Nagoya Day 15 Preview

Macacon Of Victory

All too soon we have arrived at the end of the Nagoya basho. Ir has been rough and crazy, with an amazing number of rikishi dropping out due to injury. Some may try to limit or diminish Mitakeumi’s yusho by saying that it took place when none of the Yokozuna were competing. They are welcome to their opinions, but you can only fight the men who show up. With at least 13 (should have been 14) wins, Mitakeumi remained remarkably focused and consistent throughout the basho. I do not ever recall seeing him in this state of mind, and with his focus his sumo has flourished. Much will change now for this young man. There is a lot of celebration that follows a yusho, and there is a lot of media attention that will gravitate towards the man from Nagano-ken.

It increasingly looks like Aki 2018 may be the pivotal basho for our long forecast tidal shift in sumo. The old guard continues to fade, and multiple cohorts of young rikishi seem to be coming into their own. At some point the old guard will rally, and there will be a tournament of some of the most intense competition seen in years. I think that could be Aki.

For fans, there is another Grand Sumo Live broadcast overnight in the US (daytime in Japan). For those who are awake, it should be a fun time with John Gunning and Hiro Morita in the booth.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Most of the make / kachi kochi rikishi have been sorted, but there are a few notable matches that still stand out.

Chiyomaru vs Ishiura – There is a chance that a win here might save Ishiura, even though he is already make-koshi.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – They are both 9-5. The winner will go double digits, and have a significant banzuke boost for Aki.

Chiyoshoma vs Okinoumi – A win here would be kachi-koshi for Okinoumi, his first since November of last year.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both men are going to get a nice promotion, but this match is just pure fun. Both are fast, strong and sometimes brutal. Chiyotairyu has been hot or cold this basho, so it’s a puzzle which version of him is going to show up. Hokutofuji has a 4-2 career lead.

Daishomaru vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi comes into the match 7-7, needing to pick up one more win. Daishomaru is 7 ranks above him in the banzuke, so this will be one of these ugly matches where the underdog is in a must-win situation.

Asanoyama vs Takakeisho – Both rikishi have had very strong tournaments in Nagoya, and this is another “I want to see that!” matches. Asanoyama seems to have gotten a bit more serious since March, and is fighting with stoic determination. Takakeisho is going to be deep in the joi for Aki, which may be a very rough and dangerous assignment. His first tour was a bit of a disaster (they usually are), and I am eager to see what he has improved in his second posting.

Abi vs Aoiyama – And yet another of “I want to see that” matches. Its their first meeting, and we have two oshi fighters with impressive reach, a tendency to attack above center mass, and tons of attitude. Who’s going home bruised and pulpy?

Ikioi vs Kaisei – I think they should skip the sumo, and settle this through karaoke. Do you know who would win? That’s right – we would!

Shodai vs Kagayaki – I can’t help but think that in some old Soviet research lab, in a dark corner, is a frail but brilliant old surgeon who would be willing to part out both of these rikishi to create the ultimate Japanese battle golem. He could wear a half sky-blue half gold mawashi, and run around with twice the tsukebito, twice the chanko and just the good parts from both men. We could call him Fukugouyama. (複合山)

Yoshikaze vs Shohozan – Man, the battle of sadness today. Big Guns Shohozan has stunk this basho. But at least he’s done better than Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze needs a win to stay in Makuuchi, unless he’s planning a trip to the barbers.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Why is this match happening? Well, you see, the schedulers ran out of matches that made sense. So they just put everyone’s shikona on a shōji and started throwing chopsticks. That or they hired one of those psychic octopuses that seem to always predict the World Cup. Anyhow, Tochiozan has this odd habit of beating Tamawashi. And after the hospital bill Tamawashi has racked up, he needs a bit of a beating.

Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – We wanted a Sekiwake battle, but instead we got this guy against Captain Yusho / Ōkatō. Ok, fine. Let the chopsticks fall where they may. The only other time they matched, Mitakeumi overpowered him. Yutakayama has been especially genki, but I as long as Mitakeumi did not drain too many sake casks with his celebration, he will be able to dispatch this rising star.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Endo has faded like a “Relect Yoshihiko Noda” poster. But Ichinojo needs one win for kachi-koshi. But ask yourself, does Ichinojo deserve a kachi-koshi? I love the pony-tossing Mongolian behemoth, but his sumo has been terrible this tournament. I say turn him out and let him get his act together.

Goeido vs Takayasu – My advice to both, make it look good but nobody get hurt. Both of you survived in no small part because all of the bigger predators were sidelined. Be thankful and go home and get healthy. Especially you, you big hairy mess. I was happy to see that once you were really hurt you decided you could compete with sumo skill. So you didn’t forget!

