A short highlights today, as my work has the bulk of my time. The big news is that the yusho race took a dramatic change as upstart Tomokaze surprised Yokozuna Kakuryu with a rapid hatakikomi immediately following the tachiai. I think that Kakuryu may have been looking to blast the newcomer clear of the dohyo, and over-committed.
Yokozuna Hakuho also won his match against Myogiryu in a bout that was both chaotic and a bit cautious. That right arm (heck, the left too) is still a concern. This means that both Yokozuna have 1 loss each, and the stakes for the final match on day 15 have been raised. With Hakuho in damaged condition, it’s not clear cut that he can be expected to dominate that final match.
Terutsuyoshi also won, and remains 1 behind the leaders. His bout against Onosho featured Onosho’s all to common balance and stance issues, stemming from his knee injury and apparently not completely successful reconstruction. After turning in 6-9 in Osaka, then 6-9 for Natsu, Terutsuyoshi’s turn around is almost miraculous. He has shown fantastic sumo in Juryo to get him to this point, but this is in fact his best run since his Makushita yusho in Kyushu 2016.
Other Matches Of Note
Sadanoumi defeats Takagenji – Sadanoumi reaches kachi-koshi, in his best tournament since January.
Kotoeko defeats Enho – Enho just can’t seem to get win #8, as Kotoeko deftly uses his maneuverability to keep Enho out of any meaningful attack position. Great planning and execution by Kotoeko.
Toyonoshima defeats Shohozan – Toyonoshima’s back is against the wall, and he once again rallies to victory. Shohozan gave him a decent fight, but ends up make-koshi after Toyonoshima’s relentless sumo.
Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Once again Okinoumi wanted to set up a stalemate and wait strategy, but this Kotoyuki from a parallel dimension seems to be some sort of sumo ass-kicker, and just took charge.
Meisei defeats Chiyomaru – Meisei finally finds some sumo, and flattens Chiyomaru, who lands with a satisfying bounce similar to a round, inflatable child’s bouncy-toy.
Endo defeats Shimanoumi – Endo kachi-koshi as he dispenses with the “thinking man’s sumo” and just overruns Shimanoumi.
Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – This was a great match, as expected, and I have to hand it to Ichinojo for putting up a strong fight. Hokutofuji kept his cool and his composure in the face of an enormous, blue-mawashi’d obstacle.
Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Where has this Tamawashi been? This is the guy who should have been fighting all tournament. Sadly this pushed Takarafuji to make-koshi.
Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi get his 8, and will retain his Sekiwake 1 East rank for September. He has Kakuryu for day 14, who he has managed to beat about ⅓ of the time they fight.
The basho is running screaming into the final weekend, and it looks like it will probably come down to Hakuho vs Kakuryu for the hardware in the final match of the final day. This is a fairly decent way to end a basho, and I think most fans would be satisfied, in spite of the fact that we had the entirety of the Ozeki corps kyujo, and one Yokozuna banged up.
On the way to day 15, there are some rikishi who were doing well in the first few days that seem to have stalled out, and I am sure their fans are worried. This would include Hokutofuji, Abi, and Enho. This underscores my belief that we are going to have an exceptionally brutal final two days.
Tomokaze drops out, and it’s almost down exclusively to the two Yokozuna. If Terutsuyoshi wins day 13, I would guess they will put him against someone in San’yaku to make sure that the chances of a Maegashira 16w taking the yusho go closer to zero.
Tochiozan vs Nishikigi – Both are make-koshi, and will avoid the Darwin death match syndrome that seems to be in the wings for so many of our upper division rikishi. This is to figure out who is going to get dropped how far down the banzuke. If the bulk of the top division finish 7-8 or 8-7, it’s going to make for a very interesting banzuke.
Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Because I think that a bloody final weekend is what is in store, I am going to guess that Takagenji, how having secured his 8th loss, is going to rally and hand Sadanoumi a black star for day 13, bringing him close to the perilous 7-7 final day score.
Kotoeko vs Enho – Enho looks like he may have injured himself on day 12. He’s dropped the last 2 in a row, and I know he wants to hit 8 today and avoid the Darwin matches on day 15. Kotoeko has his 8, but he may want to run up the score.
Yago vs Daishoho – Yago has likely been condemned to ride the slow, smelly barge back to Juryo with our dear Yoshikaze and beloved Kaisei. But he can still help give Daishoho his 8th loss.
Shohozan vs Toyonoshima – Two tired, hurt veterans with 5-7 records going head to head. One of them will get a make-koshi today. The match of eternal sadness.
