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.

Natsu Day 12 Highlights


Takayasu-12

Pivotal Day Did Not Disappoint.

There were indications that day 12 would be a decisive day in the Natsu basho, and it delivered. Just to review some of the items that were resolved overnight

Goeido’s Kadoban Doom – He easily defeated Aoiyama, and is now one win away from his kachi-koshi and reaffirming his Ozeki rank. To be certain, he has had a fairly weak performance this basho, but it will now likely be enough to life the kadoban doom. Day 13 he faces hapless Maegashira Takarafuji, which he should win with ease. Goeido should send flowers and sake to Kisenosato, his withdrawal scrambled to torikumi, and brought more upper Maegashira into matches in the final week than would have been normal.

Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s Fade – Mitakeumi was successful in handing the Kyushu Bulldozer his make-koshi. He will rank no higher than Komusubi come July, if he does not choose to retire and enjoy his kabu. This means we will likely be back to 2 Sekiwake as is normal, and we may see a new Sekiwake in Nagoya.

Takayasu’s Ozeki Bid – As expected, Takayasu made fairly easy work out of an injured Takarafuji, securing his 10th win. He is now eligible for promotion to Ozeki, but it is not guaranteed at this point, the NSK still must have their say. If he is promoted, and Kotoshogiku will certainly be demoted, the bottle-neck in San’yaku will be cleared, and Maegashira promotion lanes are once again open.

Highlight Matches Aplenty

*Note, almost all of the matches today were great, don’t settle for the NHK highlights, supplement them with Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama’s great daily digest.

Onosho defeats Tokushoryu – This fast rising youngster secured his kachi-koshi. They traded attempts at slap downs, but Onosho’s connected.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyotairyu – Another rikishi with a good looking future, Kagayaki secured his winning record today. Kagayaki seems to have fixed some of the problem he had with his tachiai, and as long as he does not get into the poor habit of moving backwards, he’s going to do great stuff.

Ura defeats Hokutofuji – Again Ura engaged his hyper-dimensional plane shifting mode, and deployed something very henka flavored, but not quite “jump out of the way”, it was more of a attack from the side move. To his credit, Hokotofuji read the move well, and responded very well. But Ura was now in about 3 places at once, and only his feet were still in this dimension. He had Hokotofuji turned around and shoved from behind off the dohyo before you could even understand what he did. With 10 wins Ura is now in special prize territory. The question is, which one. One other thing that is great to see, both Ura and Hokutofuji have really excellent manners in the ring. During the Asashōryū these seemed to go out of fashion, but I am so glad these guys are bringing it back.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – What a great bout this turned out to be. Both rikishi put in a lot of effort, and brought their best sumo. Tochinoshin is wonderful to watch when he is healthy, but the smaller, rounder Takakeisho used Tochinoshin’s height and mass against him with great effect. The throw at the edge was expertly done, and both these rikishi may be in contention for well deserved special prizes.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyonokuni – What a fantastic battle, it ranged back and forth across the dohyo, with Yoshikaze always having the upper hand, but Chiyonokuni refusing to concede. Slapping, pushing, multiple attempts at throwing each other, neither one could close the deal until Yoshikaze was able to turn Chiyonokuni to the side and push him out. I could watch that again (and I will!). Yoshikaze is going to make a great coach, and I expect he will produce a great generation of berserkers that will improve sumo for decades.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Another milestone in the sunset of once Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Mitakeumi shut down at least 2 attempts to establish the hug-n-chug. I am now hoping against hope that Mitakeumi can get 8 wins, as I think it’s time he was Sekiwake. It’s rare that a rikishi can survive in San’yaku for more than 2 tournaments, and he has been fighting at Tamawashi levels for the last 2 basho.

Terunofuji defeats Shodai – This match did not disappoint. Shodai gave Terunofuji two handfuls of trouble, and many of Terunofuji’s preferred winning combos had no effect on Shodai. It should be noted that after the match, Terunofuji seems to have been hurt, and was helped back to the hanamichi by one of his elves.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Great day for Goeido 2.0 to take the dohyo. Aoiyama seemed disoriented and distracted, poor guy. He is better than his 2-10 record would indicate, but he and Ichinojo need to discover that bulk is only sometimes a kimarite at the upper ends of sumo.

Hakuho defeats Tochiozan – Hakuho formula for yusho cake: Head-slap, discombobulate, slap down to the clay. For the most part, the only one who can stop him now is Harumafuji, and that will come as the final bout of day 15.

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 9 Highlights


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Daieisho Finally Wins One

The injured Kisenosato gave up his second kinboshi today, this time to a resurgent Tochiozan. It’s been amazing to watch Kisenosato stay competitive in spite of his almost useless left upper body, but perhaps there is now a working formula to defeat him in his weakened state.

