Aki Day 5 Preview

Aki Day 5

Thus act 1 of the Aki basho comes to a close. The job of act 1 is to sort who is hot, from who is not. This has been achieved with great flair and a satisfying amount of good sumo. For the first time since 1989, all Yokozuna are unbeaten after day 4. None of the Ozeki have more than 1 loss, and there are a pair of 4-0 rikishi in the Maegashira ranks. Mitakeumi keeps his Ozeki campaign burning bright by his membership in the 4-0 club, too. Following day 5, the 4+ wins club in the mid to lower Maegashira will likely find themselves competing a bit higher up the banzuke.

Kisenosato has made a fairly solid return, but I am becoming worried that he is not quite genki enough yet to survive week 2. The enormous amount of trouble he had with Kaisei denotes that he could be in real danger of running out of gas starting this weekend. A 15 day match schedule is brutal, and the Yokozuna’s stamina may not yet be up to the task.

With Kyokutaisei kyujo, the banzuke is un-balanced, and we will see visiting Juryo rikishi every day until things balance out by someone else going kyujo, or Kyokutaisei returning (which he should not do). My candidate for kyujo is Aoiyama, who badly hurt his ankle with an ungraceful dohyo dismount on day 4.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Arawashi vs Ishiura – Arawashi brings a 2-2 record up to Makuuchi for day 5. At Juryo 1 East, a kachi-koshi would bring him back to the top division. Meanwhile Ishiura is probably starting to worry where he can find 7 wins over the next 11 days.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – In a nearly as perilous position is the bulbous Chiyomaru, who has a loyal army of fans. If this were Nagoya, he could almost count on a walk-over win from Yoshikaze. Instead Yoshikaze is looking genki, if not quite berserk at this point of the basho.

Ryuden vs Nishikigi – A match of some interest! Both of them are 3-1, their career record is tied at 2-2, and both of them are fighting well in the first act. Nishikigi has been especially surprising, and I do hope he can keep delivering aggressive sumo.

Hokutofuji vs Kotoshogiku – Another of the great day 5 match ups. Kotoshogiku has been hit-or-miss, largely due to the cumulative damage to his body. But he has been on his sumo since day 1 for Aki. Then there is Hokutofuji, who suffered for a few tournaments with his own injuries, but seems to be dialed in for Aki. He is low, fast and aggressive. Hokutofuji will try to drive thrusts to Kotoshogiku’s center-mass, and stay moving. Kotoshogiku will try to lock him up and give him the business.

Shohozan vs Onosho – I am going to go ahead and say that Onosho is probably not ready for mid-Maegashira post surgery. He’s got loads of talent, skill and enthusiasm, but his body is just not in the fight. Shohozan is always in the fight, any fight, any time. So I see this one as another hard one for Onosho.

Kagayaki vs Tochiozan – Kagayaki comes in at 2-2, and because he is so deliberate, and focused on fundamentals, he slips below a lot of people’s attention. Like many of the fading generation of rikishi, Tochiozan has good days and bad, depending on how many of his acquired injuries are plaguing him today. In spot of that, this should be a fairly even match.

Myogiryu vs Abi – Myogiryu is compact an intense. Abi is disperse and frantic. This has ingredients for some fine sumo, but let’s see if they can set it on fire and send it screaming into the stands.

Chiyonokuni vs Asanoyama – Chiyonokuni is bound to catch a break at some time, and maybe he can pick one up from Asanoyama the Black Knight. Asanoyama has been steadily bulking up more or less in tandem with Freshman class president Yutakayama, and it seems to have helped his defense quite a bit.

Endo vs Kaisei – Endo, too, will eventually catch a break. He is looking very tentative right now, and I am starting wondering if he has re-injured himself either during Jungyo or in the practice matches just before the basho. He has been iffy since day one, and I am sure his fans want him to do what it takes to get whole. Kaisei has maintained his good humor during the tougher elements of his tour through the upper ranks, and I expect his score will improve soon.

