where Arawashi wants to move and strike, and Onosho wants to pin him down.

Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – XXXL Chiyomaru has never beaten the Man-Mountain Aoiyama, but Aoiyama’s day 1 performance would seem to indicate he is at least mildly injured, so day 2’s match against super-heavyweights may be the chance for Chiyomaru to start evening up the score.

Nishikigi vs Yutakayama – After being permanently affixed to the bottom of the banzuke for many cycles, suddenly Nishikigi finds himself facing off against a tougher class of opponents. I think his day 2 match against Yutakayama has a lot of potential, as they have similar fighting styles. Given his poor eyesight, Nishikigi will work to stay in close.

Endo vs Takarafuji – This match pits two very technical, very studious rikishi against each other. We know that Endo has superb technique, and Takarafuji seems to be a master at finding ways to lose a match while executing great sumo. So if Takarafuji is genki on day 2, I would suggest Endo may have his hands full, as Takarafuji will likely work to let Endo set the cadence, then thwart him. Career record favors Takarafuji 6-4.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze, sadly, is firmly in the camp of the fading over 30 crowd. I love the guy’s sumo, but he seems to be struggling now. Their day 2 match will be a great data point to see if Chiyotairyu really has upped his endurance, and any match with Yoshikaze can turn into a protracted bar room brawl.

Kagayaki vs Takakeisho – I am really looking forward to this bout. Kagayaki is very traditional plan / execute, based firmly on fundamentals. Takakeisho seems to go into a match eager and full of enthusiasm for slapping around anyone who mounts the dohyo. Takakeisho is 0-4 against Kagayaki, could day 2 be his first win against Mr Fundamentals?

Ichinojo vs Abi – Both men lost their day 1 matches, and Abi is facing significant challenges in the form of the biggest and best men in sumo. When it comes to Ichinojo, it’s tough to know which version is going to mount the dohyo, the massive sumo machine, or the cuddly teddy bear. If Abi gets the sumo machine, this may be over quickly, as he does not really have much of a reach advantage over Ichinojo.

Ikioi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi looked very good day 1 against Abi, but Ikioi is likely to be quite a bit more trouble. Ikioi has yet to beat Mitakeumi, and if Mitakeumi is in form this basho, he will likely use his tadpole body to confound Ikioi’s preferred attack style.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Both men seem to have suffered day 1 bouts of explosive ring rust. But for Goeido the case is much more serious. The first week is the “easy” portion of his schedule. He needs to rack as many wins here as possible. For Tamawashi this is the “hard” part of his schedule, so he has room to work towards kachi-koshi starting next weekend. Their career record is 8-8. When both are on form, they are fast, low and can win within 3 steps of the tachiai.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochinoshin – Reports of Tochinoshin’s right hand being a problem seem to have not born out thus far. This will be a match of two clashing styles. Tochinoshin wins when he can get a belt war started, and Chiyonokuni is a mobile flurry of oshi. Chiyonokuni is 1-6 against the shin-Ozeki, but I am eager to see what Chiyonokuni tries to overcome Tochinoshin’s size and strength advantage.

Shohozan vs Takayasu – Its likely that Takayasu will be forced into a running battle with Shohozan, which I feel greatly favors Shohozan. Takayasu now seems to favor high force pushing and thrusting, which leaves him perilously misbalanced. Though Takayasu leads the career series 7-5, Shohozan has a real edge this time, as I think Takayasu is still hurt.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this one has history. They have faced off 49 times over their careers, with Kakuryu taking 27. They are more or less even. Though at this point I would put the advantage on Kakuryu. As he displayed in his day 1 match against Takayasu, Kotoshogiku is surprisingly resistant to displays of strength against him, so this match may be decided by misdirection and footwork.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Some learned sumo fans (who I respect) seem to think that Hakuho’s day 1 match was rough or worrisome. But I think his match against Shodai is going to be a better barometer of what kind of condition the boss is in right now. Advantage clearly to Hakuho, but Shodai’s opponents seem to be self destructing quite a bit as of late.

Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.

