Aki Day 12 Preview

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Hello again sumo fans! Very few people have ever confused me with a Yokozuna, and one more key difference is that unlike them, I’m back in action again on Day 12 at Kokugikan. This means I’m here to bring you the preview of the day’s events, and what I will be looking for in the top division matches. So without further ado:

Aki Leaderboard

Leaders: Takakeisho, Meisei
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Okinoumi, Takarafuji, Tsurugisho
Peloton: Goeido, Endo, Enho, Shohozan, Yutakayama

What We Are Watching Day 12

Quick little burst from Juryo: The schedulers continue to keep 9-2 leaders Ikioi and Kotonowaka away from each other, so we could be in for some senshuraku fun to decide the title. Future caddy Ikioi gets 7-4 Daishomaru in an attempt to add some intrigue to the race, while Kotonowaka contents himself with a duel against Hokkaido’s melon man, 6-5 Kyokutaisei. In Makuuchi action…

Yutakayama vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma, owner of one of the most sported yukata designs in sumo, gets a chance to stress his makuuchi credentials. His dance partner is the rusty pusher-thruster of Tokitsukaze-beya who is finding his way back into form. I think Yutakayama will be heyagashira by Haru and I think he’ll show why in this match, as long as Chiyoshoma doesn’t pull any rude tricks.

Takagenji vs Nishikigi – Sometimes a makekoshi can lift the pressure and weight off a rikishi’s shoulders and allow them to perform better, kind of like when a team gets relegated from the Premier League and all the sudden beats the team at the top of the table. Nishikigi is very much not at the top of the table, but with six losses on his ledger he will desperately be looking to knock off the doomed Takagenji. The two have only met once previously, on the hot dirt of Nagoya where the Chiganoura man was the victor. I fancy Nishikigi to even the score here.

Tochiozan vs Daishoho – It has been a laborious tournament for each of these men, who have winded their way to rather different results. Tochiozan hasn’t looked marvellous but can still eke out a kachikoshi. Daishoho needs wins to stave off relegation to Juryo. Difficult as it may be to watch, another laboured battle may be the tonic for Tochiozan, who lacks the power but perhaps possesses the better grappling ability and stamina than his counterpart here.

Onosho vs Kagayaki – Onosho has shown a bit of life in recent days, and has rebounded to 5-6, the same score as his opponent. “Tactics” Kagayaki has a 5-4 edge in the rivalry and the ability to win by keeping himself square to his man and blunting the smaller rikishi’s thrusting attack. Kagayaki is of course much taller and Onosho will likely be the attacker, looking to push up and raise the centre of gravity in search of a push out win. This feels a bit like a coin flip.

Sadanoumi vs Tsurugisho – Tsurugisho could actually be a bit of a weird dark horse at the moment as he may have had a lot of the matches that he would have against other contenders. That doesn’t mean he has a straightforward shot either at the yusho or even a special prize however: matches like this against a 6-5 rikishi looking to secure a kachikoshi still keep the stakes high, even if the opponents may be lower on the banzuke. Sadanoumi has a 2-1 edge and is better on the belt, and Tsurugisho is probably a better thruster, so this may come down to which style wins out at the tachiai.

Terutusyoshi vs Azumaryu – I haven’t been too impressed with Azumaryu in recent days, but with four matches left, he needs to win two for a kachikoshi. Terutsuyoshi has been largely pretty disappointing after his revelatory Nagoya basho. The goal here for the small man needs to be keeping Azumaryu off the mawashi.

Shohozan vs Kotoyuki – Shohozan has not looked amazing in this tournament but somehow finds himself a win from a kachikoshi and on the distant edges of the slow race for honours. Kotoyuki’s story is as always: uncontrolled momentum. Shohozan has been blasted at the tachiai before but if he can get some tsuppari/harite going and wind Kotoyuki up a bit, or even get a mawashi grip, he can deal with the Sadogatake man. Kotoyuki has a 4-3 edge in the head to head.

Okinoumi vs Meisei – Here’s the undisputed highlight match of the first half of the day’s action, pitting the new unheralded co-leader against the former unheralded leader. Okinoumi leads the career series 2-0, but neither of those matches came in a 2019 which has shown great development for Meisei. That said, I don’t think his sumo has matched up to his 9-2 record and a few of his victories have seemed more fortuitous than commanding, so I think this really comes down to whether Okinoumi, a more experienced practitioner of mawashi work as well as beltless throws, can escape the rot of his 3 bout losing run.

