Osaka Day 13 Highlights

Thanks to some skill and a bit of luck, we have a 3 way tie going into the final weekend. In all likelihood, the yusho will come down to the final match on the final day of the tournament – a high stakes battle between the lone surviving Yokozuna. Although both of them are getting closer to the end of their careers on the dohyo, they have once again shown that nobody in the sport is even close to challenging them for dominance. Sure both of them have taken complete tournaments off, but there is not a soul right now that had the sumo to stand up to them in competition.

A hat tip to Takanosho, who took care of business today when Aoiyama made a huge mistake and fell into a bad habit, opening the door for Takanosho’s win, which Takanosho exploited with masterful effect. As a result, Big Dan picks up his second loss of Haru, and has allowed the Yokozuna to catch him, creating a 3 way tie for the lead. Barring some bizarre outcome of day 14, one of these 3 men will take home the hardware. But should calamity fall the leaders, former yusho winners Asanoyama and Mitakeumi are 1 loss behind, ready to engage in one last push for the cup. Exciting times to be a sumo fan!

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Kotonowaka – Ikioi kept Kotonowaka in front of him, where his forward power could do the maximum good. Though youngster Kotonowaka put up a solid effort, Ikioi overpowered him and drove him out for the win, which was his 8th, giving him kahci-koshi in his home town basho. Sadly there was no crowd on hand to cheer him on. His kachi-koshi is all the more impressive given some of the physical problems that Ikioi has faced in the past year.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – As I had expected, Ishiura is not quite at the same intensity that he had leading up to his 8th win. While this may disappoint some sumo fans, it’s really quite smart for Ishiura, who struggles quite a bit if he ranks much higher than this. Shimanoumi’s sumo was also spot on, reacting correctly to Ishiura’s hit and shift, and keeping the smaller more nimble rikishi from getting to the side. Shimanoumi improves to 7-6.

Meisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has now lost 3 in a row, and is on a perilous course toward a Darwin match on day 15. Chiyotairyu attempted a hit and shift as well, but his bulk means that the entire gambit unfolded in slow motion, and Meisei had time to go to combini, get a cup of Joe, maybe some onigiri, and come back in time to grab Chiyotairyu by the mawashi and toss him out. Meisei improves to 6-7, and is another fine candidate for a Darwin match.

Chiyomaru defeats Tochiozan – Watching Tochiozan is just misery now. Tochiozan was lethargic, slow, lacking power and fighting spirit. He’s hurt and going through the motions, but he’s there. At least Chiyomaru picked up his 7th win today, and has a reasonable chance at a kachi-koshi. He faces Terutsuyoshi on day 14.

Sadanoumi defeats Daiamami – Sadanoumi got his right hand inside position at the tachiai, and went to work. Daiamami advanced, but could not finish Sadanoumi at the edge. Sadanoumi rallied and rolled into an uwatenage. Picking up his 5 win and handing Daiamami his make-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tochinoshin – Probably should have been a matta, as Tochinoshin left the shikiri-sen much earlier than Kotoshogiku. But Tochinoshin could not really generate much forward pressure, and Kotoshogiku quickly had his inside grip, and was on to the hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku advances to 7-6, and Tochinoshin now make-koshi.

Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Major consequences from this match. I fully expected Aoiyama to power up the V-Twin thrusting attack from the start, but instead he went into an attempt at a pull. Takanosho must have known this was coming, as he pushed into the pull the moment it started, driving Aoiyama back, shoving him over the west side tawara. Aoiyama’s loss drops him from sole ownership of the yusho lead, and Takanosho gets his 10th win.

Kiribayama defeats Kaisei – Kiribayama executes a nice hit and shift, getting to Kaisei’s right side. From here Kaisei has almost no avenue to attack or defend. Kiribayama pins him down, and prevents Kaisei from turning to face his opponent, and Kiribayama drives him out. Nice strategy today, Kiribayama! He improves to 7-6.

