All eyes might be on Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Hakuho and Kakuryu, but I’m going to keep my spotlight aimed at mid and lower Makuuchi for a bit longer, because some of these bouts were very good sumo, and because I’m eagerly watching to see who can and can’t avoid demotion.
Ryuden – Kotoyuki. As I said before, Kotoyuki really needed this win, and I didn’t expect it to be easy for him. However, he pulled it off, a fine display of oshi-zumo keeping Ryuden at arms’ length and stopping him getting anything resembling a mawashi grip. It was really more Ryuden’s loss than Kotoyuki’s win, since the Takadagawa-beya man misjudged his place in the ring and stepped outside while retreating, but Kotoyuki definitely deserves credit for clearly winning the tachiai and preventing Ryuden from ever getting a touch of the belt.
Ishiura – Nishikigi. Another “must-win”, and although Ishiura’s sumo looked solid yesterday, he can’t pull it off again. Nishikigi’s rising arms prevent the low tachiai, and Ishiura finds himself entangled, controlled, and forced out. He can’t disengage, he can’t get low enough to lever Nishikigi upright, and with only a right outside grip he can’t manage a throw. Ishiura is now make-koshi and his return to Juryo is all but assured.
Okinoumi – Takanosho. Both come in to their first ever meeting with 5-5 scores. Takanosho puts on an excellent display of no-tricks, chest-to-chest sumo without a mawashi grip, and is able to drive Okinoumi (ten years his senior) out with pure force.
Kyokutaisei has apparently decided that if he tries to wrestle on that leg again, it will just come off at the knee. Chiyomaru gets the fusensho and avoids make-koshi for one more day.
Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma. The Villain of Kokonoe-Beya has no interest in moving forwards, and after his hatakikomi attempt fails, his arm-pull fails, and Sadanoumi goes chest-to-chest with arms high, he’s able to perform a Sukuinage (beltless overarm throw) right at the bales and secure a win. I’m still not sure how he manages to find the leverage for that throw and end up on top, although he faceplants down the side of the dohyo for his trouble.
Yoshikaze – Daieisho. Daiesho looked almost like a shorter, rounder Abi in this, with an absolutely unceasing windmill of tsuppari and thrusts that slowly drove Yoshikaze back to the tawara and out.
Takanoiwa – Kotoshogiku. Takanoiwa has a plan here. In the first few seconds of the bout, he’s able to get a good firm belt grip first on the right outside and then the left inside, which does wonders to neutralize the gaburi-yori attack. After Takanoiwa makes two failed attempts to lift him, Kotoshogiki struggles mightily to get the bulldozer into first gear, but Takanoiwa is able to rotate and throw him down with that underarm grip (shitatenage).
Shohozan – Hokutofuji. This bout seems to be all Hokutofuji. With a firm nodawa, an excellent ability to deflect Shohozan’s thrusting attacks, and enough stability to withstand slap-down attempts, Hokutofuji drives Shohozan on two complete laps of the dohyo before finally shoving him out. With this win, Hokutofuji is kachi-koshi.
No-one is going to call Aoiyama – Onosho a highlight with a straight face. Onosho is now disappointingly make-koshi. It was at least better sumo than Daishomaru‘s henka win over Asanoyama.
Myogiryu – Takarafuji. Myogiryu gets both hands inside from the tachiai, and when Takarafuji tries to retreat to avoid being caught in a full moro-zashi, he’s able to follow, withstand the kotenage attempt, and drive him out.
Since the rest of the torikumi involves rikishi from the joi-jin (the upper 16), I’m going to leave that to Herouth to cover.
Its becoming clear that we may be seeing the limit of what Kisenosato can endure for now. After more than 18 months without a full tournament schedule, he may be finding himself running low on stamina. In his bout today, he was completely disrupted by Chiyonokuni, who dominated the match. In fact it was clear that both the Yokozuna and the crowd in the Kokugikan thought that Chiyonokuni had likely won the match. This marks the third time this basho that Chiyonokuni has blown a win by stepping out early, and it’s something he needs to correct.