Nagoya Day 13 Highlights

Nagoya Day 13 Banner

So the theory that there was no Takayasu – Mitakeumi rematch due to time gained a bit of traction in my mind with day 13. Headed into the final division, the entire day’s events were about 20 minutes behind schedule, and the rikishi were encouraged to be prompt and shorten up the pre-match routines. As it was the day’s matches went right to the end. Clearly the new head shimpan and the timekeeper are having some problems organizing the basho.

Fans who were worried about Mitakeumi are encouraged to watch today’s match against Goeido in slow motion. Don’t worry, NHK, or Jason and Kintamayama on YouTube can and will supply footage. True champions overcome adversity and setbacks. Even when stupid calls don’t go their way. They show up and they play the game, and if they lose they go back and play again.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Akiseyama – Akiseyama had early control of the match, but lost initiative when he attempted to change his grip and failed. From there it was Meisei’s match and he pushed hard for the win.

Onosho defeats Kotoeko – Onosho reaches kachi-koshi in the blink of an eye. One push against Kotoeko, followed by a slap down and it was all over.

Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama continues to compete hard, even though both legs are massively taped. Hokutofuji again unleashes a sharp tachiai, but bounces off Aoiyama’s massive body. Aoiyama lays on the attack, but Hokutofuji’s upper body endures it, while his lower body keeps moving forward. When Aoiyama attempted to pull, he gave up forward pressure and Hokutofuji surged ahead for the win. We have seen this from Hokotofuji again and again, it’s as if there are two separate processes at work, and more than once it has won the match. Hokotofuji is probably back at mid-Maegashira for Aki, and it’s going to be great to see him challenged.

Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – Nishikigi picks up win #6, with a good tachiai and working hard to get inside and then applied maximum force to Sadanoumi’s center mass.

Arawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru picked up his 8th loss, and is now make-koshi. Arawashi took a shallow double hand grip immediately at the tachiai, and pushed forward strongly to win the match.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama goes to double digit wins, but it was an odd match. Yutakayama attacked high, and pressured Tochiozan backward to the bales. Both men lost balance and headed out simultaneously, but in spite of some nice acrobatics, Tochiozan touched down first. Tochiozan is now out of any possible yusho contention.

Asanoyama defeats Myogiryu – Asanoyama joins fellow freshman Yutakayama in double digit wins with his win over Myogiryu. Myogiryu took control early while Asanoyama struggled to find a firm hold. When Myogiryu backed him to the tawara, Asanoyama found the edge and held firm, bringing Myogiryu to his chest, and took control.

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – I am starting to have hope. For the last few matches, Ishiura has been showing us a new level of his sumo. He is more fierce, more focused and more inventive than he has been since his debut tournament in Kyushu of 2016. And it’s giving him wins. Will it be enough to stave off a return to Juryo? I almost think that it might.

Ryuden defeats Daieisho – After a matta / false start Daieisho opened strong, and may have actually pushed out Ryuden’s heel, but no one called it and the match continued. Ryuden rallied strongly, and kept impressively low, bringing the battle back to the center of the dohyo. Daieisho became off balance when he hauled up hard on Ryuden’s loose mawashi, and inadvertently fell forward to lose. Daieisho now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Yoshikaze – The march to the hanyusho continues, and no force in nature seems to be able to stop it. Abi seems to take special care to keep Yoshikaze from falling, just as everyone else has. It seems whatever has robbed him of his sumo is a fairly open secret right now, and everyone gives him a lot of courtesy and protection. It both breaks my heart to know something is wrong, and does me glad to see how every competitor takes care.

Tamawashi defeats Kaisei – Tamawashi foregoes the obligatory kotenage and does a masterful job of disrupting Kaisei’s balance, and keeping him struggling for dependable footing. With repeated glancing collisions, eventually Kaisei falls down and nobody goes to the hospital. Success! Tamawashi picks up kachi-koshi as well.

Chiyotairyu defeats Ichinojo – Chiyotairyu hits his kachi-koshi as well today by keeping Ichinojo adjusting to what kind of sumo will happen next. The match ends with an all too familiar moment where Ichinojo seems to give up.

