Day 15 Recap and Comments

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The sumo has ended, and the senshuraku parties are raging on into the night. It’s a celebration in Nagoya as a new rikishi has won his first yusho after a remarkable run of victories. Mitakeumi makes for a really interesting champion, in that he has been remarkably consistent for some time now, but like Tochinoshin was just below the threshold of contender. Then something changed, and he became the man to beat in Nagoya. Part of this is, of course, the natural reaction to the top men of sumo being sidelined. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of the Yokozuna, new champions will rise. The real fireworks begin when the new champion confronts the aging kings of sumo. This is just one reason I expect Aki could be the most exciting basho in several years.

Mitakeumi is clearly in an Ozeki campaign now, and with good cause. The two big wrinkles to any claim he might make have to be the questionable loss to Takayasu, and the fact that Yutakayama beat him today. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn impressed with the sumo on display today by both men. And the fact that Freshman Yutakayama was able to take the fight to Mitakumi and prevail speaks clearly to just how much competition there will be in the next two years. As sumo’s current mainstays all fade and move on, the new crowd are going to battle it out to see who gets to take the top spots. Frankly, I can’t wait.

There may be a pretty good churn between Juryo and Makuuchi for the fall. Takanoiwa won the Juryo yusho in a playoff, and finished with an impressive 13-2 record. The man was on fire, and much like Mitakeumi, seems to have had a breakout basho. In all there were 4 rikishi who finished Juryo with 10 or more wins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Yoshikaze picked up his second win on the final day, and by our sage’s predictions, this will possibly keep him in Makuuchi for the fall. Whatever ails Yoshikaze, I do hope he can heal up and overcome. A healthy Yoshikaze at the bottom of the banzuke is an unmitigated terror that I think every young rikishi should have the pleasure of encountering.

Some Match Notes

Ishiura resorted once more to solid “small man sumo” and used a leg pick to control Chiyomaru’s mighty bulk. By improving his make-koshi to 7-8, he has greatly cushioned his demotion for Aki. I also think that maybe Ishiura may have started a new chapter in his sumo.

Onosho finishes in double digits on his return to Makuuchi, and strongly repelled Myogiryu’s successful opening gambit. I am expecting some great things from Onosho in the fall. I think he will be just outside the joi, and will be “the cutter” of middle Maegashira.

Okinoumi was able to finish with a kachi-koshi as Chiyoshoma went kyujo on the final day. That means that yet another rikishi dropped from this torturous basho, and this broke Chiyoshoma’s near 500 consecutive match attendance streak.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu featured a false start that quickly devolved into a flurry of good manners and congenial behavior. This is one of the reasons I love sumo. Hokutofuji finishes with 11 wins and will be in a much tougher cohort for Aki.

Sadanoumi was able to overcome Daishomaru for his kachi-koshi, while his opponent Daishomaru dropped to 5-10.

Takakeisho went chest to chest at the tachiai against Asanoyama, and kept him there. I suspect Takakeisho is more versatile than assumed, and may be looking to broaden his sumo in wise preparation for maintaining higher ranks. Both rikishi finish in double digits. Asanoyama also picked up the fighting spirit prize (Kanto-Sho).

Abi’s long reach was equaled by Aoiyama, and it was quite the discovery process for both of them. I did like to see Abi do everything he could to try to keep Aoiyama from falling from the dohyo. But frankly Abi, there is only so much you can do when that much mass is in motion.

Then there was possibly THE match of the basho. Yutakayama gave his all against Mitakeumi, and beat him. Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but for some reason started trying to pull down Yutakayama. With these two so evenly matched, the pull attempt did little more than send Mitakeumi off balance and moving in reverse (not a good place to be). He eventually was able to recover offensive footing, but not before Yutakayama had chanced him around the dohyo. Now chest to chest, Mitakeumi advanced to deliver the yorikiri, but Yutakayama loaded and executed a rescue throw (kakenage) at the edge. Fantastic sumo.

Endo continued his fade, and delivered Ichinojo’s kachi-koshi for his final match. After trying to get some kind of offense going from the tachiai, Endo learns he cannot move the boulder. With one arm, Ichinojo lashes out and Endo goes flying.

Lastly, Ozeki Goeido finishes with double digit wins for the first time since Aki 2017 as Takayasu seems to be caught improvising into the tachiai. Both of you knuckleheads go back to Tokyo and get yourselves fixed up.

Thank you, dear readers, for once again sharing your love of sumo with us, and spending your time enjoying the sport on Tachiai.