Overnight Saturday US time, NHK World will once again be broadcasting live the final hour of Makuuchi. Team Tachiai is trying to decide if there will be a live blog or not. If we are going to live-blog the event, we will post a notice before evening.
Takanosho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze again gets too far forward, and is easily sent out. It was great to see Yoshikaze start 5-0, and it’s a good bet he will pick up the remaining 3 for a kachi-koshi. This win lifts Takanosho above .500, and he has to be pleased with his debut tournament thus far.
Takanoiwa defeats Ishiura – Takanoiwa anticipates Ishiura’s henka (everyone does it seems) and Ishiura has no way to escape the counter-attack. Its looking increasingly likely Ishiura will be back in Juryo.
Ryuden defeats Chiyoshoma – Two rikishi who have reputations for using matta and henka in their matches actually throw down and decide to battle. They both gave it a lot of effort, and it looked like real sumo.
Chiyomaru defeats Aoiyama – Once again, Aoiyama goes tumbling from the kind of shove that he normally laughs off. Clearly he is injured, and is struggling to stay on his feet and in balance. The win is good news for Chiyomaru, who needs to stay as close to the kachi-koshi line as he can.
Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – The match moved from oshi to yotzu in a blink of an eye, and Hokutofuji was clearly dominating every key element. With a 7-0 start, he is looking increasingly likely to be a real contender for 2019. After recovering from his concussion, his hand injuries and god knows what else, his sumo is fast, tight and aggressive.
Kotoshogiku defeats Daieisho – Strong win by Kotoshogiku, he never did get chest to chest with Daiesho, but he was able to grab a firm hold of him and march forward with strength. It’s a shame this man’s body is fading, he can execute some solid sumo.
Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Best element of the match – the crowd gasps at the loud “crack” at the tachiai. Tochiozan, as is his custom, takes his time and dismantles Asanoyama with efficiency and power. Like Kotoshogiku, the level of skill he possesses far outstrips his aging body’s ability to execute. But on days when he can line them up, he can win.
Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Setting sumo aside, these two decided to recreate the battle of Tsushima, with Myogiryu relegated to the role of the Russian fleet. Both men were bashing each other to bits, but in such a match, the advantage is always to “Big Guns” Shohozan.
Abi defeats Onosho – Onosho brought strength, Abi brought agility, and agility carried the day. I am a Onosho supporter, but he’s still trying to piece together his post-injury sumo, its clear.
Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Ikioi’s strength was not enough to overcome Kaisei’s significant mass and determination to drive forward. Clearly Ikioi is going to have a big reset down the banzuke for Kyushu.
Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho spent the first part of the match using Mitakumi’s face as a punching bag, and the blows rang loudly through the Kokugikan, eliciting gasps from the crowd. Mitakeumi absorbed them all and remained focused. In spite of having his heels of the tawara, Mitakeumi expected Takakeisho to overcommit and lunge to finish him off. He was not wrong. With the timing that underscores Mitakeumi’s sumo skill and ring sense, he moved aside just enough to give Takakeisho an express trip to the clay. Two take-aways from this match: Mitakeumi has rather impressive focus, Takakeisho is maybe a year away from walking the same path Mitakeumi is on now.
Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Sadly, Ichinojo once again gave up, in spite of having the upper hand at the start of the match. It was good news for Tochinoshin, as he is still working to clear kadoban.
Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – These two have a long rivalry, and it showed in today’s match. Many opponents are disrupted by Takayasu’s tachiai, Tamawashi seemed completely unmoved and immediately launched to attack. But in he overcommitted, and Takayasu slapped him forward and down. Tamawashi is also likely to see a big drop down the banzuke for Kyushu.
Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not repeat his magic for day 7, though he clearly got the best of the tachiai. But Goeido seems to be working on some kind of new GoeiDOS 2.2, and I have to say it seems to be a stable build.
