Day 15 Recap and Comments

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The sumo has ended, and the senshuraku parties are raging on into the night. It’s a celebration in Nagoya as a new rikishi has won his first yusho after a remarkable run of victories. Mitakeumi makes for a really interesting champion, in that he has been remarkably consistent for some time now, but like Tochinoshin was just below the threshold of contender. Then something changed, and he became the man to beat in Nagoya. Part of this is, of course, the natural reaction to the top men of sumo being sidelined. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of the Yokozuna, new champions will rise. The real fireworks begin when the new champion confronts the aging kings of sumo. This is just one reason I expect Aki could be the most exciting basho in several years.

Mitakeumi is clearly in an Ozeki campaign now, and with good cause. The two big wrinkles to any claim he might make have to be the questionable loss to Takayasu, and the fact that Yutakayama beat him today. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn impressed with the sumo on display today by both men. And the fact that Freshman Yutakayama was able to take the fight to Mitakumi and prevail speaks clearly to just how much competition there will be in the next two years. As sumo’s current mainstays all fade and move on, the new crowd are going to battle it out to see who gets to take the top spots. Frankly, I can’t wait.

There may be a pretty good churn between Juryo and Makuuchi for the fall. Takanoiwa won the Juryo yusho in a playoff, and finished with an impressive 13-2 record. The man was on fire, and much like Mitakeumi, seems to have had a breakout basho. In all there were 4 rikishi who finished Juryo with 10 or more wins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Yoshikaze picked up his second win on the final day, and by our sage’s predictions, this will possibly keep him in Makuuchi for the fall. Whatever ails Yoshikaze, I do hope he can heal up and overcome. A healthy Yoshikaze at the bottom of the banzuke is an unmitigated terror that I think every young rikishi should have the pleasure of encountering.

Some Match Notes

Ishiura resorted once more to solid “small man sumo” and used a leg pick to control Chiyomaru’s mighty bulk. By improving his make-koshi to 7-8, he has greatly cushioned his demotion for Aki. I also think that maybe Ishiura may have started a new chapter in his sumo.

Onosho finishes in double digits on his return to Makuuchi, and strongly repelled Myogiryu’s successful opening gambit. I am expecting some great things from Onosho in the fall. I think he will be just outside the joi, and will be “the cutter” of middle Maegashira.

Okinoumi was able to finish with a kachi-koshi as Chiyoshoma went kyujo on the final day. That means that yet another rikishi dropped from this torturous basho, and this broke Chiyoshoma’s near 500 consecutive match attendance streak.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu featured a false start that quickly devolved into a flurry of good manners and congenial behavior. This is one of the reasons I love sumo. Hokutofuji finishes with 11 wins and will be in a much tougher cohort for Aki.

Sadanoumi was able to overcome Daishomaru for his kachi-koshi, while his opponent Daishomaru dropped to 5-10.

Takakeisho went chest to chest at the tachiai against Asanoyama, and kept him there. I suspect Takakeisho is more versatile than assumed, and may be looking to broaden his sumo in wise preparation for maintaining higher ranks. Both rikishi finish in double digits. Asanoyama also picked up the fighting spirit prize (Kanto-Sho).

Abi’s long reach was equaled by Aoiyama, and it was quite the discovery process for both of them. I did like to see Abi do everything he could to try to keep Aoiyama from falling from the dohyo. But frankly Abi, there is only so much you can do when that much mass is in motion.

Then there was possibly THE match of the basho. Yutakayama gave his all against Mitakeumi, and beat him. Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but for some reason started trying to pull down Yutakayama. With these two so evenly matched, the pull attempt did little more than send Mitakeumi off balance and moving in reverse (not a good place to be). He eventually was able to recover offensive footing, but not before Yutakayama had chanced him around the dohyo. Now chest to chest, Mitakeumi advanced to deliver the yorikiri, but Yutakayama loaded and executed a rescue throw (kakenage) at the edge. Fantastic sumo.

Endo continued his fade, and delivered Ichinojo’s kachi-koshi for his final match. After trying to get some kind of offense going from the tachiai, Endo learns he cannot move the boulder. With one arm, Ichinojo lashes out and Endo goes flying.

Lastly, Ozeki Goeido finishes with double digit wins for the first time since Aki 2017 as Takayasu seems to be caught improvising into the tachiai. Both of you knuckleheads go back to Tokyo and get yourselves fixed up.

Thank you, dear readers, for once again sharing your love of sumo with us, and spending your time enjoying the sport on Tachiai.

Nagoya Day 15 Preview

Macacon Of Victory

All too soon we have arrived at the end of the Nagoya basho. Ir has been rough and crazy, with an amazing number of rikishi dropping out due to injury. Some may try to limit or diminish Mitakeumi’s yusho by saying that it took place when none of the Yokozuna were competing. They are welcome to their opinions, but you can only fight the men who show up. With at least 13 (should have been 14) wins, Mitakeumi remained remarkably focused and consistent throughout the basho. I do not ever recall seeing him in this state of mind, and with his focus his sumo has flourished. Much will change now for this young man. There is a lot of celebration that follows a yusho, and there is a lot of media attention that will gravitate towards the man from Nagano-ken.

It increasingly looks like Aki 2018 may be the pivotal basho for our long forecast tidal shift in sumo. The old guard continues to fade, and multiple cohorts of young rikishi seem to be coming into their own. At some point the old guard will rally, and there will be a tournament of some of the most intense competition seen in years. I think that could be Aki.

For fans, there is another Grand Sumo Live broadcast overnight in the US (daytime in Japan). For those who are awake, it should be a fun time with John Gunning and Hiro Morita in the booth.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Most of the make / kachi kochi rikishi have been sorted, but there are a few notable matches that still stand out.

Chiyomaru vs Ishiura – There is a chance that a win here might save Ishiura, even though he is already make-koshi.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – They are both 9-5. The winner will go double digits, and have a significant banzuke boost for Aki.

Chiyoshoma vs Okinoumi – A win here would be kachi-koshi for Okinoumi, his first since November of last year.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both men are going to get a nice promotion, but this match is just pure fun. Both are fast, strong and sometimes brutal. Chiyotairyu has been hot or cold this basho, so it’s a puzzle which version of him is going to show up. Hokutofuji has a 4-2 career lead.

Daishomaru vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi comes into the match 7-7, needing to pick up one more win. Daishomaru is 7 ranks above him in the banzuke, so this will be one of these ugly matches where the underdog is in a must-win situation.

Asanoyama vs Takakeisho – Both rikishi have had very strong tournaments in Nagoya, and this is another “I want to see that!” matches. Asanoyama seems to have gotten a bit more serious since March, and is fighting with stoic determination. Takakeisho is going to be deep in the joi for Aki, which may be a very rough and dangerous assignment. His first tour was a bit of a disaster (they usually are), and I am eager to see what he has improved in his second posting.

Abi vs Aoiyama – And yet another of “I want to see that” matches. Its their first meeting, and we have two oshi fighters with impressive reach, a tendency to attack above center mass, and tons of attitude. Who’s going home bruised and pulpy?

Ikioi vs Kaisei – I think they should skip the sumo, and settle this through karaoke. Do you know who would win? That’s right – we would!

Shodai vs Kagayaki – I can’t help but think that in some old Soviet research lab, in a dark corner, is a frail but brilliant old surgeon who would be willing to part out both of these rikishi to create the ultimate Japanese battle golem. He could wear a half sky-blue half gold mawashi, and run around with twice the tsukebito, twice the chanko and just the good parts from both men. We could call him Fukugouyama. (複合山)

Yoshikaze vs Shohozan – Man, the battle of sadness today. Big Guns Shohozan has stunk this basho. But at least he’s done better than Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze needs a win to stay in Makuuchi, unless he’s planning a trip to the barbers.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Why is this match happening? Well, you see, the schedulers ran out of matches that made sense. So they just put everyone’s shikona on a shōji and started throwing chopsticks. That or they hired one of those psychic octopuses that seem to always predict the World Cup. Anyhow, Tochiozan has this odd habit of beating Tamawashi. And after the hospital bill Tamawashi has racked up, he needs a bit of a beating.

Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – We wanted a Sekiwake battle, but instead we got this guy against Captain Yusho / Ōkatō. Ok, fine. Let the chopsticks fall where they may. The only other time they matched, Mitakeumi overpowered him. Yutakayama has been especially genki, but I as long as Mitakeumi did not drain too many sake casks with his celebration, he will be able to dispatch this rising star.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Endo has faded like a “Relect Yoshihiko Noda” poster. But Ichinojo needs one win for kachi-koshi. But ask yourself, does Ichinojo deserve a kachi-koshi? I love the pony-tossing Mongolian behemoth, but his sumo has been terrible this tournament. I say turn him out and let him get his act together.

Goeido vs Takayasu – My advice to both, make it look good but nobody get hurt. Both of you survived in no small part because all of the bigger predators were sidelined. Be thankful and go home and get healthy. Especially you, you big hairy mess. I was happy to see that once you were really hurt you decided you could compete with sumo skill. So you didn’t forget!

Nagoya Day 12 Highlights

Takayasu Day 12b

For those of you worried about spoilers, you can stop reading now until you have had a chance to watch your time-delayed broadcasts. This commentary will still be here later.

For fans who are outranged about today’s final match, I have some words to perhaps help explain. Mitakeumi is still the leader, and is still likely to take the yusho. He’s clearly on an Ozeki campaign now, and he is showing his best sumo ever. He lost nothing today, and possibly gained much. Its possible that on this day, when there was a chance for the shimpan to make a call, they chose to think about things in a broader strategic context. I do not agree with the way they decided this, but then again I am not a sumo elder, or a member of the NSK, or anything more than a sumo fan typing away on a blog.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes.

