Aki Day 13 Highlights

The much hoped for grand brawl has formed, and the final two days of the basho are going to be fantastic. We know for sure that the yusho winner will have no more than a 12-3 record, and that puts 4 rikishi in contention with another 5 possible should all of the leaders take at least 1 loss over the next 2 matches. The yusho will not be decided until senshuraku, and it will quite possibly involve at least 2 rikishi in a playoff for the cup. In the last big story of Aki left open, Tochinoshin’s kachi-koshi hope stayed alive today with his defeat of Ryuden. If he can beat Myogiryu on day 14, his fate is decided in the final match of the basho. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan is most pleased. This one is coming down to the wire, and Team Tachiai is giddy with excitement.

It reflect on the fact that you have Tsurugisho, in his first Makuuchi tournament, a valid yusho contender going into the final weekend. You have Okinoumi, a long serving veteran who has been a stable mid-Maegshira for forever, with occasional flashes of awesome along the years. He’s likely toward the end of his career now, but he’s in the mix for the cup. The two leading tadpoles (and Sekiwake), Mitakeumi and Takakeisho, are the men to beat. Both have a yusho to their name already, and both are capable of performing under the pressure of the final weekend.

It’s a great time to be a sumo fan!

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Azumaryu – One sided match that was all Takanosho with zero offense from Azumaryu. Good chance we may see Takanosho back in the top division for November.

Yutakayama defeats Enho – Yutakayama worked hard to generate a high-intensity battery of tsuppari that Enho could not penetrate. Enho employed multiple attack plans, but was completely shut down by Yutakayama’s wall of flying hands. I know some readers may have wondered why I have been a Yutakayama backer in the past few basho. I think that he is Asanoyama’s future foil, and a rival for Abi.

Onosho defeats Nishikigi – It took him the whole first week, but Onosho seems to be back in his groove, with 4 consecutive wins. Nishikigi opened strongly, getting Onosho backed to the tawara, but Onosho seems to like this kind of start to a match, and once again rallied strongly and drove Nishikigi out. With that red mawashi finally kicking in, a kachi-koshi is still very much possible for Onosho.

Shohozan defeats Meisei – Shohozan now kachi-koshi while kicking Meisei out of the leader group for a second consecutive day. For yet another day we had matta-madness, and frankly I think it’s quite overdone now. By the time the match finally was allowed to continue, both rikishi were hesitant at the first step. This kind of gyoji action has the potential to really ruin sumo. The match itself was the kind of brawl we would normally expect from Shohozan, and it was great to see him finally execute “his brand of sumo”.

Sadanoumi defeats Takagenji – Not sure how, but I feel sorry for Takagenji right now. Not that Sadanoumi did anything to cause this, other than give him a hearty denshamichi today. Just that his sumo is nowhere to be found right now, and I am going to guess it’s mostly his off-dohyo troubles. That’s ok, little Genji, we will save a spot for you to come back later.

Kotoyuki defeats Tochiozan – Kotoyuki has now won 4 of the last 5, and seems to be locked into his “fierce” mode. Tochiozan getting perilously close to being the subject of a day 15 Darwin match, which would make long term sumo fans uncomfortable. Just within the past year, there was talk about a resurgent Tochiozan possibly becoming a late-career San’yaku regular.

Ishiura defeats Terutsuyoshi – Well, I guess it was henka o’clock in Tokyo today. Weak ass sumo from Ishiura, taking a win from now 3-10 Terutsuyoshi. Nobody likes a heel, sir.

Tsurugisho defeats Takarafuji – With his win over Takarafuji, Tsurugisho is now at 10 wins in his first top division basho. Not unusual for shin-maku rikishi, but this time out, it’s enough to get him a lead spot in the yusho race. Takarafuji gave him a great fight, but as Tsurugisho is pushed back to the tawara, he suddenly “hulks out” and you see him flex and lift Takarafuji into a match winning sukuinage. Where has that been this basho?

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – I love the move Okinoumi applied in this match. Kagayaki is too well positioned and too stable once he gets his feet set to push around much, or to slap down. So Okinoumi reaches inside with Kagayaki’s arms latched around his shoulder, and pulls him down, essentially imploding his stance. Although the kimaraite is listed hatakikomi, it’s the implosion pull that won the match. Really neat move. Okinoumi remains tied for the lead

Kotoeko defeats Daishoho – Kotoeko won this through sheer grim determination and gutting it out. Both men fought with fury at the tachiai, until the settled down to an endurance test in the middle of the dohyo, each holding a right hand inside grip. When Daishoho’s stamina started running low, Kotoeko was able to break his grip, which set up the yorikiri. Kotoeko saves himself from make-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is an absolute mess right now, and really is not putting up much offense or defense. He picks up his 11th loss while Daieisho dodges the make-koshi mud-ball once more.

