Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of the basho. A reminder to fans around the world: NHK World Japan will be carrying the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live on their global streaming service. With Abema now a fading memory for many sumo fans, this is your ticket to live sumo action. So stay up, stay engaged and watch sumo!

The big news is that Ozeki Takakeisho is going to attempt to return to competition today. He went kyujo earlier in the tournament after day 4, when he strained his knee in a surprising yotsu match against Mitakeumi. Also on the hurt list is Kaisei, who seems to have suffered at least minor damage to his right arm in his loss to Ryuden. Word is he may go has gone kyujo from day 8 to give his arm a chance to recover.

Natsu Leaderboard

Time to dig into the yusho race for the Natsu basho. With only two undefeated rikishi on day 8, it may seem quite clear. But I am going to guess that someone gets dirt on both Kakuryu and Tochinoshin before Wednesday, and this one may come down to a closer race than it looks today.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser: Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Tochiozan, Enho, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyoshoma vs Daiamami – With Takakeisho returning, the imbalance in the torikumi returns, and we are once against having a daily Juryo visitor to the top division. Today it’s former Maku-man Daiamami, who does not seem to be on track to win back his top division slot this tournament. Chiyoshoma has never lost to him, either.

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi seemed to wake up in his day 7 match against Enho, and we do hope he can stay awake and fighting well. The two are fairly evenly matched, and I would expect that we may see Terutsuyoshi attempt more “stunt sumo” like that leg sweep he used day 7 that delighted everyone.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – The NHK announcers keep pointing out how Kotoeko has not had a kachi-koshi in the top division yet, which was interesting but is now a bit stale. He is moving well, fighting well now, and dominating many of his matches. With 5 wins, we are likely to see him break that run of make-koshi, and find his place in the top division. Tokushoryu on the other hand seems to not really have a handle on his sumo right now, which is a shame.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – The ultimate big vs small battle—Chiyomaru is 2x Enho’s mass. Think about that – it would take 2 Enho units to make 1 Chiyomaru unit. But that being said, we are all really interested to see what kind of pixie magic Enho unleashes to send Chiyomaru tumbling.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – There are plenty of comments that Ishura’s sumo has morphed closer to Enho’s – to which I say “Good!”. The fact that Ishiura has returned to actual aggressive sumo is nothing but a plus all around, and I hope it’s here to stay. Shimanoumi fans are starting to hope that he’s got his sumo back in shape, and can at least make a fair try at a winning record.

Shohozan vs Yago – Both of these men have oversized heads. It’s as simple as that. I think Yago’s head is larger, and it’s certainly more conical than most. Shohozan’s is large and blocky, and seems to be permanently configured to scowl. Maybe we should call it “Resting Shohozan Face”. I think Yago wants revenge for that Osaka Oshidashi, so he will need to be more mobile than he typically is, as Shohozan refuses to stand still most days.

Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – If Sadanoumi can get control in the first 5 seconds, he can limit Tochiozan’s sumo, which he must do in order to win. Tochiozan will, as always, play to stalemate and wait for an advantage to appear. The longer the match lasts, the better for Tochiozan.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – First time match between these two, and it’s got a lot of interest. The aspect is that both of them are very mobile, and tend to have good lateral motion. Tomokaze tends to employ it at the center of the dohyo, Shodai at the tawara.

Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has yet to defeat Meisei in their 3 prior matches. The good news is that Meisei tends to win by grabbing Onosho and pushing him around for a loss, rather than by taking advantage of Onosho’s natural forward 10% list. Perhaps he should consult a naval architect after the basho and see if they can adjust his ballast tanks.

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Fans worried that Asanoyama’s day 6 loss would put him off his focus can rest easy—he returned to excellent form, and that brings us to a great pairing against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is also in the habit of exercising excellent form, coupled with excellent combination moves. I predict they go chest to chest early, and it’s a medley of move and counter move until Asanoyama wins.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – The battle of the broken toys. We see Mr. Fundamentals struggling with just one win, and Yoshikaze looking like his better days are past. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that Kagayaki will take his second win today.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – Kaisei is kyujo to heal up his right arm, Myogiryu gets the fusen win.

