Bruce’s Day 4 Roundup


Kise-Day4

While day 3 may have been a bit bland and pulpy, day 4 recovered with a zesty blob of wasabi served up fresh and feisty. Almost every match was a real battle, with both rikishi giving it their all with vigor and stamina. Great day to catch the full torikumi via Kintamayama’s YouTube channel!

It’s clear that a handful of rikishi will be in position to challenge for the cup, and it’s really an exciting and surprising mix.

Clearly the favorite today would be Hakhuho. The Boss looks to be in solid form, and he has thus far dismantled all challengers. With Harumafuji out of the basho, he only needs to worry about Goeido and Takayasu.

Oh? The Ozeki corps? They are in fact dominating as well. Both are undefeated, and both look to be able to stay that way for the next few days until they get into week 2. Goeido is in top form, in fact he is in similar spirit to his Aki 2016 performance. Strong, fast, unstoppable. Takayasu is more tenuous, he has come close to defeat a couple of times, but managed to pull it out.

Then, if you can believe it, Ichinojo! Yes it’s only week one, but its so wonderful to see Ichinojo back to a bit of his old self. For recent sumo fans, this guy used to be the next kaiju.

Rounding out the undefeated list, it’s none other than Uncle Sumo! How wonderful is that? Aminishiki, all the way down at Maegashira 13, is undefeated. Thus far he has not had to really work too hard, as everyone who has faced him has handed him a win. Of course this is because Aminishiki is very experienced, highly skilled, and like all great athletes, makes it look easy.

On the down side is Kisenosato. His failure to dispatch Takakeisho underscores the fact that he is only partially recovered. Note in his match today how he protects his left side. This is especially acute as Kisenosato is left hand / foot dominant.

Highlight Matches

Ryuden defeats Kotoyuki – Up from Juryo for the day, crowd favorite Ryuden shows us why the folks who get to watch Juryo matches love him. The match with Kotoyuki was fast paced, frantic and unpredictable. If NHK shows this match today, don’t miss it – he’s likely to be in Makuuchi soon.

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – Some false start nonsense before the tachiai, and frankly Aminishiki did not quite land his right hand, but once they launched, Uncle Sumo used the same push-then-pull tactic that has won the last three.

Kagayaki defeats Daiamami – Excellent effort from both men, Daiamami got turned around in the post-tachiai struggle for grip, and Kagayaki was quick to force him out. Kagayaki can really bring some excellent sumo when he is on his game.

Okinoumi defeats Kaisei – I am starting to hope that dear Okinoumi has found a way to manage his chronic injury. His sumo, while not Nagoya 2016 level, is looking better.

Ikioi defeats Endo – This was not a long or elegant match, but these two went at it with gusto. The ending was a bit more of a collapse than a throw, but excellent effort all around.

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Something must be in the chikara-mizu today, everyone was really putting in massive effort, these two included. Daieisho took control at the tachiai, applying a series of nodowa, and keeping Asanoyama high and off balance. Daieisho in the end overpowered Asanoyama at the tawara for the win.

Chiyomaru defeats Shodai – I get the feeling Shodai decided he was getting too soft, and decided it was time to do sumo again. Though he lost he really put his back into it today, giving Chiyomaru a heck of a fight, including a valiant and successful last stand at the tawara. But Chiyomaru had this one dialed in, and turned Shodai’s pressure at the edge into an opportunity to pull him down.

Tochinoshin defeats Takarafuji – Another excellent strength sumo match up, and Takarafuji should be commended for keeping it close. Its clear that Tochinoshin is trying to keep pressure off of his damaged right knee, so he needs to bank every win he can get. In this match he seems to be fighting nearly one-legged.

Ichinojo defeats Arawashi – Massive effort from Arawashi, who nearly had this section of the Eshima bridge out a couple of times. But each time, Ichinojo would rally and block his kimarite. As Arawashi was setting up his third attempt to end the match, he stepped out just as he was cocking a throw, giving the match to Ichinojo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Terunofuji – It’s just getting depressing to watch Terunofuji lose every day. He’s hurt, he can’t do sumo, and there is no way he is getting his Ozeki hanko back any time soon. We do get to see Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug for the first time this basho. The old bulldozer can still bring it down.