Tamawashi defeats Azumaryu – Tamawashi gets the inside position at the tachiai, with his hands on Azumaryu’s neck and face, and gets to work thrusting against Azumaryu’s chest. Unable to generate much response, he is forced to give up ground to try and recover, but Tamawashi has him beat. Azumaryu picks up his 8th loss, and joins Tamawashi in a losing record for Haru.

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Its kind of shocking to see Myogiryu with so little power right now. Nishikigi quickly got his favored arm bar hold, and it seems Myogiryu had no answer. A step back, and a roll to the left and Nishikigi had a win via sukuinage, handing Myogiryu his 10th loss.

Onosho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi attempts a hit and shift, which would normally be likely to end Onosho’s part of the match. But it seems he really has made great strides in his balance and foot work. Faster than Terutsuyoshi could react, Onosho pivots into Terutsuyoshi’s shift, getting to his side. At that point, Terutsuyoshi is more or less a pliable practice toy, and Onosho smacks and shoves him about with great effect before pushing him from the dohyo. Complete domination by Onosho today after a failed opening gambit by Terutsuyoshi. Onosho improves to 8-5, and picks up his kachi-koshi. He will be back in the joi-jin for the next basho, and frankly I think this is a very exciting development for sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – This may have seemed to be a very pedestrian, low-energy match, but it is in fact littered with brilliant, small details. First the tachiai. Mitakeumi is so damn low for such a large bodied person, I am not sure how he stays upright, but he puts all of that force right on Takarafuji’s chest. Showing outstanding reflexes, Takarafuji responds with a right hand ottsuke, while Mitakeumi unfolds his arms at the elbows (blunting the ottsuke and continuing the force to Takarafuji’s chest. It all happens in less than half a second, but damn! But Takarafuji is a master of defense, and traps Mitakeumi low with his arms extended, the Original Tadpole has no leverage, and no path to attack. Takarafuji attempts something akin to a hikkake, and Mitakeumi uses that change of grip to break free and attack. A moment later, he has forced Takarafuji out, and picks up his 10th win. Very nice technique from both men today.

Shohozan defeats Tokushoryu – Glad to see Shohozan pick up a win, but now both he and Hatsu yusho winner Tokushoryu have 10 losses. It’s a grim basho for some of these beloved veterans.

Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – This match was 100% Okinoumi, as Yutakayama got tangled up and shut down early. Both men exit the match with 7-6 records, and possibly headed for Darwin matches on day 15.

Enho defeats Daieisho – The first match ended with both rikishi flying out of the ring, and the judges ruled a torinaoshi (rematch). In the second bout, Enho brought his best break dancing moves to the clay, and kept Daieisho batting at the empty Osaka air. In one step, Daieisho lost his balance, and Enho helped him fall out of the ring. Daieisho falls to 7-6 and is also probably headed for a Darwin match.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki could not keep Endo away from his mawashi, and some great hard placement by Endo gave him a grip and put him in charge of the match. Once it was best to chest. It was Endo’s sumo that controlled the match, and Kagayaki could not really respond. If there is a spot for Kagayaki to improve, it would be his yotsu-zumo. His Oshi is fantastic, his foot work excellent, and he clearly gives it his all. Both are 7-6 at the end of this match, and again we seem to have a lot of rikishi headed for Darwin.

Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – Both are in sad shape this March, and now Hokutofuji has double digit losses. To me this can only mean some kind of injury, and it’s quite disappointing to fans, as he seemed to have his sumo together in January.

Shodai defeats Abi – Shodai’s super power seems to be able to take a beating and stay in the match. I knew people like this in my younger days, they could take punch after punch (Marine Corps, you see..) but not give in or fall down. Eventually the attacker loses control or rhythm, and they are wide open, and maybe a bit tired. The counter-attack in these situations is frequently rapid, brutal and final. Abi picks up his 8th loss, while Shodai remains on a path toward kachi-koshi.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – The only offense Takakeisho could generate was an early pull down attempt on the second step after the tachiai. It was quite useless, and opened himself up to the Yokozuna’s offense. Moments later, Kakuryu landed a right hand shallow grip on Takakeisho’s mawashi, and that was all he needed for the win. Takakeisho fans, just resign yourself to a make-koshi this tournament. Kakuryu picks up win #11 and remains in the yusho hunt.