Asanoyama defeats Tamawashi – Asanoyama showing some remarkable versatility today, he adapted well to Tamawashi’s oshi-zumo form and found a moment when the former Sekiwake was off balance and attacked. I will state that Asanoyama seems to have an impressive level of strength supporting his sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Shodai – Now I am really feeling sorry for Shodai, and that’s an odd state for me. Aoiyama attempt a push-pull, and it nearly blows up on him, but Shodai never squares his hips, and is pushed to the side for the loss.

Hokutofuji defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze opens strong, and stalemates Hokutofuji with great effect. But his bad habit of pulling asserts itself, and he finds himself under renewed attack. Well, it worked so well the first time, why not try it again? Well Tomokaze is getting an ugly lesson in top echelon rikishi, as his second pull against Hokutofuji is his last. Give it up Tomokaze, bring your real sumo against these guys and you will do just fine. This cheap stuff is not for the big fights.

Endo defeats Kotoshogiku – I gained still more appreciation for Endo’s skill as a technician because of this match. Granted Kotoshogiku’s forward pressure is a fraction of what it should be if his body were not so damaged. But Endo absorbs his attacks, and patiently sets up his win. With a kachi-koshi at Komusubi, we see Endo stick in the san’yaku for the first time ever. It’s been a long time coming, but maybe it’s finally his time. Oh, there was also the terribly painful interview following his kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Shimanoumi – As with any Abi match, its a wild storm of thrusting and pushing, but today it featured a twisting pull at the end. Abi completes the Komusubi kachi-koshi sweep, making the November san’yaku ranks the most hotly contested in sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu tries an hatakikomi as Mitakeumi is rushing forward to win, but Myogiryu touches out before Mitakeumi could land. A monoii results, but the gumbai is upheld and Mitakeumi retains his slot as co-leader for the cup. Mitakeumi tends to fade out in week 2, but he’s won 4 of the last 5, and with his 10th win, he is probably getting in position for another bid to become Ozeki shortly.

Tochinoshin defeats Ryuden – You know this hurt, you can see it especially in that step Tochinoshin takes just after he forces Ryuden out. Ryuden’s sumo was great this match, but Tochinoshin seems to have access to at least some of his amazing strength. Once the Ozeki got his left hand outside grip, you knew he was going to lift, even if that was the end of his knee and by extension his sumo career, he was going to do it. Bold move, and it worked. 2 more to go.Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Classic Goeido sumo. Takakeisho had no time to react or even adjust his stance. This is unusual for Takakeisho, who usually has the faster first move. The biggest issue for Takakeisho is Goeido got the drop on him at the tachiai, and by the time the Goeido locomotive crashes into him, he is still low in his crouch. I would guess that Takakeisho correctly worried Goeido might deploy a henka, and slow-rolled his tachiai. Instead he got a face full of Goeido, and a fast trip to the clay. I love this form of Goeido, and I wish he could do it every match. So fast, so overwhelming.

Aki Day 13 Preview

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This has been a weird basho. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. When watching Day 12 inside the arena, I found myself alternating between shaking my head and cheering enthusiastically. The tournament has swung wildly between some of the most exciting sumo we have seen in ages, and slippy/slappy/pulldown action.

Less than sixty top division bouts remain, and we will see a victor crowned. What sort of victor will it be? Well, three names were culled from the race on Day 12, and the yusho arasoi should get thinner than a 40 year old’s oicho-mage after another day of action.

Day 13 is also a pivotal day as it will crown several lower division yusho winners.

Aki Leaderboard

Leader: Takakeisho
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Okinoumi, Takarafuji, Meisei, Tsurugisho
Don’t Stop Believin’: Goeido, Asanoyama, Yutakayama

Three Yusho Decided Day 13

Let’s start off with a quick sweep of the nether regions, where the wheat will be separated from the… slightly less sellable wheat. Wheat that’s perfectly good for the mill but not the sort of stuff you’d see in a high-end depachika.