Yoshikaze defeats Onosho – As predicted, the Berserker had a lot of pent up frustrations that he brought to the match, and deposited on Onosho’s face. Both of them were batting each other like tabbies jacked up on weapons-grade catnip, but the tadpole was no match for the master.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Messy, messy match, from the matta at the front end to the rubbery collapse into a heap at the edge that concluded it. It’s clear that Mitakeumi is only about 80%, but that tadpole shape is a tough one for Chiyonokuni.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – This habitual matta garbage from Tamawashi is probably going to receive some attention from the Kyokai, because it’s getting really old. Of course he is trying to throw Goeido off his tachiai timing, because we all know that Goeido is going to rip into you before you can even stand up. But the matta flurry did not have that effect, and Goeido won rather convincingly.

Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan decides to let Takayasu do what he does better than anyone: lock up an opponent and use his inhuman endurance to wear them down. I am sure that just after they went chest to chest, Shohozan was sorry he did it. The burly Ozeki can and probably does maintain that position against the teppo pole overnight, while sleeping. After Shohozan got tired of holding up 400 pounds of Ibaraki beef, it was easy enough to put him out of the ring.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Back to worry over Kisenosato, he was favoring his left side, and Takakeisho took full advantage of it. If this is just “I have not done honbasho sumo for 6 months” he will snap in soon enough, but if he’s still injured, it’s time to go kyujo.

Hakuho defeats Chiyotairyu – That was two giant handfuls of struggling rikishi that Hakuho bested today. For a few seconds, Hakuho seemed to be struggling to decide how best to contain Chiyotairyu, but once he got inside of Chiyotairyu’s grip, it was time to put the rikishi out. Hakuho is looking unstoppable… again.

Five Quick Thoughts on Day 3


Asanoyama

 

With day 3 done and dusted, and day 4 on the horizon, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the lower Makuuchi matches that I wanted to give a little extra time and attention to.

1. Mr. Happy and the Day 3 Blues

Let’s start with one of my favorite rikishi, Mr. Happy himself, Asanoyama. Today he went head to head with Kagayaki, who not only defeated Asanoyama but also beat his own archenemy, gravity. In September, Asanoyama remarked that he felt jinxed by the east entrance early on in the basho, as his first two losses came from that side of the dohyo. He doesn’t seem to be jinxed in Kyushu so far, as he has now lost on the east and the west side, marking the first time Asanoyama has had consecutive losses in the top division. This is not the start he or his fans had hoped for. It is still very early in the tournament though, and it will be interesting to see how Asanoyama handles this setback.

2. Shodai Comes Alive

Now where has this Shodai been!? After two lackluster basho, Shodai appears to have found a bit of the fighting spirit that had carried him to such great success in 2016. His match with Endo began with a shocking turn of events, as Shodai actually looked like he took a step forward at the tachiai! From there, the two young mawashi-grapplers fought with some uncharacteristic otsu-sumo thrusts. Despite Endo putting up most of the offense early in the bout, once he strayed into Shodai’s grip he was done for, and quickly found himself on the wrong side of the tawara. Shodai showed some much-needed passion today, and I hope this is the beginning of an upward trend for him.

3. What is Up With Chiyomaru?

On the opposite side of the passion spectrum, was Chiyomaru. The rotund rikishi looked deflated (not physically of course), and put up no resistance against Daishomaru. This has led me to speculate that he may be dealing with an as of yet undisclosed injury. Considering his physique, it would not be a surprise if he is dealing with back or knee issues. Chiyomaru could benefit from following Kaisei’s example and shedding a bit of mass to improve his health and sumo. I’d hate to see sumo lose its most kawaii rikishi because of injury.

4. The Great Wall of Ichinojo

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and a genki Ichinojo is nearly impossible to push around. Today it was Hokutofuji’s turn to take on the immovable object, but he was not up to the task and immediately fell to the clay after making contact with Ichinojo’s mighty frame. The giant Mongolian is undefeated thus far and could be a major force in the yusho race. With Terunofuji a shell of his former self, Ichinojo could one day find himself taking on the mantle of sumo’s resident Kaiju.

5. A Look on the Bright Side

With the shadow of the Harumafuji scandal cast on this basho, it is important to recognize that there are still many positive stories coming out of Fukuoka. For starters, the young crop of rikishi continue to make their mark in the Makuuchi division and their matches remain competitive and enjoyable. Kisenosato and Takayasu seem up to the task of competing this basho, with the later of the two looking like an early contender for the yusho. Finally, Hakuho appears focused and determined to make more history this November, and become the first man to ever to win forty yusho. With so much to look forward to, let’s remember that there is still some great sumo to come.