Nagoya Day 15 Preview

Macacon Of Victory

All too soon we have arrived at the end of the Nagoya basho. Ir has been rough and crazy, with an amazing number of rikishi dropping out due to injury. Some may try to limit or diminish Mitakeumi’s yusho by saying that it took place when none of the Yokozuna were competing. They are welcome to their opinions, but you can only fight the men who show up. With at least 13 (should have been 14) wins, Mitakeumi remained remarkably focused and consistent throughout the basho. I do not ever recall seeing him in this state of mind, and with his focus his sumo has flourished. Much will change now for this young man. There is a lot of celebration that follows a yusho, and there is a lot of media attention that will gravitate towards the man from Nagano-ken.

It increasingly looks like Aki 2018 may be the pivotal basho for our long forecast tidal shift in sumo. The old guard continues to fade, and multiple cohorts of young rikishi seem to be coming into their own. At some point the old guard will rally, and there will be a tournament of some of the most intense competition seen in years. I think that could be Aki.

For fans, there is another Grand Sumo Live broadcast overnight in the US (daytime in Japan). For those who are awake, it should be a fun time with John Gunning and Hiro Morita in the booth.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Most of the make / kachi kochi rikishi have been sorted, but there are a few notable matches that still stand out.

Chiyomaru vs Ishiura – There is a chance that a win here might save Ishiura, even though he is already make-koshi.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – They are both 9-5. The winner will go double digits, and have a significant banzuke boost for Aki.

Chiyoshoma vs Okinoumi – A win here would be kachi-koshi for Okinoumi, his first since November of last year.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both men are going to get a nice promotion, but this match is just pure fun. Both are fast, strong and sometimes brutal. Chiyotairyu has been hot or cold this basho, so it’s a puzzle which version of him is going to show up. Hokutofuji has a 4-2 career lead.

Daishomaru vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi comes into the match 7-7, needing to pick up one more win. Daishomaru is 7 ranks above him in the banzuke, so this will be one of these ugly matches where the underdog is in a must-win situation.

Asanoyama vs Takakeisho – Both rikishi have had very strong tournaments in Nagoya, and this is another “I want to see that!” matches. Asanoyama seems to have gotten a bit more serious since March, and is fighting with stoic determination. Takakeisho is going to be deep in the joi for Aki, which may be a very rough and dangerous assignment. His first tour was a bit of a disaster (they usually are), and I am eager to see what he has improved in his second posting.

Abi vs Aoiyama – And yet another of “I want to see that” matches. Its their first meeting, and we have two oshi fighters with impressive reach, a tendency to attack above center mass, and tons of attitude. Who’s going home bruised and pulpy?

Ikioi vs Kaisei – I think they should skip the sumo, and settle this through karaoke. Do you know who would win? That’s right – we would!

Shodai vs Kagayaki – I can’t help but think that in some old Soviet research lab, in a dark corner, is a frail but brilliant old surgeon who would be willing to part out both of these rikishi to create the ultimate Japanese battle golem. He could wear a half sky-blue half gold mawashi, and run around with twice the tsukebito, twice the chanko and just the good parts from both men. We could call him Fukugouyama. (複合山)

Yoshikaze vs Shohozan – Man, the battle of sadness today. Big Guns Shohozan has stunk this basho. But at least he’s done better than Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze needs a win to stay in Makuuchi, unless he’s planning a trip to the barbers.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Why is this match happening? Well, you see, the schedulers ran out of matches that made sense. So they just put everyone’s shikona on a shōji and started throwing chopsticks. That or they hired one of those psychic octopuses that seem to always predict the World Cup. Anyhow, Tochiozan has this odd habit of beating Tamawashi. And after the hospital bill Tamawashi has racked up, he needs a bit of a beating.

Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – We wanted a Sekiwake battle, but instead we got this guy against Captain Yusho / Ōkatō. Ok, fine. Let the chopsticks fall where they may. The only other time they matched, Mitakeumi overpowered him. Yutakayama has been especially genki, but I as long as Mitakeumi did not drain too many sake casks with his celebration, he will be able to dispatch this rising star.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Endo has faded like a “Relect Yoshihiko Noda” poster. But Ichinojo needs one win for kachi-koshi. But ask yourself, does Ichinojo deserve a kachi-koshi? I love the pony-tossing Mongolian behemoth, but his sumo has been terrible this tournament. I say turn him out and let him get his act together.

Goeido vs Takayasu – My advice to both, make it look good but nobody get hurt. Both of you survived in no small part because all of the bigger predators were sidelined. Be thankful and go home and get healthy. Especially you, you big hairy mess. I was happy to see that once you were really hurt you decided you could compete with sumo skill. So you didn’t forget!