Takayasu defeats Endo – It was not even a real contest, as Endo was overwhelmed by Takayasu’s freight-train tachiai, and bounced off towards the south-east. Takayasu was happy to help give Endo another shove to ensure his rapid exit and loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – After day 12, fans who were hoping for a Mitakeumi yusho were incensed, with good cause. Even the commentators for NHK really could not line up behind the shimpan’s unexplainable call. Fans worried that Mitakeumi would lose his edge, would begin to doubt his sumo, and his winning streak would end. Well, take a look at what he did to Goeido. It was Goeido who lost his nerve as they went to the shikirisen, and had to reset. Look at Mitakeumi’s body language, his posture as he faces Goeido prior to the match. This guy has put his mental problems in a box, and put the box some place far far away. Goeido did indeed blast out of the tachiai, and he did succeed in knocking Mitakeumi back and lifting him. But look at Mitakeumi’s footwork in the split second following the tachiai. He absorbs the shock and rotates to his right. Goeido is now perilously overcommitted, and Mitakeumi’s left hand already hooking a grip. With his left hand on Goiedo’s mawashi, and his right hand on the back of Goeido’s neck, Mitakeumi has his feet firmly on clay, and swings Goeido towards the bales. Goeido recognizes he has crafted his own defeat, and we get to see the massive power of his legs come to play in an effort to slow his forward motion. But Mitakeumi follows through and forces Goeido out from behind. The home-town crowd goes wild for their favorite son as Goeido steps out. Top notch planning and execution from Mitakeumi. He played Goeido like a shamisen. At the end of the match as they go to bow. THAT LOOK! Goeido has found a new appreciation for his opponent.

Nagoya Day 13 Preview

Goeido-Mug

Goeido Gets His Chance.

The controversy around the results of day 12’s final match will likely brew for a while. I firmly believe it will have little or no effect on the eventual outcome of the basho. Mitakeumi remains the man to beat, and the only rikishi who has a credible chance is his day 13 opponent, Goeido. What makes this such a puzzle is that Goeido is the ultimate hot/cold rikishi. When he is engaged, as we saw in Aki 2016, the man is unstoppable. But time and again his sumo falls apart, and he under performs. Now we ask – which Goeido will show up day 13? My money is on Goeido 2.1. Mitakeumi will get a blistering fireball of a fight right from the tachiai, but he will battle back with skill, cunning and no small amount of luck.

While the other 3 rikishi in the hunt group have fantastic records going into day 13, any of them represent more of a random “hit or miss” chance against Mitakeumi, rather than a credible threat. But one thing to keep in mind was the puzzle from a few days ago. Ask yourself, what will be the yusho winner’s record? If it’s anything higher than 12-3, Mitakeumi is the winner. That means that mathematically, Mitakeumi only needs one more win to reach, at minimum, jun-yusho status. Quite impressive for a man who has never reached double digits from San’yaku before.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – none
HuntersGoeido, Yutakayama, Tochiozan, Asanoyama

3 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 13

Akiseyama vs Meisei – Meisei is headed back to Juryo, and his day 13 opponent is likely failing to get promoted to Makuuchi from the Juryo 1 slot. If Akiseyama loses to Meisei, he will have locked in his make-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Onosho – Onosho needs one more win to round out his kachi-koshi. Kotoeko is now deeply into a losing record, and possibly headed towards Juryo as well.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – I think this is a brilliant match, in that I think Hokutofuji needs some bigger challenges before the end of the tournament, and I think Aoiyama needs to enjoy some rough and tumble sumo for day 13. Aoiyama is looking for win #8 today, and I do dearly hope that Hokutofuji makes him work hard. Hokutofuji holds a 3-1 lead over the “Man Mountain”.

Sadanoumi vs Nishikigi – If Sadanoumi should win today, he would get kachi-koshi while giving Nishikigi his make-koshi. Now I think that Nishikigi still has a drive to win, but has been rather listless during the second week of Nagoya. Hopefully there is enough genki left to possibly “win out” and end with a kachi-koshi. Nishikigi leads the series 8-5.

Chiyomaru vs Arawashi – Chiyomaru is still looking to avoid a make-koshi, and he’s against hapless Arawashi, who just can’t seem to get his sumo together in Nagoya.

Tochiozan vs Yutakayama – Two of the hunt group go head to head, and only one will remain. It’s not an easy call as Yutakayama continues to fight really well into the second week, and Tochiozan is likely to bounce back form his day 12 loss. But clearly there will be one less person 2 wins behind Mitakeumi following this match. Yutakayama has won both of their prior matches.

Myogiryu vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama needs to win to stay in distant contention for a spot at the yusho brawl if Goeido prevails. He’s up against Myogiryu who is already kachi-koshi, but likely wants to run up the score.

Ishiura vs Kyokutaisei – A Darwin match where the loser will pick up their 8th loss. For Ishiura, this would mean a near certain demotion back to Juryo to try and work out a change to his sumo that is effective against the larger opponents in Makuuchi.