Nagoya Day 1 Preview

sumo-coasters.jpg

After a lengthy pause in sumo action, we are at long last on the eve of the July tournament. With the torrential rains in Japan, this could be one of the most hot and tropical fortnights in Nagoya in some time. Conditions in Nagoya are always somewhat unique. Rikishi find the dohoyo slippery in the humid air, and endurance is sapped by the endless heat. I will reminder our readers that we tend to look at each basho as a series of three acts, each with their own mood, tempo and purpose. Some of this is driven by the scheduling team, and some of it from the rikishi themselves.

Act One – Who is hot, and who is not. Many competitors will have been training hard, outdoors in the humid Japanese summer for the past two weeks, but will begin Nagoya with a layer or two of “ring rust”. Some rikishi may be slow off the line, some may be slow or clumsy. But for many it will take 2-3 days to get up to full tournament power (or maybe more). Act one is where we find out who is going to be strong, and who will suffer.

Act Two – We narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. As act two includes the middle weekend, we usually find out who is going to be actually competing for the yusho.

Act Three – Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we crown a champion. Someone takes home the hardware and hoists a big fish. We see who survives with a kachi-koshi, and who gets relegated to the demotion queue with a maki-koshi. Act three can sometimes be a snoozer if one rikishi is really dominating. The schedulers try their hardest to make sure the yusho race stays interesting up to the end.

With that in mind, let’s step off into the Nagoya basho. Ready or not, here we go!

What We Are Watching Day One

(Who am I kidding, I am watching the whole thing)

Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – The battle of “what are you guys doing here” on day 1. Both of them are hard-charging up and coming rikishi who took a beating during Natsu. Both are at the bottom end of Makuuchi now, and hopefully both have recovered some of their sumo. Both of them are people we will be very excited about next year, so get with it men!

Kotoeko vs Asanoyama – Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, please spend your first day with the happy rikishi, Asanoyama. Kotoeko looked very strong in Tokyo, and rightfully earned his spot in the top division. I am eager to see him going the distance with power and spirit that has become the hallmark of a rikishi’s first Makuuchi tournament.

Sadanoumi vs Onosho – Will Onosho suit up with the red mawashi? Some of his fans think that a portion of his power flows from that thing. I think he’s just got some fantastic sumo. Sadanoumi may come in more tuned up, and may hand Onosho a surprise on his first day of what we hope will be an impressive return to the top division.

Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi somehow managed to do fairly well for a change during Natsu, and now he’s going to be facing a somewhat heavier caliber of rikishi. Up first is the man-mountain Aoiyama, who will probably slap him into submission. But Nishikigi is so genki, I think that even if you knocked him out cold his lower body would continue to move forward.

Chiyomaru vs Yutakayama – Chiyomaru needs to bounce back – heck, so does Yutakayama after his disastrous tournament in May. Chiyomaru has a legion of fans who just adore his dirigible aesthetics, but his sumo is pretty sharp too. He had a LOT of ring rust for Natsu, I am curious how his pre-Nagoya workup has been proceeding.

Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei turned in a great performance in May, with a stunning 10-5. He was able to leap from Maegashira 15 to Maegashira 8, and is now facing against much higher grade competition. Myogiryu also went 10-5 in May, and it’s time to see which one of them has an edge to start Nagoya. I think this could be a highlight match of the first half.

Takarafuji vs Chiyotairyu – I want Chiyotairyu to show up with sideburns that would put the great Takamiyama to shame. I dearly hope he gave the kami that gives him power (and lives in those side burns) a fiercely tufted thicket of faciale hair from which to operate. Takarafuji is a solid rikishi with outstanding fundaments, but seems to lack about 5% each and every match. I wish we could give him some kind of tune up. I expect that Takarafuji will absorb Chiyotairyu’s cannonball charge, and it will be Chiyotairyu who will be on defense.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo’s arm is still hurt. If you recall, he withdrew for a while in May, and then came back for some reason only to lose every single match. The diagnosis on the certificate that took him kyujo in May was a torn bicep. Just like Kisenosato’s torn pectoral, that’s surgery time in most cases. One thing is for sure, the crowds in Nagoya will be shouting with both lungs for these two fan favorites.

Daishomaru vs Kagayaki – I make no effort to hide that I really like Kagayaki’s sumo. It’s driven by fundamentals, and his technique is steadily improving. It will be great to watch him deal with Daishomaru’s low center of gravity and energetic oshi-zumo style. If he can get Kagayaki moving backward, he wins.

