Aki Basho Day 13 Preview

Hakuho-Kisenosato

With just three days left of what has been an exceptional tournament, things really ramp up on Day 13 of the 2018 Aki Basho. Our Yusho race has widdled down to one name at the top: Hakuho. The Boss’ record goes into Friday unblemished, with the trio of Kakuryu, Goeido, and Takayasu trailing him with two losses each. However, Day 13 will bring this group down to at least two men as Kakuryu and Goeido will go toe to toe in what should be the match of the day.

Yago vs. Chiyomaru

Most readers of Tachiai should at least be familiar with the name Yago, as he is the very talented young rikishi highlighted several times by Herouth in her Jungyo tour articles. With his kachi-koshi in hand, and several men at the bottom of Makuuchi with losing records, Yago is looking extremly likely to be making his Makuuchi debut come November. He’ll get his first taste of the top division on Day 13 when he faces Chiyomaru, who is right on the edge of demotion with seven losses.

Aoiyama vs. Takanosho

Top division newcomer Takanosho is just one win away from securing his spot in the Kyushu Makuuchi division, and he can punch his ticket with a win over the man mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama, who took care Ishiura today despite falling for his henka, is already make koshi and is in need of some wins to slow his fall down the banzuke. Takanosho has demonstrated some excellent skill this Basho, and could become a top division mainstay should he continue to hone his skills. Tomorrow marks the first time these two meet.

Hokutofuji vs. Nishikigi

after an excellent first week that saw Hokutofuji collect seven straight wins, the young up-and-comer has only eeked out one victory in the last four days. Luckily, that one win earned him that all-important kachi koshi, but Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall and may not be able to replicate the fantastic numbers he put up at Nagoya. His Day 13 opponent, Nishikigi, is also looking for his kachi koshi. While tomorrow is the first time these two rikishi have met on the dohyo, Nishikigi holds a fusen win over Hokutofuji.

Kagayaki vs. Takanoiwa

Takanoiwa has been on one hell of a run since taking the Nagoya Juryo Yusho and returning to Makuuchi, and could improve his record to 10-3 tomorrow with a vicotry over the man in the golden mawashi, Kagayaki. Sitting with a 6-6 record, Kagayaki is at a crossroad and is just two wins away from a promotion in November. But on the flip side of that coin, he’s also two losses away from make koshi and will need to rely on his sound fundamental skills to avoid a drop down the banzuke. Neither men are strangers to one another, and their career rivalry sits at 7-4 in Takanoiwa’s favor.

Daieisho vs. Asanoyama

Daieisho has always been something of an enigma to me. He’s very talented, as shown by his long tenure in the top division, but with the exception of his 10-5 Makuuchi debut back in 2016, Daieisho has yet to do anything to really distinguish himself. Aki doesn’t seem to be bucking this trend, and while his solid sumo is enough to earn him a regular paycheck, I feel like he’s not living up to his full potential. Hopefully, he’ll show some of that potential tomorrow when he takes on Asanoyama, who is having another good tournament and is looking for his eighth win. These two young stars of the sport have a very interesting rivalry going, and Daieisho has dominated Asanoyama 3-1.

Onosho vs. Endo

This one may truly be the battle of the disappointments. Prior to Aki, I pegged Onosho as someone who could really shake things up this Basho, and I have to admit that I was wrong. Rather than making a big splash, Onosho has barely made a ripple and enters Friday with an abysmal 3-9 record. Luckily for him, he’s taking on a fellow rikishi whose underperformed this Basho in Endo, who only has one win to his name. While it appears that Onosho is still not fully rehabilitated from his knee injury, what’s afflicting Endo is something of a mystery. Regardless of how tomorrow goes, both men have a hefty demotion waiting for them come November.

Tamawashi vs. Takakeisho

Day 13 brings us the Komusubi clash, yet only one of these rikishi has a chance of retaining their rank for Nagoya. After twelve days, Tamawashi is 3-9 and will be a Maegashira once more in November, while Takakeisho could be one step closer to getting his kachi koshi if he wins tomorrow. Expect Tamawashi to go in swinging, and for Takakeisho charge in face first.