Nishikigi vs Ryuden – Nishikigi has been breaking out that armlock and double armlock a lot this basho, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ryuden when he has to break free. Ryuden is on pace to bid for a nice banzuke slot for Nagoya.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Time for Chiyotairyu to rehabilitate his record, and where better to start than with Daieisho, against whom he holds a 9-1 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Abi – The brotherhood of the flailing arms is in attendance; let the ceremony begin! The only prior match it was all Abi, but I think we may see more from Hokutofuji this time.

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – The enigma that is Ichinojo continues to befuddle. He’s hot, he’s cold, he fights, he loses. His fans want him to get it together, but something prevents it.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Cue sky crane in 3… 2… 1…

Takakeisho vs Aoiyama – Why you crazy Ozeki? I get it, hold up the tradition of Ozeki, the whole gaman thing, but Japan needs you to not wreck your body just yet. Okay, well, Aoiyama only looks to be operating on one reactor right now. You might be okay. Just no more yotsu until you are healed up.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs to rack a few more wins before the “tough” part of his schedule, and we hope his 12-3 career edge over Okinoumi counts as an advantage in this match.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Probably the big match of the second half, although the returning Takakeisho will get the hype. These two are actually fairly evenly matched, and I am less sure today that Goeido is fighting hurt. I know Mitakeumi can smell a return to Sekiwake, and it would be great for him to go into his Nagoya with double-digit wins at Natsu.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Tamawashi’s run-and-gun sumo is not overly effective against Kakuryu’s reactive style. I think this one goes to Big-K and he stays unbeaten.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.

Haru Day 6 Highlights

With the start of the second act, some rikishi who looked moribund found new life, and suggested maybe they were going to be able to must some power for the rest of the basho. Some rikishi who had not yet tasted Osaka clay, had their first loss. Act 2 is all about sorting the survivors from the doomed, and shaping the yusho race for act 3.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ishiura – The double-henka failed to materialize, as both decided to engage in a proper tachiai. Ishiura was a bit too low, and left himself open to a thrust down, which Chiyoshoma was happy to supply.

Daishoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – A large number of sumo fans were quite excited when it was announced that Terutsuyoshi would be joining the top division, but he has struggled since Haru day 1, and has only been able to count a single with thus far. Now at 1-5, he is facing a very real threat of a deep make-koshi and a return to the deeper regions of Juryo.

Daiamami defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima also attracted a lot of attention with his return to the top division. Once a Makuuchi mainstay, the nostalgia factor coupled with the story of a battered veteran fighting his way back to the big leagues is compelling. But Toyonoshima continues to product wins. Today one of his former Juryo rivals puts him out with a large thud.

Kagayaki defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama took control of the match at the tachiai, but put himself too far forward to control his body. Kagayaki read this expertly and sent him to the clay. The video match suffers from the “Osaka camera” phenomenon.

Yoshikaze defeats Kotoeko – Perhaps Yoshikaze is not quite ready for the boneyard yet. He showed a flash of power, keeping Kotoeko from generating much offense, and then marching him in reverse to the bales. Yoshikaze improves to 3-3.

Ryuden defeats Tomokaze – Shin-Ikioi did not open strong, as Tomokaze clearly had the better of the tachiai, and took control of the match, landing his tsuki center mass. Ryuden backs to the tawara, and finds Tomokaze has pre-set his body to be thrown. Ryuden complies and pulls out a win by shitatenage.

Shohozan defeats Meisei – Meisei foolishly decides he wants to trade blows with “Big Guns”, and ends up with a black star. Nobody is surprised.

Sadanoumi defeats Yago – I admit that I cracked a smile when I saw Sadanoumi actually moving with strength and skill today. He had been flagging since day 1, and it was a welcome change. After trading tsuppari, they went chest to chest, which would tend to favor Yago, but Sadanoumi surges and gives Yago a trip across the tawara.

