Hatsu Day 7 Highlights

Some of our readers, and many sumo fans in general, have complained that recent basho have ended up being “Sumo light”, due to the lack of Yokozuna and Ozeki participation. As we near the half way point of this basho, we are down to 1 Yokozuna and 1.5 Ozeki, and the focus really has shifted to the lower ranks. With so many titans of sumo off the dohyo, the focus has shifted to the lower ranks.

I am impressed that Goeido is soldiering on, and finding ways to win in spite of the problems with his right arm. I expect him to go kyujo after he can manage an 8th win. Thankfully Hakuho looks genki enough, and Takayasu seems to be over his flu.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – Any match with Chiyonokuni has the potential to be a mad-cap barn burner, and today Yutakayama put everything he could towards a win. The result was a wild tsuki-oshi fest that see-sawed back and forth. A great way to start the top division today.

Kotoyuki defeats Daiamami – A second spirited bout to start the day, Daiamami held advanage several times, but The Penguin battled back each time. At attempted slap down reversed the opponents, and Kotoyuki put Daiamami’s back to the tawara, and pushed with purpose.

Yago defeats Daishomaru – Hapless, winless Daishomaru has nothing serious to offer the surging youngster Yago, and goes down to defeat. We did, however, get to see Yago engage in a oshi-zumo match, and win.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s attempt at a face slap embedded in his tachiai (ala Hakuho) results in Ikioi getting poked in the eye. In spite of (or fueled by) this, Ikioi surges into battle with yet another injury and finds a way to overpower his opponent. Word is he was complaining of vision problems following the match.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – There seems to be some magic in Abi-zumo, as he effectively landed a nodowa against a many with no neck. Takarafuji found hims sumo disrupted, and battled to clear Abi’s attacks, but ran out of dohyo to maneuver.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Both men threw the kitchen sink at each other, with Endo calling the tune. At one point their early oshi fest went chest to chest and the competitors actually did look like they were dancing. Post match, Endo was holding his forehead – another oversized bandage for a Kagayaki competitor? Maybe he needs to modify that tachiai.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – Member of the Kagayaki head wound club Sadanoumi cannot endure Asanoyama’s spin attack, and eats clay. Asanoyama picks up a much needed win.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – The only rank and file undefeated rikishi takes a loss at the hands of a surprisingly genki Kaisei. With this loss, Hakuho has sole possession of the lead.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to have completely run out of energy to compete at the Makuuchi level. It’s painful to watch.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – The hatakikomi came quickly, and made me gasp. Few rikishi are big enough and fast enough to roll someone the size of Aoiyama, but Chiyotairyu certainly can.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have lost his fighting spirit, and each day seems to be going through the motions. Kind of tough to watch, but when injuries happen, this is the result.

Hokutofuji fusensho Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi damaged his knee day 6, and is missing an excellent chance to run up the score against a reduced Ozeki and Yokozuna force. Hokutofuji picks up back to back default wins, something that has not happened in decades.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s magical adventure in the joi-jin looks like it has run out of gas. Can he refuel and return to surprising his opponents? I do hope so. Myogiryu gets a much needed win.

Tamawashi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan was on defense the entire match, and Tamawashi batted him about before deciding to finish him.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has reverted to the docile form of whatever species he is, and failed to deactivate Takakeisho’s wave action attack by grabbing his opponent’s mawashi until it was too late and he was already struggling for balance.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Takayasu’s recovery from the flu continues, and he delivers the hug-n-chug to counter Kotoshogiku’s favorite attack strategy. With advantage in size, youth and joint health, Takayasu carried the match.

Goeido defeats Shodai – Impressive that Goeido is finding ways to win, now up to 3 wins out of a needed 8. He was helped by Shodai’s trademark crappy tachiai. Shodai was able to back to Ozeki to the bales, but did not lower his hips to thrust out Goeido, and instead Shodai launched his own body higher. Goeido capitalized on this blunder and won.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Hakuho is the lone undefeated rikishi, and is the man to beat for the Emperor’s cup. Shohozan could not generate much offense, and Hakuho waited for his moment and pulled “Big Guns” Shohozan down.