Enho vs Takarafuji – It’s a battle of two of the closest stables in sumo, an intra-ichimon affair as Miyagino-Hakuho’s Enho takes on Isegahama’s Takarafuji. Further to that, it’s a clash of wildly different sumo styles – and I don’t mean yotsu vs oshi. In this fascinating match, weaver of magic and bringer of chaos Enho comes up against an opponent in Takarafuji who specialises in defensive sumo and prefers to stalemate his opponents, kill off their attacking manoeuvres and shepherd them to defeat. While a first time meeting would tend to favour the trickster, Takarafuji will have seen plenty of Enho up close and personal and I think he will be wise to kill Enho’s movement and end his faint title hopes.

Ishiura vs Kotoeko – Ishiura has hit an ice patch and gets brought up the banzuke to take on the similarly fading Kotoeko. Ishiura has taken 4 of 6 from Kotoeko, using some serious kimarite (I love a tottari, even moreso when deployed by someone from Tottori). Ishiura has a habit of being a bit streaky so while I think he’s overall in the better form, I think this becomes more of a coin flip.

Kotoshogiku vs Tomokaze – Man alive, did Kotoshogiku ever get done by Enho on Day 11. He now faces makekoshi which seemed a bit unlikely earlier in the tournament, but those losses can pile up quickly. Tomokaze has beaten Kotoshogiku in their only prior meeting, and finds himself just two wins now from another incredible kachikoshi to continue his streak and push him further into the joi in Fukuoka. He has started doing more positive sumo since his bid to become the first all-hatakikomi yusho winner fell apart. The veteran is very capable of winning this if he lands his grip early, but the youngster’s in the better form, so I’ll tip him to send Kotoshogiku down the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Asanoyama – This is a very dangerous match for Asanoyama. Daieisho obviously hasn’t been perfect, but I think his 4-7 record is very misleading and he has worked hard to execute his oshi-zumo style in almost all of his matches. He also absolutely owns Asanoyama, winning the last 6 out of their 7 matchups. This may be the match more than any other that determines whether Asanoyama can take the next step in his development, never mind challenge for the yusho: will he be a left-hand-outside-one-trick-pony like a certain kadoban Ozeki or, when the chips are down, can he win a match that absolutely opposes his preferred style?

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Hokutofuji comes into this match in great form, hoping to come from behind and salvage a decent record in this basho off the back of several strong wins. He has a 6-2 career edge over Chiyotairyu, who looks lost. We all know Hokutofuji likes to slap himself but he will kick himself if he doesn’t win this.

Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Shimanoumi fights deep into the second half of the day’s action in a match littered with disappointment, as the 4-7 Kise-beya man takes his talents to Kasugano’s 2-9 Bulgarian. Big Dan has showed glimpses of his potential during this basho but has more often appeared listless. This presumable oshi-battle will be a good match for Shimanoumi to show whether he’s more often been outclassed or just outgunned.

Abi vs Shodai – Speaking of whipping boys, Abi will look to get his kachikoshi run back on track against 2-9 Shodai. Shodai isn’t a great opponent for Abi as evidenced by the Tokitsukaze man’s edge in their rivalry, so Abi needs to really use his double arm tsuppari to blow him away at the tachiai and sustain the blows. Sometimes Abi can make make one solid push off the shikiri-sen but then not make any forward progress after that no matter how many blows he lands. We know Shodai is just going to stand up and take it, and then look to evade the flailing arms in search of a belt grip. Shodai is already makekoshi and if Abi wants to hang around in san’yaku these are the matches he needs to win.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Tamawashi may have said he didn’t like picking up fusen-sho but the 6-5 cake decorator may have a few other thoughts if he ends this basho with 8 wins. 7-4 Endo had a lovely win against Shodai on Day 11 and is just hanging around the periphery of the yusho race. This incredibly streaky rivalry (6 for Endo, then 11 for Tamawashi) may have turned back towards Endo after he broke Tamawashi’s run against him in Nagoya. Endo has displayed the better sumo this tournament, and while he’s been hit and miss against pusher-thrusters in this tournament, he’s been more good than bad and I back him to win here.