 

Kyushu Day 4 Preview


Kisenosato-Day3

In spite of the huge distraction that is the Harumafuji story, the basho continues. Finally going into day 4, we can get a feel for how some of the top men are likely to fare physically for the remainder of the basho.

  • Hakuho – Looking very genki indeed! There had been some worries heading into the basho, but it’s clear he is in good enough condition to run everyone he has faced thus far ragged. Barring an injury, he’s going to be contending for his 40th yusho.
  • Kisenosato – There were quite a few worries that Kisenosato was not going to be able to produce much in the way of offense. After his day 3 match, its clear he has some strength back on his left side.
  • Takayasu – What thigh muscle tear? This guy is as strong and sharp as ever.
  • Terunofuji – He can’t muster any lower body force, he is too weak to actually compete at this level. His mental state may be somewhat impacted as well due to the drama in his stable.
  • Mitakeumi – That toe is really bothering him. I am going to guess he will struggle.
  • Kotoshogiku – He seems healthy, but he has yet to win a match.
  • Ichinojo – His persistent back problems are not bothering him thus far, and he’s winning matches.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Kotoyuki vs. Ryuden – Crowd favorite Ryuden is up in Makuuchi for the day, and he goes against Kotoyuki who just recently returned to the top division. Interestingly enough, this is the first time these two have faced each other on the dohyo.

Myogiryu vs. Aminishiki – Aminishiki is really doing very well in Kyushu. In prior basho he has been very day-by-day on his performance, but thus far he has been smooth, precise and completely in control of each match. Myogiryu has a 10-6 career advantage over “Uncle Sumo”, so maybe he can disrupt Aminishiki’s string of wins.

Daiamami vs. Kagayaki – First match between these two, and it would be easy to give an edge to Kagayaki. But Daiamami is a young rikishi who had a solid career in college sumo, and is looking to pave the road to a higher spot in the banzuke.

Kaisei vs. Okinoumi – I am going to cautiously say that maybe Okinoumi has a handle on his medical problems for now, and that we may see something closer to his performance during that barn-burner opening week of Nagoya 2016. Facing off against Kaisei today, who brings in a 2 win career advantage over the man from Shimane-ken in Western Japan.

Endo vs. Ikioi – Classic match of fan favorites, Ikioi has been flagging as late, while Endo is on an upward path after recovering from surgery. Ikioi has a 6-2 career advantage statistically, but I would give the advantage to Endo for this match.

Takarafuji vs. Tochinoshin – Both men have been under-performing this far, and both have a lot of potential for great sumo. I am going to assume that Tochinoshin’s knee is back on the endangered species list, as we have not seen him unleash his enormous strength thus far in Kyushu.

Arawashi vs. Ichinojo – This one promises to be fun. Both come in to day 4 with 3-0 records. Arawashi has been running a high-speed mobile combat approach, where Ichinojo has reverted to his “Angry Bridge Abutment” mode. It’s speed and agility against size and brute strength. Where this one goes is anyone’s guess.

Hokutofuji vs. Tochiozan – Hokutofuji has delivered some solid sumo in the first 3 days, and I expect he is going to do his utmost to contain the flagging Tochiozan, who is fighting well below his potential. They have only fought twice, with each man taking a win.

Terunofuji vs. Kotoshogiku – Terunofuji has nothing left. Without his legs he cannot transmit power to ground, which is what sumo is all about. I give Kotoshogiku a significant advantage in this match.

Onosho vs. Yoshikaze – Interesting fact, Yoshikaze has yet to win a match from Onosho. I am sure this bothers him quite a bit, and I am hoping Yoshikaze expresses his frustration on day 4 – in the form of tsuppari applied to Onosho’s head.

Mitakeumi vs. Chiyonokuni – What could be another highlight match, we have a somewhat injured and less stable Mitakeumi against a Chiyonokuni who really seems to be running at full throttle every match. Mitakeumi showed some decent strength against Kotoshogiku on day 3, so expect plenty of action.

