Natsu Day 11 Preview

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Ozeki Terunofuji Headed to McDonalds In Ryogoku, 11:22 PM Tuesday

We Start The Final Act

As we begin the last 5 days of this awesome tournament, it’s time to check up on a few of our story threads

Takayasu’s Ozeki Run – I would declare this on uncertain footing but still quite possible. Takayasu needs to face another Yokozuna who is currently unbeaten, and both Ozeki, one of which is operating in kaiju mode. That leaves him with 2-3 plausible wins, so still possible.

Injured Yokozuna Corps – Kakuryu already has withdrawn. He is probably facing pressure now to retire. He can in fact hang his hopes of delaying that by his November yusho in Fukuoka. Kisenosato insists on competing even though he lacks the strength in his upper body to present a reasonable threat to the upper San’yaku. Harumafuji and Hakuho have reverted to their genki forms, and are unbeaten and undeterred. It’s wonderful to see them both back to their former potency, and we are reminded of how they dominated everything sumo for years.

No-Zeki – Goeido is kadoban, this tournament, and is only 6-4 as of today. It’s not too far of a stretch to think he can pick up 2 more wins, but that’s very weak performance for an Ozeki. This week he faces all 3 Yokozuna, so I would guess at least 2 more losses are inbound. His match with Tamawashi may be the decider. Terunofuji on the other hand seems to be in the same mode he was in during Osaka. That of a rampaging sumo powerhouse with unbeatable strength. He has yet to face any Yokozuna, and I am guessing that he has a fair chance of beating any of them, except Kisenosato. I think he could actually injure Kisenosato.

Mitakeumi’s Komisubi Residency – He was out to strong start, but then hit some very rough patches. Now, Mitakeumi is in real danger of going make-koshi and being pushed back to rank and file Maegashira. I personally don’t think that’s going to harm him, as there is still a bunch of brush clearing that needs to take place in San’yaku before the promotion lanes are actually open. He has faced all of the Ozeki, but still needs to get by Harumafuji on day 11. After that he should draw some easier matches, and may end up 8-7 if he is not too discouraged.

Ojisan Kotoshogiku – We are at day 10, and he is still not make-koshi. His next loss seals his demotion, but he has faced both Ozeki and all three Yokozuna. Is it possible he can win his last 5 matches and escape demotion? Yes, but it would be highly improbably. But look at who he is likely to face: Chiyonokuni (2-8), Okinoumi (1-9!), Daieisho (2-8), Aoiyama (2-8)? We get to Tochiozan before we find a rikishi who is looking strong. So don’t write of Kotoshogiku yet. Then there is the thought of a Shodai – Kotoshogiku match, which might be a big deal.

Upper Maegashira Blood Bath – Ranks M1 – M5 contain 10 rikishi, only 3 of them have even or winning records. This is not atypical by any means, as the upper Maegashira are frequently the punching bags of the San’yaku, but the last few basho had been relatively gentle on these folks. But Natsu has brought the pain back with vengeance.

Juryo Meat Grinder – Upper Juryo is in worse shape than anything I have seen in some time. None of the top 6 Juryo ranks has anyone with more than 6 wins. Without a strong leader or leaders, it throws the promotion picture into chaos. It’s clear that a number of rikishi will be booted out of Makuuchi, but are any of these Juryo guys worthy to replace them?

Osunaarashi In Trouble – He is 1-9 right now. Given that the NSK has given him brutal demotions in the past, it’s reasonable to ask how far down the banzuke he will fall. It was clear from watching him in person that his multiple, unrecovered injuries have robbed him of the physical presence he used to command.

Natsu Leader board

LeadersHarumafuji, Hakuho
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura

5 Matches Remain

* Note, we are almost to the point where the math required for anyone to catch Hakuho or Harumafuji becomes unworkable.

Matches We Like

Kaisei vs Toyohibiki – In spite of his injuries, it seems Kaisei decided he is not going back to Juryo, no matter what. He needs 2 more wins to make that a reality. He has a 10-5 career advantage over Toyohibiki.

Tochinoshin vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu trying for kachi-koshi against a resurgent Tochinoshin. I am looking for Tochinoshin to employ his massive strength and size advantage if he can grab the mawashi, Tochinoshin will be thrusting with everything to keep the big Georgian away.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Less of a mismatch than a M7 vs M14 bout should be. If Takakeisho wins, he claims his kachi-koshi. But Chiyotairyu has beaten him 2 out of their 3 times they have matched before. I would guess Chiyotairyu is going to try for a quick slap down before Takakeisho can set his feet and start his sumo.