Nagoya Day 14 Preview

Yoshikaze Day 12

There are two men who could tie Mitakeumi if an unlikely series of events were to occur. Mitakeumi would have to lose his remaining two matches, and one the two valedictorians of the Freshmen class would have to win out. Word to Dewanoumi, I know its been a while, but get that fish ready.

Sadly, I must confess I have now re-watched the Goeido – Mitakeumi bout at least 5 times, and I have yet to watch the general broadcast with my family later today. That match simply does not get old. It’s on par with the Kisenosato – Terunofuji match from Osaka 2017 in terms of being evergreen.

Apart from that, most of the winners have been sorted from the losers, and the body count from Nagoya is higher than most tournaments anyone can remember. Three Yokozuna, one Ozeki, and two Maegashira all kyujo going into the final weekend. In addition we have Yoshikaze on some kind of death-march towards a perfect anti-yusho (hanyusho), which for his fans (which I am one) find heartbreaking. I am pretty sure it does not make the English language NHK highlight reel, but the crowds in Nagoya cheer Yoshikaze, yelling encouragement to him every single time.

For you fans who like to stay up in the middle of the night, or are up early in Europe, NHK will be streaming live in about 6 hours. Tune in and enjoy!

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
HuntersYutakayama, Asanoyama

2 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Sadanoumi vs Ryuden – Both men need one more win for kachi-koshi. Sadanoumi has been showing some good speed, but his sumo at this amplitude seems to be fairly chaotic at times. Some days it works, some days it fails.

Chiyomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a chance to go for double digits, when he battles an already make-koshi Chiyomaru who has never beaten Hokutofuji.

Chiyoshoma vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is one loss away from make-koshi, so they put him against Chiyoshoma, whom he has never beaten. But I think Nishikigi can and will gamberize. If for no other reason than hapless Chiyoshoma is really doing poorly right now.

Takarafuji vs Onosho – Takarafuji is one loss away from make-koshi, so they put him against Onosho, whom he has never beaten (see the pattern here?). As always, the scheduling team likes to end the basho on a very Darwinistic note.

Endo vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama is still technically in the yusho race. But when you put him against Asanoyama, there is a strong chance that he will be rinsed out of contention. But it’s not a lock. Endo has faded quite a bit since his kachi-koshi, and Asanoyama seems to be unintimidated by higher ranked rikishi. Endo does hold a 2-0 career advantage, but Asanoyama strikes me as the kind of person who would not let those numbers enter into his mind.

Meisei vs Yoshikaze – Well, you’ve come this far, my hero of the dohyo. You may as well see it done.

Ikioi vs Takakeisho – A fun battle to sort rikishi for san’yaku slots in September. We have Ikioi, who’s sumo has the subtle finish of a cast iron mallet, and we have the Takakeisho’s wave-action technique. Frankly I don’t think Takakeisho is going to get to use any wave-action on day 14. Ikioi will charge him down from the start. Takakeisho holds a 2-0 career lead over Ikioi, so I think its time to start to even that score.

Shodai vs Abi – I look at this as a confidence rebuilder for Shodai. But he is habitually high at the tachiai, and Abi works well when his opponent can present their face for punishment. Seriously though, I think Shodai has a clear advantage here in that he’s due to turn the corner and find his sumo.

Tamawashi vs Chiyotairyu – Thanks to Herouth, we know what Chiyotairyu said about his day 14 match: “Chiyotairyu asked about his bout with Tamawashi tomorrow: “Oh, it’s Crusher Tamawashi? I’ll take care not to be a victim. Revenge [for Chiyonokuni]? I’ll kachi-age him all the way to Ulaan-Baatar… though I’ll end up in [Tokyo] Machiya Eki-mae myself…”

Kagayaki vs Shohozan – Both are already make-koshi, so file this one under “The joys of large men hitting each other rather forcefully”. With any luck we will get so see some of Kagayaki’s school of sumo.

Tochiozan vs Mitakeumi – An odd bout, but ok! We have Maegashira 9 Tochiozan going up against the yusho leader. I have been enjoying Tochiozan’s sumo quite a bit. When he’s on its great to watch how tight and efficient he fights. So I will watch with interest as he takes on Mitakeumi, who seems to have an idea of how to beat everyone who is still competing in this crazy, broken down, half hospitalized basho.

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo is one defeat from a well deserved make-koshi. All of us can only hope that Goeido actually remembers to win on day 14. He has cleared kadoban, so this is just a match to bring Ichinojo closer to the cleansing, natural soil of Yamato.