  1. Call the match for Mitakeumi – Well, it looks like Takayasu’s big toe touched the sand before Mitakeumi’s foot landed out. So, close enough. Mitakeumi goes to 12-0, and everyone else had 9 wins. The only way that the yusho might be contested in the last weekend is if Mitakeumi loses his last 3 matches.
  2. Call the match for Takayasu – Ok, Takayasu goes kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban. One of the few remaining kanban rikishi is protected and whatever injuries that are plaguing him have more time to heal before he feels the need to defend his rank. Mitakeumi exits the day still 2 wins ahead of everyone else, just the way it started, and there is a tiny tiny chance that someone with experience (Goeido) might be able to contest for the yusho. That goes double as Mitakeumi faces Goeido in day 13’s final match. This is good for competition, the fans, TV ratings and the sport. If NHK’s ratings follow similar ratios to Tachiai’s web traffic, the lack of kanban rikishi in this tournament have dropped viewership.
  3. Call for a torinaoshi / rematch – The last thing you want to do is have an already injured Takayasu possibly compounding his problems in a second bout against your rising star. Given what we could see on the replays, this looked like the right thing to do for the match, but I am going to guess the Shimpan took option 2 as the best thing to do for sumo.

Day 12 Matches

Takanoiwa defeats Kotoeko – Soon to be returning Takanoiwa dispatches soon to be departing Kotoeko in this first Makuuchi bout of the day. Takanoiwa seems like maybe he picked up some mass. Today’s match was a simple push-pull win.

Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries to submarine the tachiai, but Sadanoumi is unfazed and continues to march forward with Ishiura crumpled against his chest. Ishiura now one loss away from a likely demotion back to Juryo.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden loses thanks to Aoiyama’s henka. Wait, what? Aoiyama henka? If you are Ryuden, are you more embarrassed that you lost, or that you let Aoiyama henka you?

Myogiryu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan gets his third loss and drops back into the peloton. Myogiryu was fast and aggressive, and did not let Tochiozan disrupt his offense. Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was once again low and fast at the tachiai, but he gave up the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama and was never able to gain offensive traction. Excellent sumo today from Yutakayama. While Hokutofuji fans would love to see him run up the score and be mid-Maegashira at Aki, his kachi-koshi is what he needed to pull back from the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke. His sumo is looking strong and he seems to be past the injuries that had him underperforming. Yutakayama is looking very genki, and we may get to see him try the joi again after his disastrous 2-13 at Natsu.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Even though he beat Chiyoshoma today, I have gotten the impression that Onosho is not quite 100% right now. I don’t know if its lingering effects of his injury, or the heat of Nagoya or what. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi. I think we will continue to see him regrouping for at least one more basho. Hopefully by then the red mawashi will be back from the cleaners.

Kyokutaisei defeats Arawashi – With his heels against the make-koshi bales, Kyokutaisei has found the mojo to win yet again. Sadly Arawashi’s 3-9 record is bad enough he is getting close to what could be an aggressive demotion to Juryo line.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho punches Meisei’s return ticket to Juryo by handing him his make-koshi with a pride obliterating side-step and pull down. I think its possible we will see a mighty Makuuhci-Juryo churn headed into Aki.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze continues to push the envelope on his unstoppable march to a totally winless anti-yusho. As a Yoshikaze fan, I just have to hope that whatever is wrong with him is not painful, fatal or crippling. Whats more, I think most of the rikishi know what’s going on, as you can see Chiyomaru take extreme care to keep him safe. And he’s not the first to do it this tournament.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei gets a well earned kachi-koshi. His performance this basho has been above his recent average, and we hope he can stay healthy and genki. Asanoyama threw quite a bit of sumo at him, but Kaisei’s superior reach, and mass-driven stability carried the match. With this loss, Asanoyama also drops back into the peloton.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Takakeisho breaks out the “Wave Action” sumo again, and today it works against an increasingly frustrated Chiyotairyu, who just can’t seem to get that win that will give him kachi-koshi. Takakeisho will likely be top Maegashira / bottom San’yaku for Aki.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Can two men turn ottsuke into a match long battle strategy? Hell, these two sure tried to do it. This was followed by an endurance lean-off at the shikiri-sen. After perhaps a minute, Ikioi rallies and tries to advance. And what is Takarafuji doing? Why more ottsuke of course. Alright, congrats to Ikioi on what was a somewhat ridiculous match.

Shodai defeats Daishomaru – Now that he is make-koshi, Shodai decides to show up and try some sumo today. With the exception of his normally high and flat tachiai, he actually executed well. Clearly the young man needs to regroup, as I still think there is hope for him and his sumo.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni recovers brilliantly after he loses his balance early in the match, but Tamawashi chases him down and finishes Chiyonokuni with a kotenage, which like Kotoshogiku, seems to have injured his elbow. Sadly Chiyonokuni faces Ikioi day 13 rather than Shodai, because if Chiyonokuni were to go kyujo, we could have had one of the 2 fusensho men give the other 2 fusensho man a fusensho.

Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi works the double arm tsuppari attack successfully today, and the already make-koshi shohozan gets a close look at the tokudawara.

Ichinojo defeats Kagayaki – Ichinojo hands Kagayaki his make-koshi when Kagayaki’s sumo fundamentals break down as they are confronted by 500 pounds of pony tossing Ichinojo. Points to Kagayaki for trying to set the tone and form of the match against an opponent who has been far too docile this tournament, but Ichinojo was ready to fight today, and took Kagayaki to his chest and pacified him. Unable to improve his grip or get a firm hold against the boulder, Kagayaki was stalemated in a war of attrition. I was impressed by how well Kagayaki fought off the uwatenage when it came, but there was just too much force bundled in that move by Ichinojo to shut it down.

Goeido defeats Endo – Endo is ejected from the peloton by Goeido after a false start at the tachiai. Goeido wins in his preferred “good” mode: low, fast, and more or less unstoppable. Endo compounded the problem by trying to pull against Goeido’s denshamichi attack.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Fans were howling long before my alarm woke me this morning over this match, and I think rightly so. The match did achieve it’s strategic goal, which was to hand Miakeumi his first kuroboshi, and open up the yusho race heading into the final weekend. But Mitakeumi dominated that match, set the terms and the cadence of the fight, and literally made Takayasu dance to his sumo. The match ended with both men moving at speed over the bales on the north side of the dohyo, and visiting the VIPs in the first two rows of tawara. The gyoji loses his mind and points both east and west, and it’s clear the shimpan is going to sort this one out. To my eye, this was a very clear situation for torinaoshi (rematch). But the decision of the shimpan is best framed in that by awarding the match to Takayasu, they would achieve the strategic goal of day 12. So they did. Takayasu did a masterful job of staying airborne, and that was quite impressive. Takayasu gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban.

Nagoya Day 12 Preview

Tochiozan

It had to happen…

Day 12 seems to be the day the schedulers have decided to start combining the most volatile components in attempts to induce a big, smoke and fire producing reaction in the laboratory that is Nagoya. As is typical with every basho, once we get to act 3, the normal formula for matches gives way to a series of “Hey that’s neat” matches, which frequently feature huge banzuke gaps to bring rikishi with similar styles, records or fierce rivalries together.

At the end of day 11, Mitakeumi needed to reach at least 14 wins to mathematically eliminate his closest rivals, Asanoyama and Tochiozan who could reach (in theory) 13 wins by Sunday. So Mitakeumi needs to face the remaining Ozeki, no matter how banged up they are, to see if he has what it takes to beat all opponents. In parallel, Tochiozan and Asanoyama need stiffer challenges. Ideally they can bring everyone in this group to 3 losses by Sunday, opening the possibility of a broader competition with the remaining stragglers in the peloton.

Nagoya Leaderboard

LeaderMitakeumi
Chasers – none
Hunters – Asanoyama, Tochiozan
PelotonGoeido, Endo, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji

4 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 12

Kotoeko vs Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa comes to Makuuchi to fill in the gap left by Kotoshogiku, and for orientation for his return to Makuuchi. He can wave at poor Kotoeko who is likely to be headed back to Juryo for additional seasoning and ripening.

Aoiyama vs Ryuden – First time meeting between to 6-5 rikishi, who are still very much in the hunt for a kachi-koshi. For Ryuden, wins now are a must. Aoiyama may already be safe.

Myogiryu vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan is holding fast to his spot 2 wins behind Mitakeumi, hoping that King Tadpole can lose at least 2 matches. In the mean time I expect he will continue to execute his high-efficiency sumo. These two are evenly matched over their career at 11-12, and Myogiryu needs one more win to secure kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Yutakayama – Though it is toward the bottom of the banzuke, this one might just be the most anticipated match of the day. Both are already kachi-koshi, both are still in the peloton group, and both are fighting in fantastic form right now. Hokutofuji has been able to overpower some of his opponents, but I am going to guess Yutakayama won’t be so easily dispatched.

Arawashi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei tries once again to stave of make-koshi after taking a win from hapless Yoshikaze. Arawashi is already make-koshi, but he’s likely to continue to driver for wins to try and soften his demotion.

Meisei vs Daieisho – Maegashira 16 vs Maegashira 7, and the loser gets make-koshi. Their first ever match.