Kisenosato defeats Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato won, but once again we have a marathon struggle against a Maegashira that might have gone either way. I would say that Kisenosato is suffering from not having to do 15 days of tournament sumo for the past 18 months, and his stamina may be spent at this point. If he can rack 2 more wins, he can at least claim his kachi-koshi. There is also the specter that he may have had an ankle injury when Chiyotairyu fell on him after Goeido ejected his opponent to win the match.
Hakuho defeats Endo – Endo is a mess right now, and the winning move is listed as koshikudake, meaning Endo fell down on his own. Hakuho was in full battle mode, and his momentum carried him into the first row of zabuton. Looking at the replays, it looks like Endo’s knee gave out. Hopefully it’s not another case for surgery.
Kakuryu defeats Shodai – Straightforward Kakuryu sumo, he continues to look strong and fight in forward gears. I suspect he will be the man to beat for the yusho.
The Great Sumo cat of the Kokugikan started act 2 in terrific style on Friday. Act 2 is usually when chaos and discord are at their most potent in any basho. You think you know who has started well, and you can start to hope that your favorite among the leaders may find a way to win the Emperor’s cup. Dear readers, it’s not over for many days to come. Hopes will be smashed, dreams will be crushed, and only the truly durable will take home the yusho banner.
Heading into the middle weekend of Aki, there are interesting and exiting match ups spread across the sumo day. With a full slate of top rank rikishi still competing, we are in store for some fantastic sumo.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Yoshikaze vs Takanosho – Now that Yoshikaze has his first loss, some of the pressure is off. At the very bottom of the banzuke, he does not need to do anything too extreme, a solid kachi-koshi will suffice. But he’s not the kind of person who will throttle back. Takanosho is keeping his head above water in his first ever Makuuchi tournament, and he has never faced Yoshikaze before. I think this one will be a good amount of fun.
Ishiura vs Takanoiwa – Ishiura is treading ever closer to the express route to Juryo. I feel for the guy; he’s got talent, strength and speed, but he’s small and he has yet to come up with a good sumo cookbook for himself. In a case like this, I have to wonder if being in the same stable as Hakuho may be holding him back. Takanoiwa, on the other hand, looks like he is doing well. I am going to guess he is on a kachi-koshi path.
Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – Ryuden has yet to win one from Chiyoshoma, but this could be his day. Ryuden’s matches have been pretty bland so far, but he is winning. Chiyoshoma seems to be suffering from undercarriage problems again, and his sumo has been chaotic.
Okinoumi vs Kotoyuki – Okinoumi is quite the survivor. He enters his day 7 match with a 8-3 career advantage over Kotoyuki, who seems to have found his sumo again. But with 4 losses already, he has to cook up a solid winning streak to keep himself in the top division.
Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – Aoiyama finally racked up his first win on Friday, and today he faces Chiyomaru, who has never beaten him. At 1-5, Aoiyama is in grave shape. But at 2-4, Chiyomaru is closer to danger. Only ranked Maegashira 14, a significant losing record could remove him from the top division.
Hokutofuji vs Sadanoumi – The only undefeated Maegashira gets what should be a fairly straightforward contest for day 7. Their only prior match went to Hokutofuji. Sadanoumi comes in 4-2, but Hokutofuji is currently out-performing his Maegashira 9 rank.
Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Both rikishi come in with 2-4 records, and both of them seem to be struggling. For Takarafuji there are injuries that have been reported in the press. Kagayaki seems to be just a bit lethargic, and his sumo is having problems producing the same level of power it has earlier in the year.
Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan can be counted on for composed, efficient and calculated sumo each time on the dohyo. Asanoyama seems to be at the height of his form right now, and keeps finding ways to win, even when he’s taking a pounding. With a 2-1 career record, this is probably a fairly even match.
Onosho vs Abi – We saw on day 6 that Abi can improvise when the need strikes, but against Onosho it’s probably going to be a straight slug-fest. Advantage for Abi – his reach. Advantage for Onosho – low center of gravity and speed.