Goeido vs Yutakayama – I am looking for Goeido 2.0 or higher again today. Goeido has been able to generate consistent offense thus far, and he is doing quite well. Yutakayama is big enough to require some careful work, but I think Goeido is up to the challenge. I also think that once Yutakayama is done being an Yokozuna-Ozeki chew toy, he will have a fair chance of a kachi-koshi.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – The big, double-wide match of the day. Tochinoshin leads the series 5-2, and both men are focused, intense and eager for wins. Mitakeumi will try to stay mobile, Tochinoshin will work for the left hand outside. I am just hoping everyone exits the dohyo without further injuries.

Ikioi vs Takayasu – In spite of whatever injuries he was nursing when Aki started, Ozeki Takayasu has been a solid wall of sumo thus far, and none of his opponents have been able to generate much offense against him. Ikioi, meanwhile, is getting the rough and brutal week 1 of the top Maegashira.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Kakuryu holds a 9-0 career lead over Chiyotairyu, I don’t see too many chances of that changing today.

Kisenosato vs Shodai – Kisenosato is working harder than he should, most likely because it’s been many months since he has tried to compete. Shodai seems to be evolving, which is quite exiting as it was assume that if he ever got his tachiai into better condition, he would be quite formidable. I still expect Kisenosato to rack another today, but look to see if he struggles to move Shodai.

Takakeisho vs Hakuho – These two have some odd matches in their past. But it seems Hakuho is having some trouble generating forward pressure due to his injuries, and he will default to wanting to throw. This is a challenge against Takakeisho due to his extreme body shape. I still and looking for Hakuho to dominate the Tadpole, but it will be interesting to see how he works it out.

Nagoya Day 13 Highlights

Nagoya Day 13 Banner

So the theory that there was no Takayasu – Mitakeumi rematch due to time gained a bit of traction in my mind with day 13. Headed into the final division, the entire day’s events were about 20 minutes behind schedule, and the rikishi were encouraged to be prompt and shorten up the pre-match routines. As it was the day’s matches went right to the end. Clearly the new head shimpan and the timekeeper are having some problems organizing the basho.

Fans who were worried about Mitakeumi are encouraged to watch today’s match against Goeido in slow motion. Don’t worry, NHK, or Jason and Kintamayama on YouTube can and will supply footage. True champions overcome adversity and setbacks. Even when stupid calls don’t go their way. They show up and they play the game, and if they lose they go back and play again.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Akiseyama – Akiseyama had early control of the match, but lost initiative when he attempted to change his grip and failed. From there it was Meisei’s match and he pushed hard for the win.

Onosho defeats Kotoeko – Onosho reaches kachi-koshi in the blink of an eye. One push against Kotoeko, followed by a slap down and it was all over.

Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama continues to compete hard, even though both legs are massively taped. Hokutofuji again unleashes a sharp tachiai, but bounces off Aoiyama’s massive body. Aoiyama lays on the attack, but Hokutofuji’s upper body endures it, while his lower body keeps moving forward. When Aoiyama attempted to pull, he gave up forward pressure and Hokutofuji surged ahead for the win. We have seen this from Hokotofuji again and again, it’s as if there are two separate processes at work, and more than once it has won the match. Hokotofuji is probably back at mid-Maegashira for Aki, and it’s going to be great to see him challenged.

Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – Nishikigi picks up win #6, with a good tachiai and working hard to get inside and then applied maximum force to Sadanoumi’s center mass.

Arawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru picked up his 8th loss, and is now make-koshi. Arawashi took a shallow double hand grip immediately at the tachiai, and pushed forward strongly to win the match.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama goes to double digit wins, but it was an odd match. Yutakayama attacked high, and pressured Tochiozan backward to the bales. Both men lost balance and headed out simultaneously, but in spite of some nice acrobatics, Tochiozan touched down first. Tochiozan is now out of any possible yusho contention.

Asanoyama defeats Myogiryu – Asanoyama joins fellow freshman Yutakayama in double digit wins with his win over Myogiryu. Myogiryu took control early while Asanoyama struggled to find a firm hold. When Myogiryu backed him to the tawara, Asanoyama found the edge and held firm, bringing Myogiryu to his chest, and took control.

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – I am starting to have hope. For the last few matches, Ishiura has been showing us a new level of his sumo. He is more fierce, more focused and more inventive than he has been since his debut tournament in Kyushu of 2016. And it’s giving him wins. Will it be enough to stave off a return to Juryo? I almost think that it might.