Myogiryu vs Takakeisho – Myogiryu hasn’t faced anyone above Maegashira 4 this basho, so it must be some shock for the Maegashira 6 to find himself all of the sudden pulled up to face the past and future Ozeki and tournament leader after his return from kyujo. I tend to agree with Bruce’s point yesterday that kyujo returns seldom go well, but I think he might still get his 8 wins if he fights in the same manner as his Day 11 victory. Takakeisho can seal his return to Ozeki in this match, and he has incredibly won all six of their past meetings. Like his stablemate Goeido, Myogiryu is speedy, well rounded when it comes to his skills and maddeningly inconsistent. I wouldn’t rule out a shock but Takakeisho will be the presumptive favourite to finish the first job here and shift his focus to an unlikely and heroic Emperor’s Cup win.

Ryuden vs Goeido – 6-5 Ryuden has really turned his tournament around with four straight wins, perhaps none more impressive than the tide-turning victory over Mitakeumi on Day 11 which up-ended the yusho race once again. Goeido seems to bounce back from every loss with that angry scowl, and he seems to show up when he has something to prove. He is one win from ending his latest kadoban spell, but I’m not sure he’s going to get it here. He’s still technically in the yusho race, but the key for him is to suffocate Ryuden straight from the tachiai in the manner of his win against the hapless Chiyotairyu on Day 11. Ryuden tends to grow into matches and grow in stature and pull victory from the jaws of defeat, and Goeido can’t let that happen, because….

Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – This may be the highlight match of the second half of action. These two know all about each other (Mitakeumi is said to frequently go to Kasugano for degeiko), and the Georgian has an 8-3 edge in this rivalry. So, let’s look at it tactically:

Mitakeumi on paper is the kind of rikishi Tochinoshin does not want to face. He possesses an explosive pushing and thrusting attack, and Tochinoshin’s main defence in those matches lately has been pulling or slap-down attempts. This being said, Mitakeumi is also a good mawashi handler, but not in the league of Tochinoshin. The Dewanoumi man is also maddeningly inconsistent, conceding matches where he appears to lose focus when he should be in the thick of a title race.

Now let’s think about this: After this match, Tochinoshin is likely to face two mid-Maegashira opponents before Goeido on Senshuraku. Goeido will meanwhile get the two Sekiwake who are in the thick of the yusho hunt. What price on a couple of kadoban 7-7 Ozeki going head to head on the final day?

Aki Day 11 Highlights

There has been a fair amount of discussion about the yusho race for this basho on Twitter and Facebook, yep and even in our comments section. I look at it like this: the winning score will be between 11-4 and 13-2. I tend to think given how evenly matched folks are right now it’s closer to 11-4. From that I look at who can put together 11-4 mathematically. From that group I look at who has the stamina and focus to go 11-4, as the pressure of being in the lead group can crush a rikishi’s concentration in the last few days. Using that benchmark, I would come up with the following hypotheticals

11-4 Yusho Candidates

  • Takakeisho
  • Mitakeumi
  • Asanoyama
  • Okinoumi
  • Goeido
  • Endo
  • Shohozan
  • Meisei

12-3 Yusho Candidates

  • Takakeisho
  • Asanoyama
  • Mitakeumi
  • Okinoumi

13-2 Yusho Candidates

  • Takakeisho

Why not Meisei? His best ever record in the top division has been 10-5, and his highest ever rank Maegashira 4. He has never earned a yusho in any of the lower divisions, and may not have endured the pressure of a championship race. I think he has fought well, but if he makes it far enough to be in contention the final weekend, he would probably struggle with the likes of Asanoyama, Takakeisho or Mitakeumi.

I do think this will likely be an 11-4 yusho, and that means a huge amount of competition right up until the end. So far, everyone is on course for a big brawl to end it all.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s lengthy thrusting attack had surprisingly little effect of Tochiozan, who seemed content to stand his ground, and exhaust Chiyomaru’s limited stamina.

Yutakayama defeats Nishikigi – This looked like they could have called a matta, as Yutakayama was early off the mark, but the Gyoji let them fight it out. Nishikigi found himself 2 steps behind from the start, and never had a chance to recover. Yutakayama one win away from kachi-koshi now.

Onosho defeats Takagenji – Onosho completely dominates Takagenji, who takes his 8th loss and a confirmed return to Juryo. I have no doubt he will be back once he gets his sumo and his life in order. He’s in a tough spot.

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura once again takes flight, and finds that sumo is usually about keeping your feet firmly on the clay. For some odd reason, he makes a leap to his right, I think anticipating a charge forward from Meisei that never happened. Instead he made himself weightless and an easy mark for a shove into the zabuton. Meisei maintains his share of the lead.

Sadanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki again used solid fundamentals to control the early stages of this match, but he could not match Sadanoumi’s intensity. With his heels on the tawara, Sadanoumi finds a route to morozashi and attacks. Kagayaki has no response and finds himself with his 6th loss.

Azumaryu defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki, even the fierce one, is weak against lateral motion. After a strong opening attack, Kotoyuki finds himself lunging for the east side shimpan after Azumaryu deftly steps to the side.

Takarafuji defeats Daishoho – After a surprisingly weak tachiai, and a moment where both men are a bit “soft”, the two go chest to chest, which clearly favors Takarafuji. After a protracted leaning session, Takarafuji switches his grip and drops Daishoho to the clay. Takarafuji gets his 8th win, and Daishoho his 8th loss.

Tsurugisho defeats Okinoumi – Co-leader Okinoumi finds himself face down on the dohyo thanks to Tsurugisho’s acrobatics. This knocks Okinoumi out of the leader group, but still within range of most possible yusho outcomes. Tsurugisho reaches his 8th win, and kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Kotoeko – Both men take a left hand inside grip at the tachiai. I have noticed that Shohozan is working more on the mawashi now than ever, and we seldom see his mobile “strike and move” sumo. In a battle of strength, Kotoeko finds out what “Big Guns” has loaded as Shohozan dances him over the bales.

Enho defeats Kotoshogiku – And for another day, Enho delivers some of the most exciting sumo on the torikumi. To his great credit, Kotoshogiku absorbs a fantastic amount of “tries” from Enho: a throw, a twist down, a leg pick – and remains upright and in the fight. But when Kotoshogiku grabs Enho around his neck and tries to pull, he gives up the match. Great sumo from these two. Maybe this is why Hakuho is kyujo so much, he trains with this guy who is throwing the kitchen sink at the Yokozuna several times a day.

Myogiryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Welcome back Myogiryu. Terutsuyoshi did not even really get off of the shikiri-sen before he had Myogiryu attacking with vigor.

Shimanoumi defeats Daieisho – This match was all Daieisho, as Shimanoumi absorbed thrust and blows at a frantic pace. But Daieisho over extended in a push to force Shimanoumi out, only to find Shimanoumi had stepped to the side and left Daieisho with a eye level view of the tawara.

Tomokaze defeats Aoiyama – No this is more like Tomokaze’s typical sumo. Sadly Aoiyama is a bit of a wreck right now, but at least we got to see Tomokaze moving forward and fighting strongly.

Hokutofuji defeats Asanoyama – Hokutofuji surprises Asanoyama, completely disrupting his attempts to establish a belt grip and an offensive stance. For readers asking about the “handshake tachiai”, it’s on full display today. Asanoyama finds himself trying to react to the resulting nodowa, rather than getting a belt grip and getting to work. Asanoyama drops one back from the leader group, but still very much in yusho contention.

Endo defeats Shodai – Endo has control of this match from the tachiai, granted the tachiai was against Shodai. But he catches Shodai shifting his stance and rotates into a beautifully executed uwatedashinage.

Tamawashi defeats Abi – Abi gets his preferred double arm thrust to Tamawashi’s neck at the tachiai. But Tamawashi has his hands pushing against Abi’s chest, and Abi find himself out matched. Abi continues to try working at Tamawashi’s face, which I think Tamawashi has long since written off, and focuses his thrusting attack at Abi’s body, completely disrupting him, and taking the match.

Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – Ryuden spends most of this match trying to absorb everything that Mitakeumi throws at him, which seems to be quite a bit. But Ryuden stays in the fight and finds a route to Mitakeumi’s chest. In fantastically timed move, he moves in with his right hand and pivots, turning Mitakeumi who struggles to regain his footing. Before the Sekiwake can plant his feet, Ryuen shoves hard and gets Mitakeumi over the tawara. Great recovery from Ryuden, and he also knocks Mitakeumi out of the leader group.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – A wild and chaotic match that was one part yotsu, two parts oshi. Was anyone else amazed to see Takakeisho go for a deep right hand grip as Tochinoshin attempted what looked like a kubinage? With Takakeisho latched on to his belt, the kubinage falls apart, and Tochinoshin falls forward. Takakeisho moves behind and pushes Tochinoshin into a surprised and gyoji, dropping not only the Ozeki but the highest ranking referee in sumo. In the more ancient forms of sumo, this would have counted as 1 win for Tochinoshin (oshidashi vs the gyoji), 2 wins for Takakeisho (Tochinoshin by okuritaoshi, the gyoji by oshidashi), and would have resulted not only in the immediate re-promotion of Takakeisho back to Ozeki, but an on the spot presentation of the rare and seldom awarded jicchuugi-sho (十柱戯賞) special prize.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – The matta fest was the attraction, the match itself was a brief and bloody affair. One more win for Goeido to clear kadoban.

