Natsu Day 13 Preview


Hakuho-Kensho

Marking Time Till The Final Showdown

Most of the questions around Natsu were resolved on day 12, and so the last big question – and it’s a big one, is the yusho. Right now, Yokozuna Hakuho has a 1 match lead over Yokozuna Harumafuji. Due to Kisenosato and Kakuryu’s withdraw, they will meet on the final bout of day 15. If both remain at their current scores (12-0, 11-1), Harumafuji can force a playoff by beating Hakuho. I can almost hear the echo of Osaka.

But first the two surviving Yokozuna have to navigate a few challengers. I would expect them to win the next two matches, but there is always an opting for wild outcomes.

There is also the question of the special prizes. Right now Ura, Takayasu, Tamawashi, Tochinoshin and Takakeisho could possibly be considered. For the most part it comes down to 10 wins or more.

For those looking forward to our July banzuke discussion, I dare you to try and figure out the Makuuchi <-> Juryo moves. No one in Juryo will end up with more than 10 wins, ok – that’s not too uncommon, but then there are 7 more that could end up with 9 wins. At this point, only J2w Kyokushuho and J4e Nishikigi look like they might be promotable. But then you have maybe 4 Maegashira who are probably worthy of demotion back to Juryo. Maybe once it’s all over the picture will make more sense, but I doubt it. One thing is certain, the July banzuke is going to have a huge amount of churn.

Natsu Leader board

LeaderHakuho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Ura

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Sadanoumi vs Kaisei – I am guessing they are trying on Sadanoumi as another promotable. Kaisei is still struggling to lock up a kachi-koshi, he needs 2 more wins.

Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has his kachi-koshi, and Kotoyuki may be headed to Juryo, he is also at least somewhat injured. Thus far Kotoyuki leads career matches 3-0, but with him being injured, and Kotoyuki improving quite a bit this basho, it’s time for a new page in their record book.

Ichinojo vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu can lock up his kachi-koshi with a win over the towering Ichinojo. I don’t know what happened to Ichinojo, but he really seems so very lost this basho. I think he could be a big deal (and not just his mass to height ratio), but like so many rikishi, he needs to clear up lingering health issues.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – Daishomaru trying for his kachi-koshi today against a red-hot Takakeisho. They are evenly matched career wise, but I am guessing Daishomaru may get this one.

Hokutofuji vs Onosho – Another lab experiment bout brought on by kyujo pock-marks in the torikumi. You could look at it as Maegashira 7 vs Maegashira 14, or as two up-and-coming youngsters duking it out. I do know that Onosho has a fun habit of beating Hokutofuji. So I bet this one is a brawl.

Ura vs Ikioi – Oh yes, thank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan! This is the kind of match that myself and sumo fans around the globe live for. What kind of bizzaro stuff is Ura going to produce today? Will Ikioi decode his incantations and put a stop to Ura’s sorcery?

Tochinoshin vs Shodai – Yes, yes, a hundred times yes! Both sumotori have secured their promotions, now it’s just to see who is king of the hill. Once again we get the big guy who can’t quite tachiai, against a man with tree trunks for thighs, who can and probably does lift the Tokyo Skytree so they can vacuum under it.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – Now that the promotion lanes are going to be open, I am keen to see Yoshikaze reach his magic 8 wins, and cement himself in the San’yaku for July. Chiyoshoma is running on fumes, but can still deliver a great match, as he has dropped Takarafuji and Takakaze in the last two days.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – This goes double for Mitakeumi, I am pulling for him to get his magic 8 and remain in the San’yaku. By the dangly bits of Chiyonofuji, I think he can do it. Endo still has a slim chance at kachi-koshim but he has a bit of an uphill fight. Endo did look very sharp against Yoshikaze day 11, and that a hell of a brawl.

Terunofuji vs Tochiozan – Time to see if our favorite Kaiju was hurt badly on day 12, or if was just some kind of cramp that the trainers could work out. I really pray that Terunofuji can stay healthy, because for the past 2 basho, he has been the only credible Ozeki to be found. Tochiozan will provide a good test for him.