Chiyotairyu vs. Ichinojo

Seems that extra shove from Hakuho has awoken the sleeping giant Ichinojo, who recorded his first back to back win yesterday. It may be too little too late for the boulder, who is one loss away from losing his Sekiwake rank. Chiyotairyu, while already make koshi, has a chance to play spoiler FRiday, and hand Ichinojo his losing record unless the man from Mongolia gets into a pony spanking mood. Their rivalry is tied 3-3.

Mitakeumi vs. Myogiryu

Mitakeumi, what happened? A week ago it looked like you were well on your way to that Ozeki rank. Oh, gods of sumo, you giveth and you taketh away. After losing five straight matches, Mitakeumi comes into Day 13 with a record of 6-6 and his promotion hopes going up in smoke. He desperately needs to win his last three games to keep his Ozeki hopes alive, and gets a bit of a reprieve from the rest of the San’yaku on Day 13 when he takes on Myogiryu.

Shodai vs. Tochinoshin

Tochinoshin can remove his kadoban status with a win over Shodai on Day 13. However, he shouldn’t take the man in blue too lightly. Shodai is afflicted with very unpredictable bouts of excellent sumo, and already has one Ozeki scalp this basho. If he goes super saiyan Shodai on Friday, he could give the Georgian a run for his money. Their career rivalry is tied at five wins apiece.

Abi vs. Takayasu

Following his climatic Day 12 victory over Kakuryu, Takayasu gets rubber band man himself, Abi. With Endo proving to be about as harmless as a kitten this September, Abi has been getting his fair share of play time with the top members of the San’yaku. While this hasn’t done wonders for his record, the experience he’s receiving from taking on the best of the best will no doubt help his skill set grow. Plus you never know, it wasn’t that long ago the rubber band man beat Kakuryu, he may just surprise us all again tomorrow.

Kisenosato vs. Hakuho

This is it, the long-awaited, first ever Kisenosato-Hakuho Yokozuna showdown!!! Though how I wish the circumstances surrounding it were better. For someone who missed the dramatic events that led to his Yokozuna promotion, I never really got the whole Kisenosato craze. That being said, watching his redemption story unfold has been exhilarating and he’s made a true fan out of me. While there’s still three more days of sumo to go, I believe that Aki has been a tremendous success for Kise and I’m happy to see him back. Tomorrow, he faces his toughest competition: the Dai-Yokozuna and Yusho race leader, Hakuho. The Boss comes into Day 13 with Twelve wins and looks nearly unstoppable. While the deck is definitely stacked against Kise, I expect that with his Yokozuna pride on the line, he will bring his A-game when he meets Hakuho on the dohyo. Hakuho leads their rivalry 44-16.

Kakuryu vs. Goeido

As stated above, the Musubi no Ichiban for Day 13 has tremendous yusho implications. Both Kakuryu and Goeido find themselves tied for second place in the Yusho race, but one of them will leave the Kokukigan with their championship hopes potentially dashed, while the other will be hoping Hakuho slips up enough to force a Day 15 playoff. There is so much on the line for both men in this match. Kakuryu has dominated the series with Goeido 28-16.

Aki continues to be an all-time great basho, and now that we are reaching its end the dial is getting turned up to 11. The next three days of sumo are looking to be some of the best yet, and I’m so jealous that Bruce gets to be there to see it all live. Cheer extra loud for all of us!!!

Aki Day 7 Highlights

Kakuryu Dohyo-iri

Its becoming clear that we may be seeing the limit of what Kisenosato can endure for now. After more than 18 months without a full tournament schedule, he may be finding himself running low on stamina. In his bout today, he was completely disrupted by Chiyonokuni, who dominated the match. In fact it was clear that both the Yokozuna and the crowd in the Kokugikan thought that Chiyonokuni had likely won the match. This marks the third time this basho that Chiyonokuni has blown a win by stepping out early, and it’s something he needs to correct.

Overnight Saturday US time, NHK World will once again be broadcasting live the final hour of Makuuchi. Team Tachiai is trying to decide if there will be a live blog or not. If we are going to live-blog the event, we will post a notice before evening.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze again gets too far forward, and is easily sent out. It was great to see Yoshikaze start 5-0, and it’s a good bet he will pick up the remaining 3 for a kachi-koshi. This win lifts Takanosho above .500, and he has to be pleased with his debut tournament thus far.