Kaisei vs Asanoyama – With Asanoyama 2 wins behind Mitakeumi, the schedulers decided it was time he played with some bigger men. Enter one of the largest available, the enormous Kaisei. Fresh from a loss to yusho leader Mitakeumi, the big Brazilian needs one more win to secure kachi-koshi.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Another “Winner kachi-koshi” match, this time against the enormous Chiyotairyu and the highly rhythmic Takakeisho. I will be very interested to see Takakeisho tries his “wave action” again today after Endo shut him down on day 11.

Ikioi vs Takarafuji – Even match up in skill, but Ikioi seems to be at full strength while Takarafuji seems to just be working to survive. Takarafuji leads their career series 11-9, but I am looking for Ikioi to bring a win to his column.

Shodai vs Daishomaru – Both 3-8, both make-koshi and both of them in dire need of a return to Tokyo to regroup and rest up. Daishomaru tends to dominate Shodai, which is sad news as I think Shodai has been dominated enough already this basho.

Tamawashi vs Chiyonokuni – Both favor a run-and-gun style of sumo, so I am looking for a highly mobile, highly kinetic, and possibly violet match between these two. Tamawashi holds a 3-1 career advantage, but Chiyonokuni seems terribly genki in the Nagoya heat.

Abi vs Shohozan – Clearly Abi is having an extra crummy basho, but how can we make it worse? Oh yes, lets feed him to “Big Guns” Shohozan to tenderize a bit more. Both of them are make-koshi, so this match is to help gauge how big a drop each of them face for Aki.

Ichinojo vs Kagayaki – I favor Kagayaki in this one, if for no other reason than I have not seen Ichinojo be motivated and aggressive two days in a row this tournament. He certainly was aggressive against Takayasu, but I think that his 6-1 career advantage over Kagayaki may not play much of a factor day 12.

Goeido vs Endo – This match had to happen, if for no other reason than to showcase these two rikishi, and to test Endo to see how he might fare in the joi for Aki. Both rikishi are kachi-koshi now, so this match is more of a test, and about racking up the wins. Their career history is 4-4, so it will likely come down to if Goeido is running the right version of GoeiDOS on day 12.

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – It’s time for the yusho leader to prove his mettle. Takayasu is not well, but is still a fierce opponent. A loss today would give Takayasu his kachi-koshi, release his kadoban status, and bring Mitakeumi within range of the hunt group. But fans would be right to suspect that Mitakeumi may use the same cold, rapid and effective sumo we saw day 11 against Kaisei.

Nagoya Day 11 Highlights

Mitakeumi - Nagoya Day 11

Welcome to the first day of act 3! Overnight the brutal Nagoya basho claimed another kyujo – with former Ozeki Kotoshogiku withdrawing from competition due to injuries he suffered day 10 in his match against Tamawashi. Tamawashi used a kotenage arm-bar throw to win the match, and the pressure on Kotoshogiku’s elbow seems to have been enough to injure him. To add to matters, Kotoshogiku took a dive into the crowd, where it was clear that he was in some pain. With his withdraw, another odd metric is added to sumo history surrounding this basho. Not only did we have a single rikishi get two fusensho wins, we have now had two rikishi get two fusensho: Shodai and Chiyonokuni. I think Abi summed up the mood of this basho on day 9: “My stablemaster will probably yell at me back at the lodgings. I want to go back to Tokyo!”

Mitakeumi continues to roll on, defeating his nigate Kaisei for the first time ever to remain undefeated. Its clear now that Mitakeumi has crossed into new territory in his sumo, and may have made the step change we have been watching for. While some would say that “well this is basho-light with all of the big guns kyujo”, they would be correct. This is the natural order of things. Without the Yokozuna and Ozeki genki enough to cull the lower ranks, you will see champions rise and threaten the old order. With Mitakeumi in double digits in San’yaku for the first time, his next stop is a try for the yusho. Many commentators on NHK have discounted him as “not training hard enough”, or “always fades week 2”. Thus is the risk of attempting to predict the future by relying solely on the past – it leaves no room for the path of hard work, improvement and success.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Arawashi – Do you want to see a giant Bulgarian man-mountain grab someone by the throat and throw them into the first row? Then this is your match! Wow, Aoiyama launches Arawashi into his make-koshi.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Asanoyama continues to look solid, and is clearly going to run up the score. Nishikigi was at a disadvantage due to Asanoyama’s longer reach. But Nishikigi’s rally at the edge when he was able to get a double outside grip was impressive, and nearly carried the day.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – Yutakayama remains in the peloton, and picks up his kachi-koshi. Yutakayama controlled the match from the start, and Sadanoumi was unable to create much offensive pressure.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji blasts his way to his kachi-koshi, and remains in the peloton as well. Myogiryu opened strong, but in the split-second Hokutofuji was on defense, he could not seal the deal. I can’t stop watching Hokutofuji’s tachiai, its a brutal work of art right now. I wish NHK would get a dozen cameras and do a “bullet time” version of the thing so sumo hyper-nerds can study it.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Hey! Mainoumi style tachiai from Ishiura, and it worked really well. More more more! Chiyoshoma is now make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko’s initial offensive gambit seemed to do little more than annoy Takarafuji, who tolerated the slap-fest for a bit, then took over and handed Kotoeko his make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyotairyu – This match is a sterling example of just how efficient Tochiozan’s sumo is this basho, as it’s easy to compare it to Chiyotairyu’s frantic weaving, pulling and flapping about. Chiyotairyu will have to try again on day 12 for his kachi-koshi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze still on track for 0-15. I hate watching this stuff.

Endo defeats Takakeisho – Endo gets high marks in the sumo IQ test today, as he correctly cracks Takakeisho’s “wave action” offense and dodges a Takakeisho wave when Takakeisho opens up too much distance to his mark. Endo kachi-koshi and remains in the peloton.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – I wondered if this one should have had a monoii (it seems so did quite a few in the crowd). Abi opens in his expected form, but Kagayaki simply brute-forces his way inside and disrupt’s Abi’s offense. Now it’s a real battle as each man tries to rain blows on the other. Kagayaki’s intense training and focus on fundamentals of sumo appear to have once again carried the day, though that head-but was likely pure Kagayaki’s improvisation. (Sometimes we called it a “Glasgow kiss”)

Shohozan defeats Chiyonokuni – Shohozan unleashes his strength on day 11, and picks the optimum time to toss Chiyonokuni aside with impressive force. Although Chiyonokuni got a few good blows in, this one was all Shohozan.

Ikioi defeats Tamawashi – The first match ended in a monoii after Ikioi gave Tamawashi a flying lesson. But the judges were unable to decide who touched out first, although the gumbai went to Ikioi. So torinaoshi was ordered. Second time through – Ikioi slams into Tamawashi with a resounding thud that I am sure was heard in Kagoshima. A quick slap down and Ikioi wins without question.

Mitakeumi defeats Kaisei – It’s a new day for Mitakeumi, as he overcomes his 0-4 historical deficit with Kaisei by some really nice sumo. As we expected, Mitakeumi broke out the hazuoshi (armpit attack) again today, and Kaisei was unable to lower his hips to defend. From there, Mitakeumi ordered “all ahead full” and forced out his Brazilian opponent. Mitakeumi remains undefeated and in sole possession of the lead of the Nagoya basho.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is clearly hurt, clearly struggling and not having a good basho. Thus far this tournament, Ichinojo has largely been soft, vague and unwilling to put together a cogent offense. Sadly for Takayasu, “The Boulder” version of Ichinojo showed up today. Except for a half step back at the tachiai, Ichinojo could not be moved by any strength Takayasu could muster. Instead of fading fast and going soft, Ichinojo powered up, and with a pair of thrusts that could be heard clearly over the crowd, sent Takayasu to his 4th loss.

Goeido defeats Daishomaru – Goeido’s creampuff match was harder for him than it should have been. But he did win, he is kachi-koshi and has cleared kadoban. He is also still in the peloton, though the chances of him having any role in the yusho race are small. Daishomaru make-koshi.

Nagoya Day 11 Preview

Kaisei Day 10

Bring on the third act of Nagoya! What’s the plan for act 3? Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we crown a champion. Someone takes home the hardware and hoists a big fish. We see who survives with a kachi-koshi, and who gets relegated to the demotion queue with a maki-koshi. Act three can sometimes be a snoozer if one rikishi is really dominating. The schedulers try their hardest to make sure the yusho race stays interesting up to the end. Right now we have Mitakeumi 2 wins ahead of everyone else, with just two rikishi in striking range, both of them from the bottom of the banzuke. Behind that is a mass of 9 rikishi at 7 wins (3 behind Mitakeumi), many of whom would provide credible threats. This includes both Ozeki, and human chaos machine Takakeisho.

While many fans, and some of our readers seem to regard Nagoya as “sumo light” due to the depleted Yokozeki ranks, I actually think that this basho (and possibly Aki) are the ones to watch. We are probably at or near a memorable deflection point in the flow of sumo history, and this unique basho, with its top men out, is the time when our new favorites show themselves. Look at it this way – by not competing, the upper level rikishi have a chance to rest and recover, but they are also gradually losing their edge. They return healthier and better able to fight, but their skills do in fact atrophy. If you need examples – Kisenosato can’t actually fight at San’yaku levels now, it’s been too long since he competed. Hakuho returns from each kyujo a little less unbeatable.