Harumafuji vs Takayasu – These two really do throw down hard. But it’s been since Aki that Takayasu actually won against “The Horse”. A win by the hairy one would cement his Ozeki status, and knock Harumafuji out of the yusho race. But my money is on Harumafuji for day 13, is only loss was a silly slip, and apart from that he is really in excellent form.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – Hakuho has one goal now, keep in form and pick up no injuries. Tamawashi is strong enough to be a spoiler, but “The Boss” has been in most excellent form this basho, and it’s really magic to watch him do his sumo once more.

Takanoiwa Withdraws From Natsu


Takanoiwa

Delivers Harumafuji A Default Win

At the start of day 12 in Tokyo, it was announced via the sumo press that Maegashira 5 East Takanoiwa had withdrawn from Natsu due to injury. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

As a result, Yokozuna Harumafuji improves to 11-1 via the default win, and loses out on a fat stack of kensho that was likely coming his way.

Natsu Day 12 Preview


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Potential To Be The Pivotal Day

Yokozuna Harumafuji’s inadvertent step-out on day 11 appears to have set the stage for a number of resolutions to all the story threads, and we anticipate the resolutions may come day 12. With Harumafuji having a single loss, the yuchi is for Hakuho to lose. Hakuho certainly appears to be on a run towards a perfect score, but now with Kisenosato wisely focusing on recovery, the final match of the final day will be Hakuho vs Harumafuji.

That brings us to all of the stories that now hinge on day 12 bouts. This includes (there are probably more):

  • Goeido’s Kadoban Doom – He faces Aoiyama on day 12, whom he has beaten 17 of their 20 career matches. But Aoiyama gave Terunofuji (a tougher opponent this tournament) one hell of a fight on day 11. If Goeido loses this match, his chances of ending up with 8 wins becomes very small.
  • Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s Fade – We have talked about how it’s still quite plausible for Kotoshogiku to end up kochi-koshi and remain at Sekiwake for Nagoya. Obviously the NSK wants to continue to challenge Kotoshogiku, so he faces Mitakeumi on day 12. In one match we will have the bright future challenge the glorious past. Mitakeumi could end it for Kotoshogiku today.
  • Takayasu’s Ozeki Bid – One more win for the magic 33 for Takayasu, which is the minimum number of wins across 3 basho to be considered for Ozeki promotion. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan must love Takayasu, as they have scheduled him to fight Takarafuji (who is already make-koshi, and obviously hurt) on day 12.

Add to that, many more rikishi are still battling to get their kochi-koshi and stave off demotion. We can count on the last 4 days being intense and competitive.

Natsu Leader board

Leader Hakuho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ura

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

*If there is one day to supplant your NHK Digest with the great works of Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama’s daily summary, it’s probably day 12. Too many crazy matches to let NHK pare it down.

Tokushoryu vs Onosho – The winner is kachi-koshi. There has only been 2 prior matches between these rikishi, and Tokushoryu has won them both. But it would be unwise to count out Onosho.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to fly below the radar for now, but he is starting to get his sumo together at the Makuuchi level. He has a slight 2-1 career advantage over Chiyotairyu, who is heavier and more compact. This should be a pretty good match if nobody blows the tachiai.

Hokutofuji vs Ura – It’s clear the schedulers are setting up fun and interesting matches for the fans. Both of these sumotori have secured winning records, but now let’s see how two up-and-coming wrestlers battle. We have to wonder what trick Ura is going to deploy next, possibly linking the multiverse together and putting several dozen Ura’s on the same dohyo for a split second.

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – Another in the “Let’s see what happens” series of day 12, Takakeisho is more or less a bowling ball with legs. What happens when you get a tall, super strong Tochinoshin to battle against him? Hey, let’s find out!

Chiyonokuni vs Yoshikaze – Time for Yoshikaze to get his kachi-koshi bid back on track. Chiyonokuni seems dispirited and maybe a bit injured, so perhaps the Berserker can rack up a win.

Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu is looking for win #10 and his bone fide for promotion to Ozeki. Takarafuji is looking hurt and disorganzied, so let’s see if Takayasu can seal the deal.

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – Kotoshogiku is one loss from further demotion, and Mitakeumi has been nominated to test his mettle. The concern I have on this match is that Mitakeumi will likely try to lock up Ojisan, and that plays directly into the infamous hug-n-chug. So it’s time to see if Mitakeumi can revert back to his pusher ways, or if he really has the strength to defeat Kotoshogiku chest to chest.