Goeido vs. Tamawashi – Goeido seems to be solidly booted up in 2.0 mode so far, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. I expect he is going to throw massive, no safety offense at Tamawashi. Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, and he has a nice win over Kisenosato thus far. This could be another great match if Tamawashi can survive the tachiai.

Shohozan vs. Takayasu – Home town boy Shohozan is a tough customer, and he’s going to have his hands full with Takayasu, who has been delivering power sumo daily so far. But Takayasu’s day 3 match was rough, unbalanced and almost went to Onosho. Look for the Ozeki to try and lock up Shohozan rather than the run-and-gun approach he let Onosho dictate on day 3.

Kisenosato vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s day 3 match against Hakuho had a couple of surprises that went by at a blistering speed. My favorite was where he set up a throw against the Yokozuna, and almost made it stick. Kisenosato is at least one gear lower than he normally fights, so Takakeisho may find more leverage on day 4. Their only prior match went to the Yokozuna.

Chiyotairyu vs. Hakuho – Chiyotairyu gave Kisenosato a good run on day 3, but Hakuho is in no need of confidence boosters. I would expect a quick match with Hakuho the winner. It should be noted that Hakuho has not lost in their prior encounters (6).

Kyushu Day 3 Preview


You Want To Do What?

The schedulers have given sumo fans many wonderful gifts for Tuesday, and we are eager to enjoy them. It seems that it was decided that day three would be twins day, and so most rikishi are facing their “twin”.  We have two giant men of girth, two youngsters who could push a Volkswagen up a hill without breaking a sweat, a pair of brawlers… Well, you get the idea!

The open questions we have going into day three include: 1. Is Harumafuji going to be able to gamberize and stick in the rotation? 2. How hurt is Aoiyama? 3. How hurt is the perpetually injured Kotoyuki? 4. What is it going to take to get Terunofuji to admit he’s injured and should not be playing kaiju today?

What We Are Watching Day Three

Kotoyuki vs. Myogiryu – Kotoyuki seemed to have injured his ankle on day two, but this guy is almost always hurt in some way. I hope that it was only light damage and he will be fit and ready for battle. He holds an 8-2 career lead over Myogiryu, but this will come down to injuries.

Nishikigi vs. Aminishiki – The only prior time these two faced off was in Juryo, and Nishikigi was the winner. For the first two days Aminishiki has looked very smooth and in control, and Nishikigi is not really showing us amazing sumo yet. So I would give a slight advantage to Uncle Sumo for this one.

Kagayaki vs. Asanoyama – These two are practically the same rikishi, that’s what makes this match so delightful! The primary difference is that Kagayaki gains weight in unfortunate locations, and Asanoyama is such a happy guy he may just laugh about it.

Kaisei vs. Aoiyama – Two rotund giants in a battle of the “Too Big To Flail”. Seriously though, probably a forfeit win for Kaisei as I hear Aoiyama really cranked up his ankle on day two.

Endo vs. Shodai – Ah Shodai, I am going to assume that Endo is going to make you pay for your high and slow tachiai. Endo seems to be bouncing back hard now, and if he can keep himself free of injuries, may be capable of rejoining the joi soon. For Endo fans that would be a welcome return. For Shodai, once he fixes his tachiai he’s going to make his next move higher.

Ichinojo vs. Hokutofuji – Both of these guys are showing some great sumo so far. I do love that they are going to put them head to head and see what happens. Hokutofuji has been quite fast and low so far, but against Ichinojo, it may not matter. Imagine being locked in hand to hand combat with a bridge abutment. Such a situation is going to require unusual tactics.

Shohozan vs. Chiyonokuni – Two sluggers going toe to toe. Chiyonokuni needs to start winning some, but home town boy Shohozan is starting off on a hot streak. My prediction for this fight is fast and painful, with more than one fierce blow to the face.

Mitakeumi vs. Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a crappy first set of matches, and he has eaten a good amount of clay in front of his home town fans. Now he faces an injured Mitakeumi, and I am guessing we are going to see some pelvic thrusts of extraordinary magnitude.

Terunofuji vs. Yoshikaze – Terunofuji has no knees left. I fear a replay of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Much as we love both Terunofuji and Yoshikaze, this bout is going to be unpleasant to watch.

Onosho vs. Takayasu – Oh what wonders! A first time match between a powerful, brutal Ozeki and a potent up-start. I think the advantage here is Takayasu, but I am eager to see what tactics Onosho employs.