Hakuho defeats Asanoyama – Hakuho wasted no time going on the attack, but seemed to have a moment of poor balance right at the moment he won. To my eye, that bandaged right foot gave way, and he fell forward. Thankfully for him, he converted most of that forward energy into shoving Asanoyama out of the ring. Hakuho improves to 11-2 and remains tied for the lead.

Osaka Day 13 Preview

We go screaming into the final weekend of this tournament with the very real possibility of a double-digit Maegashira taking the cup on day 15. As has been said by sumo luminaries much more accomplished than myself, in this day—everyone is a contender. As lksumo has assured me many times, the schedule mostly goes by a well-understood formula, and that means that a lower-ranked rikishi can catch fire and run up a score high enough to take the cup, having never really been tested against the top-ranked men. This is also a function of the top-ranked men being too evenly matched to produce a score high enough to ensure that the cup remains in the named ranks.

As we set up for the last 3 days of this basho, it’s time to start trying to wonder who will suffer through the 7-7 matches on the final day. I call these “Darwin matches”, because only one survives with a winning record. Quite a few rikishi are on the perilous path that leads to a Darwin battle, so let’s see who can evade that outcome.

Haru Leaderboard

Aoiyama has sole possession of the lead in the race for the cup. He faces Takanosho on day 13.

Leader: Aoiyama
Chasers: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi ,Takanosho

3 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Kotonowaka vs Ikioi – The winner here picks up kachi-koshi today. Both have fought well, and both deserve it. I think whoever loses today is possibly going to find themselves in a Darwin match on day 15. Please, don’t let it be you, Ikioi.

Ishiura vs Shimanoumi – I am sure that Ishiura is quite happy to be going into the final weekend with 8 wins locked up. The question is, at Maegashira 12, does he really want to push for a big boost up the banzuke? He seems to do well around this rank, and running up the score enough to get him at the bottom of the joi-jin might not be a wise idea. Luckily, Shimanoumi has never lost to Ishiura, so maybe he can end up in a Darwin match on day 15.

Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – Chiyotairyu needs just one more win to get his 8. He has faded into week 2, losing 4 of his last 5. He has only fought Meisei once before, and he took the match. Good luck, Chiyotairyu!

Chiyomaru vs Tochiozan – Chiyomaru is very much on the Darwin path, but he has a chance to add a white start to his tally when he faces the miserable wreckage of Tochiozan. Normally, Tochiozan gives Chiyomaru the business (6-1), but he’s too beat up and injured now to pose much of a threat.

Sadanoumi vs Daiamami – Sadanoumi can dispense some sumo doom today if he can hand Daiamami his 8th loss and a make-koshi for Haru. He won their only prior match, and still seems to have some fighting spirit left.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – Battle of the battered and broken former Ozeki. It’s like if your two favorite stuffed animals as a child got mangled in a horrific laundry accident, but hung around your bedroom anyhow because you were too sentimental to toss them out. A Tochinoshin loss today is make-koshi for him.

Takanosho vs Aoiyama – It’s a lot of weight to put on Takanosho—shutting down the yusho juggernaut that is Aoiyama. But that’s exactly who has gotten the nod to try his mettle on day 13. He and Aoiyama have a 3 match history that favors Takanosho 2-1. But right now, Big Dan’s V-Twin seems to be set to take him far, and I am not sure who might stop him from lifting the cup on Sunday with those enormous, pale, meaty arms.

Kaisei vs Kiribayama – The last time that Kaisei beat Kiribayama was in the multi-way playoff for the Juryo yusho during November of 2019. Ah, the good old days, when there was no plague loose in the world, and people got to go to the venue to watch sumo. But it may come down to Kaisei having his 8, and not wanting to run up the score, or risk injury. A win today would keep Kiribayama on track for a Darwin match on Sunday.