Terunofuji vs Shodai – Third in our series of “Let’s see what happens” bouts, let’s take two big, strong rikishi. Both are kind of sloppy in their techique, preferring to use brute force above technical prowess. My money is on Terunofuji, but this one is weird enough that you can’t discount Shodai doing something unexpected and scamming up Terunofuji’s sumo.

Aoiyama vs Goeido – Believe it or not, this one is probably the decider for Goeido. It would seem on paper to be a straightforward win for the Ozeki, but Goeido has struggled to be consistent this basho.

Tochiozan vs Hakuho – One directive now for Hakuho: don’t get injured prior to the day 15 showdown.

Harumafuji vs Takanoiwa – This could be really ugly for Takanoiwa, as I am sure Harumafuji is frustrated after his day 11 loss. Still hoping for the death spin this basho.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights


Day-11-2

And Then There Was One

Overnight in Tokyo, the yusho race narrowed when Harumafuji lost to Mitakeumi. This leaves Hakuho as the sole, undefeated leader of the basho going into day 12. The bout with Mitakeumi was lost when the Yokozuna inadvertently stepped out of bounds, and the Gyoji awarded the match to Mitakeumi.

Across the board the matches were a notch above the average thus far for Natsu, with a host of close contests that were hard fought and won.

Most impressive to me was the effort that Aoiyama put up against Terunofuji. For once Terunofuji battled an opponent who was too tall and too massive to lift and eject. To his credit, Aoiyama would not surrender, and gave Terunofuji a real challenge.

Selected Matches

Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Takakeisho racks up his kachi-koshi. While he has been a fairly standard pushme-pullyou to date, he fights with a lot of energy and vigor. With any luck he will take a page from Mitakeumi’s book and increase his skills in yotsu-zumō (belt fighting and throws).

Hokutofuji defeats Daishomaru – Last basho was the first tournament where Hokutofuji did not have a winning record, and it’s great to see him come roaring back. I continue to believe that if Hokutofuji can stay healthy, he is going to be a big deal. In today’s match, he blasted Daishomaru off the dohyo in a very convincing manner.

Ikioi defeats Kotoyuki – Crowd favorite Ikioi also secures his kochi-koshi, and in the process Kotoyuki is injured. This is notable in that he exited the dohyo in a wheel chair. Kotoyuki went kyujo for day 9 for a single day, and returned. Now he seems to be more severely injured.

Ura defeats Shodai – I am sure Shodai has watch full speed and slow motion replays of this bout a few times, and would really like to know what on wizardry took place. He had Ura pinned at the edge, and suddenly a tear in space-time opened again (as Ura is known to do), and suddenly Shodai is stumbling off the dohyo and Ura is high stepping back to his side. Centuries from know, physicists are still going to be working out the math this guy uses to phase between universes. Ura now has 9 wins and is cruising towards a special prize, as well as a possible visit by the Nobel committee.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This match was all Yoshikaze, but he could not finish Endo. After multiple to throw, lift out and move over the tawara, Ends rallied and turned the tables on Yoshikaze. Very nice effort from both, and I am sure Endo was happy to avoid make-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyonokuni – Ojisan Kotoshogiku easily deploys the hug-n-chug against Chiyonokuni, and just like that the Kyushu Bulldozer lives on another day.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan put up a stiff fight, but Takayasu finally got his 9th win, and is now 1 win away from the 33 win threshold to be considered for promtion to Ozeki. This is likely to come day 12 when Takayasu faces already make-koshi Takarafuji.

Terunofuji defeats Aoiyama – A battle of two giants, this match raged as a contest of strength that was frankly, kind of epic. I have not been much of an Aoiyama fan ever, but today he impressed me. The man-mountain stood his ground against the Kaiju and stalemated him for an impressive length of time.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido 2.0 showed up today, but we have the REAL Hakuho right now, and there is likely no one who can defeat him this tournament. Goeido is now in real trouble, as he needs to find 2 more wins in the next 4 days somehow to save his Ozeki rank. There is the very real and very silly possibility that Nagoya may see 4 Sekiwake, two of them dethroned Ozeki. Nuts.