Takanoiwa defeats Ishiura – Takanoiwa anticipates Ishiura’s henka (everyone does it seems) and Ishiura has no way to escape the counter-attack. Its looking increasingly likely Ishiura will be back in Juryo.

Ryuden defeats Chiyoshoma – Two rikishi who have reputations for using matta and henka in their matches actually throw down and decide to battle. They both gave it a lot of effort, and it looked like real sumo.

Chiyomaru defeats Aoiyama – Once again, Aoiyama goes tumbling from the kind of shove that he normally laughs off. Clearly he is injured, and is struggling to stay on his feet and in balance. The win is good news for Chiyomaru, who needs to stay as close to the kachi-koshi line as he can.

Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – The match moved from oshi to yotzu in a blink of an eye, and Hokutofuji was clearly dominating every key element. With a 7-0 start, he is looking increasingly likely to be a real contender for 2019. After recovering from his concussion, his hand injuries and god knows what else, his sumo is fast, tight and aggressive.

Kotoshogiku defeats Daieisho – Strong win by Kotoshogiku, he never did get chest to chest with Daiesho, but he was able to grab a firm hold of him and march forward with strength. It’s a shame this man’s body is fading, he can execute some solid sumo.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Best element of the match – the crowd gasps at the loud “crack” at the tachiai. Tochiozan, as is his custom, takes his time and dismantles Asanoyama with efficiency and power. Like Kotoshogiku, the level of skill he possesses far outstrips his aging body’s ability to execute. But on days when he can line them up, he can win.

Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Setting sumo aside, these two decided to recreate the battle of Tsushima, with Myogiryu relegated to the role of the Russian fleet. Both men were bashing each other to bits, but in such a match, the advantage is always to “Big Guns” Shohozan.

Abi defeats Onosho – Onosho brought strength, Abi brought agility, and agility carried the day. I am a Onosho supporter, but he’s still trying to piece together his post-injury sumo, its clear.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Ikioi’s strength was not enough to overcome Kaisei’s significant mass and determination to drive forward. Clearly Ikioi is going to have a big reset down the banzuke for Kyushu.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho spent the first part of the match using Mitakumi’s face as a punching bag, and the blows rang loudly through the Kokugikan, eliciting gasps from the crowd. Mitakeumi absorbed them all and remained focused. In spite of having his heels of the tawara, Mitakeumi expected Takakeisho to overcommit and lunge to finish him off. He was not wrong. With the timing that underscores Mitakeumi’s sumo skill and ring sense, he moved aside just enough to give Takakeisho an express trip to the clay. Two take-aways from this match: Mitakeumi has rather impressive focus, Takakeisho is maybe a year away from walking the same path Mitakeumi is on now.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Sadly, Ichinojo once again gave up, in spite of having the upper hand at the start of the match. It was good news for Tochinoshin, as he is still working to clear kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – These two have a long rivalry, and it showed in today’s match. Many opponents are disrupted by Takayasu’s tachiai, Tamawashi seemed completely unmoved and immediately launched to attack. But in he overcommitted, and Takayasu slapped him forward and down. Tamawashi is also likely to see a big drop down the banzuke for Kyushu.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not repeat his magic for day 7, though he clearly got the best of the tachiai. But Goeido seems to be working on some kind of new GoeiDOS 2.2, and I have to say it seems to be a stable build.

Kisenosato defeats Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato won, but once again we have a marathon struggle against a Maegashira that might have gone either way. I would say that Kisenosato is suffering from not having to do 15 days of tournament sumo for the past 18 months, and his stamina may be spent at this point. If he can rack 2 more wins, he can at least claim his kachi-koshi. There is also the specter that he may have had an ankle injury when Chiyotairyu fell on him after Goeido ejected his opponent to win the match.

Hakuho defeats Endo – Endo is a mess right now, and the winning move is listed as koshikudake, meaning Endo fell down on his own. Hakuho was in full battle mode, and his momentum carried him into the first row of zabuton. Looking at the replays, it looks like Endo’s knee gave out. Hopefully it’s not another case for surgery.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – Straightforward Kakuryu sumo, he continues to look strong and fight in forward gears. I suspect he will be the man to beat for the yusho.