Yutakayama vs Takayasu – Takayasu had to fight someone before the day 15 match with Goeido. Why not let the leading freshman, and quite genki, Yutakayama square off against an Ozeki? Naturally this is their first time meeting, but I am going to predict we will see them fight many times in the next few years.

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 11 Preview

Kaisei Day 10

Bring on the third act of Nagoya! What’s the plan for act 3? 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. Right now we have Mitakeumi 2 wins ahead of everyone else, with just two rikishi in striking range, both of them from the bottom of the banzuke. Behind that is a mass of 9 rikishi at 7 wins (3 behind Mitakeumi), many of whom would provide credible threats. This includes both Ozeki, and human chaos machine Takakeisho.

While many fans, and some of our readers seem to regard Nagoya as “sumo light” due to the depleted Yokozeki ranks, I actually think that this basho (and possibly Aki) are the ones to watch. We are probably at or near a memorable deflection point in the flow of sumo history, and this unique basho, with its top men out, is the time when our new favorites show themselves. Look at it this way – by not competing, the upper level rikishi have a chance to rest and recover, but they are also gradually losing their edge. They return healthier and better able to fight, but their skills do in fact atrophy. If you need examples – Kisenosato can’t actually fight at San’yaku levels now, it’s been too long since he competed. Hakuho returns from each kyujo a little less unbeatable.

The future is being built today in the hot and humid air of Nagoya. I firmly believe it will lead to a clash of the past vs the future at Aki, which has the potential to be one of the great sumo tournaments of our age.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
Hunters – Asanoyama, Tochiozan
Peloton – Goeido, Takayasu, Takakeisho, Kaisei, Endo, Chiyotairyu, Myogiryu, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Ryuden vs Onosho – Onosho needs to regroup, and his day 11 match against Ryuden is a great chance to do just that. His only prior match against Ryuden was a win in November of 2016 in Juryo. A lot has changed since then.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – Asanoyama has been fighting very well, and is already kachi-koshi. The question is: can he run up the score? The biggest worry being that he does and promotes to a level he can’t yet handle. Nishikigi is struggling a bit, but I think he can still get his 8 before Sunday.

Chiyomaru vs Meisei – Meisei has a make-koshi on the line, and his return to Juryo hangs in the balance. Chiyomaru is shaky at best, so this will be a contest of the desperate vs the uncomfortable.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has kachi-koshi at stake on day 11, and like Asanoyama he could run up the score and find himself in a tough spot for Aki. Sadanoumi continues to plug away with worthy sumo, and I think he could surprise Yutakayama.

Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Winner kachi-koshi. Note the M9 to M16 gap between their ranks. As mentioned before Nagoya, a healthy Hokutofuji is at least mid-Maegashira class, so this is a fair fight, possibly a bit in Hokutofuji’s favor.

Takarafuji vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko is also facing a possible make-koshi and a likely return to Juryo if he can’t get his 8. Takarafuji has been looking quite un-genki in during act 2, and is wandering close to the make-koshi line as well. This is their first ever match.

Tochiozan vs Chiyotairyu – This is possibly my match of the first half. Chiyotairyu could reach kachi-koshi if he can defeat the rather genki Tochiozan. This is going to be smooth, tight efficient sumo vs an out of control sumo-reactor ready to blow.

Kyokutaisei vs Yoshikaze – As a die hard Yoshikaze fan, I now want to see if he can get his 15 consecutive losses. Or will Kyokutaisei derail his one-man crusade to turn in the worst possible record for a single tournament?

Endo vs Takakeisho – Yes, yes oh yes! This one is my chuumoku-no-ichiban. Endo has a weak spot when defending against someone who is really sharp in oshi-zumo. So Endo is going to need to do NOT do what he has done the past 2 days. On day 9 and 10, Endo let his opponent take the initiative and dictate the form and cadence of the match. If he does that, Takakeisho will disrupt Endo’s sumo and give him a clay and sand facial. Will we see more Takakeisho wave-action attacks? I do hope so. In addition, this is their first ever match.

Abi vs Kagayaki – I don’t know what to make of this. Abi has had a rough basho, and is already make-koshi. Kagayaki needs to win-out in order to not go make-koshi himself. I am sure at this point, Abi may try something odd and new.

Shodai vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku may have injured himself in his short distance flight from the dohyo. He is one loss away from make-koshi, so he needs to find some way to win out. His day 11 opponent is Shodai, who is very soft and light this tournament.