Aki Day 11 Preview

Welcome to Act 3 of the Aki Basho! Act 3 is where we sort the survivors from the damned, and we crown a yusho winner. As lksumo has so expertly written, right now it seems the conditions for demotion out of Makuuchi are gentle, and many of the lower ranked rikishi with mild losing records may find safe-harbor. Meanwhile, the yusho race looks like it will barely make double-digits for most contenders. While the score may be low, the action is going to be intense for the next 5 days.

We hope, we wished, and now we have possibly the most wide-open yusho race going into the final 5 days in many years. Odds are good that one of the current 8-2 rikishi will be the one to beat going into the final weekend, but even that may shock and surprise us. I am still hoping for a multi-way 11-4 playoff on senshuraku. Do you notice that there are three rikishi in the leader board who have already won their first yusho? I know I did. This may be a glance at the future of the sport.

Somewhere, Takayasu is cursing is foul luck.

Aki Leaderboard

I don’t ever recall a leaderboard this bulging with meaty people in all of my days following sumo.

Leaders: Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, Asanoyama, Okinoumi, Meisei
Chasers: Takarafuji, Tsurugisho
Hunt Group: Goeido, Abi, Endo, Enho, Shohozan, Ishiura, Yutakayama

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Chiyomaru vs Tochiozan – The front of the Makuuchi promotion queue comes back to the top division, and his match against Tochinoshin may prove to put a kink in his plans to join.

Yutakayama vs Nishikigi – Yutakayama is still looking quite rough, but he’s 2 wins away from kachi-koshi, which is his most important goal right now. At Maegashira 16e, he is motivated to get his 8.

Onosho vs Takagenji – Interestingly enough, a first time match between these two. Takagenji is one loss away from make-koshi, and a spot on the slow barge captained by Toyonoshima. Onosho needs to win 4 of his last 5 to reach kachi-koshi.

Ishiura vs Meisei – The scheduling committee continues to hand the mid-Maegashira ranked leaders much lower ranked opponents. Ishiura had a solid start to Aki, but has gone stone cold, losing the last 3 in a row. Can he take down Meisei, and pare down the leader group?

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both rikishi at 5-5, and they come with an even 6-5 match. Sadanoumi will bring speed, Kagayaki will bring fundamentals. I think if Sadanoumi can stay mobile, he has a clear advantage today.

Azumaryu vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has been rather fierce the past few days, and this is the second of these “even matches” that will play out. Both are 5-5, and they have a nearly equal career record.

Daishoho vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is one win out from kachi-koshi, and a win today would simultaneously hand Daishoho his make-koshi. First step should decide it.

Okinoumi vs Tsurugisho – Member of the leader group takes on a member of the chaser group, and one of them is getting nocked down a slot. These battles should take place almost every day for the remainder of the basho.

Shohozan vs Kotoeko – For a variety of reasons, Kotoeko does not seem to be able to buy a win right now. Shohozan is fighting well enough, but he seems quite a bit detuned from even a year ago.

Kotoshogiku vs Enho – First time match up, and I have no clue what is going to happen here. Kotoshogiku fights by grappling and pushing with his hips. I can only imagine the intersection of Enho’s submarine tachiai and Kotoshogiku’s pelvic thrusts. Actually now that I have imagined that, I am sorry.

Terutsuyoshi vs Myogiryu – Freshly make-koshi Terutsuyoshi comes up against Myogiryu, who has freshly returned from kyujo. Many times these mid / late basho returns are perilous, and I worry that Myogiryu may have no way to access if he is actually well enough for competition.

Daieisho vs Shimanoumi – Another first time match, and a loss by Shimanoumi will be his 8th. I expect him to fight with vigor to try to hang onto his standing in the middle of Maegashira.

Tomokaze vs Aoiyama – Who is going to push and who is going to pull? Tomokaze needs to win 3 out of 5 to keep his unbroken string of kachi-koshi rolling. I am going with the idea that both of these men are hurt, and this match may be a bit rough.

Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Hokutofuji has a chance to play spoiler, and knock Asanoyama into the lower bracket in the yusho race. Hokutofuji needs 4 out of 5 to get to kachi-koshi, which is a pretty tall order at this stage of the basho.

Shodai vs Endo – Shodai holds a 4-1 advantage over Endo. He is already make-koshi, so I wonder how hard he will fight. History shows that when it comes to Shodai, he sometimes fights better once he has a losing record, as if some sort of pressure or worry is lifted from him.

Abi vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is an expert oshi-rikishi, but has yet to have a single win against Abi. Abi is not really in the yusho race at this point, unless the leader group all eat clay in the next day or two, but he’s 2 wins away from keeping a slot in San’yaku.

Mitakeumi vs Ryuden – Oh yes indeed, this one should be good indeed. Ryuden has won the last 3, and he’s got a slight career edge over Mitakeumi. But for Aki, I think that Mitakeumi is starting to hit his traditional second week stall, and we may see him picked off today or tomorrow.

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – The battle of ultimate pain. Tochinoshin needs 3 of the last 5, and Takakeisho needs 2 out of 5. This is a huge clash of styles, with Tochinoshin seldom winning any oshi-matches, and Takakeisho helpless on the mawashi. Takakeisho has a 6-2 career edge, but Tochinoshin has a desperation edge. I can’t wait for this one….

Chiyotairyu vs Goeido – Goeido needs 2 more wins to clear kadoban, so lets see what Chiyotairyu has on day 11. These two have a 7-8 career history, so it’s anyone’s guess which version of Goeido shows up.

Aki Day 10 Highlights

I was hoping, oh I was hoping that we would get a massive multi-way brawl during the last 5 days for the yusho. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan smiled, thrashed its long stripy tail and made it thus, for which I am eternally grateful. Although they were fighting what should have been (mathematically anyhow) easy opponents, co-leaders Meisei and Okinoumi both hit the clay on day 10, resulting in a brutal 5 way tie for the lead in the yusho race, with an additional 9 rikishi in striking range. At this point, no matter who is fighting for the next couple of days, it has yusho implications.

We have not seen a basho like this in many years, and frankly I thinking of taking vacation days from work just to watch this one. Yes the Yokozuna are both out hurt, and the Ozeki corps is as weak as at any time in the last 2 years. But the level of motivation that is present now across 14 rikishi, with the yusho in reach, is unmatched. I am going to assume we will see Makushita joi levels of intensity in the coming days among the best fighters that sumo can muster today.

Woven into this insane tapestry of combat is the drama of Tochinoshin still pushing to hold on to Ozeki, injured, struggling, but still in the hunt for his 8. Takakeisho 2 wins away from returning to Ozeki from a Sekiwake demotion, and both Asanoyama and Mitakeumi in the hunt for their second Emperor’s cup. Given who is actually still competing, I don’t think you could build a bigger final 5 days than this.

In other news, Toyonoshima went kyujo with an injury to his Achilles tendon, cementing his return to Juryo and giving Nishikigi a default win.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Takagenji – Takagenji can’t make it work against a Juryo man with a losing record. Granted it’s former Makuuchi rikishi Daiamami, but its an indication of just how big a mess Takagenji is right now. I feel for this guy, and I am sure he is going to be back sooner rather than later.

Tochiozan defeats Azumaryu – Tochiozan got a whiff of the funk of that slow barge back to Juryo, and has said, “Nope!”. Azumaryu came in low, stretched go get lower, and Tochiozan helped him get lower still and touch the dohyo.

Yutakayama defeats Daishoho – Another messy match with Yutakayama, who seems to be struggling to find his sumo. He gives up the centerline position he took at the tachiai, and uses his mobility to foil Daishoho’s counter-thrust attack. As I tend to say, go watch the footwork in this match. Although Yutakayama is on the move and might appear a bit rough in the upper body, his feet tell the story.

Tsurugisho defeats Meisei – The first co-leader hits the clay. Meisei gets morozashi early in the match, but is completely out matched by Tsurugisho. This match puzzles me, Tsurugisho’s hips are high, his stance is tall and upright, and Meisei should have been able to eat him alive. Meisei tried to swing him into a throw, but Tsurugisho just collapsed on top of him to win the match.

Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi. Terutsuyoshi could not get close enough to really execute any offense against Kagayaki, who kept his stance wide and his hips low. Another day of excellent fundamentals from Kagayaki.