Ura vs Shodai – Also a match likely better than you would expect with a M10 vs M5 bout. Ura deploy his quantum sumo against Shodai’s flawed tachiai. As Ura will probably go low and crazy, it’s going to be fun to see how Shodai reacts. This is their first ever match. May be the best match of day 11.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo learned anything from the Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze bout. I am guessing he did not. Interestingly enough, these two are tied 5-5 over their career. Endo is looking a bit off now, and may be hurt, where Yoshikaze seems to actually be enjoying himself almost as much as Hakuho is.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Yes, Chiyonokuni is already make-koshi, but he has not been phoning in his matches. He has stepped on the dohyo each day with a plan to win, and he has given it his all. Kotoshogiku has a narrow path to hold onto Sekiwake, and the next step is defeating Chiyonokuni.

Tochiozan vs Takayasu – This is a must win for Takayasu. Given the brutality of the rest of his schedule, he needs to bank this win. Tochiozan is stronger this basho than he has looked since Nagoya 2016, so it’s not a foregone conclusion. Also of note is Tochiozan leads the career matches 18-5, so he has a habit of beating Takayasu. Much as Kintamayama seems to play on it, it does seem true that Takayasu is a chronic worrier, and it may restrain his sumo on day 11.

Terunofuji vs Aoiyama – The only question is what look of pain Aoiyama will have on his face moments after the tachiai. Kailua for the win over the man shaped meat mountain.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Only Goeido 2.0 has a chance here, and it would be so very magical if he appeared and battled Hakuho to a win. But reality says Hakuho is going to play with Goeido for a bit, then toss him around. Success here means that Goeido can come out of it without an injury.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – I am still hoping to see the death-spin. It’s been many months since Harumafuji tried to put a man in orbit, and I do so hope he can pull that one out this basho. Mitakeumi is still going to be a big deal in a while, but day 11 he gets to “enjoy” Harumafuji.

Kisenosato vs Tamawashi – Although Kisenosato has won all 9 of their prior meetings, Tamawashi has a fair chance against the one-armed Yokozuna. I am still looking for Kisenosato to do the responsible thing and go kyujo.

Kyushu Day 9 News and Highlights

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Worth the Wait.

In my humble opinion, thus far the Kyushu tournament has been fairly lackluster. I am not sure if it’s because Hakuho is good but recovering, Harumafuji had gotten boring and repetitive, or the my deeply held belief that the shimpan should have let Goeido and Okinoumi fight it out.

But day nine – it’s as if everyone decided the fans needed some real sumo, and stopped half-assing. Maybe the Sumo Kyokai discussed with the A-List crew that the fans were unhappy, and the recent resurgence in sumo’s popularity was on the line. It does not matter, day 9 was worth the wait.

At the moment Kakuryu remains undefeated, in part because he has perfected running away (which is a valid strategy) until he can figure out an attack. Hakuho finally put it in gear, and Harumfuji decided to try some sumo moves today.

On top of that, Ishiura continues to win decisively, he is dominating the lower Makuuchi ranks. I also offer a my eternal thanks to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan for bringing Terunofuji back to fighting form. It is such fun to watch him battle.

The story in Juryo was frankly more compelling that Makuuchi has been thus far, we have Osunaarashi tearing up opponents with a single minded drive to return to Makuuchi for January. We have Ura, Seiro and Satoyama continuing to win daily, and with some really good sumo.

Leaderboard

  • Undefeated: Kakuryu
  • Chasers: Harumafuji, Hakuho, Ishiura
  • Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Terunofuji, Shodai, Chiyoshoma, Arawashi

6 matches remain

Highlights

(Lots Today)

Ichinojo defeats Hidenoumi – The giant sumo robot from the future delivered today. Granted it was against a rikishi with a single win, but both put a lot of effort into their sumo today. Ichinojo now has 4 straight wins after a really weak start to the basho. Ichinojo should be a real contender in 2017, if he can stay healthy.

Ishiura defeats Hokutofuji – Don’t blink or you will miss this one. Ishiura has acres of strength, and his bout against Hokutofuji looked more like Ishiura was late for a train, and Hokutofuji simply got in the way.

Arawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – What I really like about this match, watch Arawashi hook his left hand into Chiyotairyu’s muwashi early. Chiyotairyu continues to try and push Arawashi away, but Arawashi stays close and presses Chiyotairyu out. The ability to think, act and maneuver while under attack – that’s indicators of great sumo

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Fresh dental work could not save Ikioi from a rapid hatakikomi (pull down). Sadly Ikioi was telegraphing a massive tachiai, and made it easy for Chiyoshoma. I urge fans to study Hakuho or Harumafuji. Those guys always line up in a calm, cool manner and you have no clue what they are about to do.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Oh yeah, this is more like it! What a battle. Suffice to say both rikishi are massively strong, and neither one of them were willing to give an inch. Tochinoshin. coming from being robbed day 8, clearly had some motivation. These two have faced each other 13 times, and it’s usually a good battle. Thank you both for a fantastic match.