Chiyonokuni vs Shohozan – Shohozan holds a 7-2 career lead over Chiyonokuni, but Chiyonokuni is looking aggressive, fast and creative this basho. Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins for kachi-kochi, and day 11 may be the next step on that road.

Tamawashi vs Ikioi – It’s good to see Ikioi healthy and fighting well again, after a long painful period where it was clear he was always in pain and had problems moving. But over his career, Tamawashi has beaten him 10 times (vs 4), and holds a clear advantage in terms of executing “combat sumo”, which they both seem to favor.

Kaisei vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has never beaten Kaisei. Think that through. If he beats Kaisei, it’s another indicator that Mitakeumi has really gamberized, and is operating at a higher level of performance. There is a LOT of Kaisei to fight. Although he is usually slow and lumbering, his niku-dango shaped body is preposterous in scale, and his sumo fundamentals are sound. Good luck King Tadpole!

Ichinojo vs Takayasu – What do you do with this one? Takayasu needs one more to get safely out of kadoban. Ichinojo has shown himself to be an unreliable opponent. His sumo against Yoshikaze day 10 was puzzling. Meanwhile, Takayasu keeps underperforming, and is likely suffering from multiple mechanical injuries now.

Goeido vs Daishomaru – Goeido gets a creampuff match for the musubi-no-ichiban. A win today (and he had better win) would clear kadoban. A Daishomaru loss would leave him make-koshi.

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

Day 9 Dohyo Iri

With day 9 in the books, it’s clear that Mitakeumi is headed for double digits as Sekiwake for his first time ever. His sumo is strong, confident, efficient and effective. Right now he is fighting better than any man still in the basho. But as we come to close out act 2 tomorrow, the battleground will change from the dohyo to the mind. Pressure will mount on Mitakeumi, anticipation and expectations will start to cloud his thoughts. He has the mechanics to take it to the yusho, but the question will come down to: “Can he think his way though this”. If he can, we are likely to see Ozeki Mitakeumi by this time next year. Should Mitakeumi succumb to his own demons, the chances that Tochiozan, Endo or Takayasu will be there to capture the prize are a bit shaky, but very real. While Asanoyama is lauded to be sitting with just 1 loss at this point is to be lauded, I expect the schedulers to throw him some problems starting day 11.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Asanoyama kachi-koshi, and remains 1 behind Mitakeumi. As an upstanding member of the group I call “The Freshmen”, Asanoyama has shown solid sumo for several tournaments. Do I think he’s a yusho contender? Not really, but I think he’s one to watch for the years to come. Ishiura chose to meet him head on, but bounced off of his broad chest.

Tochiozan defeats Meisei – Meisei came in strong from the tachiai, and had excellent hand and foot placement, going chest to chest with Tochiozan. But the veteran showed his amazingly efficient sumo once more. I marvel at watching how little energy and movement it takes Tochiozan to turn the tables on Meisei and toss him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – Watch how low Hokutofuji is at the tachiai. He knew Onosho was going to come in low, and in spite of his large body, managed to come in below Onosho. Hokutofuji engages in some highly effective hazu-oshi (armpit attack), scooting Onoshi towards the bales. Onosho rallies for a moment, but Hokutofuji lays in with a nodawa, leading Onosho out by the neck. Ouch!

Chiyomaru defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi bounces off Chiyomaru’s belly at the tachiai, and although Chiyomaru seems to control most of the match, once Okinoumi rallies at the tawara, Chiyomaru is almost immediately in trouble. Chiyomaru does recover enough to execute a kotenage for the win, but it’s clear that Chiyomaru quickly runs out of energy in the heat hauling that much Unadon around.

Nishikigi defeats Daieisho – They went in at 4-4, with a career record of 4 to 4, and I think the match started fairly close to 4:44 in the afternoon. It was fairly straightforward Nishikigi oshidashi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kyokutaisei might have just saved his Makuuchi posting with his second win of the tournament. It was half hikiotoshi, half slippiotoshi, but he got the job done.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Endo drops to 2 losses, which reduces the chances he can contend for the yusho. He allowed Yutakayama to dictate the terms and cadence of the match, and from the moment he was reacting rather than attacking, he was done.