Kotoyuki defeats Ishiura – Fierce Kotoyuki mounted the dohyo again, and frankly I am not sure what Ishiura had in mind with his tachiai. It looks like half submarine, half flying henka. The result is that Ishiura is airborne, and essentially weightless for a time. Kotoyuki did not pass up the opportunity, and hands Ishiura another loss.

Sadanoumi defeats Okinoumi – Down goes yusho leader #2. Once again it looks like Okinoumi lost traction, and I am thinking that white bandage boot on his left foot is at least partly to blame. Okinoumi gives up the inside position to Sadanoumi, and finds himself in the passenger seat for a rough ride.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan seemed to lack any strength to counter Takarafuji’s advance, and quickly found himself with his heels on the tawara, and stepped out without resistance. Better to take the loss than risk the injury, I would imagine.

Onosho defeats Kotoshogiku – I thought this was an excellent match, although it underscored how little power Kotoshogiku can generate these days. Onosho applies a hybrid thrusting / armpit attack repeatedly to prevent Kotoshogiku from ever squaring his hips and initiating his gaburi-yori. That was solid sumo, Onosho.

Enho defeats Kotoeko – A odd little match, with the softest tachiai I have seen in a long time – reminiscent of a Hattorizakura match. Enho then proceeds to keep a seemingly calculated distance from Kotoeko, and attacks Kotoeko’s hands. Multiple times Enho moves in to grapple with Kotoeko briefly, then escapes. Enho does eventually take a hold of Kotoeko and win, but this was strange but effective sumo from Enho.

Ryuden defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze starts this match in forward gear, thrusting strongly at Ryuden’s chest, but I guess the temptation was too strong, and he reaches with his left arm to try to pull. Of course the pull releases forward pressure, and Ryuden now owns this match. Ryuden’s left hand outside grip is firm, and Tomokaze is chest to chest an unable to try any more pulls. Ryuden establishes an unassailable defensive body position, and proceeds to wear Tomokaze down, wearing him out and finally throwing him to the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi works hard for a right hand inside grip, and briefly gets it. But the entire time he’s working that advantage, Asanoyama is moving him away from the center of the dohyo, and before Shimanoumi can establish any workable attack, the match is lost. Asanoyama picks up his kachi-koshi, and his share of the lead.

Daieisho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s initial thrust and pull gambit failed miserably, and Daieisho completely dominates the match. Aoiyama’s 8th loss, and a disappointing make-koshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Hokutofuji tried to use his “handshake tachiai” to establish a nodowa today, but Endo expertly blocked it and established an inside position at the state time. But the very next moment, Endo thrusts Hokutofuji away. At that instant, comparing their body positions, Endo is on his toes and reaching forward with his mass too far in front of his arches. Hokutofuji is flat on his feet, his weight centered, his stance wide. He catches Endo by the neck and that lower body of his takes over and drives forward. Endo is never able to recover his balance or set his feet for defense, and the win goes too Hokutofuji. Textbook example of Hokutofuji’s sumo. He seems to have unmatched control over his lower body.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Oh, the match history between these two. This match looked a lot like many of the prior, with Mitakeumi absorbing volley after volley of thrusts, and just absorbing them while carefully giving ground. It’s a waiting game, looking for Tamawashi to over-extend. He does, Mitakeumi throws him to the clay and he’s kachi-koshi and tied for the lead.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Not really “wave action” today, more of a ripple ripple shove attack. Shodai is overwhelmed right from the tachiai, but tries a turn at the tawara to send Takakeisho off balance, but Takakeisho reads it perfectly, and helps Shodai continue the motion, and drops him on the tawara. Takakeisho scores his kachi-koshi while Shodai suffers his make-koshi in the same bout.

Abi defeats Goeido – Goeido’s opening gambit was to get that left hand on Abi’s mawashi, no matter what. He misses and finds himself without access to plan B. With Abi thrusting away, Goeido desperately tries anything, and grabs Abi’s right forearm. But the Ozeki is off balance, his body is turned and his feet are nowhere useful. A powerful open handed blow from Abi’s left to Goeido’s chest sends him flying for a loss. Great sumo from Abi today.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – A surprising match, as Tochinoshin successfully executes a yotsu win over Chiyotairyu, administering his make-koshi and moving a step closer to clearing kadoban. You can see the pain written on Tochinoshin’s body, but he endures and claims a precious victory. 3 more to go.