The future is being built today in the hot and humid air of Nagoya. I firmly believe it will lead to a clash of the past vs the future at Aki, which has the potential to be one of the great sumo tournaments of our age.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
Hunters – Asanoyama, Tochiozan
Peloton – Goeido, Takayasu, Takakeisho, Kaisei, Endo, Chiyotairyu, Myogiryu, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Ryuden vs Onosho – Onosho needs to regroup, and his day 11 match against Ryuden is a great chance to do just that. His only prior match against Ryuden was a win in November of 2016 in Juryo. A lot has changed since then.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – Asanoyama has been fighting very well, and is already kachi-koshi. The question is: can he run up the score? The biggest worry being that he does and promotes to a level he can’t yet handle. Nishikigi is struggling a bit, but I think he can still get his 8 before Sunday.

Chiyomaru vs Meisei – Meisei has a make-koshi on the line, and his return to Juryo hangs in the balance. Chiyomaru is shaky at best, so this will be a contest of the desperate vs the uncomfortable.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has kachi-koshi at stake on day 11, and like Asanoyama he could run up the score and find himself in a tough spot for Aki. Sadanoumi continues to plug away with worthy sumo, and I think he could surprise Yutakayama.

Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Winner kachi-koshi. Note the M9 to M16 gap between their ranks. As mentioned before Nagoya, a healthy Hokutofuji is at least mid-Maegashira class, so this is a fair fight, possibly a bit in Hokutofuji’s favor.

Takarafuji vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko is also facing a possible make-koshi and a likely return to Juryo if he can’t get his 8. Takarafuji has been looking quite un-genki in during act 2, and is wandering close to the make-koshi line as well. This is their first ever match.

Tochiozan vs Chiyotairyu – This is possibly my match of the first half. Chiyotairyu could reach kachi-koshi if he can defeat the rather genki Tochiozan. This is going to be smooth, tight efficient sumo vs an out of control sumo-reactor ready to blow.

Kyokutaisei vs Yoshikaze – As a die hard Yoshikaze fan, I now want to see if he can get his 15 consecutive losses. Or will Kyokutaisei derail his one-man crusade to turn in the worst possible record for a single tournament?

Endo vs Takakeisho – Yes, yes oh yes! This one is my chuumoku-no-ichiban. Endo has a weak spot when defending against someone who is really sharp in oshi-zumo. So Endo is going to need to do NOT do what he has done the past 2 days. On day 9 and 10, Endo let his opponent take the initiative and dictate the form and cadence of the match. If he does that, Takakeisho will disrupt Endo’s sumo and give him a clay and sand facial. Will we see more Takakeisho wave-action attacks? I do hope so. In addition, this is their first ever match.

Abi vs Kagayaki – I don’t know what to make of this. Abi has had a rough basho, and is already make-koshi. Kagayaki needs to win-out in order to not go make-koshi himself. I am sure at this point, Abi may try something odd and new.

Shodai vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku may have injured himself in his short distance flight from the dohyo. He is one loss away from make-koshi, so he needs to find some way to win out. His day 11 opponent is Shodai, who is very soft and light this tournament.

Chiyonokuni vs Shohozan – Shohozan holds a 7-2 career lead over Chiyonokuni, but Chiyonokuni is looking aggressive, fast and creative this basho. Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins for kachi-kochi, and day 11 may be the next step on that road.

Tamawashi vs Ikioi – It’s good to see Ikioi healthy and fighting well again, after a long painful period where it was clear he was always in pain and had problems moving. But over his career, Tamawashi has beaten him 10 times (vs 4), and holds a clear advantage in terms of executing “combat sumo”, which they both seem to favor.

Kaisei vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has never beaten Kaisei. Think that through. If he beats Kaisei, it’s another indicator that Mitakeumi has really gamberized, and is operating at a higher level of performance. There is a LOT of Kaisei to fight. Although he is usually slow and lumbering, his niku-dango shaped body is preposterous in scale, and his sumo fundamentals are sound. Good luck King Tadpole!

Ichinojo vs Takayasu – What do you do with this one? Takayasu needs one more to get safely out of kadoban. Ichinojo has shown himself to be an unreliable opponent. His sumo against Yoshikaze day 10 was puzzling. Meanwhile, Takayasu keeps underperforming, and is likely suffering from multiple mechanical injuries now.

Goeido vs Daishomaru – Goeido gets a creampuff match for the musubi-no-ichiban. A win today (and he had better win) would clear kadoban. A Daishomaru loss would leave him make-koshi.

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

Day 9 Dohyo Iri

With day 9 in the books, it’s clear that Mitakeumi is headed for double digits as Sekiwake for his first time ever. His sumo is strong, confident, efficient and effective. Right now he is fighting better than any man still in the basho. But as we come to close out act 2 tomorrow, the battleground will change from the dohyo to the mind. Pressure will mount on Mitakeumi, anticipation and expectations will start to cloud his thoughts. He has the mechanics to take it to the yusho, but the question will come down to: “Can he think his way though this”. If he can, we are likely to see Ozeki Mitakeumi by this time next year. Should Mitakeumi succumb to his own demons, the chances that Tochiozan, Endo or Takayasu will be there to capture the prize are a bit shaky, but very real. While Asanoyama is lauded to be sitting with just 1 loss at this point is to be lauded, I expect the schedulers to throw him some problems starting day 11.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Asanoyama kachi-koshi, and remains 1 behind Mitakeumi. As an upstanding member of the group I call “The Freshmen”, Asanoyama has shown solid sumo for several tournaments. Do I think he’s a yusho contender? Not really, but I think he’s one to watch for the years to come. Ishiura chose to meet him head on, but bounced off of his broad chest.

Tochiozan defeats Meisei – Meisei came in strong from the tachiai, and had excellent hand and foot placement, going chest to chest with Tochiozan. But the veteran showed his amazingly efficient sumo once more. I marvel at watching how little energy and movement it takes Tochiozan to turn the tables on Meisei and toss him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – Watch how low Hokutofuji is at the tachiai. He knew Onosho was going to come in low, and in spite of his large body, managed to come in below Onosho. Hokutofuji engages in some highly effective hazu-oshi (armpit attack), scooting Onoshi towards the bales. Onosho rallies for a moment, but Hokutofuji lays in with a nodawa, leading Onosho out by the neck. Ouch!

Chiyomaru defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi bounces off Chiyomaru’s belly at the tachiai, and although Chiyomaru seems to control most of the match, once Okinoumi rallies at the tawara, Chiyomaru is almost immediately in trouble. Chiyomaru does recover enough to execute a kotenage for the win, but it’s clear that Chiyomaru quickly runs out of energy in the heat hauling that much Unadon around.

Nishikigi defeats Daieisho – They went in at 4-4, with a career record of 4 to 4, and I think the match started fairly close to 4:44 in the afternoon. It was fairly straightforward Nishikigi oshidashi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kyokutaisei might have just saved his Makuuchi posting with his second win of the tournament. It was half hikiotoshi, half slippiotoshi, but he got the job done.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Endo drops to 2 losses, which reduces the chances he can contend for the yusho. He allowed Yutakayama to dictate the terms and cadence of the match, and from the moment he was reacting rather than attacking, he was done.

Takakeisho defeats Yoshikaze – We saw more “wave action” today against Yoshikaze, and the ailing berserker gave him a good match. But it was really just Takakeisho playing with him until it was time to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Abi – Points to Abi, he went for a right hand mawashi grip straight into the tachiai. Sadly, he is clearly not very skilled at this kind of fight, and Chiyonokuni put him away easily. Abi – practice that. Look what it did for Mitakeumi. With your reach and body proportions, you could win a lot of matches with a hybrid approach. Is it just me, or does Chiyonokuni seems surprisingly good natured these day? I believe the man is actually enjoying his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi goes chest to chest with the Kyushu bulldozer at the tachiai. But this match was all Ikioi, as he never allows Kotoshogiku to square his hips. Instead, Ikioi simply overpowers Kotoshogiku and tosses him from the dohyo. Impressive win.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – The match starts with an odd and mis-timed tachiai that could almost have bene a matta if it were not Shodai. Shohozan keeps him reacting and disrupted, and Shodai is easily dispatched.

Mitakeumi defeats Daishomaru – Mitakeumi remains unbeaten, and in excellent form. Daishomaru had not effective offense, although he presented a solid, low tachiai.

Kaisei defeats Ichinojo – A match that unfolded in a languid and turgid manner. Of course it featured Ichinojo giving up and softly going away.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi gave the Ozeki a bold and vigorous match, and in fact controlled the action right up until Takayasu’s rescue move at the bales. Takayasu is racking the wins up, but his sumo was especially crummy today.

Goeido defeats Kagayaki – Professor Kagayaki did in fact apply is excellent fundamentals against Goeido, and gave him more trouble than a Maegashira 4 should present to an Ozeki. Goeido got an inside grip at the tachiai, and worked hard to finish him before Kagayaki could get set up to attack. It nearly worked, but Kagayaki made a valiant stand at the tawara, and returned pressure to the Ozeki to bring them back to the center, now chest to chest. Kagayaki then attacked, driving Goeido back and rotated for a throw, which failed. Driving forward, Kagayaki tried to disrupt Goeido’s defense with a nodowa, but Goeido deftly realized his opponent was horribly balanced, rotated and applied an uwatenage for the win.

Nagoya Day 9 Preview

Endo Day 8

Abbreviated preview tonight, as I am recovering from a chanko nabe coma. For those of you following on twitter, it was my best batch ever, and it is only due to my iron constitution that I did not succumb to the overwhelming urge to nap it off.