Hatsu Day 6 Preview

On day 6 we start act 2. Act 2 is all about sorting the survivors from the damned, and starting the yusho race. It’s were we get an idea of who will have the stamina to contend in the final act for the hardware. As long as Hakuho is still competing, it’s his to lose.

A primary rival was Yokozuna Kakuryu, at least in theory, but as noted earlier on Tachiai, he withdrew from competition this morning Japan time. He has struggled quite a bit to keep his undercarriage in good repair, and this is simply another in a long string of mechanical problems he has to overcome. We wish him a quick and full recovery.

The next rikishi who is on the kyujo bubble would have to be Goeido. Mathematically, he is in tough shape right now. He needs to win 7 out of the next 10 to avoid a make-koshi. It’s clear he is hurt, and needs medical attention to repair his right arm. We can only hope he does not go “Kisenosato” with this one. There is also a question around Takayasu, who is 2-3 going into day 6, and has been suffering due to influenza. Perhaps he is on the mend now.

For each Ozeki and Yokozuna who drops out, the way opens up for the new generation rikishi. At this point, the Freshmen are in poor shape physically, but the Tadpoles are on the march. Their combined score at the end of act 1 is 14-1. The boss is still undefeated, but I am sure Takakeisho is eager to try his sumo upgrades against the sole remaining Yokozuna.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ishiura vs Chiyoshoma – Ishiura visits Makuuchi with a solid 4-1 start in Juryo. He holds a 6-4 career advantage over Chiyoshoma, and some may wonder if this will be the battle of the flying Henkanoids. We shall see soon enough!

Yago vs Kotoeko – Its odd watching 4-1 Yago in some ways. He seems both unseasoned, yet skilled. I can’t quiet put my mind around it yet. But this might be a fairly good match, as Kotoeko knows how to beat him.

Ikioi vs Endo – Ikioi is a banged up walking casualty, and Endo seems to be just getting by for now. I give Endo a clear advantage, as he is not nursing a damaged ankle or a head wound like Ikioi is.

Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – At some point along the way, Kaisei’s sumo improved. Maybe he finally healed a long-suffering injury. As I like to say about him, “Being huge is not a valid sumo tactic”, as in you cant just be massive and immobile and expect to win (seek Kenho and others). But since Kyushu, Kaisei’s mobility is actually pretty good, and his sumo is stronger and shows some aggressive direction. Starting act 2 at 5-0, he’s a dark horse contender right now, and I expect him to make fast work of Sadanoumi.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Aoiyama’s record is 4-1, but his sumo is 5-0. Perhaps a distinction without a difference, but the Man-Mountain from Bulgeria is in top form unseen for some time. I am certain he will get tougher pairings in act 2, but I think today’s match won’t be too tough for him to win.

Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – I don’t want to discuss Ryuden or Yoshikaze.

Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – As discussed prior to the basho, I really like Onosho at this rank, and I think he has a good chance to end up with double digits for this basho. This would put him in the joi-jin for Osaka, and I think he would be healed up enough to compete at the top by then. This could mean that all of the tadpoles would be in the joi, and it would mark a significant stage in the changing of the guard.

Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – Right now Mitakeumi seems to be on a mission. He shows up each day looking dialed up to 11 – intensely focused and superbly ready to win. I don’t think Myogiryu, in spite of his excellent skill, will overcome Mitakeumi’s fighting spirit today.

Takakeisho vs Tochiozan – If Tochiozan can keep Takakeisho close, and prevent the wave-action tsuppari attack, he has a chance. But after letting Mitakeumi beat him this way, I am going to guess Takakeisho won’t allow him a chance.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Ichinojo is competing at an intensity not seen in many years, and we don’t want him to stop. Tamawashi will be no walk in the park. He is fast, mobile and at times brutal. This could be the highlight match of the day.

Shohozan vs Goeido – “Big Guns” Shohozan would normally have his hands full with Goeido, but Goeido is struggling with an arm injury, and is having a tough time generating offensive pressure. I expect loss #5, or a henka.