Aki Day 7 Preview

Hakuho Salt

The Great Sumo cat of the Kokugikan started act 2 in terrific style on Friday. Act 2 is usually when chaos and discord are at their most potent in any basho. You think you know who has started well, and you can start to hope that your favorite among the leaders may find a way to win the Emperor’s cup. Dear readers, it’s not over for many days to come. Hopes will be smashed, dreams will be crushed, and only the truly durable will take home the yusho banner.

Heading into the middle weekend of Aki, there are interesting and exiting match ups spread across the sumo day. With a full slate of top rank rikishi still competing, we are in store for some fantastic sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Yoshikaze vs Takanosho – Now that Yoshikaze has his first loss, some of the pressure is off. At the very bottom of the banzuke, he does not need to do anything too extreme, a solid kachi-koshi will suffice. But he’s not the kind of person who will throttle back. Takanosho is keeping his head above water in his first ever Makuuchi tournament, and he has never faced Yoshikaze before. I think this one will be a good amount of fun.

Ishiura vs Takanoiwa – Ishiura is treading ever closer to the express route to Juryo. I feel for the guy; he’s got talent, strength and speed, but he’s small and he has yet to come up with a good sumo cookbook for himself. In a case like this, I have to wonder if being in the same stable as Hakuho may be holding him back. Takanoiwa, on the other hand, looks like he is doing well. I am going to guess he is on a kachi-koshi path.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – Ryuden has yet to win one from Chiyoshoma, but this could be his day. Ryuden’s matches have been pretty bland so far, but he is winning. Chiyoshoma seems to be suffering from undercarriage problems again, and his sumo has been chaotic.

Okinoumi vs Kotoyuki – Okinoumi is quite the survivor. He enters his day 7 match with a 8-3 career advantage over Kotoyuki, who seems to have found his sumo again. But with 4 losses already, he has to cook up a solid winning streak to keep himself in the top division.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – Aoiyama finally racked up his first win on Friday, and today he faces Chiyomaru, who has never beaten him. At 1-5, Aoiyama is in grave shape. But at 2-4, Chiyomaru is closer to danger. Only ranked Maegashira 14, a significant losing record could remove him from the top division.

Hokutofuji vs Sadanoumi – The only undefeated Maegashira gets what should be a fairly straightforward contest for day 7. Their only prior match went to Hokutofuji. Sadanoumi comes in 4-2, but Hokutofuji is currently out-performing his Maegashira 9 rank.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Both rikishi come in with 2-4 records, and both of them seem to be struggling. For Takarafuji there are injuries that have been reported in the press. Kagayaki seems to be just a bit lethargic, and his sumo is having problems producing the same level of power it has earlier in the year.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan can be counted on for composed, efficient and calculated sumo each time on the dohyo. Asanoyama seems to be at the height of his form right now, and keeps finding ways to win, even when he’s taking a pounding. With a 2-1 career record, this is probably a fairly even match.

Onosho vs Abi – We saw on day 6 that Abi can improvise when the need strikes, but against Onosho it’s probably going to be a straight slug-fest. Advantage for Abi – his reach. Advantage for Onosho – low center of gravity and speed.

Ikioi vs Kaisei – Both rikishi must view day 7 with great relief. They have completed their tour of the upper ranks for now, and can transition to working on their 8 wins. Ikioi took an especially hard beating during Act 1, and will need to put together a solid winning streak to stay at rank. Today’s match should be a lot of fun, as we get Kaisei’s bulk up against Ikioi’s strength.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – The Ozeki hopeful absorbed his first loss on day 6, and on day 7 he gets to fight his fellow tadpole, Takakeisho. Takakeisho is no easy match, in spite of his 2-4 record heading into the middle weekend. Mitakeumi’s magic number is still probably 11, so he needs this match as a buffer against the Ozeki and Yokozuna on tap for week 2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – Even though Ichinojo is back to his bad habit of giving up, he still stands a chance against Tochinoshin on day 7. Tochinoshin is wisely not trying to use brute strength so much this tournament. A primary reason is likely his injured foot, but he also needs to diversify his sumo.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Tamawashi has a habit of beating Takayasu, so this is going to be a test match to see if the Ozeki can remain unbeaten. Tamawashi is in a deep hole at 0-6, so his motivation will be all the stronger.