Goeido vs. Tochiozan – I am looking for more Geoido 2.0 here, and I would think that Tochiozan is at least considering a henka.

Takakeisho vs. Hakuho – A rematch we have all been waiting for. What kind of lessons will the Boss hand out to upstart Takakeisho today? Or can the angriest of tadpoles take back some dignity from the rikishi who schooled him in Nagoya?

Harumafuji vs. Tamawashi – A big test match for Harumafuji, if he loses again today it’s clear he is too banged up to compete. I know for a fact that Harumafuji would rather this not be the case, so we may finally see him unleash some of his more defensive tricks. But Tamawashi does indeed know how to win against Harumafuji, so both men will fight hard.

Kisenosato vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is now super-sized for your entertainment, and he gets to test a still-questionable Kisenosato. Today should be the day we can tell if Kisenosato is going to be able to go the distance, or if he is still too hurt to practice Yokozuna level sumo.

Additional Kyushu Day 2 Highlights


Hakuho

First off, check out Herouth’s fantastic write up here: Day 2 – Slip Slidin’ Away

Day 2 Thoughts

The Makuuchi corps put a very sloppy day one behind them, and delivered some excellent sumo action on day two. There were several fine battles of strength and will, and fans will marvels at Aminishiki’s skill and minimalistic approach to victory. Also of note, Endo fans are going to love today’s match – it seems like he may be past whatever trouble he had with his earlier injuries.

Two top men from Isegahama have us worried. Terunofuji clearly has no strength in his legs, and is more or less done for until his knees can heal up. As much as we all adore a giant McDonald’s-fries-eating kaiju in our sumo, it’s clear there is little chance he can defend his Ozeki bid. Just as troubling is the sumo of Yokozuna Harumafuji, who is clearly not up to speed yet. Our concern is that the Aki basho, which he slogged through in spite of whatever injury plagued him, was too much. Now we worry he is paying the price for his endurance.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Ishiura – It’s natural to ask, “What happened to Ishiura?” A year ago he burst onto the dohyo and took everyone by surprise. Today he lost to Nishikigi. Not to slam Nishikigi, but Ishiura is a shadow of himself a year ago. Nishikigi got him moving and chased him off the dohyo.

Myogiryu defeats Daiamami – These two went at it for a good while, locked on each other’s mawashi, with Myogiryu eventually getting Daiamami upright and pushing him out.

Aminishiki defeats Kagayaki – Uncle Sumo made quick work of Kagayaki, meeting him at the tachiai, then moving back and pulling him down. Aminishiki once again made it look smooth and easy. It’s really neat to watch this much experience on the dohyo, as Aminishiki has been doing this for so long, one marvels at just how efficient the guy is.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – I cheered this one, as Okinoumi has been struggling for a few tournaments. He actually had control of this match early, and danced Aoiyama around before pushing him backwards across the bales. It seems that Aoiyama injured his ankle in the match, sadly.

Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The real Ikioi showed up today and decided to do some sumo, and it was great to watch. He took control from the start. He attempted a throw, but could not get it done. It didn’t matter, though, as he kept moving forward and Asanoyama could not mount a defense.

Endo defeats Kaisei – May have been the highlight match of the day, these two engaged in a vigorous mawashi battle that raged back and forth. Endo took the match with a shitatehineri, for those of you collecting kimarite. I really like the more genki version of Kaisei.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Still high at the tachiai, but today Shodai looked strong, confident and swiftly drove Chiyoshoma back and out. Can this version of Shodai please stick around? He’s the one we all like.

Tochinoshin defeats Daishomaru – Relieved to see a solid, strong win from the big Georgian. He continues to struggle with his bad knee, but today he showed his remarkable strength. He wrapped up Daishomaru and marched him out quickly.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Another protracted mawashi battle, which Ichinojo was all too happy to take to closure. Ichinojo seems to have picked up where he left off at Aki, and is showing some pretty solid sumo. I am looking forward to some of his matches against the San’yaku.

Hokutofuji defeats Mitakeumi – Second day in a row Hokutofuji gets a half step ahead of his opponent and just drives him back and out. Whatever Mitakeumi did to his foot seems to really be bothering him, as he can’t seem to apply much power to his attacks.