Takayasu vs Nishikigi – Each time Nishikigi steps on the dohyo, you have to wonder what is about to happen. Takayasu is definitely short of 100%, but Nishikigi’s sumo seems to be surprising everyone right now. I would rather not face Osaka with all 3 Ozeki kadoban, so I am hoping Takayasu can win any match that comes his way.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Hakuho continues to confound opponents with his “Escape” sumo, his opponents think they have him beat, but he uses his unparalleled skill to find a way to not lose. Against Shodai there is a new dimension. He has this odd, almost otherworldly ability, to cause things to go chaotic. I call it “Cartoon sumo”, and it happens too frequently to be an accident. I am eager to see if he can employ it against The Boss today.

What You Need To Know After Act One

Photo courtesy of the official NHK twitter account

The curtain has dropped on Act One of the 2019 Hatsu Basho, and what show stopper it’s been! With major developments happening on and off the dohyo, here’s a quick update to catch you up on everything you need to know before Act Two.

Leader Board

It’s very early days in the Yusho race, but we already have a small quartet of 5-0 rikishi separating themselves from the crowd. The Brazillion behemoth Kaisei, Onosho, Mitakeumi, and Yokozuna Hakuho have all avoided defeat (some more closely than others) and remain perfect after Act One. A mob of chasers is right on their heels, with Chiyonokuni, Yago, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, Ichinojo, and Takakeisho all ending Day 5 with 4-1 records. Act Two will undoubtedly separate the boys from the men in what should be an interesting Yusho race.

Not Looking So Hot

At the far end of the standings is another race to determine who will be the last winless rikishi of Hatsu. The contenders are Daishomaru, Asanoyama, and Yoshikaze, who have yet to pick up their first win. Not doing much better is the fivesome of Kagayaki, Tochiozan, Komosubi Myogiryu, and Ozeki Goeido. As for the rest of the sanyaku, there are some big names who haven’t been looking their best this January. Kakuryu and Takayasu have both dropped three early matches, and as for Tochinohsin? Well, we’ll get to him in a bit. All of these rikishi will need to make some serious adjustments during the remainder of Hatsu.

Kyujo and Intai

For the first time since Act One of the 2017 Aki Basho, I’ve had to add  Intai heading of this section, and it won’t be the last time in the coming months and years if Bruce is correct. Much has already been said about the retirements of Takanoiwa and Kisenosato so I won’t go into detail here. As for injuries, the only man to bow out of competition during Act One was Tochinoshin. Leg injuries have robbed the Georgian of his forward movement and strength which resulted in him going winless after four days. Hopefully, Tochinoshin will get the rest and recuperation he needs to clear his kadoban status come March.

Kinboshi

Prior to his retirement, Former Yokozuna Kisenosato gave up two kinboshi to Ichinojo and Tochiozan respectively. Ichinojo picked up a second gold star off of flagging Yokozuna Kakuryu. This was the second kinboshi Kakuryu has coughed up this January, as he also lost one to Nishikigi on Day 3. With Kakuryu looking precarious, and Hakuho off his game, we may come out of Act two with a few more kinboshi winners.

Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

It looks like it was hair-pull Wednesday. None of it seemed like a deliberate tactic, but it took at least one clear win from a rikishi on a no-loss streak. There are an impressive number of rank-and-file rikishi who are still 4-0, and sadly two Ozeki who are in real trouble with injuries, and might want to consider kyujo and immediate medical attention.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Aminishiki – A couple of false starts, Chiyonokuni was worried about an Aminishiki henka, and who would not be? Aminishiki took the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni was able to overwhelm uncle sumo’s offense.

Yutakayama defeats Daiamami – Yutakayama picks up his third win, in this evenly balanced oshi/tsuki match. Yutakayama was consistently in better position, and kept Daiamami moving to his tune. My favorite part comes when Daiamami has a solid nodowa, and Yutakayama applies a vigorous slap to his attacker’s face.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyoshoma – Kotoyuki got into his favorite mode of sumo, and after trading a short series of thrusts, he had Chiyoshoma off balance, and spinning toward the East side.

Yago defeats Kagayaki – Excellent fundamentals as usual from Kagayaki, and he controlled the early part of the match, moving Yago backward, keeping Yago higher and reacting to his sumo. Yago worked to bring Kagayaki to his chest, and when he got Kagayaki wrapped up, he went to work. Although Kagayaki struggled, Yago kept his opponent centered and marched him out. More evidence that Yago is probably going to be a big deal in the next few years.