Goeido went down to Terunofuji, even though it looks like Goeido 2.0 showed up. With Terunofuji in Kaiju mode, there is not much that can slow him down. On day 8 when he picked up a bulky and squirming Mitakeumi by the shoulders and lifted him past the tawara, it was clear that everyone was in danger.

The other big news is that Kotoshogiku avoided make-koshi today by winning against Endo. Somehow Endo allowed himself to be wrapped up for a hug-n-chug, which Kotoshogiku was all to happy to apply. While it is a reprieve, the chances that Kotoshogiku won’t end up with a strong losing record are incredibly small. Will he endure a demotion back to Maegashira? Or will he take his kabu and retire to a new role helping to run and build the world of sumo?

Selected Highlights

Kyokushuho defeats Chiyotairyu – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho did in fact beat Chiyotairyu, but rather than expected slapping match, it was a straight mawashi test of strength bout.

Tokushoryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama picks up his make-koshi, and will probably be headed back to Juryo, that is if there is anyone in Juryo worth of promotion. This was another really fine mawashi battle that saw both rikishi put forth a strong effort.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – Ishiura pulls a henka after a possibly deliberate false start. Normally I would not support henka, but Ishiura is really up against the wall in terms of a winning vs losing record.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Another battle of the mawashi (it seems to have been the day for it) that saw Kagayaki’s winning streak stopped. Fantastic effort by Onosho to first stop and then reverse Kagayaki relentless forward motion. Once he got Kagayaki moving backwards, it was all over.

Ura defeats Shohozan – Plasticman again stays ridiculously low, and baffles his opponent. The formula seems to be for him to get his opponent wrapped up on his shoulders then push them rapidly backwards and out. Hey, it’s working! Maybe it’s the chonmage-toshi?

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – It was 100% Shodai from the start, as Hokutofuji never got his feet steady. In spite of Shodai’s sloppy tachiai, he was able to get Hokutofuji high and off balance due to Hokutofuji’s even sloppier tachiai today.

Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Very quick kotenage from Ikioi. The two grappled briefly at the tachiai, but Ikioi deftly rolled Takanoiwa into the rolling throw and the match was done.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – YES, that’s right, winless Daieisho finally scores his first win this basho, and did it in pretty good style. Watch this one if they show it on the highlights.

Yoshikaze defeats Mitakeumi – A strong start saw Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi locked up at the center of the dohyo, each trying to push the other backwards. Well, it seems to have been a strategy for Yoshikaze, because after a few moments of egging Mitakeumi on, he backed off and slapped him down. A veteran exploiting the rookies bravado and enthusiasm. We still love you Mitakeumi, you are going to be a big deal soon.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Takayasu has his kachi-koshi, but his real goal of 10 wins is still 2 away. Chiyonokuni initiated a vigorous thrusting match at first, but as we have seen this basho, Takayasu stood up to it like a man made of stone. He waited for his opportunity, and grabbed Chiyonokuni’s mawashi and took control. Moments later the uwatenage was applied and Chiyonokuni was on the clay.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – This was all Tochiozan from the tachiai, Kisenosato was high and off balance at once. Tochiozan walks away with his very own kensho Mt. Fuji diorama.

Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – Big Aoiyama had nothing, it was another example of The Boss having his way with any rikishi he faces. May be somewhat unstoppable until he faces Harumafuji.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi actually presented a reasonable challenge for a few seconds, and that just seemed to really fire up Harumafuji, who just poured on the forward pressure. Both rikishi ended up launching into the first row of zabuton. It did look as if maybe Harumafuji had some pain in his knee after their crash landing, we hope he is ok.

 

Natsu Day 7 Preview


Yoshikaze

Harumafuji / Yoshikaze Street Battle Round 6.

Welcome to the middle weekend of what has so far been a very solid and exciting basho. The NHK schedulers work to bring out some popular match ups for this weekend, as they know they have a chance of attracting a lot of eyeballs.

For today, we expect the Kisenosato match to once again be something fans are fixed on. Going up against Daieisho could have been considered a rest break for the one-armed Yokozuna, but today he faces Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi has suffered more than a couple of defeats he feels he could have and should have won. So he may be eager to reclaim some pride by dismantling the injured Kisenosato.

For fans of Osunaarashi, he may make it to the NHK highlights for day 7, as he is visiting Makuuchi to fill in the gap left by Kakuryu’s kyujo.

On a final note, today I fly back to California. Tokyo has been great, and I am oh so grateful that I had a chance to watch sumo in person, in the Kokugikan.