Azumaryu vs Tamawashi – Can Tamawashi muster enough genki energy to hand fellow Mongolian Azumaryu his make-koshi? Maybe…but an Azumaryu win today sets him on the path for inclusion in the round of Darwin matches we eagerly await on Sunday.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – These two miserable sots just need to hug it out. Luckily, Nishikigi’s sumo seems tailor-made for such a format, even if Myogiryu may find it distasteful. Both are already make-koshi, both need to just get past this basho, and for Nishikigi, he’s likely once again captain or at least boatswain of the Juryo barge of the dammed.

Terutsuyoshi vs Onosho – After a long and withering stretch of depressing matches, we get this lovely gem. One of these fine rikishi will exit the dohyo with a freshly minted kachi-koshi, and both of them deserve it. The loser is probably headed for Darwin with the rest of the condemned souls that are slated for the day 15 bloodletting. I expect a lot of intense action that will favor Terutsuyoshi early, and Onosho the longer it goes.

Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Both are kachi-koshi, but frankly, I really want to see Mitakeumi run up the score. At least 1 san’yaku slot will be open, and I would love to see the original tadpole return to the named ranks, and perhaps restart a bid to ascend to Ozeki this year.

Shohozan vs Tokushoryu – Another dry husk of a match between two grizzled veterans sporting deep losing records before the final weekend. Sure, Shohozan has a 6-3 career lead, but this one is just more misery.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has never beaten Okinoumi in 3 attempts, and a win today would be yet another marker that the early leader of the Freshman cohort is back in business. He shares Maegashira 3 with Mitakeumi, so if there ends up being only 1 San’yaku slot, he may have to settle for a modest bump up the Maegashira ranks.

Daieisho vs Enho – Daieisho need just 1 more win to get his 8th, and Enho is looking hurt and dispirited now. Clearly he is headed back down the banzuke to calmer waters, but how far will he drop? They have split their prior 2, and with the abundance of rikishi now shutting down Enho’s pixie magic, there is ample footage of Enho losses for Daieisho to review.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Both of these mainstays are dangerously close to the Darwin path, with Endo serving as vanguard of the Darwin sacrifices marching toward day 15. They share a 5-5 career record, so this one is going to come down to Endo getting his frontal grip at the tachiai, and Kagayaki’s sometimes impressive footwork.

Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – Another match of disappointment: both of them are solid fighters, both are make-koshi, and both just need to finish the tournament without additional injuries. I am sure Hokutofuji will show up with more fighting spirit (he always does), but it’s a mystery if it will do him any good.

Abi vs Shodai – In spite of beating Hakuho on day 12, Shodai has to pick up 2 more wins for a kachi-koshi at his highest-ever rank. More likely, he too is on the Darwin path, and we may see him face off on day 15 in a 7-7 battle to survive. A loss today would be make-koshi for Abi, and a further slide down the banzuke.

Takakeisho vs Kakuryu – Takakeisho starts his tour through hell. Needing 2 wins to escape kadoban, he comes up against Yokozuna Kakuryu, who honestly is fighting better than Hakuho right now. He has beaten the Yokozuna once in their 4 career matches, but Takakeisho’s injuries may mean that Kakuryu makes fast work of the Grand Tadpole today.

Hakuho vs Asanoyama – I can’t even tell you how eager I am for this match. To make the score for Ozeki promotion, Asanoyama needs to beat a Yokozuna. Given the baloney sumo from Hakuho on day 12, I expect him to be brash, hasty and probably careless on day 13. That gives Asanoyama a sliver of an opening. We know Hakuho loves to fight high skill yotsu-zumo rikishi, and Asanoyama is that in spades. But if he gives Asanoyama his chance, he may find himself surprised. Good luck, Asanoyama!

Osaka Day 12 Highlights

Photo once again shamelessly stolen from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed, to whom we sincerely apologize.