Abi defeats Endo – It was a cloud of flailing arms immediately from the tachiai, and Abi put himself at risk by attempting an early pull down. Respect to Endo for doing a better job than most at repelling the Abi-zumo attack, but Abi continued to apply pressure, and Endo landed in a heap.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – A solid, protracted mawashi battle. Asanoyama was in control for a good portion of the match, but failed to pick up his first win. It looked like Asanoyama got tired, and Ryuden exploited his opponents exhaustion. Good sumo from both.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei seems to have his sumo at full power for the first time in a while, and he remains undefeated. Daieisho gave it everything he had, but there is just too much Kaisei to toss around.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – This match was all Aoiyama, and Onosho could not overcome the Man-Mountain’s superior reach, and was bodily thrown to the clay. But a Monoii was called, and it was determined that Aoiyama had contact with Onosho’s hair during the throw, and was disqualified.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – I hate to say it, but it’s painful to watch Yoshikaze right now. He seems completely out of energy and drive, and he presents little offense in any of his matches. Injury? We don’t get to know.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Shohozan scores his first win by shutting down Kotoshogiku’s hug-n-chug attack, and getting to Kotoshogiku’s side.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – A critical tadpole battle, this match did much to shape the second act, and it’s a fair question to wonder if Takakeisho needs to work out a mechanism to defend against this kind of attack. Mitakeumi was able to shut down the “wave-action” by never letting Takakeisho get enough distance to effective push against him. At close range, Mitakeumi’s bulk and grip carried the match. Excellent strategy from Mitakeumi, and he moves to 4-0. I can point to Takakeisho’s early attempt at a pull-down as the fatal flaw that allowed Mitakeumi to close the gap and back Takakeisho to the bales as the moment he lost the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Ozeki Tochinoshin needs to just go kyujo, and work to get his injury treated. He is going to be kadoban either way, and he may as well save himself from any potential damage that might arise.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – A wide range of thoughts about this, firstly a lot of credit to Ichinojo for outstanding, aggressive sumo two days in a row. He looked like a real champion, and I can’t get enough of this when he is fighting well. Goeido gave it everything he had, and we saw some fantastic attempts to overcome Ichinojo’s size and mass advantage. But with Goeido pressed tightly to his chest, Ichinojo expertly wore him down, and then tossed him aside like a spent ice cream bucket. Fantastic sumo from both, but Goeido likewise needs to own up to his injury and seek treatment before it becomes permanent.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Influenza patient Takayasu blasts through his fever to drop Tochiozan. As the scion of Tagonoura now, I expect Takayasu to further harden his already grim determination to win every time he mounts the dohyo. On a related note, it seems the flu is ripping through Japan right now, and there may be several more rikishi who end up sick before this tournament is complete.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – It was not pretty, but it was a much needed win.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji lost this match because Hakuho used anything he could think of to delay the moment he touched out. It was a masterful act of agility and poise, but it was really a toss up who was the dead body in this match. Although Hakuho won, this is a great barometer of just how far Hokutofuji’s sumo has come. The boss remains undefeated.

Hatsu Day 3 Highlights

Hatsu Day 3
Photo From the Sumo Kyokai’s Twitter Feed

Tachiai’s “Man in foreign lands”, Josh, was in the Kokugikan today, and he shared a great bit of color commentary on the atmosphere for day 3. I think aside from evolving tragedy that is Kisenosato, the big story is the weakness of the Ozeki rank. Two of them are injured (Goeido and Tochinoshin) and Takayasu has the flu. The resulting mess means that all 3 men are fighting well below their abilities, and for the injured ones, they have yet to rack their first win. At this point, its probably more prudent to swallow the kadoban and go seek direct medical treatment. For Takayasu, well, it sucks doing anything when you are running a fever, and battling a 300+ pound rikishi must be completely impossible right now.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Daishomaru – Chiyonokuni has opened Hatsu with 3 straight wins, and seems to be charting a course away from the bottom edge of the banzuke. Winless Daishomaru attempted a rather limp henka, and Chiyonokuni had no problem reacting quickly for the win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daiamami – Chiyoshoma in control from the tachiai, and he finished Daiamami with a swinging uwatenage. Hopefully this indicates that Chiyoshoma is getting his sumo back in order.