Takarafuji defeats Endo – Endo has been doing quite well this basho, but today Takarafuji brought everything he had to the dohyo, and put up a huge fight. This match was all thrusting to start, with Endo borrowing Harumafuji’s nodawa, with much less effect. While he was trying to get Takarafuji high, Takarafuji was busy controlling the match. Takarafuji then wrapped up Endo, lowered his stance and started moving forward. Endo had expended a lot of stamina on his nodawa attack, and found himself suddenly on defense. Takarafuji finished him in short order. Very well done

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyonokuni – Two rikishi who are almost all offense. It did not take long. Chiyonokuni was off balance shortly after a massive tachiai and Yoshikaze kept pushing forward. Bonus points for the high force “ejector” right at the tawara to give the fans in the front fro a visit from Chiyonokuni.

Terunofuji defeats Kaisei – Really fans, Kaisei is not a bad rikishi. He is having a terrible basho. Kaisei Terunofuji, on the other hand, has somehow overcome significant injuries to perform more like his old self. He handled the much larger Brazilian really well, with a decisive throw to end the match.

Kisenosato defeats Goeido – In the battle of broken dreams, Goeido had the upper hand at the opening, but Kisenosato has an almost superhuman awareness of the geometry of the situation, and the physical forces in play, moment to moment. At the last moment he shifted his weight, while he was starting to fall, and brought Goeido down first.

Kakuryu defeats Takayasu – This was all Takayasu to start, but Kakuryu stayed in there, and waited for a mistake. Sadly Takayasu made one, and like every other match this basho, you can’t give Kakuryu an opening. He never misses them. Takayasu excels at strength sumo, chest to chest, the key to his losses is making sure he can’t lock his opening up and wear them down.

Harumafuji defeats Okinoumi – Even Harumafuji decided to try some sumo moves today. It was really quite excellent as well. I would beg him to put down the non-henka, the nodawa and deliver more bouts like this one, please.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – The Boss brought fans one hell of a final match today. Clearly he is not yet back to his pre surgery best, but today was a great show of why he is the top man in sumo. Kotoshogiku put forth a massive effort, using all of his favorite moves. Hakuho was able to keep him bottled up for an eternity in sumo terms. Clearly he was keeping pressure down on the knee that had surgery, but even one of the Boss’s legs can be enough, when applied with great skill. Closing move? YEAH – he picked up Kotoshogiku and threw him out of the ring.

Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

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Enough Oshidashi To Go Around

A good start to the Kyushu basho, with an odd prevalence of push-out wins (Oshidashi / 押し出し). Final bout featured Tamawashi (Komusubi) dispatching Yokozuna Harumafuji with ease.

It was great to see Hakuho in action once more, but today’s bout was not a great example of his fighting form. Goeido announced to the world he takes his Yokozuna run seriously, as once again we saw his total, near reckless commitment to offense, and some really nice work by my favorite:  Yoshikaze!

In Juryo Osunaarashi won, but Amakaze, Daieisho and Ura lost – as the second division train-wreck seems to have continued from Aki

A lot of the rikishi looked off balance and unprepared for their matches. Quite a change from most of the prior tournaments.

Notable highlights

Toyohibiki defeats Gagamaru – This was not much of a match, as Gagamaru looked weak and off balance from the Tachiai

Sokokurai defeats Ichinojo – Ok, we saw the smaller Ichinojo, but he looked weak and quite out of his element. He offered token resistance to Sokokurai, but Sokokurai kept the pressure up and just walked the big Mongolian out

Hokutofuji defeats Daishomaru – Fast match with some early slaps and a rapid exit by Daishomaru

Ikioi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu tried to pull Ikioi out of the ring, and Ikioi obliged by pushing Myogiryu out first. Myogiryu looked off balance from the start.

Takarafuji defeats Nishikigi – In contrast to many of the other men in action today, these two showed up ready to wrestle. It was a strength match with Takarafuji having the upper hand for most of the bout. Excellent strength and resistance from Nishikigi though.

Shodai defeats Kotoyuki – This is more like it. Excellent slapping / pushing match! Kotoyuki opened very strong, throwing Shodai back, and nearly out. Shodai recovered his balance but was back to the tawara, but Kotoyuki was off balance and Shodai pulled him into the spectators.