Ryuden defeats Daieisho – After a matta / false start Daieisho opened strong, and may have actually pushed out Ryuden’s heel, but no one called it and the match continued. Ryuden rallied strongly, and kept impressively low, bringing the battle back to the center of the dohyo. Daieisho became off balance when he hauled up hard on Ryuden’s loose mawashi, and inadvertently fell forward to lose. Daieisho now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Yoshikaze – The march to the hanyusho continues, and no force in nature seems to be able to stop it. Abi seems to take special care to keep Yoshikaze from falling, just as everyone else has. It seems whatever has robbed him of his sumo is a fairly open secret right now, and everyone gives him a lot of courtesy and protection. It both breaks my heart to know something is wrong, and does me glad to see how every competitor takes care.

Tamawashi defeats Kaisei – Tamawashi foregoes the obligatory kotenage and does a masterful job of disrupting Kaisei’s balance, and keeping him struggling for dependable footing. With repeated glancing collisions, eventually Kaisei falls down and nobody goes to the hospital. Success! Tamawashi picks up kachi-koshi as well.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ichinojo – Chiyotairyu hits his kachi-koshi as well today by keeping Ichinojo adjusting to what kind of sumo will happen next. The match ends with an all too familiar moment where Ichinojo seems to give up.

Takayasu defeats Endo – It was not even a real contest, as Endo was overwhelmed by Takayasu’s freight-train tachiai, and bounced off towards the south-east. Takayasu was happy to help give Endo another shove to ensure his rapid exit and loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – After day 12, fans who were hoping for a Mitakeumi yusho were incensed, with good cause. Even the commentators for NHK really could not line up behind the shimpan’s unexplainable call. Fans worried that Mitakeumi would lose his edge, would begin to doubt his sumo, and his winning streak would end. Well, take a look at what he did to Goeido. It was Goeido who lost his nerve as they went to the shikirisen, and had to reset. Look at Mitakeumi’s body language, his posture as he faces Goeido prior to the match. This guy has put his mental problems in a box, and put the box some place far far away. Goeido did indeed blast out of the tachiai, and he did succeed in knocking Mitakeumi back and lifting him. But look at Mitakeumi’s footwork in the split second following the tachiai. He absorbs the shock and rotates to his right. Goeido is now perilously overcommitted, and Mitakeumi’s left hand already hooking a grip. With his left hand on Goiedo’s mawashi, and his right hand on the back of Goeido’s neck, Mitakeumi has his feet firmly on clay, and swings Goeido towards the bales. Goeido recognizes he has crafted his own defeat, and we get to see the massive power of his legs come to play in an effort to slow his forward motion. But Mitakeumi follows through and forces Goeido out from behind. The home-town crowd goes wild for their favorite son as Goeido steps out. Top notch planning and execution from Mitakeumi. He played Goeido like a shamisen. At the end of the match as they go to bow. THAT LOOK! Goeido has found a new appreciation for his opponent.

Nagoya Day 13 Preview

Goeido-Mug

Goeido Gets His Chance.

The controversy around the results of day 12’s final match will likely brew for a while. I firmly believe it will have little or no effect on the eventual outcome of the basho. Mitakeumi remains the man to beat, and the only rikishi who has a credible chance is his day 13 opponent, Goeido. What makes this such a puzzle is that Goeido is the ultimate hot/cold rikishi. When he is engaged, as we saw in Aki 2016, the man is unstoppable. But time and again his sumo falls apart, and he under performs. Now we ask – which Goeido will show up day 13? My money is on Goeido 2.1. Mitakeumi will get a blistering fireball of a fight right from the tachiai, but he will battle back with skill, cunning and no small amount of luck.