Yago defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki beat Yago off the line, and his inital attack succeeded in driving Yago back. But Yago has quite the sumo-sense, and dropped his hips and counter attacked. Yago sealed his win by pulling Kotoyuki forward, sending him to his favorite spot, the crowd. Of course Kotoyuki milled about with the fans for a time.

Sadanoumi defeats Ikioi – Today’s “Battle Damage” match, both men had massive bandaged on their foreheads where they seem to have matching wounds following their respective bouts with Kagayaki. Sure, Sadanoumi won, but it looked like both of them should be on bed rest. At least there was no blood splatter today.

Abi defeats Kagayaki – Abi shows why he is a rising star, as he escapes his match with Kagayaki without picking up a head wound. Good job!

Kaisei defeats Endo – This is a great match, and worth watching a couple of times. The two drive chest to chest from the tachiai, and yotsu battle ensues. What impresses me is in spite of Kaisei’s tremendous advantage in weight and reach, how Endo manages to stay in the fight. Great effort from both rikishi.

Onosho defeats Ryuden – Onosho opens Hatsu 3-0, and seems to have put his knees into working order. I expect him to follow a trajectory similar to his friend Takakeisho for the remainder of 2019. All 3 leading tadpoles are unbeaten thus far.

Aoiyama defeats Okinoumi – Aoiyama has his sumo in great condition this tournament. His matches have been fairly one-sided thus far, and he won by simply grabbing hold of Okinoumi and marching forward.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – It’s clear that Yoshikaze has nothing left in his genki-box right now. He only offered token resistance to Kotoshogiku.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – Shohozan opened strong, and Shodai took it all, and waited for an opportunity to attack. When it came, he planted a hand on Shohozan’s throat and pushed him clear of the tawara. Shohozan is still looking for his first win.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi absorbs Takakeisho’s initial thrusting attack, and rallies to re-center the match. During a split second pause, you can imagine Takakeisho moving the “wave action” dial off of setting 1, and unleashing setting 2, which blasts Tamawashi into the west side zabuton. Takakeisho opens the new year 3-0.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – This one was tough for me to watch. Goeido’s right arm is clearly unable to function well, and the Ozeki creates minimum forward pressure as a result. Mitakeumi seems determined NOT to phone it in this basho, and has been looking focused, strong and genki each match. The two go chest to chest, and Goeido just cant seem to find the leverage to overcome Mitakeumi. Goeido winless at the end of day 3.

Hokutofuji defeats Takayasu – Takayasu should be in bed nursing his fever, but instead he wanted to come play with the delightful Hokutofuji, who completely disrupted the Ozeki’s attempt at offense. Hokutofuji continues to improve his “handshake tachiai”, and its starting to really pay. Takayasu was high, off balance and looks like he feels miserable.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – Also in the winless column, Ozeki Tochinoshin can’t find his grip while Myogiryu gets to work straight away. I supsect that Tochinoshin’s thigh injury is impacting his performance, he is looking quite out of his element.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – I wanted to send Ichinojo a truck full of ice cream and a couple of freshly brushed ponies after this match. He really took the fight to the dai-Yokozuna, and made him work. What’s impressive is to note that for a time early in this mawashi battle, Ichinojo’s hips are actually lower than Hakuho’s. That is quiet and accomplishment for someone his size. Hakuho tries several of his distraction tricks, and Ichinojo does not fall for any of it. Great sumo all around, and Ichinojo continues to give me hope.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – Of course he did. Kisenosato and Tagonoura oyakata may be the only two people in Japan who thinks the Yokozuna can still compete. Kisenosato gives up his 2nd kinboshi of the only 3 day old Hatsu basho.

Nishikigi defeats Kakuryu – Nishikigi takes a kinboshi in his first ever match against a Yokozuna. The two went chest to chest at the tachiai, and Nishikigi advanced strongly. Driving the Yokozuna back, Kakuryu attempted a throw at the bales, and both men went out in unison. The gyoji gave the gumbai to Nishikigi, but a monoii ensued. Watching the replay, I am not sure that Kakuryu was the dead body here, but the shimpan upheld the gumbai, and it was Nishikigi’s 3rd consecutive win.