Jonokuchi: The very first bout of the day decides the yusho, with former blue chip prospect and Ms1 Murata looking to seal the deal against less-heralded fellow injury returnee Omura.

Jonidan/Sandanme: Both of these divisions has 3 undefeated rikishi, so it’s splitsville with one of the divisions being won outright on the day and the other heading for a playoff over the weekend:

  • In Jonidan, bottom ranked 6-0’ers Aomihama and Sadanohana do battle, while…
  • In Sandanme, top ranked 6-0’ers Tsushida and Sadanohikari lock horns. Both sets of winners will hope that…
  • Sandanme’s Fujinowaka and Jonidan’s Motobayashi lose their match against the other.

Motobayashi is of course no stranger to strange yusho permutations having beaten two of his Naruto-beya stablemates to the Jonokuchi yusho last time out. Tsushida is the only other prior yusho winner – also in Jonokuchi.

Makushita: The highlight bout of the title matches on the day is unquestionably an intriguing battle of two former Makuuchi favourites. Immediate injury returnee Chiyonokuni takes on the most prominent rikishi in the unsalaried tiers: former Ozeki Terunofuji, who continues his long old slog up from Jonidan. They’ve met twice, each winning once. Neither will be promoted to Juryo with a win, but the winner will be much better placed for promotion in November.

In Juryo, the highlight of the day sees leader Ikioi against his nearest chaser Kotonowaka in a match which won’t decide the title, but may go some way to clearing it up.

What (Else) We Are Watching Day 13

Takanosho vs Azumaryu – Back to the top division then, and Takanosho gets called up again in a sneak preview of Fukuoka action, having clinched his kachikoshi from Juryo 2. Azumaryu has a 3-2 edge over his rival and has cooled off a bit in the preceding days.

Yutakayama vs Enho – After being pulled up to the dizzy heights of second half action, burgeoning superstar Enho finds himself near the bottom of the day’s fight card against an opponent who is just barely on the fringes of the title race. Somehow, this is their first ever meeting. It has been said ad nauseum on the commentary this tournament that Enho fights better against much larger opponents, and I tend to agree his chances will be improved here against an opponent who may not be able to cope with his dynamism and movement. While I correctly predicted he might struggle to finish off Takarafuji, I think this match gives him a bit better potential to score his kachikoshi and end the giant Yutakayama’s spirited title challenge.

Onosho vs Nishikigi – I’m glad this is happening now because it has all the hallmarks of one of those horrible Day 15 Darwin matchups. These guys are indeed both .500, but have a couple days to work out their winning record regardless of what happens. It’s a clash of styles, with Onosho’s dynamic pushing attack against Nishikigi’s preference to lock up his opponent’s arms. Onosho’s in good nick right now so I think he’ll win the day – provided he can stay on his feet.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Shohozan’s unlikely dalliance with title contention ended on Day 12, and Meisei’s took a real hit. Both will want to turn things around for different reasons: Shohozan can seal kachikoshi and Meisei still finds himself just one win off the pace and in with a real shout of a special prize. Their meetings have been split one apiece, but I think Meisei is just about in the better shape here, especially if it’s a mawashi battle. Shohozan has still got it but appears to have lost a step, compensating with increased work on the belt. That plays into Meisei’s hands though, so I’m tipping the energetic youngster.

Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Takagenji is clearly impacted by off-field activity and will hope to be back soon. Sadanoumi has to be unforgiving and punishing, as this is as good an opportunity as any to score one of the two remaining wins he needs this tournament. Sadanoumi leads the rivalry 2-0, and I’m backing him to make it 3.

Tochiozan vs Kotoyuki – Speaking of losing a step, Tochiozan has looked a bit blasé in this tournament, which isn’t a very good recipe for a match against the pushing attack of Kotoyuki. What he does still have however is ring sense, something that is very much his opponent’s achilles heel. Kotoyuki has lost at least two matches in this tournament from winning positions, and can’t afford to do that again here. I think Kotoyuki will win the tachiai with his trademark thrusting attack, but whether he’s able to actually put the veteran away is another matter.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi must have summoned the henka genie with his olé move on Day 12, as the genie has arrived to battle him on Day 13! Ishiura has faded badly in terms of results since his hot start and at 6-6 needs to find the wins needed for this tournament to be a success. For makekoshi Terutsuyoshi, it’s all about damage limitation to make sure a bad situation doesn’t get worse. Ishiura tends to henka in desperate situations… surely he won’t here, right? These guys will see plenty of each other in keiko sessions given the close relationship of their heya, so I think we’ll see some straightforward little man sumo, and it could be a bit feisty.