Kotoyuki vs Okinoumi – It could be expected that Kotoyuki will jump around like a mad penguin on a hot plate; I imagine Okinoumi will once again try to grapple with Mr 5×5 and slow the tempo of the match down. If he can put the match into that mode, he will probably pick up a much needed 7th win.
Onosho vs Terutsuyoshi – Somehow Onosho has pulled to 6-6, but he has his first ever match against compact sumo atomic reactor Terutsuyoshi, who is not the kind of fellow who would think 10 wins are enough.
Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Both are coming in with 6-6 records. They have split the 6 prior matches. They are quite evenly matched, and who can tell right now which one has an advantage here. We will get to see if Chiyotairyu hurt anything other than his pride in the fall to end his match on day 12.
Meisei vs Chiyomaru – Can Meisei rally to extend his 2-0 career record over Chiyomaru today? Meisei really looks like he has nothing left, and each match is increasingly difficult for him. If he can win today, Chiyomaru will be make-koshi.
Shimanoumi vs Endo – Both are 7-5, so someone exits this match with a kachi-koshi. Endo won their only other meeting.
Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Oh dear, Hokutofuji has been fighting so well, but here he has to clear a boulder from his patch to kachi-koshi. Or will the boulder clear him?
Asanoyama vs Aoiyama – Asanoyama needs to “win out” to get his kachi-koshi, which would be another notable achievement for a young rikishi who has greatly improved his sumo. As we saw on day 12, if you let Aoiyama set up his oshi attack, there is not a whole lot that will stop him.
Shodai vs Ryuden – Shodai holds a 3-0 career advantage over Ryuden, who is already make-koshi. Shodai’s sumo was surprisingly good on day 12; can he make it two in a row?
Abi vs Daieisho – I would imagine that Abi was quite embarrassed to lose on day 12 due to falling down. Given his lanky frame, it’s an occupational hazard! Daieisho is fighting quite well, and has a 4-3 career advantage over Abi, so it should be a fight worth watching.
Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is suffering this basho, and Takarafuji has the patience to hold on and win if he can stalemate Tamawashi, which is a big if. A loss today would put Takarafuji at 8, for a make-koshi.
Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi holds a 10-4 advantage over the Kyushu bulldozer, and he needs one more win for his 8th. I would expect that Kotoshogiku is going to once again struggle for traction, and it will come down to Mitakeumi not giving Kotoshogiku any opening.
Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Given Hakuho’s degraded state, this match is far from a sure thing. Myogiryu has been especially energetic this basho, and Hakuho’s day 12 caution indicates he is saving what he can for day 15 against Kakuryu. The goal here – don’t get any more hurt than you already are, Boss!
Kakuryu vs Tomokaze – Well, Tomokaze, you should take this as recognition of how far you have come. You get to fight a Yokozuna, and if you manage to put dirt on him, you are going to make the final 2 days even more exciting and unpredictable than they already are. But be aware that Kakuryu is showing some of his best sumo in years.
It looks like the day off may have done Yokozuna Hakuho a world of good. He bounced back strongly and did not wince during or after his match with Mitakeumi. If he can gamberize for the next 3 days, it sets up that final match on day 15 to be the decider, and it could not be a better bout to close out this trauma ward of a basho. A dai-Yokozuna who is maybe at 70% against the “understudy” who is showing some of the best sumo of his career.
It also looks like the top division may have an impressive number of “Darwin matches” on the final day. Where both rikishi are 7-7 and only one man exits with a kachi-koshi. This is in keeping with the brutal themes of this tournament, which I am sure many rikishi will look back and say “It can’t be as bad a Nagoya 2019…” when facing future struggles.
Kotoyuki defeats Kagayaki – Surprised? Impressed? Not sure how to list this. Kotoyuki has been good fun for a while, but tough to take too seriously because his performance is so unpredictable. But he picks up his first top division kachi-koshi since January of 2017. Well done sir!
Nishikigi defeats Yago – Yago is busted to be certain if Nishikigi and box and ship him out without even stoping by the post office for a stamp. Hopefully Yago is still under warranty, as a lot of fans want to see him healthy and fighting fit as soon as possible.
Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko’s superior mobility carried this match. He uses double arm thrust to the shoulders and then steps out of the way as Sadanoumi ramps up the forward pressure. Kotoeko picks up #8 and is kachi-koshi.
Shohozan defeats Enho – Anyone else getting flashbacks of Ura blowing out his knee doing acrobatic stunts on the dohyo? This match was a mess, as it looks like Enho’s opening gambit fell apart and he improvised. While it might look like Shohozan had a hand down early, the top of Enho’s foot made contact with the clay well ahead of that. Crazy sumo, try not to get hurt guys.