In the topsy-turvy world of the Osaka basho, it seems nearly anything can and probably does happen. Today’s action left a single man atop the leader board, and the scheduling committee’s efforts to keep another double digits ranked Makuuchi rikishi from taking the cup may have problems. Sure, once you set up a tournament like we have done in Osaka, you are just asking for the unusual. But is it now a valid career move to try and reduce your rank as low as possible, softening your schedule, to roar back the next tournament and take the cup? That is not to say that Aoiyama did any such thing, he is clearly having one of his better tournaments in a while, and has been in contention for the cup in tournaments past. But we now run the risk of a “two track” tournament, given how equally beat up the joi-jin has become, that it makes more sense to campaign for the yusho from the bottom half of the banzuke?

In the other big story thread, Ozeki hopeful Asanoyama continues to win, now at 10-2, but about to enter the hardest part of his schedule. He has to beat 2 out of Hakuho, Kakuryu and Takakeisho. This is a tall order, and I don’t want fans or even Asanoyama himself to become discouraged should he not be up to the task. There is already a weakness in his March bid – one of his current 10 wins is by fusensho over Takayasu. For the scoreboard, that still counts as a win, but it the team that decide his promotion may not see it that way. Prepare yourself to hear that he has done well, but needs at least one more basho of good performance to qualify.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Kotoshogiku – I am sure that Nishikigi is happy for the win, but simply put, Kotoshogiku fell down following a strong push-off against Nishikigi. Shame really, as Kotoshogiku could have used a win here. He is headed perilously close toward a Darwin match on day 15.

Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka looks like he wanted to keep his options open at the tachiai, not knowing what Ishiura was going to open with. Kotonowaka worked hard to keep Ishiura away from any kind of grip, and in response Ishiura decided to grab and tug any body part he could latch onto. The two grappled briefly, and then it seems that Kotonowaka may have lost his footing and hit the clay. Ishiura picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for March.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Meisei – Terutsuyoshi executes a great Harumafuji mini-henka, getting a grip on Meisei’s purple mawashi with Terutsuyoshi right hand all the way back on the knot. There was no way to defend that position, so Terutsuyoshi just rushes ahead, and bucks Meisei over the bales to improve to 7-5.

Sadanoumi defeats Azumaryu – Sadanoumi sacrificed a bit of power at the tachiai in order to get inside, and set up shop with a right hand inside position. I think Sadanoumi’s speed caught Azumaryu by surprise, and as they grappled, Azumaryu had no space to lower his hips. Low on options, Azumaryu tried an arm-bar throw that Sadanoumi completely shut down, and rushed Azumaryu out for a much needed win.

Daiamami defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan drops his 11th match to Daiamami, who staves off make-koshi for another day. Tochiozan has no ability to transmit power to ground right now, due to multiple injuries, and is really just going through the motions.

Chiyomaru defeats Tochinoshin – Chiyomaru improves to 6-6 following a 3 day fever kyujo with his win over hapless former Ozeki Tochinoshin. Chiyomaru was invited to use his preferred form of sumo – to lift up at the tachiai, pull back to unbalance his opponent, and then slap him down. I am sure Tochinoshin was well aware of this, but simply did not have the lower body health to prevent it. This marks the first time that Chiyomaru has ever beaten Tochinoshin, and it’s indicative of how hurt the former Ozeki is.

Kaisei defeats Shohozan – Newtonian sumo expert Kaisei picks up his 8th win, for a well deserved kachi-koshi in Osaka. As with Tochiozan, Shohozan seems to be so banged up that his sumo no longer has any real power or force to move ahead. We hope he can recover before the next tournament.