Matches We Like

Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – These two have me twice before, and Onosho won them both. Onosho has seemed to settle into a winning pattern during his first tournament in Makuuchi. Most likely being a thrusting battle.

Tochinoshin vs Ishiura – Having taken Ura’s lunch money, it’s time for Tochinoshin to try to give Ishiura the same atomic wedgie. Their prior two meetings were split 1-1. The big Georgan is fighting well for a change, after multiple basho of lackluster performance.

Ura vs Sokokurai – The crowd (and myself) love to see what crazy ass stunt Ura will produce on the spot this time. He is attracting a lot of sponsorship now, and if he can continue to at least keep a middling record, he is going to be around for the foreseeable future. This is the first match between these two, and they are fairly evenly paired.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Their first match up ever. Shodai is making headway in spite of the mechanical problems with his sumo. But this is really a battle of the young guns, as Takakeisho has not been in sumo very long, and is himself an up an coming rikishi. Albeit with better sumo mechanics in my opinion.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Tochiozan turned a corner in Osaka, and reverted back to an earlier winning form that we had not seen much of since last year. Then there is Hokutofuji and his aggressive rise through the ranks. After his first ever losing record in Osaka, he is fighting hard to continue his upward climb. This is their first match, and I think it could potentially be one of the better matches today.

Chiyoshoma vs Takayasu – After Takayasu swallowed his first loss, it’s time to see if he can escape his old trap. In prior tournaments, he would suffer a disappointing loss, then go on to lose several more bouts, many of which should have been “gimmies’. It’s as if he goes into a funk and has trouble pulling out. He should be able to handle Chiyoshoma, but it will come down to Takayasu’s focus and drive. Still 5 wins to make Ozeki.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – At what point does Kotoshogiku call it quits? If we have Goeido 2.0 today it could be a spectacular loss for Kotoshogiku.

Harumafuji vs Yoshikaze – Likely the big match of the day, for all the wrong reasons. I grumble that I am on a plane rather that in the Kokugikan to watch this. These two have a long running habit of beating the daylights out of each other, and there may even be some personal hatred tossed in too. With both men fighting fit for the first time in nearly a year, do they pick up where they left off in Nagoya?

Kisenosato vs Mitakeumi – The Great Pumpkin refuses to accept his injury, so he battles on. I expect Mitakeumi will attack left hard and fast, as others have done. But he has the strength to actually make a dent in the big Yokozuna. Out of their 4 career bouts, Mitakeumi has never won a single match. There is a good chance that changes today.

Natsu Day 6 Preview


Takayasu-Endo

Start Of The Middle Act.

The middle part of any basho is where we find out who is going to have a shot at the yusho, and who is going to struggle to stay above 500. Right now its clear that both Hakuho and Harumafuji are fit, strong and in their groove. We also have a very solid performance from Takayasu thus far, and he seems to be well on his way towards hitting the 10 wins needed for consideration for promotion to Ozeki.

Indeed, Takayasu has stated in recent interviews that he is pressing for the yusho, and believes he sumo is up to the task. His tests against Hakuho and Harumafuji are yet to happen, but they are likely to decide if Takayasu’s goal might be within reach. We could reasonably expect those matches this weekend, though the scheduling team may hold them for later next week, as they are certain to be a big draw for fans. Takayasu is a bona fide hit with fans in the Kokugikan, and you can safely assume that carries out to fans watching at home. Right now, most of Japan wants to see Takayasu succeed.

Day 6 is next, though, and while there will likely be some great sumo today, there are no huge earth shattering bouts on the torikumi.

Matches We Are Following

Tokushoryu vs Chiyotairyu – Both rikishi have be fighting well this tournament, and their prior 8 matches are evenly split. I expect Chiyotairyu to try an early hatakikomi, and Tokushoryu working hard to lock up the mawashi.

Onosho vs Kotoyuki – This is their first meeting. Kotoyuki has been looking lack-luster for the past year or so, and may have finally sunk down the banzuke far enough that he is competitive. He certainly has been brining very good sumo this tournament, and was surprisingly fast to react in the first 5 days. Both are pushers so, lots of flailing arms here.

Ichinojo vs Ura – The fans love a big man – little man match, and this is one of the ultimates. I hope that Ura keeps his eyes on Ichinojo, and can stay mobile.

Hokutofuji vs Sokokurai – Sokokurai won both their prior match ups, but don’t assume Hokutofuji is going to lose this one. Hokutofuji is still working to become comfortable in Makuuchi, but from watching the first 5 days, he is starting to get his sumo together at this level.