Ikioi vs Kaisei – Both rikishi must view day 7 with great relief. They have completed their tour of the upper ranks for now, and can transition to working on their 8 wins. Ikioi took an especially hard beating during Act 1, and will need to put together a solid winning streak to stay at rank. Today’s match should be a lot of fun, as we get Kaisei’s bulk up against Ikioi’s strength.
Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – The Ozeki hopeful absorbed his first loss on day 6, and on day 7 he gets to fight his fellow tadpole, Takakeisho. Takakeisho is no easy match, in spite of his 2-4 record heading into the middle weekend. Mitakeumi’s magic number is still probably 11, so he needs this match as a buffer against the Ozeki and Yokozuna on tap for week 2.
Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – Even though Ichinojo is back to his bad habit of giving up, he still stands a chance against Tochinoshin on day 7. Tochinoshin is wisely not trying to use brute strength so much this tournament. A primary reason is likely his injured foot, but he also needs to diversify his sumo.
Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Tamawashi has a habit of beating Takayasu, so this is going to be a test match to see if the Ozeki can remain unbeaten. Tamawashi is in a deep hole at 0-6, so his motivation will be all the stronger.
Goeido vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu surprised everyone by disrupting and then defeating Kisenosato on day 6. But his day 7 match against Goeido is going to be a contest of rapid brutality writ large. There is a small chance that their tachiai collision might form new exotic particles of interest to science, and teams are standing by to clean up the debris if the worst should happen.
Kisenosato vs Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato gets a chance to recover against Chiyonokuni, who is struggling to keep his sumo on track. After the surprising loss to Chiyotairyu, fans will hopefully have a more realistic expectation of Kisenosato for the remainder of Aki. I seriously think that if he can get to 8 wins, everyone calls it success and nobody cares until November. He is 3 wins away from that goal, but is nearly to the part of the basho where he fights the upper ranks.
Endo vs Hakuho – Endo’s a shell of his normal self. Hakuho’s going to dismantle him and play with the pieces.
Kakuryu vs Shodai – I am keen to see what kind of cruel sumo feedback loop Kakuryu employs against Shodai. Not that he does not have it coming, just that sometimes it’s fun to try and guess.
With day 6, the Aki basho begins the 5 day period we call “Act 2”. In Act 1, it was all about the rikishi getting into tournament mode, shaking off any ring-rust, and finding out who was hot and who was not. 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. For the threads we are following, the interest has not waned.
Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid is alive and doing quite well, the Sekiwake began at 5-0, including a win over Ozeki Tochinoshin. From here on out, his schedule will become more difficult, and we can expect him to pick up some losses. His magic number is either 10 or 11, and it will be a tough grind to reach that level with 3 Yokozuna and 3 Ozeki all battling it out.
Kisenosato’s return to action seems to be working out well enough, but he is looking less in control of some of his Maegashira matches than one would think a Yokozuna would be. But he did start the basho 5-0, and I think the fans are happy to see him winning. With 4 Yokozuna and Ozeki opponents to face, he will have plenty of opportunities to pick up 3 more wins in the next 5 days.
Ozeki Tochinoshin is struggling a bit to clear his kadoban. With 2 losses, including the somewhat surprising loss to Mitakeumi on day 5, the big Georgian make take it to late in week 2 to rack the necessary 8 wins. He will spend at least 5 days fighting the Yokozuna and Ozeki, and he need 5 more wins to clear kadoban.
What We Are Watching Day 6
Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze has started Aki showing fast, efficient sumo. None of his opponents have given him a difficult bout thus far, but I have hopes that Ryuden might reverse that trend. Ryuden had a terrible Nagoya tournament (as did Yoshikaze), and I think both of them are currently fighting at the level of a higher rank. Looking forward to see who comes out on top.