Tsurugisho vs Takarafuji – These guys both improbably find themselves one off the pace heading into the final weekend. What a story! Tsurugisho has exceeded all expectations in his top flight debut. Takarafuji, meanwhile, did very well to stick to his incredibly disciplined style of sumo to take Enho out of the equation on Day 12. This is a first time matchup. Tsurugisho would do well to start with a pushing attack because he doesn’t want a mawashi battle against a more experienced yotsu practitioner who will have designs on simply wearing down the opponent until he can sniff out and exploit a weakness. While a win for the rookie would add to the chaos that has been this Aki basho, I’m going to tip Takarafuji to stay right in the yusho race with a win here.

Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – Okinoumi upended his cold spell and the yusho race by knocking Meisei off the top of the leaderboard in some style on Day 12, and keeping himself in unlikely contention. Kagayaki is 5-7 and will be desperate to avoid makekoshi, but Okinoumi really shouldn’t lose this. While Kagayaki is very good when it comes to his ring sense and overall control, I don’t think he’s better than a healthy, in-form Okinoumi at oshi or yotsu-zumo, including the execution of throws. I’m going to tip the veteran to grab his 10th win.

Daishoho vs Kotoeko – Daishoho is makekoshi and faces a 5-7 rikishi hoping not to suffer the same fate. As evidenced by his win over Tochiozan on Day 12, Daishoho does seem like a rikishi who performs better when the pressure is off. This will be a belt match, with both rikishi preferring the mawashi. The previous 12 meetings have been split evenly. This is kind of a boring one so the boring analysis is: the winner will get a better grip from the tachiai and win by trying to move forward. Prove me wrong, guys. Woof.

Daieisho vs Chiyotairyu – I know I have been singing Daieisho’s praises to the heavens in this tournament, but this guy has just had a really good basho for a 5-7 rikishi. He is establishing his style of sumo all the time, and he backed that up by how he dealt with Asanoyama. Chiyotairyu on the other hand has been neither been able to establish his style of sumo from the tachiai nor recover in order to get his pushing and thrusting attack going. If he were a little more genki this might be the closest we’d get to a good old fashioned street fight in this tournament, but Daieisho might see the light at the end of the tunnel here and keep the chains moving in his quest for an unlikely winning record.

Tamawashi vs Asanoyama – Tamawashi has ended the title challenges of Abi and Endo in consecutive days and the arm-breaking cavity merchant will look to make it a hat trick by finishing off Asanoyama’s slim hopes at a second yusho. As with yesterday, Asanoyama does not handle Tamawashi’s style of sumo particularly well as evidenced by the goose egg he’s sporting from three prior meetings. That all being said, I’m going to break with the prediction I made yesterday and tip him to upset the form guide in this one, as Tamawashi can be a little vulnerable to being escorted out by an opponent who’s able to land a quick belt grip. And that might just keep things interesting into the weekend.

Shodai vs Aoiyama – As Bruce related, Shodai is better than his 2-10 record. With both of these guys in such poor form (five wins between them from 24 matches in this tournament), it’s the kind of match you mark down as “toilet break” or “refill the drink.” Make it fast though, because this should be over quickly. If Aoiyama gets the V-Twin firing and can move Shodai back from the tachiai, he should win this. And if he doesn’t, Shodai will grab the mawashi and get his third win.

Hokutofuji vs Tomokaze – Rescuing us from that dreariness is another first time matchup, and a thoroughly intriguing one at that. Tomokaze is 6-6 and needs to find two wins from three to keep his amazing kachikoshi streak alive, after he started pulling again for some reason yesterday. Hokutofuji is in his now typical strong finish, fighting back with five straight wins and some fantastic oshi-zumo this week. Here’s a stat for you: Hokutofuji is 16-5 over the final weekend (Friday-Sunday) of his past seven tournaments. That’s some indication of his perseverance. He will open up with his typical pushing-thrusting attack here, and Tomokaze in current form is probably going to look for a pull. That isn’t quite as awful as it sounds in this case, as Hokutofuji can be very prone to the hatakikomi/slippiotoshi. Hokutofuji is the favourite, but only just.