While the other 3 rikishi in the hunt group have fantastic records going into day 13, any of them represent more of a random “hit or miss” chance against Mitakeumi, rather than a credible threat. But one thing to keep in mind was the puzzle from a few days ago. Ask yourself, what will be the yusho winner’s record? If it’s anything higher than 12-3, Mitakeumi is the winner. That means that mathematically, Mitakeumi only needs one more win to reach, at minimum, jun-yusho status. Quite impressive for a man who has never reached double digits from San’yaku before.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
HuntersGoeido, Yutakayama, Tochiozan, Asanoyama

3 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 13

Akiseyama vs Meisei – Meisei is headed back to Juryo, and his day 13 opponent is likely failing to get promoted to Makuuchi from the Juryo 1 slot. If Akiseyama loses to Meisei, he will have locked in his make-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Onosho – Onosho needs one more win to round out his kachi-koshi. Kotoeko is now deeply into a losing record, and possibly headed towards Juryo as well.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – I think this is a brilliant match, in that I think Hokutofuji needs some bigger challenges before the end of the tournament, and I think Aoiyama needs to enjoy some rough and tumble sumo for day 13. Aoiyama is looking for win #8 today, and I do dearly hope that Hokutofuji makes him work hard. Hokutofuji holds a 3-1 lead over the “Man Mountain”.

Sadanoumi vs Nishikigi – If Sadanoumi should win today, he would get kachi-koshi while giving Nishikigi his make-koshi. Now I think that Nishikigi still has a drive to win, but has been rather listless during the second week of Nagoya. Hopefully there is enough genki left to possibly “win out” and end with a kachi-koshi. Nishikigi leads the series 8-5.

Chiyomaru vs Arawashi – Chiyomaru is still looking to avoid a make-koshi, and he’s against hapless Arawashi, who just can’t seem to get his sumo together in Nagoya.

Tochiozan vs Yutakayama – Two of the hunt group go head to head, and only one will remain. It’s not an easy call as Yutakayama continues to fight really well into the second week, and Tochiozan is likely to bounce back form his day 12 loss. But clearly there will be one less person 2 wins behind Mitakeumi following this match. Yutakayama has won both of their prior matches.

Myogiryu vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama needs to win to stay in distant contention for a spot at the yusho brawl if Goeido prevails. He’s up against Myogiryu who is already kachi-koshi, but likely wants to run up the score.

Ishiura vs Kyokutaisei – A Darwin match where the loser will pick up their 8th loss. For Ishiura, this would mean a near certain demotion back to Juryo to try and work out a change to his sumo that is effective against the larger opponents in Makuuchi.

Takarafuji vs Takakeisho – I am surprised how many times Takakeisho has employed his “wave action” sumo this tournament. I would think that the rest of the rikishi would have figured it out rather quickly, but it must be a real problem when he’s hitting you in the face every 3.2 seconds. Takarafuji will try to wrap him up and shut that down, but I worry he is not genki enough to succeed. Takakeisho has won all 3 of their prior matches.

Abi vs Yoshikaze – The next stop on Yoshikaze’s madding quest for secure a glorious hanyusho, he faces off against Abi on day 13. Now Abi’s reach and speed would normally be just playthings for the berserker, but this is clearly not the normal Yoshikaze. So I expect Abi will push him around a bit, and then Yoshikaze will go down to defeat.

Ikioi vs Chiyonokuni – The big question, of course, is Chiyonokuni fit to compete? I know that Ikioi will not give him an easy match, so I would at least expect Chiyonokuni to show up with a significant tape job on that left elbow. An Ikioi win would secure first kachi-koshi from within the joi. Ikioi holds a 7-3 career lead over Chiyonokuni.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – Will we see another kotenage? Will Kaisei be holding his elbow on day 13? Kaisei is enormous, and the amount of effort Tamawashi would need to exert to apply that move may be beyond what he can muster on the slick Nagoya dohyo. A win would be Tamawashi’s 8th, and would open the question of his promotion to Sekiwake should Ichinojo fail it reach kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is still hunting his 8th win, and the last two days have seen Ichinojo revert back to the version that does enjoy sumo. Chiyotairyu has sadly become rather frantic in his sumo, and that won’t really be very useful against a large, partially mobile beast like Ichinojo.