Asanoyama defeats Ikioi – Tough match, as you can tell Ikioi just can’t get above about 70% power thanks to his injured leg. On top of that, Asanoyama was in good form. Maybe a touch of Kotoshogiku hip action there? I would not be displeased to see that tradition carry forward.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – The much feared confluence of pendulous man-boobs swinging and muscular hip thrusting did not come to pass, as Aoiyama knew exactly what to do to win. Both arms on Kotoshogiku’s shoulders and as much forward motion as he could muster. While not the epic clash of styles it could have been, it was great to see Aoiyama execute crisply with great effect.

Okinoumi defeats Takarafuji – Great tachiai from Okinoumi, and he remained confident and focused, even when Takarafuji had a grip advantage. Two highly skilled vets performing nearly textbook sumo.

Abi defeats Chiyotairyu – Abi execute a flying henka, bringing down Chiyotairyu and sending the gyoji (none other than Konosuke the Red) flying into the front row.

Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Basic match where Tochiozan was simply overpowered. Onosho continues his march towards kachi-koshi, and I am looking forward to him joining the rest of the tadpoles in the top slots.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Ichinojo continues to show winning sumo on day 6. Endo was little more than the ballast for the giant Mongolian’s sumo today. The NHK commentary cited that he has won primarily by pulling moves, but at the moment it looks to be effective. Given the obliteration in the top 3 Maegarshira ranks, Ichinojo may have a nice boost for Natsu.

Takakeisho defeats Kaisei – An effective variation on Takakeisho’s preferred osha-attack now features a double arm thrust that is heavy to one side, and pivoting opposite of the thrust. Many times the effect is to turn his opponent as he swings around to the side, giving him flank exposure and leaving (in the case Kaisei) wide open to a broad side from the wave action canon.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – The hoped for double nodowa was not to be seen today, but what caught my eye was watching Tamawashi rally once Hokutofuji had him in trouble. This may in fact represent the point where Tamawashi arrested his lackluster start for the Haru Basho and reverts to a winning form.

Daieisho defeats Goeido – Goeido sumo is not without its flaws, if he gets stalemated, he can and will resort to dubious stratagems, such as today when Daieisho was able to withstand his opening gambit, and Goeido went for a slap down. Daieisho was ready for this and made the Ozeki pay.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – Again we see Takayasu not trying to resort to an overpowering collision at the tachiai, instead relying on his overwhelming strength to carry the match. It looks good, it works better and it wins. I credit endless practice hours with Araiso Oyakata. I hope he has the nerve to maintain this form against the Yokozuna, as I think it could be a strong formula for week 2.

Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – Tochinoshin fans are maybe starting to feel a bit less anxious now. Mitakeumi is no easy contender, and Tochinoshin was able to shut down Mitakeumi at the tachiai. He did not need to try and use any lift-and-shift sumo, and he showed mobility that may have come as a surprise to Mitakeumi.

Hakuho defeats Nishikigi – Impressive match from Nishikigi, as he was able to get an arm-bar hold on Hakuho that left the Yokozuna waiting for his Maegashira opponent to make the next move. Nishikigi’s attempt to convert that hold into a throw was a solid effort, but Hakuho’s stability and stance made it a long odds gamble. Great sumo from Nishikigi today.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – I teased that Shodai was fairly useless up until now, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the level of effort and skill he put into this match. That escape at the tawara was a solid escape move, but Shodai could not convert that into any meaningful offensive opportunity.

Haru Day 6 – Preview

Might We See This Once More?

Act 1 is in the history books, and we ended the first third of the basho with 4 strong rikishi in the undefeated column. This likely portends a fantastic week 2, with a vigorous battle for the Emperor’s Cup. Though he is looking a bit shaky, I would say that Hakuho is the man to beat for Osaka. We know he is not 100%, but the man has an iron will, and he is using it to keep himself in the competition.