Kaisei vs Takakeisho – What a great match. The truly massive Brazilian against a tadpole with something to prove. Takakeisho is out-massed by a large factor, so I am curious if we are going to see him unleash the “wave action” tsuppari to overcome the gravity well.

Abi vs Mitakeumi – Back at Sekiwake, Mitakeumi needs to get in gear. He has the potential to join the Ozeki ranks, but he just can’t seem to get consistently into double digits. Abi has a lot of potential, but his sumo is a bit narrow right now, and this may be the basho where everyone figures out how to negate his enormous reach.

Ichinojo vs Chiyonokuni – The battle of the Grumpy Badger and the Boulder, my only disappointment is that the match is on day 1 when both men are going to be slow and rusty. Watching Chiyonokuni flail away in his energetic style against a rikishi made of stone is best savored in week 2, when everyone is warmed up and eager for wins.

Ikioi vs Tochinoshin – Eager for wins? Why yes, we have three Ozeki, and two of them are kadoban and need wins at all costs. Reports going into Nagoya hinted that the right wrist, which Tochinoshin hurt in May, is still bothering him. During the break prior to Nagoya, Tochinoshin traveled home to Georgia, and attended many functions and events. I think even his hard core fans know that he is going to be less than fully genki this time, and that’s ok. Ikioi is hopefully in better physical shape than he was for the last two tournaments, where he could barely walk off the dohyo at the end of each match.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – A savory match. Kadoban Ozeki Takayasu, who looked pretty terrible in pre-tournament practice bouts, up against a re-energized Kotoshogiku. We hope that Kotoshogiku continues to carry forward his winning ways in Nagoya, as it would be a delight to see him return to the San’yaku for Aki. Takayasu needs 8 wins to clear kadoban, which should be easy for him if he’s healthy.

Goeido vs Shodai – Goeido also needs 8 wins in the worst possible way, and we just hope he does not resort to lame-ass sumo techniques like daily henkas and obligatory pull downs. His day 1 against Shodai will be all about Goeido, as I am not sure Shodai can repeat his startling performance of Natsu, where every opponent seemed to find ways to self-defeat to Shodai’s benefit.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – The Boss is looking solid. If he can keep his toes in working condition, he’s a yusho contender this time. Tamawashi is eager to push back to Sekiwake, and if possible double-digits.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Kakuryu, at times, is the crown prince of ring rust. But I think he will overcome Shohozan’s mostly frontal attacks. Just don’t complain if he does it moving backwards.

Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

The-Boulder

Great day of sumo… Our operatives inside the Kokugikan report that the Great Cat himself was well pleased with today’s activities, and blessed sumo fans with some fantastic matches. Find a way to watch all of day 14.

Nagoya has enormous potential, given today’s results. I will discuss more in the day 15 preview. The Natsu yusho is for Kakuryu to lose now, and his sumo was absolutely amazing today. Many sumo fans had dismissed Kakuryu in the prior year, perhaps thinking he was lazy, or would rather not compete. His style of sumo is rather unique, and it’s quite difficult to watch at times. Many fans want to see an all out, guns blazing battle. Where the best attack wins. Sometimes, the best attack is not to try and overpower your opponent, but rather to keep your opponent from winning. It’s somewhat alien in western sports, but it’s amazing to see Kakuryu use it with such great effect.

In Juryo, we are indeed going to have a final day barnyard brawl for the yusho. There are 3 Juryo rikishi with 11 wins at the end of day 14: Onosho, Kotoeko and Tsurugisho. I urge you to find and watch Kotoeko’s day 14 match – because he is bringing that kind of sumo to Makuuchi in Nagoya.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – Ishiura wins doing actual sumo. This is noteworthy.

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – A large man oshi-matsuri, with Aoiyama once again focusing on his opponents head. This is not really working for him, and then he decides, “Yeah, let’s put some force center-mass!”, and shifts to Daiamami’s chest. Hey! Look, out goes Daiamami! Aoiyama gets his 8th win and his kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Chiyonokuni takes it to 11, and hands Tochiozan his make-koshi. I would guess we may see Chiyonokuni pick up a special prize, and that would be his first! If he can stay this genki, he is going to be a lot of fun in Nagoya.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu having a great basho, but Takakeisho seems to have snapped back into his sumo finally, and he’s on a mission. I am so eager now for Nagoya, as Takakeisho will be in the top half of the banzuke, Onosho will be back, and it’s going to be tadpole time.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – First match resulted in a monoii, and a re-match. Second match was a clear Yoshikaze win. It’s still possible for him to pick up a kachi-koshi on the final day, when his opponent will be Abi. That, dear readers, could be a wild and chaotic match.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama failed to get his kachi-koshi today, and will have to hope for a win on the final day. Kagayaki continues to execute solid, basic sumo, and has been winning with it. Any hopes Kagayaki has for double digits are going to be tempered by his final day bout against Chiyonokuni. Yikes!