Takarafuji vs Takakeisho – I am surprised how many times Takakeisho has employed his “wave action” sumo this tournament. I would think that the rest of the rikishi would have figured it out rather quickly, but it must be a real problem when he’s hitting you in the face every 3.2 seconds. Takarafuji will try to wrap him up and shut that down, but I worry he is not genki enough to succeed. Takakeisho has won all 3 of their prior matches.

Abi vs Yoshikaze – The next stop on Yoshikaze’s madding quest for secure a glorious hanyusho, he faces off against Abi on day 13. Now Abi’s reach and speed would normally be just playthings for the berserker, but this is clearly not the normal Yoshikaze. So I expect Abi will push him around a bit, and then Yoshikaze will go down to defeat.

Ikioi vs Chiyonokuni – The big question, of course, is Chiyonokuni fit to compete? I know that Ikioi will not give him an easy match, so I would at least expect Chiyonokuni to show up with a significant tape job on that left elbow. An Ikioi win would secure first kachi-koshi from within the joi. Ikioi holds a 7-3 career lead over Chiyonokuni.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – Will we see another kotenage? Will Kaisei be holding his elbow on day 13? Kaisei is enormous, and the amount of effort Tamawashi would need to exert to apply that move may be beyond what he can muster on the slick Nagoya dohyo. A win would be Tamawashi’s 8th, and would open the question of his promotion to Sekiwake should Ichinojo fail it reach kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is still hunting his 8th win, and the last two days have seen Ichinojo revert back to the version that does enjoy sumo. Chiyotairyu has sadly become rather frantic in his sumo, and that won’t really be very useful against a large, partially mobile beast like Ichinojo.

Endo vs Takayasu – Don’t be surprised if you see an announcement that Takayasu has gone kyujo in the next 5 hours. He was clearly damaged from day 1, and now that he has kachi-koshi, a withdrawal would be understandable. But if this match goes ahead, I will be interested to see if Endo can reverse his act 3 fade that he seems to be in the middle of right now.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Here is your chuumoku-no-ichiban. All the other matches have their place, but this one is critical to the yusho race. I would look for Goeido to blast hard and fast out of the tachiai, attempting to overwhelm whatever Mitakeumi might have planned before he can begin any offensive sumo. I would expect Mitakeumi to at least hit and shift at the tachiai, knowing that Goeido will charge with everything he’s got. If Goeido wins, the yusho race closes to a 1 match difference. If Mitakeumi wins, he eliminates his strongest competitor. Goeido holds an 8-3 career advantage over Mitakeumi, but Mitakeumi has won 2 of their last 3 matches.

Nagoya Day 12 Highlights

Takayasu Day 12b

For those of you worried about spoilers, you can stop reading now until you have had a chance to watch your time-delayed broadcasts. This commentary will still be here later.

For fans who are outranged about today’s final match, I have some words to perhaps help explain. Mitakeumi is still the leader, and is still likely to take the yusho. He’s clearly on an Ozeki campaign now, and he is showing his best sumo ever. He lost nothing today, and possibly gained much. Its possible that on this day, when there was a chance for the shimpan to make a call, they chose to think about things in a broader strategic context. I do not agree with the way they decided this, but then again I am not a sumo elder, or a member of the NSK, or anything more than a sumo fan typing away on a blog.

Let’s look at the possible outcomes.

  1. Call the match for Mitakeumi – Well, it looks like Takayasu’s big toe touched the sand before Mitakeumi’s foot landed out. So, close enough. Mitakeumi goes to 12-0, and everyone else had 9 wins. The only way that the yusho might be contested in the last weekend is if Mitakeumi loses his last 3 matches.
  2. Call the match for Takayasu – Ok, Takayasu goes kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban. One of the few remaining kanban rikishi is protected and whatever injuries that are plaguing him have more time to heal before he feels the need to defend his rank. Mitakeumi exits the day still 2 wins ahead of everyone else, just the way it started, and there is a tiny tiny chance that someone with experience (Goeido) might be able to contest for the yusho. That goes double as Mitakeumi faces Goeido in day 13’s final match. This is good for competition, the fans, TV ratings and the sport. If NHK’s ratings follow similar ratios to Tachiai’s web traffic, the lack of kanban rikishi in this tournament have dropped viewership.
  3. Call for a torinaoshi / rematch – The last thing you want to do is have an already injured Takayasu possibly compounding his problems in a second bout against your rising star. Given what we could see on the replays, this looked like the right thing to do for the match, but I am going to guess the Shimpan took option 2 as the best thing to do for sumo.