Shohozan defeats Terunofuji – Its clear that Terunofuji has absolutely no traction now, his knee is not strong enough for him to really do much sumo, and this tournament is going to be a daily visit from Mr. Pain for him. Shohozan seems to have almost took pity on him. Unless something changes, I am worried he won’t be able to win any matches this basho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze continues to be very streaky, and like Aki, he is starting off cold. Chiyotairyu took control of the match early and kept up the pressure. Yoshikaze more or less collapsed under his punishing attacks.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Some readers were upset with the Tachiai team during Aki because early coverage of Goeido was negative. As we explained at the time, it’s because he is capable of what we have seen the past two days. Strong, fast, low, aggressive and basically unstoppable.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – My pre-basho worries about Takayasu have more or less been quieted now. He looked solid against Tochiozan, and seems to be healthy enough to secure his 8.

Takakeisho defeats Harumafuji – Dear Harumafuji does not look good right now. I know he had a cold start at Aki as well, but it’s a tough basho for him, losing to two tadpoles in the first two days. Takakeisho did seem to overpower the Yokozuna, putting Harumafuji on defense (and a shaky one at that) right away.

Kisenosato defeats Onosho – Kisenosato picks one up as Onosho loses traction at the tachiai and drops. I am sure the recovering Yokozuna will take the win.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Hakuho lands his left hand belt grip on Tamawashi that spins him around, and then pushes him out from behind. While I was hoping for some sort of “Flying Lesson”, this outcome is less hazardous for Tamawashi. The Boss is looking strong once more, and everyone else will need to get past him for the yusho.

Kyushu Day 2 Preview


Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri-Kyushu-Day-1

Day 1 was a complete mess, more so than they usually are for a few reasons that come to mind. As has been cited and oft repeated, the tempo of the jungyo is really taking its toll. Rikishi lack the time to properly train, properly focus and properly prepare for a basho under the current schedule. This seems to increase the prevalence of injuries, and on day 1 we saw a lot of sloppy sumo in the upper division. Secondly, I think that you have people like Kisenosato, who have not really competed in sumo for many months, coming in rusty but giving it their all.

I would note how triumphant Aminishiki’s first day back in the top division was. Not only did he score a convincing win with an elegant and smooth uwatenage over Kotoyuki, for most fans in the west, this is the first time they have seen him interviewed. Aminishiki is so personable and sincere, it’s easy to imagine a future day where “Uncle Sumo” is masterfully handling press and PR for the Kyokai. For a man who has struggled and endured much, this must have been a sweet reward.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Nishikigi vs. Ishiura – Nishikigi refuses to give up, even when he’s not at his best. But one rikishi who seems to have his number is Ishiura. There have been reports that Ishiura injured his neck in training, and we will get to see how much he is impacted, if at all. Ishiura fans all hope that he’s only visiting Juryo, and will come roaring back to the top division soon.

Aminishiki vs. Kagayaki – Both men won their day 1 matches with power and poise, and now we get to see a hit-or-miss youngster face off against Uncle Sumo. This is actually the first time these two have ever met, but my early favorite is Aminishiki, due to my suspicion that Kagayaki will be a bit awestruck that he gets to fight Aminishiki.

Asanoyama vs. Ikioi – These two are practically the same guy, save that Ikioi is struggling to keep up now, and Asanoyama is ascendant. Day 1 Ikioi was sloppy and vague, and his fans are hoping that he can pull it together today. No matter how this bout goes, Asanoyama is going to look like he is having a great time.

Endo vs. Kaisei – I tend to liken Endo to a skilled hunter. He seems patient, and is always working to find a momentary weakness to facilities his strike. Kaisei is greatly improved, but is still lumbering around the dohyo a bit too much. Career totals give a slight edge to Endo, but I would love to see Kaisei pull this one out with some solid sumo.

Chiyoshoma vs. Shodai – Chiyoshoma displayed some excellent, well conceived offense day 1, while Shodai seems to be lost and directionless after some fantastic performance earlier in the year. Many of his fans were convinced he was on a trajectory similar to Mitakeumi, but then Shodai fell apart. He continues with his miserable tachiai, which I think is the root of his problem.

Daishomaru vs. Tochinoshin – Daishomaru has never won against Tochinoshin, but the big Georgain may be too banged up to present his normal wall of brute strength and limitless endurance to an opponent. We do hope that Tochinoshin can get in touch with his sumo, one could easily liken a genki Tochinoshin to fighting one of the stone monoliths on Easter Island.