Kiribayama defeats Shimanoumi – Kiribayama took control of this match at the tachiai, coming in lower and stronger, and quickly moving around the right side of Shimanoumi. While Shimanoumi shut down any pivot for a throw, he was also completely unable to generate any offense, or escape the awkward posture Kiribayama had stuffed him into. Both men end the day 6-6.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Great example of how clam and patient Takarafuji is during most matches. Chiyotairyu brings a lot of power early, but Takarafuji maintains control and gives up position. The winning move is a brilliant shove from the left to bias Chiyotairyu onto his right foot, then Takarafuji shifting to his right to release pressure that Chiyotairyu was using to keep himself upright. Down goes Chiyotairyu, and its kachi-koshi for Takarafuji. Technically brilliant.

Ikioi defeats Tamawashi – Ikioi inches a bit closer to kachi-koshi with this win over Tamawashi, like so many other of the 30+ Maegashira club seem to have severe join problems this March. Both of these rikishi can deliver a lot of punishment in a match, and they were out to prove it. Tamawashi now down to 3-9.

Yutakayama defeats Abi – Abi gets the double arm thrust going early against Yutakayama’s chest, and he succeeds in focusing Yutakayama on breaking Abi’s attack. Moving back it looked like Yutakayama was in trouble, but managed a nice combo to Abi’s chest to first unbalance him, then send him to the clay. Yutakayama improves to 7-5, and can hit his highest ranked kachi-koshi ever with a win over Okinoumi on day 13.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Original Tadpole gave Big Dan Aoiyama a solid fight, but the V-Twin attack was more than Mitakeumi could absorb. Aoiyama’s sumo was dead on, and he kept the pressure running hot all the way to the finish. Mitakeumi’s only escape lasted for just a heartbeat before Aoiyama closed the gap and finished him off. Aoiyama takes sole possession of the lead with 11-1.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi was faster at the tachiai, but Kagayaki was lower. Both of them had great body position, and excellent foot placement. Okinoumi too him to his chest, but Kagayaki managed to get a double inside grip, and went to work. If you watch the match in slow motion, or a frame at a time, just look at Kagayaki’s foot work. That guy has some of the heaviest feet in the top division right now, just amazing and quite reminiscent of Kisenosato in some ways.

Tokushoryu defeats Myogiryu – It was nice to see Tokushoryu use his power weapon that took him to the Hatsu yusho, that pivot right and thrust down. It’s like some kind of magical super move when he can set it up. Sadly both he and Myogiryu are 3-9, so this was just for fun today.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho really comes into the tachiai with power, lower and more forceful than Onosho, he plants a right hand under the chin and lifts. By the second step, Daieisho is completely overwhelming Onosho, and he switches to plan 2. Grabbing Daieisho around the chest he uses his natural tendency to overbalance forward as an asset, and lunges. Daieisho near the salt basket and Onosho improves to 7-5. I expect both of these guys to finish kachi-koshi, and try this nice head to head match up at the next tournament.

Hokutofuji defeats Enho – Enho opts for the submarine tachiai, and Hokutofuji wisely slow-rolls his initial charge. Enho can’t quite get low enough to really employ his tool kit, and ends up with Hokutofuji double arm barring him ala Nishikigi. Hokutofuji marches his around the dohoyo, but Enho is too low to the ground to go down. Out of options, big Hokutofuji simply falls over on top of Enho for the win, handing Enho a very painful looking make-koshi.

Asanoyama defeats Takanosho – Takanosho’s tachiai was excellent, and it drove Asanoyama back. Everything about Takanosho’s tachiai was great, foot placement, hand placement, that guy has a strong future if he can stay healthy. He followed that up by shutting down all of Asanoyama’s attempts to set up his preferred yytsu-zumo grip and stance. Clearly Takanosho did his homework, and was ready. Takanosho tried to break contact, and lost his footing, sending him to the clay for an Asanoyama win. I look forward to these two fighting again soon.

Takakeisho defeats Ryuden – Takakeisho has a very narrow, very steep path to avoid kadoban for the next basho. He needs two more wins, and one of those must come from a Yokozuna. But today he was able to take care of business, even winning in spite of going chest to chest with Ryuden. Takakeisho improves to 6-6.