Mitakeumi defeats Harumafuji – Mitakeumi clearly had control of the match from the tachiai, but the match ended when Harumafuji seems to have inadvertently stepped out. I would say that Harumafuji does seem to be favoring one leg over the other, and we might assume that he actually did injure himself on day 9.

Natsu Day 11 Preview


kaiju mode
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.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights


Takayasu

The Hard Chargers Already Achieve Kachi-Koshi.

Day 10, we saw a number of hard charging rikishi achieve their tournament winning records, known as kachi-koshi. This includes

  • Takayasu (actually secured day 9)
  • Terunofuji
  • Shodai
  • Tochinoshin
  • Ura

Kisenosato is in a tough spot – he is too injured to be competitive against the other Yokozuna and probably Terunofuji. There is a real chance he could end up with a make-koshi. Does he go kyujo? I think everyone would understand, but his pride would prevent him from sitting out the rest of the tournament. I am sure the NSK is worrying about what to do next.

The mess in Juryo continues to decay into radioactive slag. The chances of anyone being really worth to promote to Makuuchi is quite slime, as everyone in the top half of Juryo (and could be considered for promotion) has a record no better than 6-4. While there are several rikishi in Makuuchi worthy of return to Juryo, it’s going to be a real wild guess how the July banzuke is going to end up.

Takayasu’s Ozeki run has some problems, though he is likely to overcome. It’s the same issue that Kisenosato and Goeido face. With either Harumafuji or Hakuho healthy, it’s really tough towards impossible to be too dominant. With both of them healthy, you have to be thankful for every win in the upper ranks you can score. Fans will recall that this was the status quo for many years, and it’s one of the primary reasons Kisenosato stayed an Ozeki.

Selected Matches

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – This was a bit of a strange match. It quickly went to Yutakayama holding Ishiura by the armpits, with Ishura bent over at the waist with a firm grip on Yutakayama’s mawashi. They stayed like this for quite a while until Yutakayama broke the stalemate, and tossed Ishura like a pizza crust into the Shimpan.

Tochinoshin defeats Daishomaru – Another weird one, there were two mattas, each time Daishomaru attempted a very poor henka without putting his hands on the dohyo at the tachiai. The third try? Henka again, but Tochinoshin was having none of it, and Daishomaru was done. Congratulations to Tochinoshin for a fairly early kachi-koshi

Ura defeats Kaisei – Kaisei seemed to struggle to figure out what to do with Ura, who once again was very low at the tachiai. Ura established a firm double hand flab-hold and began to lead Kaisei around like some kind of farm animal. Ura finished Kaisei off with a rather clever leg trip, and had his 8th win. Congratulations to Ura for his kachi-koshi, too.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Very good bout right from the tachiai. Both rikishi struggled for control back and forth several times, and it seemed that Takanoiwa finally got the upper hand. Ichinojo was able to halt Takanoiwa’s charge at the tawara, and applied a rather well executed tsukiotoshi for the win.

Shodai defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai had early control of this match, and looked to be in charge. But he could not put Shodai away. Shodai allowed Sokokurai to do all the work, and as Sokokurai tired, Shodai battled him back to the center of the dohyo. Sokokurai rallied and moved Shodai to the edge, but once again could not finish him. With his heels on the tawara, Shodai applied a somewhat clumsy tsukiotoshi to win the match. Shodaim also picks up his kachi-koshi

Terunofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze started out with an attack plan, and engaged with vigor. However, he was up against a kaiju, who had no interest in playing with the berserker. Terunofuji picked him up like a puppy and set him outside the tawara. Yoshikaze to his credit knew the match was lost and went along with it. Terunofuji also hits 8 wins and claims his kachi-koshi.

Goeido defeats Chiyoshoma – Looked like Goeido 2.0. Keep in mind Goeido is kadoban this tournament, and is still 2 wins from reaffirming his rank. He has some tough matches coming up during the rest of this week.