Takanoiwa vs Shodai – Shodai has been hit or miss, and is night fighting as well this tournament as his 4-1 record would indicate. But he does somehow seem “blessed’ inside and outside the ring. Statistically Takanoiwa has a slight edge.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Sekiwake battle today, with most of Japan rooting for Takayasu. Takayasu has found a way to win every match thus far, but he and Tamawashi are a career 6-6. Probably one of the better matches today.

Terunofuji vs Chiyonokuni – Another match with a lot of potential, Chiyonokuni is losing a lot this tournament, but fighting very well. Terunofuji may have rekindled the spark of his sumo again that was so compelling during Osaka, so I would anticipate a brawl. Interestingly, Terunofuji lost their only prior match up.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – We have seen hints of Goeido 2.0 in the past couple of days, but Mitakeumi is at his career best right now. Mitakeumi did manage to beat Goeido once. It will be down to who shows up, Goeido 1.0 will lose this match, 2.0 will win it with a massive, rapid burst of offense that will overwhelm Mitakeumi.

Endo vs Hakuho – Only interesting because I am curious what kind of maneuver The Boss is going to use to crumple Endo.

Natsu Day 2 Preview


Yoshikaze-Kensho-Pile

Why is this man so happy?

A Test of Strength and Speed

The picture above says it all, Yoshikaze with that enormous stack of kensho that had been intended for Kisenosato (maybe to buy a second dump truck?). As our readers were probably aware, the amount of factual information about the top rikishi in the Japanese press leading up to the Natsu basho was thin and questionable. With so many top men, including the start of sumo Kisenosato, in damaged and possibly underperforming shape, they kept the focus on things other than the athlete’s health.

But when the basho starts, that curtain must lift and the rikishi face off on the dohyo, and those with glaring weakness are revealed. This was the case with Kisenosato, Goeido and Terunofuji at a minimum. Specifically Kisenosato clearly had trouble transmitting power through the left side of his body. Yoshikaze is fast, smart and agressive, and it took a few fractions of a second for him to figure that out and formulate a winning attack plan.

Everyone in Japan wants to see Kisenosato continue to dominate, but given the medical facts, he may need surgery and several months of recovery to get there.

We are several hours and two bowls of Chanko away from the start of Makuuchi, but here are the matches I would highlight for today:

Select Matches

Myogiryu vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama had a great first match on Sunday. This young rikishi has been on a metoric rise through the ranks, and if day 1 was any indication, he has plenty of upward velocity remaining.

Ura vs Kagayaki – Ura looked very good (and very Ura) on day 1, today he faces Kagayaki who has shown occasional flashes of greatness. I am eager to see more “plastic man” moves out of the pink devil, so bring on the action.

Takekaze vs Hokutofuji – Both of these rikishi were physically overwhelmed on day one, and both of them did not like it. Hokutofuji is pressing to bounce back from his first losing tournament in Osaka.

Ikioi vs Shodai – a pair of crowd favorites, Shodai literally startled me with his day one performance. Not having the benefit of the replay, I was left wondering what happened. This is probably going to be a very competitive match.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – I don’t quite feel sorry for Daieisho now in the land of the giants, but on day one against Takayasu, he looked completely out of place. Now he faces the other very strong up and coming rikishi in Mitakeumi. Due to the strangeness of sumo, Mitakeumi is still at Komusubi, while I think he is second in “threat power” to Takayasu, and well ahead of Kotoshogiku and Tamawashi.

Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – It’s crystal clear that Terunofuji’s knee is back on the disabled parts list, and he is possibly cruising towards a troubled tournament. This is very sad, as a healthy Terunofuji is a sumo excellence.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido’s ankle is clearly something he is either worried about, or he has problems. Goeido is very poor when he is fighting defensive sumo, and only really shines when he attacks almost recklessly. Takayasu needs 9 more wins to hit his 33.

Kisenosato vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi looked rather vague on day 1 against Goeido. Maybe he can provide a better warm up for Kisenosato than Yoshikaze did.

Yoshikaze vs Hakuho – I thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that I lived to see this one in person. I expect that Hakuho is going to dominate this bout, but if anyone can surprise The Boss, it’s my man Yoshikaze. If he wins, expect another brick sized pile of kensho and a smiling face at the top of the blog

Harumafuji vs Endo – Endo was surprising on day 1, but I am guessing Harumafuji is in marginally better condition than last basho (at least at the start), and will give him some trouble, and likely win.

Chiyonokuni vs Kakuryu – Chiyonokuni has come a long way in the past year, and is on the cusp of being a real contender. His chance comes today to make the zabuton fly, as Yokozuna Kakuryu can be hit-or-miss.

Next updates live from inside the Kokugikan (if the signal works)