Day 12 Matches

Takanoiwa defeats Kotoeko – Soon to be returning Takanoiwa dispatches soon to be departing Kotoeko in this first Makuuchi bout of the day. Takanoiwa seems like maybe he picked up some mass. Today’s match was a simple push-pull win.

Sadanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries to submarine the tachiai, but Sadanoumi is unfazed and continues to march forward with Ishiura crumpled against his chest. Ishiura now one loss away from a likely demotion back to Juryo.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden loses thanks to Aoiyama’s henka. Wait, what? Aoiyama henka? If you are Ryuden, are you more embarrassed that you lost, or that you let Aoiyama henka you?

Myogiryu defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan gets his third loss and drops back into the peloton. Myogiryu was fast and aggressive, and did not let Tochiozan disrupt his offense. Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was once again low and fast at the tachiai, but he gave up the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama and was never able to gain offensive traction. Excellent sumo today from Yutakayama. While Hokutofuji fans would love to see him run up the score and be mid-Maegashira at Aki, his kachi-koshi is what he needed to pull back from the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke. His sumo is looking strong and he seems to be past the injuries that had him underperforming. Yutakayama is looking very genki, and we may get to see him try the joi again after his disastrous 2-13 at Natsu.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Even though he beat Chiyoshoma today, I have gotten the impression that Onosho is not quite 100% right now. I don’t know if its lingering effects of his injury, or the heat of Nagoya or what. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi. I think we will continue to see him regrouping for at least one more basho. Hopefully by then the red mawashi will be back from the cleaners.

Kyokutaisei defeats Arawashi – With his heels against the make-koshi bales, Kyokutaisei has found the mojo to win yet again. Sadly Arawashi’s 3-9 record is bad enough he is getting close to what could be an aggressive demotion to Juryo line.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho punches Meisei’s return ticket to Juryo by handing him his make-koshi with a pride obliterating side-step and pull down. I think its possible we will see a mighty Makuuhci-Juryo churn headed into Aki.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze continues to push the envelope on his unstoppable march to a totally winless anti-yusho. As a Yoshikaze fan, I just have to hope that whatever is wrong with him is not painful, fatal or crippling. Whats more, I think most of the rikishi know what’s going on, as you can see Chiyomaru take extreme care to keep him safe. And he’s not the first to do it this tournament.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei gets a well earned kachi-koshi. His performance this basho has been above his recent average, and we hope he can stay healthy and genki. Asanoyama threw quite a bit of sumo at him, but Kaisei’s superior reach, and mass-driven stability carried the match. With this loss, Asanoyama also drops back into the peloton.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Takakeisho breaks out the “Wave Action” sumo again, and today it works against an increasingly frustrated Chiyotairyu, who just can’t seem to get that win that will give him kachi-koshi. Takakeisho will likely be top Maegashira / bottom San’yaku for Aki.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Can two men turn ottsuke into a match long battle strategy? Hell, these two sure tried to do it. This was followed by an endurance lean-off at the shikiri-sen. After perhaps a minute, Ikioi rallies and tries to advance. And what is Takarafuji doing? Why more ottsuke of course. Alright, congrats to Ikioi on what was a somewhat ridiculous match.

Shodai defeats Daishomaru – Now that he is make-koshi, Shodai decides to show up and try some sumo today. With the exception of his normally high and flat tachiai, he actually executed well. Clearly the young man needs to regroup, as I still think there is hope for him and his sumo.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni recovers brilliantly after he loses his balance early in the match, but Tamawashi chases him down and finishes Chiyonokuni with a kotenage, which like Kotoshogiku, seems to have injured his elbow. Sadly Chiyonokuni faces Ikioi day 13 rather than Shodai, because if Chiyonokuni were to go kyujo, we could have had one of the 2 fusensho men give the other 2 fusensho man a fusensho.

Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi works the double arm tsuppari attack successfully today, and the already make-koshi shohozan gets a close look at the tokudawara.

Ichinojo defeats Kagayaki – Ichinojo hands Kagayaki his make-koshi when Kagayaki’s sumo fundamentals break down as they are confronted by 500 pounds of pony tossing Ichinojo. Points to Kagayaki for trying to set the tone and form of the match against an opponent who has been far too docile this tournament, but Ichinojo was ready to fight today, and took Kagayaki to his chest and pacified him. Unable to improve his grip or get a firm hold against the boulder, Kagayaki was stalemated in a war of attrition. I was impressed by how well Kagayaki fought off the uwatenage when it came, but there was just too much force bundled in that move by Ichinojo to shut it down.