If we let ourselves think about the leaderboard, and how the yusho race will progress, one handy trick is to consider what record is needed to win the cup. Let’s say its 12-3. If we do that, any rikishi with only 3 losses today could mathematically take home the hardware. When you look at it that way, this race is wide open, and could be one of the most thrilling in a long time. Of course to get to that broad field, wide open barnyard brawl in the final weekend, we need Mitakeumi, Endo and Asanoyama to suffer a few losses. I am sure the scheduling team has matters well in hand.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – Endo, Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Tochiozan, Chiyotairyu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – Are you thinking it? Yes, it’s a perfect time for a henka. Ishiura is 0-3 against Asanoyama, and Ishiura needs the wins.

Tochiozan vs Meisei – this first time meeting features hapless Meisei going up against a man who could conceivably challenge for the cup. I think we know how this is going to end.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko needs to get his sumo in gear if he wants to stay in Makuuchi. I think that even if he gets the punt back to Juryo, he will be a top division mainstay by 2019. The guy is solid, just having a tough time with all of the heavies at the bottom of the banzuke for Nagoya.

Hokutofuji vs Onosho – Onosho has been showing some new dimensions to his sumo the past 3 days, and I think Hokutofuji is in for a few surprises. Onosho holds the advantages of low center of gravity and speed.

Nishikigi vs Daieisho – Both men come in 4-4, and their career record is 4-4. How could the schedulers resist? Who wins? Who cares! This is what sumo is for! (4)

Takarafuji vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu lost a tough set to Endo on day 8, and he would likely want to get back into a winning rhythm, so it’s going to be Takarafuji who gets to try and contain him. Myogiryu leads their career series 10-4

Kyokutaisei vs Chiyotairyu – A loss today and Kyokutaisei is make-koshi. The Hokkaido man is really struggling in Nagoya, and Chiyotairyu is a tough opponent when he’s hot. Sadly for Chiyotairyu he was cold Day 8.

Endo vs Yutakayama – You have to know they are saving the big Endo matches for later in the week. But Yutakayama has been looking fairly genki this tournament. Yutakayama is moving well, and his increased bulk seems to be working for him at long last.

Yoshikaze vs Takakeisho – The battle of ultimate sadness. Whatever plagues Yoshikaze, it’s really grim.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – a pair of highly mobile oshi-zumo men are squaring off in a match that will be full of action. I am keen to see if Abi tries something new, and how much effort he has to put into chasing Chiyonokuni around.

Ikioi vs Kotoshogiku – Ikioi’s strong attacks up the middle vs Kotoshogiku trying to go chest to chest and bump out the big man from Osaka. Ikioi will need to strike early to keep Kotoshogiku getting a grip.

Shodai vs Shohozan – Color me surprised that Shodai holds a 7-3 career lead over Shohozan. I am going to guess that one or both of these guys are going to be joining the make-koshi ranks very soon. Especially for Shodai, he really needs to regroup, as he is (mentally) rattled at this point. His sumo has become vague and hesitant.

Daishomaru vs Mitakeumi – I am not looking for Daishomaru to hand Mitakeumi his first loss. The guy can smell double digits clearly, and I am sure that’s the next stop on his road through Nagoya. If Mitakeumi hits 10 or above, the talk of the town will be their hopes for him to join the Ozeki ranks. As noted prior to the basho in a post that got many people upset, Mitakeumi is very consistent. Sadly his level of consistency is below what is needed to rise above Sekiwake. But anyone can evolve and improve.

Ichinojo vs Kaisei – In what is possibly the ultimate stress test for the strength of the Nagoya dohyo, a half ton of rikishi will mount the clay and face off in combat. I give the advantage to Kaisei, even though he trails the career series 2-8. Ichinojo is out of sync, out of step and just plain off right now. After a string of excellent tournaments, this is a sad setback.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two used to face off in Sekiwake battles all the time, and Tamawashi had a habit of spanking Takayasu. Takayasu had a good match on day 8 against a new opponent who was probably in awe of the Ozeki. This is not the case with Tamawashi, who is more than capable of giving Takayasu a strong contest.

Goeido vs Kagayaki – unlike the day 8 match that was always going to be strongly favoring Takayasu, Kagayaki might be able to hold his own against Goeido. If Goeido tries to get clever, he could find himself in trouble with Kagayaki’s ability to shift to low and strong. Speed favors Goeido, strength favors Kagayaki. Word to the Ozeki – take him down quickly.

Nagoya Day 8 Highlights

Nagoya Day 8 Banner

I admit, I have become addicted to the 2 hour NHK broadcast of Makuuchi. As more of the top level men have dropped out of this basho, NHK has been forced to find things to fill the air time these matches would have occupied. They have had lengthy discussions with sumo elders and former stars. Today they have a highlight show of the Wakanohana / Takanohana era. This was about the time I first began to seriously try to follow sumo, and it was really fantastic to see this retrospective. It’s interesting to compare that time to the present day, many of the good rivalries of even the recent past have been dismantled due to rikishi aging out and losing their edge. Rest assured, new and potent rivalries will spring up before too many more seasons have passed. As we have already seen there is a steady parade of outstanding younger talent that are making it to the top division. However much we lament a tournament like Nagoya where so many kanban rikishi are absent, this is part of the process of “changing the guard”.

In the present day, the facilities crew at Dolphins Arena in Nagoya have their hands full. The heat in central Japan has been lingering in the upper range of normal, which during this time of year can top 100° F. The venue for the Nagoya basho is an older building, and it’s thermal systems are failing to handle this load. Fans get hot, the rikishi get even hotter, and for those competitors who are not overly genki, the heat further saps their performance. There is hope for the future, as Dolphins Arena will be undergoing serious renovations starting later this year, and that may require a different venue for 2019’s Nagoya basho.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – Tochiozan has not looked this genki in perhaps a couple of years. His match against Hokutofuji on day 8 was a grand example of the catalog of sumo moves that Tochiozan can deploy. This battle when on for good length of time, and it was clear that Tochiozan was working to stalemate Hokutofuji. Watch how efficient Tochiozan is during this match. Hokutofuji is flailing away for advantage, and he is getting it. But Tochiozan is calmly keeping him from winning. Of course the pays off as Tochiozan catches Hokutofuji close, pinned in and off balance, and gets to unleash the seldom seen makiotoshi.

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Meisei continues to struggle. Sadanoumi went in with a plan, and executed well. Meisei got inside at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi’s outside grip was well placed, and he immediately raised Meisei by the left elbow. With Meisei off balance, Sadanoumi lunged to the inside and applied a series of thrusts to center-mass. Well executed oshi-zumo today from Sadanoumi.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – A sharp, short unsatisfying match that ended with a near-immediate hatakikomi.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – Asanoyama remains on the leaderboard, and does it with excellent sumo. The big Bulgarian was unable to enforce his desire to keep this as an oshi-match, and Asanoyama was able to drive inside and bring it chest to chest. Asanoyama left hand latched hard to Aoiyama’s mawashi, it was now Asanoyama who called the tune. Aoiyama was really unable to offer much resistance and went out with little struggle.

Onosho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi really only offered a forearm blast at the tachiai, and Onosho pushed through that and got inside and pushed hard. That was all it took. Onosho now seems to be in his groove, and he is a dangerous opponent this far down the banzuke.

Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Nishikigi looked sluggish today, but it was enough to dispatch Takarafuji. The critical element seem to have been Nishikigi’s early morozashi, which Takarafuji did not seem to have a good plan to counter. I have to assume that the oppressive heat must have been effecting them both, as there was not a lot of vigor in this match.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – A bout so nice, they did it twice! The first match was Myogiryu from the tachiai, but as he went to drive Endo out, Endo pivoted and they dropped into the front row. The monoii was inconclusive, and torinaoshi was called. For bout 1, that was an amazing rescue move by Endo. Second bout – Endo launches too early, and its matta time. By now the crowd is really wound up. Second tachiai, and Endo is low, really low. Myogiryu decides it’s time to go chest to chest, but Endo’s mawashi is loose, and Endo has a very strong left hand inside, deep grip. Pressing Myogiryu into his body, Endo walks Myogiryu out. Great pair of matches. Endo’s skill really shines today.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Increasingly plump Yutakayama forcefully ejects Chiyotairyu from the group of chasers with a masterfully concocted tsukidashi. Outstanding example of center-mass oshi, as Yutakayama takes the initiative after a brief clash just after the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu has no space to counter attack or mount any kind of defensive footing.

Daishomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei had the better tachiai, but Daishomaru quickly got the better rhythm going and overpowered Kyokutaisei. Sadly Kyokutaisei still only has 1 win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze make-koshi with zero wins. His fans (including me) are worried about what is plaguing the former berserker.