Takarafuji vs. Ichinojo – This could be a solid match today, as Ichinojo seems to be in touch with his sumo. Takarafuji dropped his day one match, but if he comes up ready on day 2, his careful methodical sumo could give Ichinojo a real challenge. But let’s get serious – I have stated that being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy, but if your sumo is running hot, being enormous can make you unstoppable. Slight edge to Takarafuji, even though Ichinojo leads their career series 8-2, due to the fact that Takarafuji has no neck to grab.

Mitakeumi vs. Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still destined for great things, even if he needs to consolidate his sumo a bit over the next few tournaments. Today’s match against Mitakeumi is likely a milestone on that road. Mitakeumi does not seem to be 100% at the moment, and loss to Hokutofuji would be a huge confidence booster coming on the back of Hokutofuji’s defeat of Terunofuji.

Terunofuji vs. Shohozan – This will be yet another painful to watch match. Terunofuji has no way to put power to ground, so his normal style to overpower his opponents is not going to happen. Shohozan’s highly mobile style is likely to cause a lot of trouble for Terunofuji, and I just hope he comes out of this without further injuring his bum knee. These two are tied 3-3 over their career.

Chiyotairyu vs. Yoshikaze – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in his day 1 results. But as we all know, the Berserker tends to have cold tournament starts, catch fire and end by taking everyone’s lunch money. The super-sized Chiyotairyu is going to be a tough customer, but Yoshikaze will still try to see how high the burly man from Kokonoe will bounce.

Goeido vs. Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this will either be a dud or a barn burner. My advice to Kotoshogiku – henka hard, but sell it. Goeido is clearly working his 100% attack mode (which we love), so a henka would be a perfect opening gambit. Double bonus points to Goeido if he can get low on Kotoshogiku and run him off before the Bulldozer can even get started.

Tochiozan vs. Takayasu – Tochiozan has a habit of confounding and defeating Takayasu, he holds a career lead of 19-6 over the kadoban Ozeki. Takayasu can’t afford to drop any matches, so lets hope he can contain Tochiozan’s explosive offense.

Harumafuji vs. Takakeisho – Do you think Harumafuji is frustrated by his day 1 performance? Well, time to take it out on Onosho’s boon companion Takakeisho. The problem is Takakeisho won’t be intimidated, and can (and has) beaten Harumafuji in the past. Advice to the horse – bring out the nodowa and make him march around the dohyo a bit first, please.

Kisenosato vs. Onosho – Are you worried about Kisenosato? I know I am. Tamawashi really was in control of most of that day 1 match, and Kisenosato fans did not want to see that. The Yokozuna seems to have trouble transmitting his will through his feet and moving forward. Onosho, on the other hand, has no problems doing this, and may in fact pick up on Tamawashi’s attack by getting the less mobile Kisenosato to try and run him down. This is their first match.

Tamawashi vs. Hakuho – Tamawashi showed outstanding mobility and tactics in his day 1 match against Kisenosato, but today he draws “The Boss”. I will look for Hakuho to grab him early and possibly we will get to see Tamawashi get one of Hakuho’s “Flying Lessons” (where he gets his opponent off the dohyo and sideways headed for the clay).

Kyushu Day 1 Preview


Uncle-Sumo

It’s been a solid 2 months since we last had competition to discuss, and it seems that the schedulers set up some fantastic matches for the first day. There are so many unknowns for this tournament, and all sumo fans are eager to see 3 of the 4 active Yokozuna in action.

There are a number of rikishi with quite a bit on the line this tournament, including Takayasu who is kadoban for the first time, and our favorite kaiju, Terunofuji, who has been demoted to Ozekiwake and needs 10 wins to return to his rank. For Terunofuji especially, this is going to be a difficult tournament. There is strong evidence that he is still injured and in pain. For Takayasu, it’s unclear how far into recovery he is, but we are fairly certain he will find some way to pick up 8 wins.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Kotoyuki vs. Aminishiki – In a match that replays last tournament’s Juryo action, Uncle Sumo goes against Kotoyuki. I am guessing that for US fans, they will show this on the highlight reel. It will be quite welcome to watch him in action. One thing that was apparent while watching the May tournament in Tokyo, the crowd really loves Aminishiki. With any luck they will show some of that reaction, too. Kotoyuki looks to be over his injuries, and ready to resume fighting at top division levels.