Kotoshogiku vs Endo – Kotoshogiku is on the brink, but managed to keep himself afloat with his comfortable win over Tomokaze on Day 12. Endo started strong but has fizzled in the second week. These matches have been split pretty evenly since Kotoshogiku’s Ozeki demotion and I think this hangs on Endo’s focus as much as anything. After all, we know what Kotoshogiku is going to give in every match.

Abi vs Shimanoumi – These guys lock horns for the second time, Abi having won the first earlier this year. Shimanoumi has a decent oshi-attack, but I don’t think it’s on the level of Abi’s tsuppari. Shimanoumi is already make-koshi and while he will be still looking to finish strong, Abi has a chance to lock in his san’yaku position for another tournament and I expect him not to have to wait until Day 15 to do it this time.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu came back from injury strong on Day 11, but then just flat out collapsed against Takakeisho on Day 12. Mitakeumi, meanwhile, rebounded from his own collapse with a thunderous win in a very tense, high stakes, matta-strewn affair against Tochinoshin. These two are actually fairly similar in terms of their ability, Mitakeumi simply operating on a higher level, perhaps apart from when it comes to throws. But I don’t think this match is going to get that far. Mitakeumi is the person that needs to keep the title race relevant into the final days, and he needs to establish a strong oshi attack. I don’t think Myogiryu defends particularly well against high level opposition so if Mitakeumi takes the initiative, he should win.

Tochinoshin vs Ryuden – Ryuden has been all over the shop lately, and we got to see a lot of him against Goeido in a match that was run multiple times due to various matta. For Tochinoshin’s part, he simply needs to win every match to avoid demotion. Their head to head record is 1-1, Ryuden winning most recently in Nagoya. Ryuden is in some ways a good opponent for the Georgian, in that he will allow Tochinoshin to get the belt. But he is also in some ways the absolute worst opponent, because very few rikishi manage to defend at the edge after giving up a belt grip like Ryuden. That effort, and his ability to turn losses into wins at the tawara, has won many fans. There’s nothing worse than seeing your heroes die a slow death and I think Tochinoshin will probably draw the pain out further by just about winning this.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – This is an enormous match to end the day, and for both men. The subtext is perhaps the most interesting. Goeido is safe from demotion, but this is a yusho he should have contended for, and a loss here will officially knock him out of the running. A Takakeisho win may be a symbolic changing of the guard and a big moment in the transition to the new generation of stars. Goeido leads the rivalry 7-3, and has beaten Takakeisho fairly consistently over time. As an all-rounder with a blistering attack, he is one of few rikishi with the tools to overwhelm the perplexing youngster. Goeido is certainly prone to the type of slap down technique that Takakeisho has mastered, but I think the youngster may find it harder to win just with oshi-zumo than against other opponents. I’m going to go out on a limb and tip the veteran Ozeki for the win here.

Aki Day 12 Highlights

大蝌蚪

A pair of story threads for Aki came to a close today, and one more hangs by a thread. Ozekiwake Takakeisho scored his 10th win today, and returned to Ozeki status. It’s a remarkable story, and a great come-back from treatment for knee damage. In addition to getting his 10, he is (for the moment anyhow) the sole leader in the yusho race. Following Takakeisho’s win over Myogiryu, Goeido scored his 8th win, beating Ryuden, and clearing kadoban for the 8th time in his somewhat puzzling career.

But as one Ozekiwake exits, the final match of the day saw injured Ozeki Tochinoshin take one step closer to the drop. At 5-7, he needs to win all 3 remaining matches to clear kadoban, or he will be the shin-Ozekiwake for November. Tough times continue in the top ranks.

Highlight Matches

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Yutakayama picks up his 8th win, and with his kachi-koshi moves away from the bottom edge of the banzuke, which has already gobbled up Toyonoshima and Takagenji.

Nishikigi defeats Takagenji – Nishikigi gets a left hand inside at the tachiai, and Takagenji is trapped. A valiant attempt by Takagenji to change his grip, but Nishikigi is latched on tighter than a tick in Texas, and uses his opponents gambit to escort him across the bales.

Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan has zero forward pressure today, and Daishoho stampedes him back and out. Tochiozan is perilously positioned should he end the tournament make-koshi.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki meets Onosho’s push at the tachiai, but can only hold his ground for a few moments before the Onosho starts advancing. In spite of Kagayaki getting a good armpit attack going at the start, Onosho’s hips stay much lower, and his feet are much better set. Kagayaki cannot find a break to get lower, as Onosho is relentless. Much as I love Kagayaki, I think his long legs rob him of some natural sumo mechanics at times.