Takayasu defeats Endo – Endo was completely out-matched. Takayasu stayed low and just powered Endo out of the ring. There were some doubts about his readiness, but todays bout was completely one-sided.

Yoshikaze defeats Terunofuji – Yoshikaze took command straight from the tachiai, and never let up. Terunofuji made one attempt to throw Yoshikaze, but Yoshikaze countered by picking up Terunofuji and lifting him out of the ring, for a really welcome Tsuridashi

Kisenosato defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama was completely out-classed, and Kisenosato seems to be back to his winning ways. It was over in seconds as Kisenosato just smoothly pushed the Bulgarian directly out in the blink of an eye.

Goeido defeats Tochiozan – Goeido maintains the form he showed during Aki. Near reckless commitment to pure offense! He overpowered Tochiozan who actually put up a solid effort, nearly pulling to Ozeki down moments before losing. Goeido is deadly serious about his Yokozuna run.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi is clearly injured, it’s kind of heartbreaking to watch him. Hakuho actually did not show strong sumo today, but instead pulled Okinoumi down early in the match. Is the Yokozuna trying to ease back into is sport?

Tamawashi defeats Harumafuji – The day finished with an upset as Tamawashi fairly easily dispatched Yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji was off balance at the tachiai, and Tamawashi simply turned him, and marched him to the edge.

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

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The Boss Is Back

It’s with great joy I welcome all the Tachiai readers back to our tournament coverage. The final basho of 2016 kicks off on Sunday in Fukuoka, and it is back to the seat cushions with potential. As Andy and I have been writing for the past week, there are any number of compelling threads woven into this epic sporting event.

Notable Matches, Day 1

Gagamaru va Toyohibiki – Gagamaru performed terribly during the Aki basho. He was not demoted back to Juryo mostly because Aki Juryo was an absolute train wreck. Hopefully he can perform better down at the bottom of Makuuchi.

Ichinojo vs Sokokurai – I am eager to see how a higher Ichinojo performs. Sokokurai is no slouch either, so this one has a lot of potential even thought its towards the bottom of the line up

Shohozan vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni is another rikishi who may have gained more weight than his technique can handle, where as Shohozan seems to be comfortable at a massive scale.

Takayasu vs Endo – Endo was on a hot tear during Aki, helped in part by his being lower down the banzuke at Maegashira 13. Now he is promoted 10 whole ranks to Maegashira 3. Takayasu needs 12 wins for Ozeki. Advantage Takayasu

Yoshikaze vs Terunofuji – Terunofuji may still be playing injured, and Yoshikaze tends to take a lot of damage, but looked solid on Jungyo. I give a slight advantage to Yoshikaze for this one.

Aoiyama vs Kisenosato – Clash of the bulky, with Kisenosato bringing more technique, and Aoiyama brining more strength. Both of these rikishi have a limited book of kimarite, so it could be a lot of slapping and a bunch of hugging. I give advantage to Kisenosato.

Goeido vs Tochiozan – We will see early if Goeido will be a contender at Kyushu. Tochiozan dropped from Komusubi at Aki to Maegashira 1, and has not been very dominant lately. I expect Goeido to attack strong and try to put Tochiozan quickly.

Hakuho vs Okinoumi – Hakuho is freshly back from surgery and recovery, but probably strong and rested. Okinoumi is nursing a horrific personal injury, and my be better off going kyujo. But these sumo guys are tough, so Okinoumi faces the boss straight out of the blocks. Hopefully the EMTs are ready.

Harumafuji vs Tamawashi – As stated in the prior torikumi thread, what says “congrats on making sanyaku” more than a face full of clay delivered by Harumafuji?

Kyushu Storyline #6: Hakuho’s Health

As Bruce has written about pretty extensively, Hakuho will return to the dohyo in Fukuoka. This will be the first tournament in his entire career where he will be ranked behind the other two yokozuna. He’s dropped to Yokozuna West a handful of times but seeing him out of “top dog” status is making people wonder if the end of his career is in sight. I hope not. The Aki Basho was the first he has missed since 2006. His longevity and health has us spoiled. Chiyonofuji missed 6 tournaments over his career, not including another six tournaments where he pulled out early due to injury. Again, Hakuho has only done that once. He’s been scary healthy. Wicked healthy. I wouldn’t start worrying until he begins taking consecutive tournaments off…or loses heart. Let’s face it, he’s got almost all of the records and the only thing that can really stop Hakuho is himself. 白鵬、頑張れ!