Today was anticipated to be a day of big sumo, and it was all of that and more. There were a host of good matches, from the brilliant opening win by Endo to the brutal tadpole brawl to end the day, some top flight performance from everyone, event hit or miss Chiyoshoma showed us good sumo today.
In Juryo, top division aspirant Asanoyama narrowly won against the hulking Kazakh Kinbozan. A tough match from start to finish, the win gives Asanoyama sole possession of the lead in the Juryo yusho race. The question on many fan’s mind – will he be posted back to the top division for March?
The crowning element of this excellent day of sumo was the final battle, the musubi-no-ichiban, we saw Onosho and Takakeisho beat each other bloody in a battle where the lone surviving Ozeki to clawed his way back into co-leading the yusho race. We ended the day with a 3 way tie for the lead between Takakeisho, Onosho, and Kotoshoho, who also won his day 13 match. We have 2 days of regulation remaining, and how this ends up is going to be a lot of fun figure out, as events unfold.
Enho defeats Mitoryu – It’s been a while since people who watch the NHK dailies got a chance to watch Enho, and some folks new to the sport may have never seen him before. It was fantastic that he brought his “A” game today, with some magnificent, well executed sumo. Mitoryu had the size, weight and maybe a few more advantages, but Enho had the technique. Once Enho was inside Mitoryu’s defenses, it was quick work to push his wide body out. Enho returns to Juryo 7-6, with my hopes he can be promoted for March.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Kagayaki – In a match where the winner would be kachi-koshi, and it’s not unexpected that Ichiyamamoto might win. But when he stoped his double arm thrusting attack, and grabbed Kagayaki’s mawashi, I think he had an element of surprise against his opponent. It sure surprised me. Nice work by Ichiyamamoto to claim his 8th win, with a yorikiri, now 8-5.
Azumaryu defeats Chiyoshoma – A fine example of tsuki/oshi work from Chiyoshoma today. With those kind of chops, I wish he could deliver about 15% more power, he would be winning matches left right and sideways. I love that he never stops attacking in this match, but Azumaryu seems to be incredibly patient today, wearing Chiyoshoma down. Eventually Azumaryu gets a throw in, taking Chiyoshoma out, he’s make-koshi now at 5-8, while Azumaryu improves to 9-4.
Aoiyama defeats Endo – Aoiyama fired up the V-Twin today, and ran that hog over Endo like he was a pothole. Endo missed his early attempts to get a belt grip, and decided he would just duke it out with Big Dan. “Bold move Cotton, let’s see how that works out…” Endo takes the oshitaoshi express into one of Sadanoumi’s salt baskets. Aoiyama now 8-5 and kachi-koshi.
Takanosho defeats Chiyomaru – Another example of Chiyomaru’s injury removing almost all forms of sumo from his fight menu. All he could try was a quick blow to stand Takanosho up and a pull back / down. Takanosho knew it was coming. The gyoji knew it was coming. The gal at the combini in Kinshicho who does not even like sumo knew it was coming. Takanosho motors ahead and drives Chiyomaru out, improving to 6-7.
Kotoeko defeats Ura – Ura had a significant advantage, but then decided a pull was in order to finish Kotoeko off. When those things fail, the do tend to fail in a big way. Kotoeko powered forward, blasting Ura out with a yoritaoshi into that same poor salt basket, improving to 7-6.
Tsurugisho defeats Myogiryu – I think Tsurugisho’s “stand up, put both arms out” tachiai surprised Myogiryu. I think while Myogiryu was trying to think of what to do next, he was not quite ready to defend against Tsurugisho’s hatakikomi, and hit the deck. Tsurugisho advances to 6-7, in a smart bit of match strategy there.
Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji has now lost 4 of the last 5, and I worry this could be it for him. He still just needs one more win to reach kachi-koshi and a life line to stay in the top division. But as we are aware, Nishikigi is greatly improved this basho, and when Nishikigi got hidariyotsu right at the tachiai, I knew it was going to be trouble for Takarafuji. Credit to Takarafuji, he tried a couple of throw attempts, but their failure left him with poor footing, and wide open to Nishikigi’s sukuinage, which dropped Takarafuji near the other salt basket this time. Nishikigi improves to 8-5 and is kachi-koshi.