Takakeisho defeats Yoshikaze – We saw more “wave action” today against Yoshikaze, and the ailing berserker gave him a good match. But it was really just Takakeisho playing with him until it was time to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Abi – Points to Abi, he went for a right hand mawashi grip straight into the tachiai. Sadly, he is clearly not very skilled at this kind of fight, and Chiyonokuni put him away easily. Abi – practice that. Look what it did for Mitakeumi. With your reach and body proportions, you could win a lot of matches with a hybrid approach. Is it just me, or does Chiyonokuni seems surprisingly good natured these day? I believe the man is actually enjoying his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi goes chest to chest with the Kyushu bulldozer at the tachiai. But this match was all Ikioi, as he never allows Kotoshogiku to square his hips. Instead, Ikioi simply overpowers Kotoshogiku and tosses him from the dohyo. Impressive win.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – The match starts with an odd and mis-timed tachiai that could almost have bene a matta if it were not Shodai. Shohozan keeps him reacting and disrupted, and Shodai is easily dispatched.

Mitakeumi defeats Daishomaru – Mitakeumi remains unbeaten, and in excellent form. Daishomaru had not effective offense, although he presented a solid, low tachiai.

Kaisei defeats Ichinojo – A match that unfolded in a languid and turgid manner. Of course it featured Ichinojo giving up and softly going away.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi gave the Ozeki a bold and vigorous match, and in fact controlled the action right up until Takayasu’s rescue move at the bales. Takayasu is racking the wins up, but his sumo was especially crummy today.

Goeido defeats Kagayaki – Professor Kagayaki did in fact apply is excellent fundamentals against Goeido, and gave him more trouble than a Maegashira 4 should present to an Ozeki. Goeido got an inside grip at the tachiai, and worked hard to finish him before Kagayaki could get set up to attack. It nearly worked, but Kagayaki made a valiant stand at the tawara, and returned pressure to the Ozeki to bring them back to the center, now chest to chest. Kagayaki then attacked, driving Goeido back and rotated for a throw, which failed. Driving forward, Kagayaki tried to disrupt Goeido’s defense with a nodowa, but Goeido deftly realized his opponent was horribly balanced, rotated and applied an uwatenage for the win.

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 Highlights

Nagoay Day 6

We open act two with the crazy dial set to extreme, and everything turned on its head. It’s likely that the Nagoya basho is going to be the most brutal tournament in a while, with everyone’s favorites for the yusho ending up in puzzling places in the final yusho arasoi. Let’s break it down.

Yokozuna Kakuryu – Announced he was kyuju at the start of day 6. To Tachiai readers who have been able to keep up with the information firehose, this comes as no surprise, as we had noted that his body mechanics and his sumo were telegraphing that he was injured. Thanks to Herouth, we now know it was an injury to his elbow.

Ozeki Tochinoshin – Following Day 6 action, it was announced that the shin-Ozeki and pride of Georgia had suffered a strain to his right knee. That is the knee that is always mummified on the dohyo, and is perpetually threatening to send him to the barber. His fall to the lower ranks and struggle to climb to Ozeki revolves around earlier damage to that knee. I am going to guess they are going to take no chances with it.

Ozeki Takayasu – He strained his left elbow on day 5, and seemed to really be impacted by it on day 7. He is 4 wins away from the safety of kachi-koshi, and is the second highest man on the banzuke. I am going to guess he will gamberize.

Where this one is going now is anyone’s guess, but suddenly Mitakeumi and Endo are the ones to watch. But before anyone things this is the end of sumo, I will say I think we have 2 new Ozeki and 2 new Yokozuna in the upper division today. They just have to work out who they are, and the old guard needs to fade a bit more for it to happen.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura starts with submarine sumo, and Meisei doing his best to fold him in half for easier recycling. Although Meisei seems to have the better position, Ishiura is comfortable folded in half, and battles with the conviction of angry origami. Realizing that origamikiri is not going to win, Meisei starts trying to raise Ishiura up. Hell, that’s not working either. The harder Meisei attacks, the more Ishiura folds himself up. It’s Jinki-zumo on full display! Everyone out of the water now! But Meisei knows the best way to defeat a turtle is to roll him on his back, and that is what he proceeds to do. Wonderful match. Hey, Ishiura – MORE Jinki-zumo please!

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – As mentioned in the preview, there are basically the same rikishi 5 years apart. It was no surprise that the match featured an extended chest-to-chest stalemate at the shikiri-sen. As a wise man once said, “Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything!”. Multiple times they both tried to defeat the other with more or less mirror image sumo. But eventually age won out and Ryuden had to settle for the kuroboshi.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Another highly symmetrical fight, but Asanoyama is a bit more genki, and was able to dispatch his elder with an uwatedashinage.

Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – Watch that tachiai! Hokutofuji goes Ukiyo-e with a classic left hand at center mass, right hand at the chin of Sadanoumi. Nearly perfect mechanics to that attack, and Sadanoumi was on defense, and it was all responding to Hokutofuji’s sumo. Maybe Hokutofuji’s ring-rust has been scrubbed clean now, and we are going to see some of his rather excellent sumo.