Ikioi defeats Abi – Abi’s always going to open with a two arm thrust to the shoulders of his opponents. Everyone knows that. So rikishi like Ikioi aim center mass, and knock him back, and get him out of any offensive stance. Abi, it was a good recipe for a while, let’s see you make something new.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – If you are a fan of nodawa, this is your match. Tamawashi spends most of the bout with his left hand at Shodai’s throat. Shodai overcomes a couple of times and tries to counter attack, but Tamawashi was in control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Shohozan has taken such a beating in week 1 that it seems his sumo is totally disrupted. For reasons no one can determine, he decided to go chest to chest against Kotoshogiku at the tachiai. Of course Kotoshogiku is like an excited 5 year old now, and is belly pushing Shohozan around like a shopping cart. Great match if you are a Kotoshogiku fan.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has been really impacted by the heat, but I doubt that can explain his total lack of offensive action during the first week of the tournament. Takakeisho spent the first part of the match confounding Ichinojo, delivering rapid thrusts to his upper body. To me this looked like a variation of his “wave action” tsuppari, and it was getting Ichinojo very anxious. Not sure what to do next, Ichinojo stands at the shikri-sen and tries to deflect the incoming thrusts. Takakeisho decides to try something else, and goes chest to chest for a moment. Ichinojo changes gears and starts grabbing for Takakeisho’s mawashi. Now forward and unbalanced, Takakeisho pulls him down. Masterful confuse / disrupt battle plan from Takakeisho.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Home town rikishi Mitakeumi is kachi-koshi, and sole leader of the Nagoya basho. This was always going to be a match where Chiyonokuni worked to apply is run-and-gun sumo, and he was on form today. Outstanding tachiai, which saw Chiyonokuni able to come in beneath Mitakeumi and raise him up, Chiyonokuni’s immediate attempt at a slap down nearly worked, too. But Mitakeumi recovered instantly and rallied, driving Chiyonokuni to the northwest corner and out of the ring.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Sadly, we did not get the much wished for Kaisei henka, which experts believe would be much akin to a mountain range dodging a lava flow. That being said, Kaisei nearly had him, except for a rescue move at the edge of the tawara that put Kaisei to the clay first. Goeido needs 3 more wins to clear kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki absorbed Takayasu’s strong tachiai, but then both of them struggled for grip. This was always going to favor Takayasu’ superior strength. Then Takayasu decided to try some sumo, and got a left hand outside grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi, then rotated him to the bales. A right hand to the throat to raise Kagayaki up, and a strong left hand shove against his chest and the match was over.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

Day 8 Dohyo Iri

Can you believe we are at the middle day of the Nagoya basho? Welcome to nakabi! (The name for the middle day of the tournament). Nagoya has been brutal to the upper ranks, and as of day 8, there is only a 25% participation rate, down from the 40% participation rate of Natsu, and that’s even with adding a new Ozeki! With 4 of the Yokozuna / Ozeki (or maybe Yokozeki?) corps out of action, it’s almost certain the yusho winner will be someone who has never received the Emperor’s Cup before.

After day 7, there are 4 rikishi with 0 or 1 loss. Mitakeumi is alone at the head of the pack, and both Maegashira 6 rikishi trail him with 1 loss apiece. Joining the 1 loss group is Asanoyama all the way back at Maegashira 13 West. Both Ozeki are nursing 2 or 3 losses, and are likely focusing on the safety of kachi-koshi first and foremost. But having reached the middle day, the bias of the torikumi will change. Had much of the joi survived, the upper ranks would focus on fighting each other, having consumed their appetizers and warm ups of the top ranked Maegashira. But with the upper ranks mostly sitting out, the entire final week’s schedule has all of the grace and structure of a 40 car pileup in the fog.

With us reaching nakabi, it’s time for the leaderboard!

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – Endo, Chiyotairyu, Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Kaisei, Myogiryu, Tochiozan, Hokutofuji

8 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kotoeko vs Ryuden – Both of these men can deliver fairly strong sumo, but both of them are now clearly in the danger zone. Their career records tie them at 1-1.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Both of these men are the “hottest” streaks at in the bottom third of the banzuke, coming in at 5-2. But of course the schedulers want to make sure that one of them eats dirt and the yusho race narrows still further. Although Hokutofuji leads their career series 2-1, I give a clear edge to Tochiozan who seems to have gotten back into his sumo.

Sadanoumi vs Meisei – Two more in the danger zone. With a number of strong performers in Juryo as of the middle day, its possible we could see a formula for a mighty churn between the two divisions for Aki.

Ishiura vs Arawashi – There is only one way this match should go: Double Henka.

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – Reports from Japan state that Aoiyama may have injured his hand as he feel forward following the Ishiura henka on Day 7. Asanoyama does have a formula for beating the massive Bulgarian, and has done so twice. But given how Nagoya is going, maybe Aoiyama goes kyujo as well.

Okinoumi vs Onosho – I think Onosho is starting to really get his rhythm, and we may see him disrupt and overpower Okinoumi on day 8. Okinoumi’s sumo is always very efficient, and he clearly enters each match with a few plans to try. But if Onosho uses the “hybrid sumo” he unleashed on day 7, he will be tough to beat. Onosho won their only prior match.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is really fading right now, and going up against Takarafuji may not help. He is 0-3 against the man with no neck.

Endo vs Myogiryu – This is a big match for a number of reasons. Their career record is 3-3, but Endo has won the last 2. Both are fighting well this tournament, and Endo really wants to remain 1 loss behind the leader, as chances are someone will put dirt on Mitakeumi. Endo’s sumo has been excellent in Nagoya, so this match could be the highlight of the day.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – When his sumo is in harmony, Chiyotairyu is tough to beat unless you can stay upright and in the ring for more than 10 seconds. That is likely Yutakayama’s game plan. If he can absorb the cannon ball tachiai, he just have to stalemate him until Chiyotairyu starts to run out of gas. Good luck Yutakayama!

Daishomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is 2 losses away from make-koshi, and he desperately needs wins. He holds a 3-0 career advantage over Daishomaru, so maybe he has a chance.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – A loss today and my favorite rikishi goes make-koshi.

Ikioi vs Abi – On day 7, Abi tried to tackle a freight train. Hopefully he was able to put himself back together, as his day 8 match has more potential for good sumo. Ikioi is a tough fighter who will likely not fall for Abi’s “go high” opening gambit. I would look for Ikioi to focus center mass and remove much of Abi’s mobility. This is their first career match.

Tamawashi vs Shodai – Shodai gets discouraged, and then his sumo goes soft and stale. I would guess given the beating he took week one that he might be feeling a little down. Sadly Tamawashi probably did not bake him any cookies, so he will have to settle for piping hot tsuppari straight from the oven.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Both Komusubi have taken a right proper beating this tournament, as is typically the case. Now Shohozan starts fighting down the banzuke, and he has a chance to get the 7 wins in 8 days needed to maintain his rank. Kotoshogiku is moving well, but seems to lack about 5%-10% of the power needed to win.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho likes to confound Ichinojo, run him amok and push him out with his two hand thrusts. Ichinojo has been hit or miss, and mostly miss so far.

Chiyonokuni vs Mitakeumi – Chiyonokuni has never beaten Mitakeumi in 7 attempts. But this guy is a giant-killer when he can get his sumo to click. Mitakeumi has been impressively patient and well orchestrated in his sumo thus far. But the chaos of Chiyonokuni may disrupt him and find him in trouble.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Good chance that Goeido will get lost in this match. His blistering speed will be blunted by Kaisei’s overwhelming bulk. When faced with complex sumo problems, Goeido frequently resorts to pulling, which frequently spell his doom. +100 points if Kaisei henkas Goeido.

Kagayaki vs Takayasu – I expect Takayasu will tenderize Kagayaki before slicing him thin and serving him shabu-shabu style with sweet chili paste. As much as I love Kagayaki’s school of sumo, there comes a time when a giant hairy man moving at speed cannot be overcome by technical means. This is their first ever match.

Nagoya Day 6 Highlights

Nagoay Day 6

We open act two with the crazy dial set to extreme, and everything turned on its head. It’s likely that the Nagoya basho is going to be the most brutal tournament in a while, with everyone’s favorites for the yusho ending up in puzzling places in the final yusho arasoi. Let’s break it down.

Yokozuna Kakuryu – Announced he was kyuju at the start of day 6. To Tachiai readers who have been able to keep up with the information firehose, this comes as no surprise, as we had noted that his body mechanics and his sumo were telegraphing that he was injured. Thanks to Herouth, we now know it was an injury to his elbow.

Ozeki Tochinoshin – Following Day 6 action, it was announced that the shin-Ozeki and pride of Georgia had suffered a strain to his right knee. That is the knee that is always mummified on the dohyo, and is perpetually threatening to send him to the barber. His fall to the lower ranks and struggle to climb to Ozeki revolves around earlier damage to that knee. I am going to guess they are going to take no chances with it.

Ozeki Takayasu – He strained his left elbow on day 5, and seemed to really be impacted by it on day 7. He is 4 wins away from the safety of kachi-koshi, and is the second highest man on the banzuke. I am going to guess he will gamberize.

Where this one is going now is anyone’s guess, but suddenly Mitakeumi and Endo are the ones to watch. But before anyone things this is the end of sumo, I will say I think we have 2 new Ozeki and 2 new Yokozuna in the upper division today. They just have to work out who they are, and the old guard needs to fade a bit more for it to happen.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura starts with submarine sumo, and Meisei doing his best to fold him in half for easier recycling. Although Meisei seems to have the better position, Ishiura is comfortable folded in half, and battles with the conviction of angry origami. Realizing that origamikiri is not going to win, Meisei starts trying to raise Ishiura up. Hell, that’s not working either. The harder Meisei attacks, the more Ishiura folds himself up. It’s Jinki-zumo on full display! Everyone out of the water now! But Meisei knows the best way to defeat a turtle is to roll him on his back, and that is what he proceeds to do. Wonderful match. Hey, Ishiura – MORE Jinki-zumo please!

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – As mentioned in the preview, there are basically the same rikishi 5 years apart. It was no surprise that the match featured an extended chest-to-chest stalemate at the shikiri-sen. As a wise man once said, “Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything!”. Multiple times they both tried to defeat the other with more or less mirror image sumo. But eventually age won out and Ryuden had to settle for the kuroboshi.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Another highly symmetrical fight, but Asanoyama is a bit more genki, and was able to dispatch his elder with an uwatedashinage.

Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – Watch that tachiai! Hokutofuji goes Ukiyo-e with a classic left hand at center mass, right hand at the chin of Sadanoumi. Nearly perfect mechanics to that attack, and Sadanoumi was on defense, and it was all responding to Hokutofuji’s sumo. Maybe Hokutofuji’s ring-rust has been scrubbed clean now, and we are going to see some of his rather excellent sumo.

Arawashi defeats Kotoeko – Notable that Arawashi finally has his first win of the tournament. It was short, direct and over in a hurry.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Ok, that’s more like it. Onosho launches into the tachiai, goes chest to chest with Chiyomaru and pushes with conviction. It’s over fast and Onosho looks like he’s found some of his sumo once more.

Kyokutaisei defeats Nishikigi – Hokkaido man Kyokutaisei gets his first win of the basho at last, converting Nishikigi’s attempt at a throw into his own sukuinage.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma put forth the effort, but this was Takarafuji’s style of sumo. The two were chest to chest early, and Takarafuji seems to have a lot of endurance, and absorbed everything Chiyoshoma tried, and tried again. When Chiyoshoma began to wear down, Takarafuji went deep with a left hand inside / right hand outside and advanced into a spread-leg uwatenage.

Yutakayama defeats Daieisho – Oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi… OUT! Yutakayama extends his winning streak over Daieisho. Yutakayama seems to be getting the hang of his bulkier form.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I see Yoshikaze going to the barber soon.

Endo defeats Kaisei – With Kaisei’s mass, if you get him falling backward, he does keep falling for a while. I am sure the ladies swooned as Endo kindly gave a hand to help haul the giant back upright. Keep an eye on Endo, with the top end of the banzuke in tatters, he smells opportunity.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki – An excellent bout from Chiyotairyu. He has correctly identified that Kagayaki gets worried when going up against a large opponent, and will juice his tachiai. This leaves him unbalanced for a moment following the collision, and susceptible to being turned, dislodged and generally run amok.

Ikioi defeats Shohozan – After a matta, Shohozan was a bit slow at the tachiai the second try. Ikioi got close and kept one hand pushing against Shohozan at all times. Classic Ikioi winning sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – The Kyushu bulldozer is NOT intimidated by this boulder. Ichinojo works hard to keep Kotoshogiku from squaring his hips and starting his preferred attack. What impressed me about the early portion of this match was how low Ichinojo was for a part of it. I am quite sure this kept Kotoshogiku busier than he expected. Kotoshogiku loaded a throw, but had nowhere near the leverage needed to rotate the Mongolian giant. With Kotoshogiku dangerously off balance, Ichinojo advanced strongly but lost his grip on his opponent. Then he seemed to just give up.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – The Mitakeumi fan club was on hand to watch the undefeated Sekiwake take full advantage of Shodai’s weak tachiai, landing a shallow left hand grip immediately, and swinging Shodai to the side. With his balanced ruined, Shodai was easy to move to the west side and dump him over the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takakeisho has thus far looked very disorganized, his sumo was uncoordinated, reactive and lacked his usually aggressive edge. That was gone today as he overpowered Takayasu and blasted him from the dohyo. Takayasu started with that ridiculous and pointless shoulder-blast, which Takakeisho absorbed, waited for the Ozeki to recoil, and gave him a wave-action tsuppari. This rocked Takayasu to his heels, and Takakeisho blasted forward. Takayasu was little more than clumsy dead-weight today. Delighted we had genuine Takakeisho sumo today.

Goeido defeats Abi – Goeido came off the shikiri-sen low and fast, and Abi, to his credit, attempted to counter. But the Ozeki contained, restrained, and applied the uwatenage.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tough match for Tochinoshin. He opened oshi-style, but it was not getting him any advantage. He then tried for a pull, which left him high. Of course Tamawashi sensed the pull coming, and grabbed the Ozeki center mass and pushed forward. Tochinoshin recognizes he is in trouble and circles away. But now he is hideously off balance, and he has handed control of the match to Tamawashi. Tochinoshin reaches for Tamawashi’s belt, but his feet are set at an odd angle, and he is still off balance. Tamawashi plays this perfectly and rolls the Ozeki forward and over for a clean kotenage. I think that Tochinoshin’s attempt to lunge for a grip with his feet not set was the moment he put his injured right at jeopardy. Hopefully he can get it addressed.

Nagoya Day 4 Highlights

ikioi tegata

Overnight, the big news was that Yokozuna Hakuho withdrew from competition. The notification came quite late in the day, and took many by surprise. According to sources, he strained his right knee warming up prior to his day 2 bout, and the problems have been increasing ever sense. Thanks to Herouth for posting about it while the US part of the Tachiai team were snug in our beds.

Hakuho fans will note that he has yet to win a yusho in 2018, and for the most dominant man in the history of sumo, this is a big deal. With just 2 tournaments remaining, the chances that “The Boss” will pick up yusho #41 are fading for this year. The biggest benefactor from this unfortunate turn of evens is clearly Goeido. With his loss today, he drops to 2-2 and is looking rather shaky. His week 2 fight card just went from 2 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki, all of which were likely to beat him, to 1 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki. Frankly, for Goeido this could be the difference between clearing kadoban or not.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Hokutofuji – Meisei wins his first match of the basho going yotzu against Hokutofuji. At this level of the banzuke, Hokutofuji should normally be cleaning up, but that massive bandage on his right leg probably tells the story. Hopefully he can get his body repaired, as he has a huge amount of potential.

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Visiting Juryoist Takagenji dismantles Ishiura’s chicanery for a fairly convincing win, which is also his first to the tournament as well as his first win in Makuuchi!

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama had a good tachiai, but Ryuden quickly reached for, and obtained a solid left hand deep grip which he converted to a mae-mitsu after turning Asanoyama around. Ryuden was completely dominant in this match, and seems to have cleared his earlier ring rust successfully.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – Tochiozan very effectively contained Onosho’s offense, and kept him from really setting up any attack. Onosho drove for, and got, inside Tochiozan. But Tochiozan used his close position to keep Onosho from really getting a solid stance, or any effective thrusting room. I am going to guess Onosho’s knee is still not quite good enough for full power sumo. Plus – no red mawashi.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Another strong showing from Nishikigi today. I do like the fact that he’s just driving forward every day, and it seems to be working for him. Chiyomaru continues the the slide that started in Osaka, and we have to wonder if maybe his body is too big for his sumo. (fixed)

Chiyoshoma defeats Kyokutaisei – Battle of the no-win rikishi, with Chiyoshoma coming out on top. The bout was a oshi-match, and it was Kyokutaisei who lost his balance first, and Chiyoshoma pulled him to the clay.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – Chiyotairyu attacks with a massive cannon ball tachiai, which Endo absorbs well, and as Endo advances he reaches deep with his right hand for Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. Chiyotairyu reads this perfectly, and routes Endo’s energy forward and away. Clean, solid technique win from Chiyotairyu.

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – a protracted battle of the purple mawashi set, it was a struggle for grip that saw Yoshikaze too far forward most of the time, and finished by Takarafuji’s pull down from his grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s mawashi.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Outstanding yotsu battle. When Kaisei landed morozashi, it was clear how this was going to end, but Kagayaki kept battling on. I still think Kagayaki has a lot of potential, and he continues to make steady if gradual progress.

Takakeisho defeats Daishomaru – Takakeisho looked a bit early into the tachiai, and Daishomaru was a half step behind from the start. Daishomaru could not set up an effective defense or counter to Takakeisho’s forceful forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – “Big Guns” Shohozan picks up his first win of the basho, and it’s clear that Ichinojo is not at all genki right now. Ichinojo traded face blows with Shohozan, but seemed to offer little resistance once Shohozan started to advance.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi launched strong and low into Tamawashi, who went for the immediate nodowa to try to raise him up. Tamawashi continued to focus on Mitakeumi’s face and shoulders, while Mitakeumi focused on center mass and moving forward. Tamawashi was unable to hold back Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, and it was over in a hurry. Mitakeumi is finally looking very solid, and we may see him finally reach double digits.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate as he frantically danced about to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. After his traditional double arm thrust at the tachiai, the match devolved into chaos. At this level of the banzuke, Abi is not making much headway with his antics.

Takayasu defeats Shodai – Takayasu delivers his no obligatory enormous shoulder blast from the tachiai, which almost tossed Shodai out of the ring on its own. Is it sumo? Maybe in Japan. To me this looks like bumper-cars.

Kotoshogiku defeats Goeido – A dreaded kuroboshi for the kadoban Goeido. Kotoshogiku took early control and pushed Goeido backward to the tawara, where the Ozeki managed to rally and advance. Goeido tried a trip, failed, rotated into a throw, failed, then slipped and broke his grip. Kotoshogiku responded in the blink of an eye and thrust Goeido to the clay.

Ikioi defeats Kakuryu – Ikioi hits strong at the tachiai, and goes hazuoshi (armpit attack) at once. This seems to destabilize the Yokozuna, and Ikioi moves forward strongly, keeping his hips low. Kakuryu breaks contact, but before he can dodge, Ikioi charges center-mass and launches the Yokozuna off the dohyo. Great sumo from Ikioi today, well earned Kinboshi, and the purple rain falls in Nagoya.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview

Endo - Chiyoshoma

So far most of the rikishi have been true to form, and the basho is proceeding along expected lines. I would caution readers and sumo fans not to read too much into this. With Act 1 focusing on getting everyone to an actual honbasho competition level, the first week frequently offers few surprises until we hit Saturday.