Goeido defeats Endo – Endo is ejected from the peloton by Goeido after a false start at the tachiai. Goeido wins in his preferred “good” mode: low, fast, and more or less unstoppable. Endo compounded the problem by trying to pull against Goeido’s denshamichi attack.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Fans were howling long before my alarm woke me this morning over this match, and I think rightly so. The match did achieve it’s strategic goal, which was to hand Miakeumi his first kuroboshi, and open up the yusho race heading into the final weekend. But Mitakeumi dominated that match, set the terms and the cadence of the fight, and literally made Takayasu dance to his sumo. The match ended with both men moving at speed over the bales on the north side of the dohyo, and visiting the VIPs in the first two rows of tawara. The gyoji loses his mind and points both east and west, and it’s clear the shimpan is going to sort this one out. To my eye, this was a very clear situation for torinaoshi (rematch). But the decision of the shimpan is best framed in that by awarding the match to Takayasu, they would achieve the strategic goal of day 12. So they did. Takayasu did a masterful job of staying airborne, and that was quite impressive. Takayasu gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi, and clears kadoban.

Nagoya Day 11 Highlights

Mitakeumi - Nagoya Day 11

Welcome to the first day of act 3! Overnight the brutal Nagoya basho claimed another kyujo – with former Ozeki Kotoshogiku withdrawing from competition due to injuries he suffered day 10 in his match against Tamawashi. Tamawashi used a kotenage arm-bar throw to win the match, and the pressure on Kotoshogiku’s elbow seems to have been enough to injure him. To add to matters, Kotoshogiku took a dive into the crowd, where it was clear that he was in some pain. With his withdraw, another odd metric is added to sumo history surrounding this basho. Not only did we have a single rikishi get two fusensho wins, we have now had two rikishi get two fusensho: Shodai and Chiyonokuni. I think Abi summed up the mood of this basho on day 9: “My stablemaster will probably yell at me back at the lodgings. I want to go back to Tokyo!”

Mitakeumi continues to roll on, defeating his nigate Kaisei for the first time ever to remain undefeated. Its clear now that Mitakeumi has crossed into new territory in his sumo, and may have made the step change we have been watching for. While some would say that “well this is basho-light with all of the big guns kyujo”, they would be correct. This is the natural order of things. Without the Yokozuna and Ozeki genki enough to cull the lower ranks, you will see champions rise and threaten the old order. With Mitakeumi in double digits in San’yaku for the first time, his next stop is a try for the yusho. Many commentators on NHK have discounted him as “not training hard enough”, or “always fades week 2”. Thus is the risk of attempting to predict the future by relying solely on the past – it leaves no room for the path of hard work, improvement and success.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Arawashi – Do you want to see a giant Bulgarian man-mountain grab someone by the throat and throw them into the first row? Then this is your match! Wow, Aoiyama launches Arawashi into his make-koshi.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Asanoyama continues to look solid, and is clearly going to run up the score. Nishikigi was at a disadvantage due to Asanoyama’s longer reach. But Nishikigi’s rally at the edge when he was able to get a double outside grip was impressive, and nearly carried the day.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – Yutakayama remains in the peloton, and picks up his kachi-koshi. Yutakayama controlled the match from the start, and Sadanoumi was unable to create much offensive pressure.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji blasts his way to his kachi-koshi, and remains in the peloton as well. Myogiryu opened strong, but in the split-second Hokutofuji was on defense, he could not seal the deal. I can’t stop watching Hokutofuji’s tachiai, its a brutal work of art right now. I wish NHK would get a dozen cameras and do a “bullet time” version of the thing so sumo hyper-nerds can study it.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Hey! Mainoumi style tachiai from Ishiura, and it worked really well. More more more! Chiyoshoma is now make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko’s initial offensive gambit seemed to do little more than annoy Takarafuji, who tolerated the slap-fest for a bit, then took over and handed Kotoeko his make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyotairyu – This match is a sterling example of just how efficient Tochiozan’s sumo is this basho, as it’s easy to compare it to Chiyotairyu’s frantic weaving, pulling and flapping about. Chiyotairyu will have to try again on day 12 for his kachi-koshi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze still on track for 0-15. I hate watching this stuff.

Endo defeats Takakeisho – Endo gets high marks in the sumo IQ test today, as he correctly cracks Takakeisho’s “wave action” offense and dodges a Takakeisho wave when Takakeisho opens up too much distance to his mark. Endo kachi-koshi and remains in the peloton.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – I wondered if this one should have had a monoii (it seems so did quite a few in the crowd). Abi opens in his expected form, but Kagayaki simply brute-forces his way inside and disrupt’s Abi’s offense. Now it’s a real battle as each man tries to rain blows on the other. Kagayaki’s intense training and focus on fundamentals of sumo appear to have once again carried the day, though that head-but was likely pure Kagayaki’s improvisation. (Sometimes we called it a “Glasgow kiss”)

Shohozan defeats Chiyonokuni – Shohozan unleashes his strength on day 11, and picks the optimum time to toss Chiyonokuni aside with impressive force. Although Chiyonokuni got a few good blows in, this one was all Shohozan.