Shodai defeats Hakuho – Well, Hakuho, we had hoped after your match with Onosho that you were done with your occasional jack-assery. But here you brought it out to play again, and look at what happened. While you were busy slapping Shodai’s face, he kept his cool and focused on winning. You showed a fundamental lack of respect for Shodai’s sumo, which once you get past the tachiai, is quite effective. You were hitting his face, he was driving inside. You let him get morozashi, and only then did you figure out that you were completely out of control and not focused on winning. Enjoy the loss, Yokozuna, that one was absolute crap. Big Dan Aoiyama is now sole leader in the yusho race.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Nice iron grip there, Endo! Kakuryu again very serious about his sumo, and showing Yokozuna composure and style. Kakuryu hits 10 wins for a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, and safety for a good time to come.

Osaka Day 12 Preview

With Thursday matches about to start in Japan, it’s almost assured that we will finish all 15 days of this tournament. I did not really think it likely when the rules were laid out weeks ago. No spectators, closed heyas, if 1 rikishi came down with COVID-19, it was all over. But somehow, against the odds, it looks like they NSK is actually going to get it done.

That naturally brings us to the next question – what about Natsu? The May tournament is back at the Kokugikan in Tokyo, and 2 months are a long time from today in epidemiology. We have no idea what the world will look like 2 weeks from now, let alone 2 months. But it’s my hope that they can move forward much as they did in Osaka. Though having now audience in the Kokugikan would be a let down, I am thankful for sumo, doubly so as so many other sports have thrown in the towel and gone on hiatus until matters improve.

Haru Leaderboard

Day 10 was odd in that all 5 rikishi that were 2 wins behind Hakuho and Aoiyama lost, removing our “Hunt Group” entirely from the leader board. The Yusho race is down to 6 rikishi, with 4 of them having prior top division yushos.

Leaders: Hakuho, Aoiyama
Chasers: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi ,Takanosho

4 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Kotoshogiku vs Nishikigi – Simply put, Nishikigi is a lost cause for the scope of Haru. I am sure it’s some kind of injury that is limiting his strength, his mobility or maybe even both. Already make-koshi, he’s going to face former Ozeki Kotoshogiku today in the first match of the top division. I am fairly sure that Kotoshogiku is going to take the lead in this match, and unless Nishikigi can produce some variation of his favored arm-bar hold, it will move Kotoshogiku a step closer to kachi-koshi.

Ishiura vs Kotonowaka – The winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi. A plain, simple head to head match up, but its the first time these two have faced each other on the dohyo. Kotonowaka has dropped his last 2 matches, and is looking to bounce back against the smaller and lighter Ishiura.

Meisei vs Terutsuyoshi – About as even a battle as you might want for the 3rd match of day 12. Both come in having won their last 2 matches, the career record is 3-4, and both are fairly compact powerhouses of sumo. They have mirror image 5-6/6-5 records, and both still have a good shot at a kachi-koshi if they can finish strong.

Sadanoumi vs Azumaryu – Make-koshi rikishi Sadanoumi holds a 4-2 career advantage over 5-6 Azumaryu, who has a reasonable chance at finishing Osaka with a winning record. They are well balanced in terms of sumo techniques, but to get the much needed win, Azumaryu will need to overcome the 2-4 career match deficit.

Daiamami vs Tochiozan – Can Tochiozan win 2 in a row? The battered veteran limps into day 12 action against Daiamami, looking ready for the scrap yard. We would love to see him avoid any risk of return to Juryo after having escaped the junior division in January.

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Chiyomaru will attempt to win his first match after returning from a 3 day fever kyujo in a match against Tochinoshin. In the grand scheme of things, Tochinoshin has never lost to Chiyomaru, but the last time they faced each other was 2 years ago, and Tochinoshin was on a tear pushing for Ozeki. The Tochinoshin of today is a battered relic that has to henka Kagayaki.