Arawashi defeats Kotoeko – Notable that Arawashi finally has his first win of the tournament. It was short, direct and over in a hurry.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Ok, that’s more like it. Onosho launches into the tachiai, goes chest to chest with Chiyomaru and pushes with conviction. It’s over fast and Onosho looks like he’s found some of his sumo once more.

Kyokutaisei defeats Nishikigi – Hokkaido man Kyokutaisei gets his first win of the basho at last, converting Nishikigi’s attempt at a throw into his own sukuinage.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma put forth the effort, but this was Takarafuji’s style of sumo. The two were chest to chest early, and Takarafuji seems to have a lot of endurance, and absorbed everything Chiyoshoma tried, and tried again. When Chiyoshoma began to wear down, Takarafuji went deep with a left hand inside / right hand outside and advanced into a spread-leg uwatenage.

Yutakayama defeats Daieisho – Oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi… OUT! Yutakayama extends his winning streak over Daieisho. Yutakayama seems to be getting the hang of his bulkier form.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I see Yoshikaze going to the barber soon.

Endo defeats Kaisei – With Kaisei’s mass, if you get him falling backward, he does keep falling for a while. I am sure the ladies swooned as Endo kindly gave a hand to help haul the giant back upright. Keep an eye on Endo, with the top end of the banzuke in tatters, he smells opportunity.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki – An excellent bout from Chiyotairyu. He has correctly identified that Kagayaki gets worried when going up against a large opponent, and will juice his tachiai. This leaves him unbalanced for a moment following the collision, and susceptible to being turned, dislodged and generally run amok.

Ikioi defeats Shohozan – After a matta, Shohozan was a bit slow at the tachiai the second try. Ikioi got close and kept one hand pushing against Shohozan at all times. Classic Ikioi winning sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – The Kyushu bulldozer is NOT intimidated by this boulder. Ichinojo works hard to keep Kotoshogiku from squaring his hips and starting his preferred attack. What impressed me about the early portion of this match was how low Ichinojo was for a part of it. I am quite sure this kept Kotoshogiku busier than he expected. Kotoshogiku loaded a throw, but had nowhere near the leverage needed to rotate the Mongolian giant. With Kotoshogiku dangerously off balance, Ichinojo advanced strongly but lost his grip on his opponent. Then he seemed to just give up.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – The Mitakeumi fan club was on hand to watch the undefeated Sekiwake take full advantage of Shodai’s weak tachiai, landing a shallow left hand grip immediately, and swinging Shodai to the side. With his balanced ruined, Shodai was easy to move to the west side and dump him over the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takakeisho has thus far looked very disorganized, his sumo was uncoordinated, reactive and lacked his usually aggressive edge. That was gone today as he overpowered Takayasu and blasted him from the dohyo. Takayasu started with that ridiculous and pointless shoulder-blast, which Takakeisho absorbed, waited for the Ozeki to recoil, and gave him a wave-action tsuppari. This rocked Takayasu to his heels, and Takakeisho blasted forward. Takayasu was little more than clumsy dead-weight today. Delighted we had genuine Takakeisho sumo today.

Goeido defeats Abi – Goeido came off the shikiri-sen low and fast, and Abi, to his credit, attempted to counter. But the Ozeki contained, restrained, and applied the uwatenage.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tough match for Tochinoshin. He opened oshi-style, but it was not getting him any advantage. He then tried for a pull, which left him high. Of course Tamawashi sensed the pull coming, and grabbed the Ozeki center mass and pushed forward. Tochinoshin recognizes he is in trouble and circles away. But now he is hideously off balance, and he has handed control of the match to Tamawashi. Tochinoshin reaches for Tamawashi’s belt, but his feet are set at an odd angle, and he is still off balance. Tamawashi plays this perfectly and rolls the Ozeki forward and over for a clean kotenage. I think that Tochinoshin’s attempt to lunge for a grip with his feet not set was the moment he put his injured right at jeopardy. Hopefully he can get it addressed.

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 Highlights

ikioi tegata

Overnight, the big news was that Yokozuna Hakuho withdrew from competition. The notification came quite late in the day, and took many by surprise. According to sources, he strained his right knee warming up prior to his day 2 bout, and the problems have been increasing ever sense. Thanks to Herouth for posting about it while the US part of the Tachiai team were snug in our beds.