Ikioi defeats Tamawashi – The first match ended in a monoii after Ikioi gave Tamawashi a flying lesson. But the judges were unable to decide who touched out first, although the gumbai went to Ikioi. So torinaoshi was ordered. Second time through – Ikioi slams into Tamawashi with a resounding thud that I am sure was heard in Kagoshima. A quick slap down and Ikioi wins without question.

Mitakeumi defeats Kaisei – It’s a new day for Mitakeumi, as he overcomes his 0-4 historical deficit with Kaisei by some really nice sumo. As we expected, Mitakeumi broke out the hazuoshi (armpit attack) again today, and Kaisei was unable to lower his hips to defend. From there, Mitakeumi ordered “all ahead full” and forced out his Brazilian opponent. Mitakeumi remains undefeated and in sole possession of the lead of the Nagoya basho.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is clearly hurt, clearly struggling and not having a good basho. Thus far this tournament, Ichinojo has largely been soft, vague and unwilling to put together a cogent offense. Sadly for Takayasu, “The Boulder” version of Ichinojo showed up today. Except for a half step back at the tachiai, Ichinojo could not be moved by any strength Takayasu could muster. Instead of fading fast and going soft, Ichinojo powered up, and with a pair of thrusts that could be heard clearly over the crowd, sent Takayasu to his 4th loss.

Goeido defeats Daishomaru – Goeido’s creampuff match was harder for him than it should have been. But he did win, he is kachi-koshi and has cleared kadoban. He is also still in the peloton, though the chances of him having any role in the yusho race are small. Daishomaru make-koshi.

Nagoya Day 10 Highlights

Nagoya Day 10 Banner

With the completion of day 10, act 2 of the Nagoya basho is now in the books. Act 2 is intended to shape the yusho race to have maximum impact during the final 5 days of the tournament, and the scheduling team has had their hands full trying to reach that goal. Sadly they were not completely successful, as Mitakeumi continues undefeated, and the nearest competitor is at 2 losses. That being said, with all of the withdrawals, injuries and kadoban ozeki in Nagoya, there was not that much to work with.

On the subject of Mitakeumi, he is looking strong, confident and utterly in control of each match. As we described yesterday, as the final 5 days tick down, each day’s match will be less on the dohyo, and more in his head. If he can stay calm, focused and forget about the yusho, he may continue to shine. With his crossing the 10 win threshold on Tuesday, he has finally managed to turn in a double digit performance at Sekiwake, and is ready to try to rack up 33 and claim his spot in the Ozeki corps. Team Tachiai have seen this potential for a few years, and we hope that Mitakeumi has finally gotten the formula for success in his sumo.

Although I am not there, I am going to guess they got the air conditioning in Nagoya under some level of control, as there were fewer fans waiving in the audience, and they were not at the prior, frantic pace. Also most of the rikishi looked a bit more focused on sumo rather than their own sweaty misery.

Highlight Matches.

Tochiozan defeats Ishiura – Tochiozan picks up kachi-koshi over a hapless Ishiura. Again Tochiozan’s sumo is the acme of efficiency, really a joy to watch.

Hokutofuji defeats Asanoyama – Hokutofuji moves Asanoyama down a notch in the yusho race via some rather painful looking sumo. Again Hokutofuji is mind-glowingly low at the tachiai, and goes for the nodowa very early. Hokutofuji tries a pull down, and like all pulls leaves him off balance and breaks contact with his opponent. This mistake nearly cost him the match as Asanoyama endures a second nodowa attack, but breaks inside and begins to attack with purpose. But Hokutofuji improvises, and gets a grip on Asanoyama’s mawashi, and uses that as his handle to lift and move Asanoyama into a painful looking spread-leg fall from the dohyo. I think there is a chance these two might become rivals in the future. They are well matched in size, strength and skill.

Meisei defeats Arawashi – Meisei, standing at the brink of make-koshi and return to Juryo, finds another win, via a leg trip (sotogake) that looked rather improvised, but got the job done.

Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – Another new entrant to the top division who, facing a demotable make-koshi, has found the drive to win.