Shohozan vs Kaisei – With only 2 wins, Shohozan may provide Kaisei with the all important 8th win to secure a well deserved kachi-koshi. Under normal circumstances, it would be Shohozan’s move-and-strike sumo against Kaisei’s lumbering Newtonian style, but Shohozan has shown little of his traditional fighting energy this March.

Shimanoumi vs Kiribayama – Both of these rikishi are within range of completing the Osaka basho with a winning record. For Kiribayama, his second tournament in the top division has been a rough ride, and he has lost 4 of the last 5. I suspect one of these rikishi will end up in a day 15 Darwin match.

Takarafuji vs Chiyotairyu – The winner of this match will be kachi-koshi. Both of them have fought well, but Chiyotairyu is in the midst of a bit of a fade, having lost 3 of the last 4 matches. They are evenly matched at 8-8 over their career history, so it will come down to Chiyotairyu overwhelming Takarafuji’s defenses in the first few seconds, before he exhausts his stamina.

Ikioi vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi tends to dominate these matches, and their career record favors him 11-5. But it’s also clear that Tamawashi is fighting well below his ability this march, likely due to some injury, and Ikioi is fighting well enough to give him a good battle.

Yutakayama vs Abi – I have to say I am very excited for this contest, as we get to see them fight for the first time since January 2019. A lot has changed since then, and Yutakayama comes into this match having won the last 4 matches, including against Ozeki Takakeisho and presumptive Ozeki Asanoyama. My money is on the “Big Unit” today.

Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Looks like the schedulers have decided no more yushos from the bottom of the banzuke without a solid series of test matches against higher ranking foes. Up comes Big Dan Aoiyama to face Mitakeumi in what may be a yusho race elimination contest. But Aoiyama is not a starry eye shin-maku rikishi freshly escaped from Juryo, he is a seasoned veteran who has a 3-4 career record against Mitakeumi. This has the potential to be one hell of a fight.

Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – Matching 6-5 records, both are solid in fundamentals and take a lot of care in their sumo. Okinoumi will tend for a mawashi battle and Kagayaki will go for strike and move. Great clash of styles with two evenly matched opponents.

Myogiryu vs Tokushoryu – Both of them are make-koshi, so this is really more or less for entertainment value.

Daieisho vs Onosho – A Daieisho win today is kachi-koshi, and he has won the last 2 verses Onosho. But the Onosho of Haru 2020 is a strong, determined fighter who is more than able to stand up to Daieisho aggressive, strong oshi-sumo. As long as Onosho can keep his feet (and I expect Daieisho to do everything he can to disrupt that), it has potential to be a big battle.

Hokutofuji vs Enho – Enho is one loss away from make-koshi, but if he were to win his remaining matches, it would more or less be in keeping with many of his earlier bashos. Enho has a sad habit of going on losing streaks, and then pulling it together at the end. I think this basho he may also be nursing an injury. Oddly enough, this is the first time he has ever fought Hokutofuji, who got completely overrun by Enho’s stable mate, Yokozuna Hakuho yesterday.

Asanoyama vs Takanosho – The second yusho elimination match of the day, this is a first time meeting against two rikishi who have had great tournaments this March. Advantage would obviously go to Asanoyama, but a loss by the Sekiwake today would puncture any further hopes of promotion to Ozeki before the next tournament.

Takakeisho vs Ryuden – I think most sumo fans are just hoping that Takakeisho can make it to day 15 without further injury, even if he ends up kadoban for the next tournament. He holds a 3-1 career advantage over Ryuden, but that may not matter given the condition of his left leg.

Hakuho vs Shodai – I do hope that Hakuho is done playing around, and he crumples Shodai into a heap before tea-bagging that heap and pushing it off the edge of the dohyo, into the chikara-mizu bucket. Finish strong, Hakuho!

Endo vs Kakuryu – For the last several days, Yokozuna Kakuryu has been all business. Strong, decisive, and completley dominating his matches. I know Endo is going to go for that left hand shallow grip, but I expect that Kakuryu is going to shut it down rather than give him space to get into trouble.