Aminishiki defeats Ryuden – Ryuden (now 2-12) in a world of hurt with the Nagoya banzuke now, as Uncle Sumo uncorks some kind of magic genki sauce and blasts him out of the ring after some preliminary struggle. As always, the crowd in the Kokugikan goes nuts whenever Aminishiki is on the dohyo, and goes double nuts when he wins.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Sadanoumi somehow survives a really powerful osha-battle with Chiyomaru to pick up his kachi-koshi. To me it looks like Chiyomaru had a tough time getting into basho mode, and is struggling with his sumo. Maybe a bit too much mass from the bulbous one? Sadanoumi lands his 8th win and can take comfort in his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Daieisho – This one was another in a series of Shohozan brawls disguised as sumo matches. Both men were going for some kind of painful death grip on the other, and the winning move was a nicely executed watashikomi thigh trip. Shohozan can still finish kachi-koshi if he wins day 15.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Tamawashi switches to freight-train / densha michi mode and runs Ikioi down the tracks, improving to 7-7 going into the final day.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kaisei – Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi!!! The two go chest to chest straight away, and the enormous mass of Kaisei is clearly near the limit for the Kyushu Bulldozer. But he revs up, engages his tracks and lowers his blade.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell Shodai? Again, his mechanics are abysmal, but his instincts are dead on. Big outcome of this match may be the fact that Shodai seems to have crushed Mitakeumi’s right ankle when they both went to cuddle the kita-kata shimpan.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Watch this match, maybe a few times. Tochinoshin really puts a lot into this match, and Kakuryu does some of his best “Big K Sumo” ever. Kakuryu is a reactive sumo expert. His plan is to stalemate Tochinoshin until he makes some kind of mistake, and then use that mistake to finish him. Tochinoshin immediately goes to land his left, and Kakuryu shuts that down, opting for a palm to the face. Tochinoshin tries to go left again, and gets a bit of a grip, but Kakuryu shifts his hips and denies him leverage. Tochinoshin now has a double outside grip on Kakuryu’s loose mawashi, and can’t find a way to keep the Yokozuna from shifting around, robbing Tochinoshin of his ability to lift and shift (his primary weapon). Kakuryu is deep double inside, and leaning in at 45 degrees, stalemate for the Georgian Ozeki hopeful. Tochinoshin tries to pull out a leg trip, but Kakuryu is too far back for the trip, shifting his hips again as Tochinoshin is now dangerously unbalanced. Kakuryu advances, and Tochinoshin tries to pivot for a throw, further impeding his defensive stance, Kakuryu has his opening now, raises his foot and pops a trip against Tochinoshin’s left knee (the good one), and collapses the Georgian at the tawara. Holy smokes! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – Sumo fans could have ended their day with the Kakuryu v Tochinoshin match with satisfaction, but the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had one last treat in store for us. The Boulder squared off against the dai-Yokozuna, but this was not the passive version of Ichinojo today. Huge, powerful and motivated, Hakuho, who is clearly not quite at full power, had his hands full with 500 pounds of pony tossing, ice cream eating behemoth. Hakuho unleashed a pair of his usually disruptive moves at the outset, but Ichinojo must have gone into the match with the intent to endure the Yokozuna’s initial attacks however he could. It seems he wanted to play a longer game. With Hakuho’s initial gambits exhausted, they spent a moment leaning chest to chest in the center of the dohyo. As Ichinojo moved to advance, Hakuho timed a weight shift to load a throw against Ichinojo. Ichinojo sensed the Yokozuna shifting for leverage, and took advantage of it, pivoting into the uwatenage as the Yokozuna went to the clay. Kokugikan erupts, cushions fly and it’s ice cream and ponies for everyone.