The rikishi that really sticks out to me right now is Endo once more. I am not going to say he is (as he was once proclaimed) the savior of sumo. But the man is fighting well, and has overcome an amazing array of injuries and set-backs to be in the top half of Makuuchi. He is just outside the joi-jin this tournament, and that’s probably where he should be until his arm is 100%.

With Kisenosato likely to take his final bow this year, Japanese fans need another star to pin their hopes on. Many might think Takayasu is the likely candidate, as I once did, but frankly his sumo is chaotic enough that its causing him injuries. More and more I am coming to think that Aki 2018 will be the pivotal basho that may be later seen as changing point for the current era of sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Ishiura vs Takagenji – The rikishi with very poor manners (Takagenji) comes to Makuuchi to face off against Ishiura. As they have never matched before, this should be worth a good look. Like Ishiura, he’s a relative light weight at 126.2 kg.

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Ryuden seems to have regained his sumo, and his day 4 match against Asanoyama could be a bellwether. The two are fairly even with they are both healthy an in their sumo. My guess is that Asanoyama may hold a slight edge, as I am convinced Ryuden is still injured from Natsu.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Surprisingly genki Tochiozan will put Onosho to the test on day 4, and I think Onosho really needs to face vigorous challenges. His match against Nishikigi was a complete surprise to him and to me, and my have put a nick in his typical overwhelming confidence.

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Battle of the Maegashira 10s! Chiyomaru has been surprisingly soft thus far, so we may yet again see Nishikigi exceed habitually low expectations. The biggest worry being the sheer size of Chiyomaru.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – The battle of the yamas! Which mountain will reign supreme? Given Aoiyama’s injuries, he’s not quite the threat he normally is. Yutakayama has added some visible bulk (though his mass is still listed as 171 kg), so he is hefty enough to take Aoiyama haymakers.

Chiyoshoma vs Kyokutaisei – Both of these poor rikishi come in with zero wins. So the good news is one of them gets to be 1-3 at the end of Tuesday. Will we see another Chiyoshoma flying henka? Or will the Hokkaido man keep the match down to earth? Kyokutaisei leads the series 3-1.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Endo is looking surprisingly good so far, and for day 4 he gets to take on the burly Chiyotairyu. If Endo can survive the tachiai, he’s got plenty to work with. They are mostly even at 6-5 in their career records.

Takarafuji vs Yoshikaze – These matches are just painful for me to watch. I continue to be a Yoshikaze fan, but it seems to be a shadow of his original self.

Kaisei vs Kagayaki – Even though the 2-3 career record would seem to indicate this is an even match, I am going to guess that Kagayaki may find Kaisei’s enormity to be a real challenge. Kaisei looked completely lost and befuddled on day 3, and I expect him to bounce back with purpose.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – I am guessing the schedulers are giving Takakeisho a bit of a breather before he is fed into the wood chipper that is the Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Its another fairly close to even match, with Daishomaru holding a 3-2 career lead.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Our beloved boulder is not looking strong or aggressive, and today he’s going to face Shohozan, who has faced some pretty rough competition, plus one match where he fell down much to his embarrassment. Will Shohozan’s preference for a running, high-intensity brawl (dare I say broom battle?) intimidate the Mongolian giant, or will it be the motivation he needs to summon his overwhelming strength?

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – These two were Sekiwake twins for many tournaments, and while both of them fell from that rank, Tamawashi fell at a poor time when his bounce back basho was not good enough to return him even to the san’yaku. With only one win in Nagoya, he may have something to motivate him day 4 as he faces the unbeaten Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi holds a career 11-2 advantage, so Tamawashi should be looking to gamberize!

Abi vs Tochinoshin – Will Abi try for another henka? The day 3 one was fairly comical, and well timed. Or will we get another Tochinoshin sky-crane-tsuridashi? Abi strik es me as they kind of guy who would do things like drink a whole bottle of hot sauce on a dare. Maybe someone will dare him to grab Tochinoshin’s mawashi.

Shodai vs Takayasu – Don’t worry Takayasu, it’s only Shodai. But in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, keep up the offense until you see the shimpan raise a hand.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – a 48 match history between these two, and it somewhat favors Goeido. Kotoshogiku comes in without a win, but looking fairly well put together this basho. Once his tour through Ozeki and Yokozuna is complete, I am expected Kotoshogiku to rack quite a few wins.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Kakuryu is dialed into his sumo, and even a brave soul like Ikioi is not going to be able to offer much to slow him down right now.

Chiyonokuni vs Hakuho – After Chiyonokuni overwhelming display of fighting spirit on day 3, I would advise the Boss to take no chances. A quick, efficient win here. I know you like to try to beat people with their own brand of sumo to prove you are better at it than they are, but Chiyonokuni may be in possession of some kind of hot streak right now.

Nagoya Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho Dohyo Iri Day 2

The fans were out in force today in Nagoya, and I mean everyone was far too warm and fanning themselves with vigor. Parts of Japan are facing a very moist and hot summer this year, which is natural for that part of the world. While it may be uncomfortable for the fans sitting near the dohyo, it’s brutal on the clay, under the hot lights and struggling to out muscle a 400 pound opponent. Worse still is the lot of the gyoji. Not only do they have to stay up there for a series of matches, as the day wears on (and the temperatures rise), the regalia the gyojis wear increases in layers, accessories and complexities. One has to assume that during the Makuuchi matches, the poor gyoji is drenched in his own broth.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Akiseyama – Hokutofuji looking decidedly less awesome today in his win over Juryo visitor Akiseyama.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – Ishiura delivers some decent sumo today, stays mobile and keeps Kotoeko off balance. As a result he is able to stick the uwatedashinage for a respectable win.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – The only thing more impressive than the way that Okinoumi was able to keep Asanoyama away form his belt was the moment Asanoyama says, “To hell with it”, and just rolls Okinoumi over and thrusts him down.

Onosho defeats Arawashi – Nice tachiai from Arawashi, who worked to get a right hand on the mawashi from the start, but Onosho overpowered every attempt and controlled the match. The end features a classic Arawashi cartwheel / tumble.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji never really was able to generate much offense against Endo, who absorbed the tachiai and turned the Isegahama man, then stepped out of the way when Takarafuji pressed forward.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – Big Chiyotairyu unleashes denshamichi-sumo (railroad sumo) on Yoshikaze and derails any hope the berserker might have had for a day 2 win.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – Its hard to describe a giant, lumbering rikishi as genki, but so far Kaisei is really looking dialed into his sumo. He made quick work of Daishomaru.

Takakeisho defeats Kagayaki – This was always going to be an odd match. Takakeisho got the better of the tachiai, but Kagayaki set up the oshi attack first, and best by getting inside. There were a couple of kinetic slaps that really rang out during the match, at one point the crowd gasps, as these two held nothing back. Then Kagayaki decided to go for a haymaker aimed at Takakeisho’s face, and lost focus. Sad mistake, Mr Fundamentals, as Takakeisho dropped his hips and gave him one blast of the “wave action tsuppari” and that was all it took to send Kagayaki clear of the tawara. This was the first time that Takakeisho was able to beat Kagayaki.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – As we previewed, Abi’s reach advantage is meaningless against Ichinojo. But Abi’s extreme maneuverability nearly carried the day, as he circled to his left and got behind the Mongolian, and nearly shoved him out. To his credit, Ichinojo recovered rapidly. The near loss clearly energized him and he attacked with purpose, getting a mawashi grip and finishing Abi in seconds. I do like Abi, but I pray he expands his sumo before everyone figures out how to shut down his only effective attack.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Great effort from both men, a solid tachiai followed by decision to go for the belt. Sadly it looks like Ikioi went too far forward reaching down to Mitakeumi’s hips, and Mitakeumi deftly encouraged him to follow through and hit the clay. Will Mitakeumi finally hit double digits?

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – They had a tough time getting this one started, but the actual match featured a Goeido hit and shift, so lksumo was nearly correct (he was expecting a Goeido henka). Tamawashi sailed past Goeido and into Shohozan’s ringside lap.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyonokuni – Tochinoshin likely knew going into this one that he would never get a hand on Chiyonokuni’s mawashi, and might very well injure himself if he tried too hard. So he chose to meet Chiyonokuni with his own brand of flailing oshi-zumo that included a couple of half hearted attempts at the mawashi. Just to be clear, when you have someone that strong putting his elbow into your face, that’s going to be a big deal. He overwhelmed the faster, more mobile Chiyonokuni and it was over in a hurry.

Takayasu wins against Shohozan – Takayasu gets a freebee as Shohozan absorbs a pride-obliterating slipiotoshi and falls down on the dohyo after he clearly established the upper hand in the match. Officially recorded as a tsukihiza (knee touch down), it’s one of the non-winning moves (more or less, a losing move). Takayasu looks quite iffy right now. At least he can bank 2 wins in 2 days, but his fans all need to hope he’s not too hurt, and can get his sumo together.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Wow, Kakuryu is looking very solid right now. He accepted Kotoshogiku’s invitation to go chest to chest, and Kotoshogiku engaged in as much hug-n-chug as he could muster. But in true Kakuryu form, he kept shifting his weight from foot to foot, preventing Kotoshogiku from pumping with both legs. As his rocking motion increased, he danced Kotoshogiku to the tawara and followed through with a classic uwatenage. Excellent form by Kakuryu today.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today. No anvils, Acme brand giant magnets or pianos dropping from the sky. The first time through, Hakuho launches for the kill straight off the line, with the gyoji screaming matta and chasing him down. Hakuho follows through and puts Shodai out (that’s how you do it), but they are going to try again. What was fun about the second match was it was more or less identical to the first. Hakuho wins, and looked quite solid doing it.

Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.