I have to remark about how impressive it has been to see both Kotoshogiku and Ichinojo open the basho with spotless records. Ichinojo is a force of nature when his body is cooperating, and it seems his health is good right now. As a former Ozeki, Kotoshogiku knows how to dominate, but it’s been some time since we have seen him this genki. I love it. How great would it be to see him in the running for the cup?

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – It’s a stage 1 henka warning in Osaka. Conditions are right for a henka to be deployed. If you are easily offended, take cover at once in the part of your house farthest away from your television. Which one will use it, and will it work?

Daiamami vs Toyonoshima – Daiamami returns from Juryo for a one-day visit, and oddly enough it’s the first time he has matched against veteran Toyonoshima. Toyonoshima has been hit or miss, so its hard to tell what kind of sumo he will deliver day 6.

Yutakayama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki showed some signs of life day 5, so maybe he’s not quite ready to shuffle back to Juryo. Yutakayama is still a fraction of his former self.

Kotoeko vs Yoshikaze – Kotoeko continues to impress, while Yoshikaze seems to be right at the point of giving up. This is their first ever match.

Ryuden vs Tomokaze – Are you surprised that Ryuden is 4-1? I am, he kind of snuck up there. He has the body, the strength and the skill to do it, so lets hope he is on a hot streak and can continue to win.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Did Shohozan get bored with hitting people? He seems to be going for the mawashi this tournament. Not that I am complaining, but if I were facing Shohozan, and I did not get a couple of big whacks to the face, I would feel short changed.

Asanoyama vs Ikioi – Ikioi’s pride won’t let him go kyujo unless he is in surgery, and maybe not even then. To me his body seems completely broken, and unable to support much in the way of sumo.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – What a match! Both of these rikishi are fighting well, have strong winning records, and are at polar opposition for sumo style. Though Aoiyama going for the mawashi on day 5 proves his technique catalog is much broader then it would seem. But who wouldn’t want to see Kotoshogiku give Aoiyama a series of powerful pelvic thrusts? Parental guidance suggested….

Chiyotairyu vs Abi – I am taking a strange pleasure from watching Abi-zumo failing over and over again. Because I assume that means that he is taking another step closer to diversifying his sumo. Once he does that, he’s on the road to higher ranks.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – As an Onosho fan, I have to resist the urge to see him dominate every match. What he really needs is a kachi-koshi at this rank, and a slight move higher. He is getting his sumo back, but his strength is still recovering from that surgery kyujo last year.

Ichnojo vs Endo – That black eye on Endo seems to only underscore the fact that everyone is beating him up and stealing his lunch money every day. Endo possesses excellent sumo skills, but right now Ichinojo is on fire. Can the Boulder take it to 6?

Takakeisho vs Kaisei – Takakeisho has lost a couple of matches that might impact assessment of any Ozeki bid, and he needs to regroup and put himself back on track. Kaisei has really underwhelmed thus far, but I expect him to come roaring back pretty much now.

Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – I am probably as excited about this match as I am for the Aoiyama – Kotoshogiku mating dance. Just in time, it seems Hokutofuji found his sumo again. This is going to be an oshi-battle of possibly epic proportions, as long as nobody tries for any early pulls.

Goeido vs Daieisho – I have taken to watching these Goeido matches in slow motion about 3-4 times, they are just that good. I expect that this new, resurgent Daieisho will give him a good match, but it may not last long.

Takayasu vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu has made a habit out of beating the Ozeki, and this could be the match that shoves Takayasu out of any reasonable consideration for a yusho bid.

Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – Tochinoshin showed day 5 that he is willing to endure the pain to get a win. Of course Kaisei let him plant his feet and square his shoulders to get the lift underway, which I expect will not happen with Mitakeumi.

Hakuho vs Nishikigi – Enjoy your visit with the Yokozuna, Nishikigi. Your fans love you, even when you have no wins.

Shodai vs Kakuryu – The YDC is meeting right now in special session to determine if Shodai’s winless start to Haru is grounds for Yokozuna consideration. “Shodai the Flaccid” has never beaten Kakuryu, and I am guessing day 6 is not going to be the day he changes that.