Endo vs Takayasu – Don’t be surprised if you see an announcement that Takayasu has gone kyujo in the next 5 hours. He was clearly damaged from day 1, and now that he has kachi-koshi, a withdrawal would be understandable. But if this match goes ahead, I will be interested to see if Endo can reverse his act 3 fade that he seems to be in the middle of right now.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Here is your chuumoku-no-ichiban. All the other matches have their place, but this one is critical to the yusho race. I would look for Goeido to blast hard and fast out of the tachiai, attempting to overwhelm whatever Mitakeumi might have planned before he can begin any offensive sumo. I would expect Mitakeumi to at least hit and shift at the tachiai, knowing that Goeido will charge with everything he’s got. If Goeido wins, the yusho race closes to a 1 match difference. If Mitakeumi wins, he eliminates his strongest competitor. Goeido holds an 8-3 career advantage over Mitakeumi, but Mitakeumi has won 2 of their last 3 matches.

Nagoya Day 12 Highlights

Takayasu Day 12b

For those of you worried about spoilers, you can stop reading now until you have had a chance to watch your time-delayed broadcasts. This commentary will still be here later.

For fans who are outranged about today’s final match, I have some words to perhaps help explain. Mitakeumi is still the leader, and is still likely to take the yusho. He’s clearly on an Ozeki campaign now, and he is showing his best sumo ever. He lost nothing today, and possibly gained much. Its possible that on this day, when there was a chance for the shimpan to make a call, they chose to think about things in a broader strategic context. I do not agree with the way they decided this, but then again I am not a sumo elder, or a member of the NSK, or anything more than a sumo fan typing away on a blog.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes.

  1. Call the match for Mitakeumi – Well, it looks like Takayasu’s big toe touched the sand before Mitakeumi’s foot landed out. So, close enough. Mitakeumi goes to 12-0, and everyone else had 9 wins. The only way that the yusho might be contested in the last weekend is if Mitakeumi loses his last 3 matches.
  2. Call the match for Takayasu – Ok, Takayasu goes kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban. One of the few remaining kanban rikishi is protected and whatever injuries that are plaguing him have more time to heal before he feels the need to defend his rank. Mitakeumi exits the day still 2 wins ahead of everyone else, just the way it started, and there is a tiny tiny chance that someone with experience (Goeido) might be able to contest for the yusho. That goes double as Mitakeumi faces Goeido in day 13’s final match. This is good for competition, the fans, TV ratings and the sport. If NHK’s ratings follow similar ratios to Tachiai’s web traffic, the lack of kanban rikishi in this tournament have dropped viewership.
  3. Call for a torinaoshi / rematch – The last thing you want to do is have an already injured Takayasu possibly compounding his problems in a second bout against your rising star. Given what we could see on the replays, this looked like the right thing to do for the match, but I am going to guess the Shimpan took option 2 as the best thing to do for sumo.

Day 12 Matches

Takanoiwa defeats Kotoeko – Soon to be returning Takanoiwa dispatches soon to be departing Kotoeko in this first Makuuchi bout of the day. Takanoiwa seems like maybe he picked up some mass. Today’s match was a simple push-pull win.

Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries to submarine the tachiai, but Sadanoumi is unfazed and continues to march forward with Ishiura crumpled against his chest. Ishiura now one loss away from a likely demotion back to Juryo.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden loses thanks to Aoiyama’s henka. Wait, what? Aoiyama henka? If you are Ryuden, are you more embarrassed that you lost, or that you let Aoiyama henka you?

Myogiryu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan gets his third loss and drops back into the peloton. Myogiryu was fast and aggressive, and did not let Tochiozan disrupt his offense. Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was once again low and fast at the tachiai, but he gave up the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama and was never able to gain offensive traction. Excellent sumo today from Yutakayama. While Hokutofuji fans would love to see him run up the score and be mid-Maegashira at Aki, his kachi-koshi is what he needed to pull back from the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke. His sumo is looking strong and he seems to be past the injuries that had him underperforming. Yutakayama is looking very genki, and we may get to see him try the joi again after his disastrous 2-13 at Natsu.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Even though he beat Chiyoshoma today, I have gotten the impression that Onosho is not quite 100% right now. I don’t know if its lingering effects of his injury, or the heat of Nagoya or what. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi. I think we will continue to see him regrouping for at least one more basho. Hopefully by then the red mawashi will be back from the cleaners.