Tsurugisho defeats Sadanoumi – I think this kimarite should be renamed neko-nage, or “cat’s throw”. I see my cats do this to each other all the time. Grab your opponent by the whiskers and pull him down. Of course this would (in the cat world) be followed by biting and kicking, but… yeah whatever.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Azumaryu – Well, that was a henka. Sort of a crab-henka with a pincer move to the knee, so it had some interest to it, but it was still weak sumo.

Kotoyuki defeats Shohozan – This match tells me 2 things. First, the “fierce” Kotoyuki may be the next brawler we look to during honbasho. He takes it to Shohozan and overwhelms him at his own sumo. Second, Shohozan is only operating at a fraction of his power right now.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Former co-leaders battle it out, and the veteran takes the white star. Both are still in the hunt, as the group chasing the post day 12 leader is 5 men wide. Okinoumi prevents Meisei from setting up any offense at all, and just moves him away for the win.

Takarafuji defeats Enho – Takarafuji has always been a first-class sumo technician, and today we see that he has solved his version of the Enho puzzle with great results. Again and again Takarafuji stalemates everything Enho tries, and when Enho finally gets super-low and moves for the mawashi, Takarafuji gently lowers him to the clay.

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – Ishiura brought all of the offense, but a great defensive pivot by Kotoeko at the tawara saved the match, and kept him from make-koshi. First rate effort.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tomokaze – Kotoshogiku had a superior tachiai, and just advanced well. Tomokaze could not respond in time to keep himself inside the ring. Perhaps some of Kotoshogiku’s frustration is now eased…

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Daieisho kept Asanoyama at arms length, frustrating the Natsu yusho winner in his efforts to get a mawashi grip. As Asanoyama’s efforts become more vigorous, they lead to him becoming unbalanced, which Daieisho reads perfectly to roll him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu opens with his big tachiai, but Hokutofuji surges back after hitting the bales. Chiyotairyu is still looking wrecked after yesterday’s bloody result with Goeido, and as soon as Hokutofuji starts attacking Chiyotairyu’s face, he goes soft and concedes the match. I think a wise most given how painful that lip must be.

Aoiyama defeats Shimanoumi – Aoiyama takes his two-piston / V-Twin sumo out of the garage and runs over Shimanoumi. After some poor sumo from the man-mountain, it’s good to see him revert to “his brand of sumo” for a win.

Abi defeats Shodai – Well, now I am at the point where I am feeling sorry for Shodai. He is not really a 2-10 rikishi, he’s just having a bad basho. I am sure there are distractions outside of the dohyo that may have his mind less than sharp right now, and his chaos sumo is just not paying out like it normally would.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo clearly had a high-skill match in mind, with a nuanced opening gambit with that left hand of his. But then Tamawashi just gunned the throttle and plowed him out of the way. The up-side being all of the fans along the west-side hanamichi who got up close to “Endo the Golden” for a moment as he struggled to bring himself to a halt.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Takakeisho stood Myogiryu up, and threw him down. Simple, effective and elegant. Welcome back, Ozeki Takakeisho. I once again anoint you as the Grand Tadpole – (大蝌蚪)

Goeido defeats Ryuden – So Goeido blows up Ryuden at the tachiai, but somehow it was a matta too. Shikimori came very close to a handing out a second jicchuugi-sho in as many days. Ok, let’s try again. Then… matta-matta-matta mo’matta. When they finally get things going, Ryuden is able to lure Goeido into a yotsu battle, and even Murray thinks Ryuden has the advantage here. But Goeido keep his cool and dominates Ryuden, expertly swinging him into an uwatenage for his 8th win, clearing kadoban. Crazy ass match.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – You know what this match needs? That would be matta with a tart matta gravy. Is this because there are so many kyujo that they need to stretch the broadcast? It seems really out of place. Once they get going, it’s all Mitakeumi, but to be honest I am sure both contestants were probably expecting Shikimori to call them back again. Just one fan’s suggestion here, let the rikishi battle it out, sir. I know in the US, a lot of fans abandoned the NFL because the referees too frequently got in the middle of what should have been legitimate plays, and ruined the sport.

Aki Day 12 Preview

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

Aki Leaderboard

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

What We Are Watching Day 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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