Harumafuji defeats Tochiozan – Showing that he was not as injured as we feared yesterday, Harumafuji launched off the line and pushed Tochiozan directly out. It was no contest.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kisenosato – The sad tale of Kisenosato’s injuries continues. In his loss, the Japanese Yokozuna prolonged the inevitable for Kotoshogiku by another day.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu put everything he had into this match, but he was completely out-classed by Hakuho. Hakuho secured a solid mawashi grip early, and Takayasu struggled to get any traction. As Takayasu struggled to set up a throw, Hakuho decided he was done playing, lowered his head and his hips and drove them both off the dohyo, landing in the first row of zabuton. Some really good sumo. But it’s clear that the last 2 wins Takayasu needs to secure a bit to be promoted to Ozei will not be an easy run.

Natsu Day 10 Preview


bow-twirling

Closing Out The Second Act.

Hard to believe, but we are about to complete the middle ⅓ of Natsu. Hakuho and Harumafuji are the leaders, with no one really able to even give either of them a decent fight so far. There is a lot of interest in Takayasu vs Hakuho, which is the final match of the day. Frankly I don’t think it will be much of a contest, and I say this as a hard core Takayasu fan. Right now Hakuho is back to his old amazing ways, and the only people who could possibly challenge him are Harumafuji, or a healthy Kisenosato. Sadly no chance for a healthy Kisenosato.

Harumafuji appears to have at least mildly injured his right knee in his dive off the dohyo defeating Tamawashi. If this is something the trainers can work, or another performance limiting injury, we should be able to tell tomorrow when Harumafuji faces a surprisingly resurgent Tochiozan. Tochiozan made very easy work of Kisenosato on day 9, and it brings up a really tricky question.

If Kisenosato, is having a sub-par (for him) basho, everyone knows it’s because he is more or less a one armed Yokozuna. Everyone gets it, and frankly we are all amazed that he is still competitive in this condition. But given that the press and the YDC are very critical of Yokozuna with sub-par performance, are they going to make a point of admonishing him? Are they just going to keep quiet because he is the Japanese golden boy? This is very ugly territory. Don’t be surprised if at some point this week, Kisenosato goes Kyujo. No one in their right mind would blame him. In my opinion he should be recovering from surgery right now, but he is too dedicated to sumo, and the dignity of his Yokozuna rank.

Natsu Leader board

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

6 Matches Remain

Apologies, but the match previews will be brief, jet-lag is crushing me today.

Matches We Like

Tochinoshin vs Daishomaru – Both of these rikishi are exceeding their baseline for the last 3 basho. Daishomaru is coming in with 6-3, and Tochinoshin has an outstanding 7-2, and if he wins would clinch his kachi-koshi. In their 3 prior bouts, Tochinoshin won them all.

Kaisei vs Ura – The fans love a big vs little bout. It will be really interesting to see if Ura’s gymnastics work against the meat mountain that is Kaisei. This is their first match ever.

Okinoumi vs Daieisho – both of these men are 1-8. This is the saddest match in sumo. Both are already make-koshi. Both are facing significant demotion.

Terunofuji vs Yoshikaze – While I love me some Yoshikaze, Terunofuji is clearly Kaiju positive right now, and if he gets frustrated using his technique to defeat you, he just picks you up and carries you to the curb like this week’s non-burnable trash. I am going to be curious to see what if anything Yoshikaze does to try and counter this. Career record of 6-5 in favor of Terunofuji, so they are, at times, evenly matched.

Harumafuji vs Tochiozan – Previewed above, the prior 32 matches have been mostly won by Harumafuji (24-8), but Harumafuji may have hurt himself day 9, and Tochiozan is looking surprisingly good, especially coming off of his kinboshi against Kisenosato day 9.

Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – This should be a Kisenosato win. I expect that Kisenosato will go kyujo as soon as he secures his kachi-koshi, which could come day 11. But interestingly enough, Kotoshogiku holds a slight 33-31 career edge over Kisenosato. Both of them are operating at a fraction of their typical capabilities, so who knows where this one is going.

Takayasu vs Hakuho – This one has everyone excited, but I am calling my bet for Hakuho. Their career record is 14-2 in favor of the Michael Jordan of sumo. Takayasu is a man on a mission, and is looking good, but Hakuho is more or less his old self right now, and that means beating him requires speed, strength and a large amount of luck.