Kotoyuki vs Takanoiwa – Kotoyuki seems to have left his sumo in the same akeni that he was storing his light blue mawashi in, as they have both returned. He holds a slight 7-5 edge over Takanoiwa, who has thus far made a solid return to Makuuchi. To be clear, Takanoiwa’s goals is 8 wins no matter what, as I know he wants to remain in the top division.
Chiyoshoma vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi has never won a match against Chiyoshoma. But this match has a good potential of turning out differently. Both men head into their competition with a respectable 3-2 record. Nishikigi is fighting better than any time in recent memory, and I think he has a good shot to racking up his first win against Chiyoshoma. But keep in mind, Chiyoshoma is fond of things like mattas to throw of peoples timing, and an occasional hanka.
Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – With his miserable 0-5 start, Aoiyama is not a credible opponent right now. While there is no official word, he seems to be having undercarriage problems that keep him from moving well. As a result he has not really been able to generate much offense, or much in the way of Aoiyama style sumo. I expect Kotoshogiku will struggle a bit, but he is fighting fairly well this basho.
Hokutofuji vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan’s day 5 match was a lesson in experience. With a cold, smooth efficiency, he dispatched Kagayaki. Hokutofuji is going to present a much more complex and difficult challenge. Hokutofuji has a few combination moves that no one has been countering, and they give him distinct advantages in early, mid and late phases of the match.
Shohozan vs Asanoyama – This match has nearly infinite potential for fun and excitement. Shohozan will be blazing away with his big guns, and Asanoyama will be soaking it up with his big, squishy body. At some point one of them will grab a hold of the other and someone is going to win. In the mean time, let’s see if Shohozan’s mighty arms get tired. This is their first ever match.
Chiyonokuni vs Onosho – Chiyonokuni has been suffering a bad bout of “almost won” so far at Aki. Onosho only began to show his sumo on day 5, and it will be a mystery if he can bring it out a second day in a row. Chiyonokuni needs to not lose heart, and just keep plugging away. He’s going to get the wins if he can keep pushing forward.
Kagayaki vs Abi – Right now Abi seems to have no end of takers for a ride on the Abi-zumo tilt-o-whorl. As boring as it may seem, the guy has 3 wins. But Kagayaki holds a 3-1 career advantage over the stick-insect, and his school of sumo fundamentals may carry the day.
Myogiryu vs Endo – We may never know if Endo re-injured himself or if he is coping with something new. But he is a fraction of his genki self, and its really tough to watch him compete every day with no drive, energy or cunning. So I am fairly sure that Myogiryu has the upper hand on day 6.
Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – Takakeisho got a valuable lesson on day 1, he had a narrow window to beat Hakuho, but he allowed himself to break contact with the Yokozuna, and was too distant to capitalize on Hakuho’s emergency stop and reverse. Ichinojo has been hit or miss again this basho, but I would love to see him have another “bad pony!” moment with the bulbous Takakeisho.
Kaisei vs Takayasu – For a man who started the basho with copious back pain, Takayasu has been fighting with strength and determination. But facing Kaisei is a different form of challenge. At almost 190 kg / 400 pounds he represents a huge amount of ballast that will resist any attempts to control. Takayasu holds a 9-6 career lead.
Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Perhaps THE match of the day, Goeido has the advantage of a day off thanks to Yutakayama’s kyujo. He will face Mitakeumi rested and ready. Mitakeumi already beat one Ozeki with some rather clever sumo. I am eager to see if he enters day 6 with a recipe to overcome Goeido’s flash-fire sumo, which seems to be working well for him thus far.
Ikioi vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really needs this win. At 3-2, he is starting to move into a risky territory with the difficulty we expect him to face with the Yokozuna and Ozeki matches in week 2. He still needs 5 wins to clear kadoban, and he needs to not let any Maegashira opponent get the upper hand.