Oho defeats Sadanoumi – Oho still has some sumo left in him, it seems. He gets Sadanoumi too far forward and slaps him down with a hearty hatakikomi, picking up his second win of January, now 2-11.
Kotoshoho defeats Abi – How remarkable is this basho for Kotoshoho? His best top division performance ever was at 10-5 result from Aki in 2020. He could lose every match from here on out and equal his best. The chances are more likely that he will get one or two more wins in the final days, and this will be his personal best. Abi gets a bit too wild after Kotoshoho does not yield to Abi’s double arm pounding, and Kotoshoh sets him up for the side step and tsukiotoshi that followed. I would love to think that this is Kotoshoho’s “new normal”, but that will best be judged in March. Kotoshoho stays on the leader board at 10-3
Daieisho defeats Hiradoumi – Who doesn’t love a mutual windmill thrusting battle? These two guys were full throttle from the tachiai, and had no restraint. Daieisho had a bit more power, and chipped away at Hiradoumi’s position, until he had him at the bales and thrust him out. Excellent sumo action, Daieisho now 9-4.
Tobizaru defeats Mitakeumi – Oh Mitakeumi, what the hell was that? You thought you would be cheeky and try to henka the flying monkey? No sir, not a working plan. Tobizaru captures Mitakeumi in mid flight and runs him to the exit. Mitakeumi now make-koshi at 5-8, Tobizaru improves to 6-7.
Wakamotoharu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was over eager to start the fight, and we had a series of matta. The fight itself saw Hokutofuji unable to exploit his narrow window of advantage to finish Wakamotoharu, instead leaving him with his heels on the tawara, and ready to rally. Wakamotoharu did rally, and drove forward without pause to force Hokutofuji from the ring. Both men end the day 7-6.
Nishikifuji defeats Meisei – A battle of the make-koshi, Meisei had the advantage early, and got his chance when Nishikifuji executed a poorly considered pulling attempt. Rather than drive it back down Nishikifuji’s throat, Meisei counters with his own pulling attempt, and finds himself defenseless to Nishikifuji attack. A quick sukuinage finishes Meisei off, and both me end the day 4-9.
Kotonowaka defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi may have had a bit too much focus on Kotonowaka’s head and face, and missed a big opportunity to apply force to Kotonowaka’s chest. This give Kotonowaka all of the room he needed to get his offense started, which turned out to be quite effective today. When Tamawashi moved to drive forward, Kotonowaka had the body position to back away and drop Tamawashi to the clay. Tough outcome for Tamawashi, but Kotonowaka picks up a most welcome win and is 6-7.
Kiribayama defeats Midorifuji – An impressive display from Midorifuji today. He attacked from underneath, and was able to confound and then stalemate Kiribayama’s attempt to draw him attacking his upper body (which would have raised him up). He was able too stalemate Kiribayama near the center of the ring for a time, but chose to break contact and attempt a throw. It was instantly shut down, and Kiribayama tossed him at (yes, it’s true), that same poor salt basket. Kiribayama now 9-4, the salt basket is in the ICU.
Wakatakakage defeats Hoshoryu – I get the impression that Hoshoryu’s ankle is degrading day to day, as each day he mounts the dohyo, he has a bit less power transmitted to ground. A prime example today is the moment before Wakatakakage crushes Hoshoryu to the clay, he has that left leg nearly straight, and is deflecting pressure that would normally put lateral stress on that ankle. This leaves him unable to react to Wakatakakage’s winning move. Both men end the day 7-6, and Wakatakakage may squeeze out a kachi-koshi yet.
Ryuden defeats Shodai – Brilliant match from Ryuden today. Shodai was all defense, as he could not find a way to get Ryuden raised up. Once Ryuden gets that right hand outside, he has control of the match. Three steps later he walks Shodai out, and earns kachi-koshi for January, at 8-5.
Takakeisho defeats Onosho – This is in fact what the fans all wanted to see. Two tadpoles beating each other senseless with everything on the line. Highlights for me? Onosho’s use of “wave action”, Takakeisho responding with a round house slap to the face. That slap set up the dive into Onosho’s chest from Takakeisho that blasted him out of the ring. Great oshi-zumo today from both men, brutal, fast effective, and potent. Both are now 10-3, creating a 3 way tie for the cup to start day 14.