Goeido vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu surprised everyone by disrupting and then defeating Kisenosato on day 6. But his day 7 match against Goeido is going to be a contest of rapid brutality writ large. There is a small chance that their tachiai collision might form new exotic particles of interest to science, and teams are standing by to clean up the debris if the worst should happen.

Kisenosato vs Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato gets a chance to recover against Chiyonokuni, who is struggling to keep his sumo on track. After the surprising loss to Chiyotairyu, fans will hopefully have a more realistic expectation of Kisenosato for the remainder of Aki. I seriously think that if he can get to 8 wins, everyone calls it success and nobody cares until November. He is 3 wins away from that goal, but is nearly to the part of the basho where he fights the upper ranks.

Endo vs Hakuho – Endo’s a shell of his normal self. Hakuho’s going to dismantle him and play with the pieces.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – I am keen to see what kind of cruel sumo feedback loop Kakuryu employs against Shodai. Not that he does not have it coming, just that sometimes it’s fun to try and guess.

Aki Day 5 Highlights

Yoshikaze Fansa

Act One is a wrap! By now everyone should have the ring rust scraped away, and should be in tournament form. We can certainly tell who is hot, and who is not. There is a solid block of undefeated rikishi at the end of the first five days, and that includes the entire Yokozuna population. As a result, the upper Maegashira and the Komusubi are getting crushed. This is typical for a basho where the upper ranks are actually participating.

5 – 0 Rikishi: Kakuryu, Hakuho, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Yoshikaze

Combined Komusubi – Maegashira 3 Records: 7 – 34 (Ouch!)

Mitakeumi is off to a 5-0 start, and today he beat an Ozeki, which counts as a “quality” win. On day 6 he will face Goeido, who is fighting well and got day 5 to rest thanks to his fusensho over the injured Yutakayama. Mitakeumi has started well enough to be seriously considered as bidding for an Ozeki promotion.

Highlight Matches

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – I can’t stop thinking about Yoshikaze’s disastrous 2-13 Nagoya, and how completely different things are for him at Aki. Chiyomaru gets a bit of offense in just after the tachiai, but Yoshikaze takes command and masterfully maneuvers the burly Chiyomaru to defeat. Given that he has finished act one 5-0, I am curious if the scheduling team are going to keep him fighting the bottom of the banzuke, or start seeing what he can do against the likes of Hokutofuji.

Kotoyuki defeats Takanosho – Kotoyuki reverted back to his (apparently better-fitting) light blue mawashi, and his sumo seems to have come back with it. His match today against Takanosho was more in control and focused than his first three. Kotoyuki got the inside position at the tachiai and set the tempo for the match.

Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma took the fight to Takanoiwa’s face… again and again. But Takanoiwa kept driving forward and working to disrupt Chiyoshoma’s slaps. It worked, and Chiyoshoma found himself arse-first into the zabuton.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – A great endurance match. Nishikigi putting on a great demonstration of persistent ottsuke, pinning Ryuden to his chest while keeping Ryuden away from his mawashi. Ryuden kept working, and kept wearing Nishikigi down, eventually landing morozashi and driving forward. Some solid sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Notable because Aoiyama remains winless, and once again seems to have collapsed during the fight, rather than succumbing to a specific kimarite. The judges did rule it a tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Aoiyama’s right knee gave out.

Hokutofuji defeats Kotoshogiku – If you are looking for some first class battle-sumo, this is a place to start. Kotoshogiku was always going to try to go chest to chest with Hokutofuji, and launch the gaburi-yori hug-n-chug attack. Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” puts him in command before the first step, landing firmly on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, and preventing his left hand from getting a grip. Hokutofuji then endures a few face blows to get inside, and completely lock out Kotoshogiku’s primary attack. Kotoshogiku fights back with skill and power, but Hokutofuji stays inside and thrusting against Kotoshogiku’s neck and shoulders. A shift to hazuoshi (armpit grip) at the edge and Kotoshogiku hands over the shiroboshi. Hokutofuji starts Aki with an impressive 5-0.