Toyonoshima defeats Onosho – Experience, power and patience cleaned Onosho out today. I am an Onosho booster as fans know, but he’s still not quite right post injury / post surgery. Somehow, against all odds, Toyonoshima is not make-koshi. Acres of respect for this guy, he’s not going down easy, and not without taking a few other rikishi down first.
Okinoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Okinoumi wore his roundness down to the nub and then threw away the scraps. That was kind of boring to watch, as it was two guys standing around, but it was all about having the patience to make sure Chiyomaru was too worn out to really move his own ponderous bulk, let along execute any sumo.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Boom. Terutsuyoshi gets lower and inside at the tachiai, and never gives up the advantage. Though Myogiryu is landing blows, Terutsuyoshi is calling the tune, and he catches Myogiryu out of position and drives him out. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi, who now has 10 wins. What a turn around from March and May! (6-9 each)
Shimanoumi defeats Takagenji – Takagenji really hit a wall, picked up an injury or something just turned off. He came out strong and now he’s make-koshi. At Maegashira 10, he’s probably going to get a second chance to score 8 in the top division come September, so I hope he can get things buttoned up.
Kotoshogiku defeats Tochiozan – Both men wanted to establish a dominant grip, but neither could really land a hand on the other’s mawashi. Kotoshogiku can still push with a lot of force, and Tochiozan ran out of room to try his pull down.
Takarafuji defeats Daishoho – Again we see Takarafuji get into a stable position and work to wear down and stalemate his opponent. This seems to be working for him, as he now won the last 3 in a row. I will be most impressed if he can avoid make-koshi.
Ichinojo defeats Tomokaze – Young Tomokaze gets a lesson in fighting someone very large when he aggressively goes for a eats battle, and finds himself utterly unable to do anything other than hold on. His arms were not long enough to reach around Ichinojo, and he had given the Mongolian behemoth a solid two hand grip on his own belt. Try as he might, he could not move Ichinojo, who played with him a bit before taking him to the curb for collection.
Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Daieisho executed a well timed side-step as Asanoyama charged towards the edge of the ring to finish him. This is not the first match of this basho that Asanoyama has lost in this manner, so it’s probably something he wants to improve.
Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – One of the reasons I have a semi-permanent annoyance factor with Shodai is on display in this match. Look at this. He utterly out-classes Hokutofuji and sends him to get a facial from the gyoji in waiting, Konosuke. Where is this other 14 days of the basho, Shodai? Get it together man!
Endo defeats Abi – Endo effectively stalemated Abi-zumo 1.0, and when Abi went to unleash 2.0 on Endo, it fell to bits. I chalk it up to being a brand new gambit, and he needs to get more comfortable with when and how to employ it. His feet were not set properly, the dohyo is slick, and Endo had no problem shutting Abi down. Kimarite listed as tsukihiza, which is a “non-technique” denoting that Abi fell down.
Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Aoiyama took control at the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage. Ryuden wanted to respond, but was too busy trying to maintain balance against Aoiyama’s thrusting attack.
Tamawashi defeats Meisei – Tamawashi manage to win is second match of the basho. Both of these rikishi need to regroup, because they have had a miserable time in Nagoya.
Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – After far too long of everyone muttering about why the hell is Kakuryu a Yokozuna? We are seeing some genuine “wow” sumo from Kakuryu. This ankle kick (susoharai) to bring Chiyotairyu down on his rear is quite seldom seen. If he can stay unhurt for 3 more matches, Kakuryu is going to be tough to beat.
Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Hakuho normally has little problem with Mitakeumi, but today the lead Tadpole robbed him of any leverage for The Boss’s much cherished “nage” throws. So the two expended endurance in a waiting game. What surprised me is that at one point both of them were nearly upright, and neither man went immediately to finish the other. I would say Mitakeumi was too tired, and Hakuho was protecting those elbows.
We are in the thick of Act 3 mechanics, and the schedule shows rikishi paired together to ensure that the ones on the cusp of make-koshi have a chance to be pushed over the brink, and the ones near 50% win/loss are paired up so that only the strong survive. This will culminate with “Darwin matches” on the final day, where two 7-7 rikishi face off, with one getting a make and the other a kachi-koshi.
The big question now is if Hakuho can maintain any form of sumo as he gets progressively more sore from those arm injuries. His ego is driving him on, but one has to wonder if his body is going to cooperate. His fusensho on day 11 may have given him a welcome chance to get his body back together and ready to fight. For him to have a chance, someone has to put dirt on Kakuryu, and he will be the last man given that chance in the final match of day 15.
The leader board has narrowed with Takayasu’s kyujo, and Myogiryu loss on day 11. We are entering a period of time when it will become mathematically impossible for anyone other than Hakuho to catch Kakuryu, unless someone can put dirt on him prior to the day 15 finale between The Boss and Big K.
Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki holds a 5-1 career advantage over Kagayaki, and if he wins again today, he will achieve his kachi-koshi. In fact, Kotoyuki has not had a top division kachi-koshi since November of 2017.
Yago vs Nishikigi – Yago is already make-koshi, as is Nishikigi. So this is a match of the 8 loss club, and one of them will exit with 9. Both of them will be ok with Nishikigi initiating a mawashi battle, and that may in fact help Yago, who has seemed to have movement problems this July.
Kotoeko vs Sadanoumi – One of these rikishi exits this match with kachi-koshi, and it’s kind of an even toss up who will be the one to claim win #8. They have split their 4 previous matches, and are both fighting quite well this tournament.
Shohozan vs Enho – Everyone wants Enho to get win #8, including Shohozan. He just does not want it to be scored against him on day 12, which would give him his 8th loss. Shohozan needs to resist the temptation to grab a hold of that little sumo machine, but instead to use his preferred hit and move cadence. This is a rematch of what many consider the highlight bout of the Natsu basho. -lksumo
Onosho vs Toyonoshima – This match leads me to think the scheduling committee has a sense of humor. Both of these men are plagued by forward balance / momentum problems this tournament, and putting them head to head is kind of like testing which one is worse. Ideally they would both fall over helplessly moments after the tachiai, landing in unison and causing the longest and most puzzling monoii in the history of sumo.
Chiyomaru vs Okinoumi – Chiyomaru’s “cab forward design” gives him an edge in this match, where I am sure that Okinoumi will try to grab a hold of that Loch Ness Green mawashi and steer his roundness to a fall.
Myogiryu vs Terutsuyoshi – First time match, both of these rikishi are kachi-koshi, and both have had a great tournament. So this is to see who gets to run up the score.
Takagenji vs Shimanoumi – Takagenji went from a strong open to now teetering on the edge of make-koshi in his first top division tournament. Some of this seems to have come from easy to spot rookie mistakes against some seasoned veterans, and some of it may be a bit of a fade that started day 6, the last day he won a match.
Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – Two long-serving veterans going head to head, with 38 matches in their careers. I am sure both of them have an array of moves, counter moves and feigns they can and will deploy. I expect that it will come down to Kotoshogiku’s bad knees and Tochiozan’s bad back. Which one blows up first?
Daishoho vs Takarafuji – Another great first time match, Takarafuji is at the cusp of yet another make-koshi, where Daishoho still has a decent shot at his 8. But Daishoho is a excellent opponent for Takarafuji, whose skill will allow him to stay in the match until Daishoho presents an opening.
Tomokaze vs Ichinojo – What a great match! This is (to my mind) to see who is going to go where on the September banzuke. Ichinojo needs 1 more for his kachi-koshi, and he might get it today. Tomokaze has had a solid tournament, but there are some situations where size can win the day.
Asanoyama vs Daieisho – Asanoyama has only taken 1 of his 6 career matches against Daieisho, and he needs to get 3 more wins over the next 4 days. It’s a tall order, but possible. Step one – beat Daieisho.
Shodai vs Hokutofuji – Career record is 3-0 in favor of Shodai, and it seems he has a good recipe for shutting down Hokutofuji’s sumo. I expect Hokutofuji to get his 8th some time this week, and we will see him in a higher slot in the banzuke, which may be true for Shodai if he gets a bit of luck.
Abi vs Endo – Clash of styles, Abi will want to keep Endo dancing around avoiding his long-arm thrusts, but Endo will want to get inside and grab Abi’s belt. I expect Endo will succeed and we may see Abi-zumo 2.0 used again.
Aoiyama vs Ryuden – I am giving Aoiyama an edge in this one, as Ryuden is already make-koshi, and has struggled to overcome the beating he took from the rest of the San’yaku.
Meisei vs Tamawashi – A battle of the rikishi who can’t seem to win, I am going to give the edge to Meisei because to my eye he does not look as hopeless right now as Tamawashi does. I am not sure what is injured, sore or broken for him, but the effect is quite profound.
Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – In their 11 prior matches, Chiyotairyu has never once beaten Kakuryu. Given how well the Yokozuna is fighting this basho, I really don’t expect that to change on day 12. But should he surprise us, we would see the intensity of the remaining 3 days go through the roof.
Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – In general, Mitakeumi seldom gives Hakuho much trouble. But this Hakuho is not healthy at all, and has mechanical problems in both arms. Mitakeumi has a real opportunity to shape the yusho race and get his kachi-koshi at the same time. I am ready for whatever happens here, it will be good!