Hakuho fans will note that he has yet to win a yusho in 2018, and for the most dominant man in the history of sumo, this is a big deal. With just 2 tournaments remaining, the chances that “The Boss” will pick up yusho #41 are fading for this year. The biggest benefactor from this unfortunate turn of evens is clearly Goeido. With his loss today, he drops to 2-2 and is looking rather shaky. His week 2 fight card just went from 2 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki, all of which were likely to beat him, to 1 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki. Frankly, for Goeido this could be the difference between clearing kadoban or not.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Hokutofuji – Meisei wins his first match of the basho going yotzu against Hokutofuji. At this level of the banzuke, Hokutofuji should normally be cleaning up, but that massive bandage on his right leg probably tells the story. Hopefully he can get his body repaired, as he has a huge amount of potential.

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Visiting Juryoist Takagenji dismantles Ishiura’s chicanery for a fairly convincing win, which is also his first to the tournament as well as his first win in Makuuchi!

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama had a good tachiai, but Ryuden quickly reached for, and obtained a solid left hand deep grip which he converted to a mae-mitsu after turning Asanoyama around. Ryuden was completely dominant in this match, and seems to have cleared his earlier ring rust successfully.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – Tochiozan very effectively contained Onosho’s offense, and kept him from really setting up any attack. Onosho drove for, and got, inside Tochiozan. But Tochiozan used his close position to keep Onosho from really getting a solid stance, or any effective thrusting room. I am going to guess Onosho’s knee is still not quite good enough for full power sumo. Plus – no red mawashi.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Another strong showing from Nishikigi today. I do like the fact that he’s just driving forward every day, and it seems to be working for him. Chiyomaru continues the the slide that started in Osaka, and we have to wonder if maybe his body is too big for his sumo. (fixed)

Chiyoshoma defeats Kyokutaisei – Battle of the no-win rikishi, with Chiyoshoma coming out on top. The bout was a oshi-match, and it was Kyokutaisei who lost his balance first, and Chiyoshoma pulled him to the clay.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – Chiyotairyu attacks with a massive cannon ball tachiai, which Endo absorbs well, and as Endo advances he reaches deep with his right hand for Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. Chiyotairyu reads this perfectly, and routes Endo’s energy forward and away. Clean, solid technique win from Chiyotairyu.

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – a protracted battle of the purple mawashi set, it was a struggle for grip that saw Yoshikaze too far forward most of the time, and finished by Takarafuji’s pull down from his grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s mawashi.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Outstanding yotsu battle. When Kaisei landed morozashi, it was clear how this was going to end, but Kagayaki kept battling on. I still think Kagayaki has a lot of potential, and he continues to make steady if gradual progress.

Takakeisho defeats Daishomaru – Takakeisho looked a bit early into the tachiai, and Daishomaru was a half step behind from the start. Daishomaru could not set up an effective defense or counter to Takakeisho’s forceful forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – “Big Guns” Shohozan picks up his first win of the basho, and it’s clear that Ichinojo is not at all genki right now. Ichinojo traded face blows with Shohozan, but seemed to offer little resistance once Shohozan started to advance.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi launched strong and low into Tamawashi, who went for the immediate nodowa to try to raise him up. Tamawashi continued to focus on Mitakeumi’s face and shoulders, while Mitakeumi focused on center mass and moving forward. Tamawashi was unable to hold back Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, and it was over in a hurry. Mitakeumi is finally looking very solid, and we may see him finally reach double digits.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate as he frantically danced about to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. After his traditional double arm thrust at the tachiai, the match devolved into chaos. At this level of the banzuke, Abi is not making much headway with his antics.

Takayasu defeats Shodai – Takayasu delivers his no obligatory enormous shoulder blast from the tachiai, which almost tossed Shodai out of the ring on its own. Is it sumo? Maybe in Japan. To me this looks like bumper-cars.

Kotoshogiku defeats Goeido – A dreaded kuroboshi for the kadoban Goeido. Kotoshogiku took early control and pushed Goeido backward to the tawara, where the Ozeki managed to rally and advance. Goeido tried a trip, failed, rotated into a throw, failed, then slipped and broke his grip. Kotoshogiku responded in the blink of an eye and thrust Goeido to the clay.

Ikioi defeats Kakuryu – Ikioi hits strong at the tachiai, and goes hazuoshi (armpit attack) at once. This seems to destabilize the Yokozuna, and Ikioi moves forward strongly, keeping his hips low. Kakuryu breaks contact, but before he can dodge, Ikioi charges center-mass and launches the Yokozuna off the dohyo. Great sumo from Ikioi today, well earned Kinboshi, and the purple rain falls in Nagoya.

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.