Onosho defeats Shohozan – Perhaps Onosho has shed his ring-rust. His thrusting attack displayed the speed and focus that was missing on prior days, and he overwhelmed his stronger opponent. He gets Shohozan’s shoulders turned, and slams the motor into drive. Much better from Onosho!

Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Notable in that Kagayaki was completely shut down by the more experienced Tochiozan. This match was lost / won at the tachiai, when Kagayaki went for a thrusting attack at Tochiozan’s neck and face, then shifted to try for the belt. Tochiozan went center-mass with his hands at Kagayaki’s chest, and controlled the man and the match from there.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Like a pair of tabbies battling for a feather duster, these two delivered a train of windmill tsuppari, with Abi’s superior reach being the deciding advantage. Fun sumo, if a tad repetitive in terms of Abi-zumo.

Asanoyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has been consistently a half step behind each match. Today he drove inside at the tachiai, with Asanoyama bringing him to his chest and setting up a see-saw battle for grip that ended with Chiyonokuni reaching over Asanoyama’s shoulder to attempt a pull down. With both men off balance, Asanoyama gambled on a hard drive forward and it paid off as Chiyonokuni became a dropping dead body before Asanoyama went spiraling into the dohyo. The monoii that followed affirmed that Asanoyama was the winner.

Ichinojo defeats Tamawashi – Notable because Ichinojo was not passive today. He rallied strongly with his heels against the tawara and drove forward to win the match. Tamawashi starts Aki with a surprising 0-5 record.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s signature move (like Kotoshogiku’s) is so effective, he tries to use it as his first choice every time. Mitakeumi knows this, and used it to distract Tochinoshin and secure the win. You can see Tochinoshin work for a left hand outside grip on Mitakeumi’s mawashi, but Mitakeumi pushed hard at the tachiai to get an inside position and lands his hands of Tochinoshin’s chest, thrusting him back strongly. Tochinoshin has lost about 3 feet of dohyo, but thrusts forward to try for the grip again. Again Mitakeumi is inside against his chest, but Tochinoshin gets his grip now and starts to lift. But he’s already too far back, and he’s too high. Mitakeumi has moro-zashi, and drives forward a few inches to push the Ozeki out. Masterful sumo from Mitakeumi today.

Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Takayasu landed a deep left hand inside grip at the tachiai, and was in command. Ikioi rallied and advanced strongly after a bit of leaning on each other, but a mis-step caused him to be on the wrong foot, and Takayasu helped him finish turning the wrong way around and gently shoved him out. Ikioi also has a 0-5 start.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Less brutal than expected, it seem Chiyotairyu thought this was a matta. Kakuryu quickly got his preferred grip, and it was an almost polite yorikiri after that.

Kisenosato defeats Shodai – Again, Kisenosato had to work much harder than a Yokozuna should to beat Shodai. But we saw some classic elements of Kisenosato sumo. Kisenosato locks up Shodai’s arms at the elbows and proceeds to constantly shift his weight and bounce around. This keeps Shodai from ever really establishing a firm footing to launch an attack. As the match progresses, Kisenosato keeps the bouncing on rhythm, and it forces Shodai higher, and off balance. The result is a fairly solid throw by the Yokozuna, and a great example of some of his great sumo. I fear for him in act 3, but for now, let’s enjoy a high-functioning Kisenosato.

Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – A bold and clear display of why Hakuho is a dai-Yokozuna, even if he is fading out. Hakuho loves to face up-and-coming rikishi with their own style of sumo. It’s kind of a dominance thing to say, “I am so good, I can beat you with your own techniques”. Today it got him to the edge of trouble when Takakeisho timed a side-step with digital perfection. Hakuho was falling forward towards the bales. But then the dai-Yokozuna DNA kicked in, and he re-asserted his balance and pivoted back to the attack before Takakeisho could finish him. In lunging at the Yokozuna, Takakeishio bet everything on that final move. But Hakuho was ready and a light touch on Takakeisho’s shoulder was all it took to send him rolling to the dohyo. The smile of Hakuho’s face after told the story.

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.