Okinoumi vs. Asanoyama – I am going to be delighted to see how Asanoyama does in his second top division tournament. The guy has a perpetual positive attitude it seems, and one has to respect that. Okinoumi is always hit-or-miss on any day depending on how his chronic injuries are doing.

Aoiyama vs. Ikioi – At Aki, Aoiyama was ranked pretty high, and he suffered quite a bit as a result. He is much more effective at this layer of the banzuke, and should be quite competitive. I would love to see Ikioi have a good tournament, but he seems to be struggling this year.

Kaisei vs. Daieisho – Kaisei made it back to Makuuchi in September, and looked like he lost a bunch of mass. Furthermore, in the NHK segment on Tomozuna Oyakata, there were plenty of shots showing Kaisei training, and he seems to have lost still more weight. I think this indicates some good things for the man from Brazil, as he had gotten too heavy and it had begun to retard his sumo. Daieisho opened very strong at Aki, and I am eager to see if he can do it again. This will be a nice test, as Kaisei was defeated by Daieisho in both of their previous bouts.

Endo vs. Chiyomaru – Endo has quietly been getting his sumo stronger, match by match, since he had surgery over the summer. Hopefully this will inspire the badly damaged Ura that its possible to get fixed up, heal up, and return to the dohyo. Endo holds a 3-1 advantage over Chiyomaru.

Chiyonokuni vs. Ichinojo – Mighty Ichinojo seemed to actually wake up and focus on sumo during Aki, and it was great to see. I know the giant suffers from all manner of injuries due to his enormous size and weight. On the other hand, Chiyonokuni is a blistering firestorm of sumo offense, and I think Maegashira 4 is a very good rank for him. They are tied in career matches at 2-2.

Terunofuji vs. Hokutofuji – The labor of pain starts early for Terunofuji, he has never defeated Hokutofuji, who suffered a hand injury during Aki and was a shadow of his normal self. If he has returned ready and ganki, this could be tough for Terunofuji. Not only must he win, he needs to protect his injured knees in order to keep fighting in top form for the whole tournament. Thus far, Terunofuji has not found a way to defeat Hokutofuji in any of their prior matches.

Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – Battle of the brawlers, “Big Guns” Shohozan is the underdog in this match. Yoshikaze kept his normal low profile during the jungyo, but I am quite sure he is primed for battle.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochiozan – Mitakeumi has quietly put together the second most wins this year, just behind Harumafuji. He looked vague and unfocused during Aki, and he faces a full spread of Yokozuna this time around. He warms up against Tochiozan over whom he has a 4-1 career edge.

Chiyotairyu vs. Takayasu – How healed up is Takayasu? Time to find out when he faces off against super-sized Chiyotairyu on day 1. During Aki, Chiyotairyu was showing some solid sumo and some overwhelming force, so this is not going to be easy for Takayasu in the slightest.

Goeido vs. Takakeisho – Goeido has some work to do to repair his reputation after Aki, and his day one bout against Takakeisho is a great place to start. Goeido has been looking especially sharp in both jungyo and practice, so I am expecting a lot of Goeido 2.0 this basho. Oddly enough, they are even at 1-1 for their career totals.

Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi – Is it finally time to welcome the return of Kisenosato? Almost every sumo fan in the world has their hopes pinned on his return to health and vigor. Although Tamawashi is no longer in the San’yaku slot he held for so long, he can be counted on for explosive sumo straight from the start. This will be an excellent test of just how healed up Kisenosato is.

Kotoshogiku vs. Hakuho – The boss gets to meet home-town boy Kotoshogiku on day one, and frankly I am thrilled. The Kyushu Bulldozer is easy to anticipate, but he finds ways to trap you into his sumo and make you pay. Hakuho is so fast, so clever and so skilled that it will likely be a contest between Hakuho’s trying to stay mobile, and Kotoshogiku trying to lock the Yokozuna up. Hakuho dominates their career matches 52-5.

Harumafuji vs. Onosho – Onosho is feeling fierce, and who better to temper him than the winner of the Aki yusho? Harumafuji has spent some of the intervening two months nursing himself back to health, but he spent the first week of Aki second-guessing his sumo, and dropping matches to underlings. Onosho won their only prior match, and I am sure that Harumafuji is going to make Onosho pay.