Kyokutaisei defeats Arawashi – With his heels against the make-koshi bales, Kyokutaisei has found the mojo to win yet again. Sadly Arawashi’s 3-9 record is bad enough he is getting close to what could be an aggressive demotion to Juryo line.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho punches Meisei’s return ticket to Juryo by handing him his make-koshi with a pride obliterating side-step and pull down. I think its possible we will see a mighty Makuuhci-Juryo churn headed into Aki.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze continues to push the envelope on his unstoppable march to a totally winless anti-yusho. As a Yoshikaze fan, I just have to hope that whatever is wrong with him is not painful, fatal or crippling. Whats more, I think most of the rikishi know what’s going on, as you can see Chiyomaru take extreme care to keep him safe. And he’s not the first to do it this tournament.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei gets a well earned kachi-koshi. His performance this basho has been above his recent average, and we hope he can stay healthy and genki. Asanoyama threw quite a bit of sumo at him, but Kaisei’s superior reach, and mass-driven stability carried the match. With this loss, Asanoyama also drops back into the peloton.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Takakeisho breaks out the “Wave Action” sumo again, and today it works against an increasingly frustrated Chiyotairyu, who just can’t seem to get that win that will give him kachi-koshi. Takakeisho will likely be top Maegashira / bottom San’yaku for Aki.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Can two men turn ottsuke into a match long battle strategy? Hell, these two sure tried to do it. This was followed by an endurance lean-off at the shikiri-sen. After perhaps a minute, Ikioi rallies and tries to advance. And what is Takarafuji doing? Why more ottsuke of course. Alright, congrats to Ikioi on what was a somewhat ridiculous match.

Shodai defeats Daishomaru – Now that he is make-koshi, Shodai decides to show up and try some sumo today. With the exception of his normally high and flat tachiai, he actually executed well. Clearly the young man needs to regroup, as I still think there is hope for him and his sumo.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni recovers brilliantly after he loses his balance early in the match, but Tamawashi chases him down and finishes Chiyonokuni with a kotenage, which like Kotoshogiku, seems to have injured his elbow. Sadly Chiyonokuni faces Ikioi day 13 rather than Shodai, because if Chiyonokuni were to go kyujo, we could have had one of the 2 fusensho men give the other 2 fusensho man a fusensho.

Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi works the double arm tsuppari attack successfully today, and the already make-koshi shohozan gets a close look at the tokudawara.

Ichinojo defeats Kagayaki – Ichinojo hands Kagayaki his make-koshi when Kagayaki’s sumo fundamentals break down as they are confronted by 500 pounds of pony tossing Ichinojo. Points to Kagayaki for trying to set the tone and form of the match against an opponent who has been far too docile this tournament, but Ichinojo was ready to fight today, and took Kagayaki to his chest and pacified him. Unable to improve his grip or get a firm hold against the boulder, Kagayaki was stalemated in a war of attrition. I was impressed by how well Kagayaki fought off the uwatenage when it came, but there was just too much force bundled in that move by Ichinojo to shut it down.

Goeido defeats Endo – Endo is ejected from the peloton by Goeido after a false start at the tachiai. Goeido wins in his preferred “good” mode: low, fast, and more or less unstoppable. Endo compounded the problem by trying to pull against Goeido’s denshamichi attack.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Fans were howling long before my alarm woke me this morning over this match, and I think rightly so. The match did achieve it’s strategic goal, which was to hand Miakeumi his first kuroboshi, and open up the yusho race heading into the final weekend. But Mitakeumi dominated that match, set the terms and the cadence of the fight, and literally made Takayasu dance to his sumo. The match ended with both men moving at speed over the bales on the north side of the dohyo, and visiting the VIPs in the first two rows of tawara. The gyoji loses his mind and points both east and west, and it’s clear the shimpan is going to sort this one out. To my eye, this was a very clear situation for torinaoshi (rematch). But the decision of the shimpan is best framed in that by awarding the match to Takayasu, they would achieve the strategic goal of day 12. So they did. Takayasu did a masterful job of staying airborne, and that was quite impressive. Takayasu gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban.

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 saw day 11 against Kaisei.