Shodai vs Hakuho – With a 5-0 start, Hakuho has been able to avoid any further problems with his damaged knee, and has produced some exiting sumo. Shodai is now in the most difficult part of his schedule for Aki, where he will face the Ozeki and Yokozuna, and each one of them seem to be genki and ready to fight. I expect that Shodai will not be able to do much against the dai-Yokozuna, and we will see Hakuho at 6-0.
Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has found ways to beat Kakuryu, their career record is 8-4 in Kakuryu’s favor, although right now Tamawashi as not been able to piece together his first win. Kakuryu, in contrast, is not only unbeaten, but looks smooth and in control.
Kisenosato vs Chiyotairyu – Hopefully Chiyotairyu comes off the shikiri-sen at full power, even if he thinks it was a matta. Kisenosato keeps winning, but seems tentative with each match. I expect that as the days tick off, we will see him weaken and perhaps exit the tournament by early in week 2. Having not actually competed in many months, the 2 week daily grind may be more than he is capable of right now. We can rest assured that this tournament, as long as he does not get hurt, marks a return for him, and we will probably see him regularly now.
Act One is a wrap! By now everyone should have the ring rust scraped away, and should be in tournament form. We can certainly tell who is hot, and who is not. There is a solid block of undefeated rikishi at the end of the first five days, and that includes the entire Yokozuna population. As a result, the upper Maegashira and the Komusubi are getting crushed. This is typical for a basho where the upper ranks are actually participating.
Mitakeumi is off to a 5-0 start, and today he beat an Ozeki, which counts as a “quality” win. On day 6 he will face Goeido, who is fighting well and got day 5 to rest thanks to his fusensho over the injured Yutakayama. Mitakeumi has started well enough to be seriously considered as bidding for an Ozeki promotion.
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – I can’t stop thinking about Yoshikaze’s disastrous 2-13 Nagoya, and how completely different things are for him at Aki. Chiyomaru gets a bit of offense in just after the tachiai, but Yoshikaze takes command and masterfully maneuvers the burly Chiyomaru to defeat. Given that he has finished act one 5-0, I am curious if the scheduling team are going to keep him fighting the bottom of the banzuke, or start seeing what he can do against the likes of Hokutofuji.
Kotoyuki defeats Takanosho – Kotoyuki reverted back to his (apparently better-fitting) light blue mawashi, and his sumo seems to have come back with it. His match today against Takanosho was more in control and focused than his first three. Kotoyuki got the inside position at the tachiai and set the tempo for the match.
Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma took the fight to Takanoiwa’s face… again and again. But Takanoiwa kept driving forward and working to disrupt Chiyoshoma’s slaps. It worked, and Chiyoshoma found himself arse-first into the zabuton.
Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – A great endurance match. Nishikigi putting on a great demonstration of persistent ottsuke, pinning Ryuden to his chest while keeping Ryuden away from his mawashi. Ryuden kept working, and kept wearing Nishikigi down, eventually landing morozashi and driving forward. Some solid sumo from both.
Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Notable because Aoiyama remains winless, and once again seems to have collapsed during the fight, rather than succumbing to a specific kimarite. The judges did rule it a tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Aoiyama’s right knee gave out.
Hokutofuji defeats Kotoshogiku – If you are looking for some first class battle-sumo, this is a place to start. Kotoshogiku was always going to try to go chest to chest with Hokutofuji, and launch the gaburi-yori hug-n-chug attack. Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” puts him in command before the first step, landing firmly on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, and preventing his left hand from getting a grip. Hokutofuji then endures a few face blows to get inside, and completely lock out Kotoshogiku’s primary attack. Kotoshogiku fights back with skill and power, but Hokutofuji stays inside and thrusting against Kotoshogiku’s neck and shoulders. A shift to hazuoshi (armpit grip) at the edge and Kotoshogiku hands over the shiroboshi. Hokutofuji starts Aki with an impressive 5-0.
Onosho defeats Shohozan – Perhaps Onosho has shed his ring-rust. His thrusting attack displayed the speed and focus that was missing on prior days, and he overwhelmed his stronger opponent. He gets Shohozan’s shoulders turned, and slams the motor into drive. Much better from Onosho!
Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Notable in that Kagayaki was completely shut down by the more experienced Tochiozan. This match was lost / won at the tachiai, when Kagayaki went for a thrusting attack at Tochiozan’s neck and face, then shifted to try for the belt. Tochiozan went center-mass with his hands at Kagayaki’s chest, and controlled the man and the match from there.
Abi defeats Myogiryu – Like a pair of tabbies battling for a feather duster, these two delivered a train of windmill tsuppari, with Abi’s superior reach being the deciding advantage. Fun sumo, if a tad repetitive in terms of Abi-zumo.
Asanoyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has been consistently a half step behind each match. Today he drove inside at the tachiai, with Asanoyama bringing him to his chest and setting up a see-saw battle for grip that ended with Chiyonokuni reaching over Asanoyama’s shoulder to attempt a pull down. With both men off balance, Asanoyama gambled on a hard drive forward and it paid off as Chiyonokuni became a dropping dead body before Asanoyama went spiraling into the dohyo. The monoii that followed affirmed that Asanoyama was the winner.
Ichinojo defeats Tamawashi – Notable because Ichinojo was not passive today. He rallied strongly with his heels against the tawara and drove forward to win the match. Tamawashi starts Aki with a surprising 0-5 record.
Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s signature move (like Kotoshogiku’s) is so effective, he tries to use it as his first choice every time. Mitakeumi knows this, and used it to distract Tochinoshin and secure the win. You can see Tochinoshin work for a left hand outside grip on Mitakeumi’s mawashi, but Mitakeumi pushed hard at the tachiai to get an inside position and lands his hands of Tochinoshin’s chest, thrusting him back strongly. Tochinoshin has lost about 3 feet of dohyo, but thrusts forward to try for the grip again. Again Mitakeumi is inside against his chest, but Tochinoshin gets his grip now and starts to lift. But he’s already too far back, and he’s too high. Mitakeumi has moro-zashi, and drives forward a few inches to push the Ozeki out. Masterful sumo from Mitakeumi today.
Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Takayasu landed a deep left hand inside grip at the tachiai, and was in command. Ikioi rallied and advanced strongly after a bit of leaning on each other, but a mis-step caused him to be on the wrong foot, and Takayasu helped him finish turning the wrong way around and gently shoved him out. Ikioi also has a 0-5 start.
Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Less brutal than expected, it seem Chiyotairyu thought this was a matta. Kakuryu quickly got his preferred grip, and it was an almost polite yorikiri after that.
Kisenosato defeats Shodai – Again, Kisenosato had to work much harder than a Yokozuna should to beat Shodai. But we saw some classic elements of Kisenosato sumo. Kisenosato locks up Shodai’s arms at the elbows and proceeds to constantly shift his weight and bounce around. This keeps Shodai from ever really establishing a firm footing to launch an attack. As the match progresses, Kisenosato keeps the bouncing on rhythm, and it forces Shodai higher, and off balance. The result is a fairly solid throw by the Yokozuna, and a great example of some of his great sumo. I fear for him in act 3, but for now, let’s enjoy a high-functioning Kisenosato.
Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – A bold and clear display of why Hakuho is a dai-Yokozuna, even if he is fading out. Hakuho loves to face up-and-coming rikishi with their own style of sumo. It’s kind of a dominance thing to say, “I am so good, I can beat you with your own techniques”. Today it got him to the edge of trouble when Takakeisho timed a side-step with digital perfection. Hakuho was falling forward towards the bales. But then the dai-Yokozuna DNA kicked in, and he re-asserted his balance and pivoted back to the attack before Takakeisho could finish him. In lunging at the Yokozuna, Takakeishio bet everything on that final move. But Hakuho was ready and a light touch on Takakeisho’s shoulder was all it took to send him rolling to the dohyo. The smile of Hakuho’s face after told the story.