Kyokutaisei defeats Onosho – Onosho picks up his second straight loss to someone he should easily beat. I might guess that his brutal match on day 9 with Hokutofuji may have injured him in some way. Kyokutaisei also is rallying now that his back against the make-koshi wall.

Yutakayama defeats Takarafuji – Yutakayama was able to set the pace and form of the match. Yutakayama kept Takarafuji away from his mawashi, and kept thrusting to Takarafuji’s upper body. Takarafuji came close to wrapping him up, but with Takarafuji holding Yutakayama’s arms, Yutakayama advances, and that was all it took. Some fine looking Yutakayama sumo today.

Chiyotairyu defeats Nishikigi – Notable in that it keeps Chiyotairyu in the 3 loss group, and was another example of “when Chiyotairyu is on, he’s dangerous”. Nishikigi looked vague and unaggressive today.

Takakeisho defeats Abi – Oh Abi, that double arm to the upper body served you well for a time, but now everyone has your number. He was able to apply enough pressure to force Takakeisho back, but with each attack his weight went more and more forward. It was trivial for Takakeisho to step out of the way near the tawara and let gravity teach Abi a gritty lesson. Abi now make-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Endo – No yusho chase for Endo now, unless someone can get some dirt on Mitakeumi. Chiyonokuni’s attack plan was executed with exquisite timing, and dead-on form. I really like how Chiyonokuni has progressed, and as we face another basho with the kanban rikishi off the stage, many of the next generation stars are having their chance to impress the fans. In addition, Chiyonokuni really looks like he is having fun, and fans (myself included) really like to see a rikishi who love just being on the dohyo. (ahem, Asanoyama, Ura, Harumafuji, others)

Ikioi defeats Shodai – Ikioi took Shodai’s still second rate tachiai, and shrugged him to the clay. Shodai make-koshi and in dire need of the cooler weather in Tokyo.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – They go chest to chest at the tachiai, and Kotoshogiku immediately starts the hug and chug, but Tamawashi had ensured that Kotoshogiku’s grip was tenuous at best, and steps aside to launch him into the Northwest corner of the crowd, where he hands on a little old lady, possibly injuring both of them.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will let no rikishi stop him in his epic march to a 0-15 finish. It depresses the hell out of me, but that’s how this is going now. Perhaps he leased out all of his genki to Mitakeumi. Perhaps he is sick and competes anyhow. No matter how you look at it, its not pretty. He gave Ichinojo a good fight, but seems to be operating, at best, 70% of normal power and speed.

Mitakeumi defeats Kagayaki – What I am really enjoying about Mitakeumi’s sumo right now is that his opponents have no clue how he is going to come at them. Today Mitakeumi went hazu-oshi, and I think caught Kagayaki buy surprise, with his center of mass high, Mitakeumi advanced and racked win #10.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Shohozan was too far forward in the tsuppari battle he chose, and was frankly winning. Goeido stepped aside (as is his custom) and Shohozan could not maintain his footing, and is now make-koshi. Goeido needs one more win to clear kadoban.

Kaisei defeats Takayasu – A chest to chest battle of endurance, Takayasu has (in the past) been the master of this kind of sumo. He had an iron-clad deef left hand inside grip, which he favors. We have seen him nurse that left hand following recent matches, so maybe its not quite 100%. But Kaisei did not wait long to attack, pivoting to his left and rolling the ozeki to the clay for a kotenage. Takayasu needs one more win to reach the safety of kachi-koshi

Nagoya Day 10 Preview

Abi Day 9

Some fun bits from Herouth, via her twitter account:

Abi (on his failed attempt at yotsu): I was trying all kinds of stuff, but it didn’t get me to win. My stablemaster will probably yell at me back at the lodgings. I want to go back to Tokyo!

Never change, Abi – your fans adore you.

In other news, former Makuuchi mainstay Takanoiwa is kachi-koshi in juryo as of day 9, with just a single loss. I think we will see him back in the top division for Aki.

Nagoya Leaderboard

LeaderMitakeumi
Chaser – Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Tochiozan, Endo

6 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 10

Tochiozan vs Ishiura – Tochiozan is dialed in right now. His sumo is tight, efficient and effective. Ishiura is struggling, and I don’t think he will find win #5 today.

Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Highlight match of the first group, Asanoyama currently sits alone in second place, one loss behind the perfect score of Mitakeumi. After a few poor days at the beginning of the basho, Hokutofuji is up and dishing out his better sumo daily. This is, believe it or not, their first meeting.

Onosho vs Kyokutaisei – Likely a make-koshi for Kyokutaisei, who is having an absolutely horrible basho. Although Onosho went to defeat day 9, I would expect him to bounce back strongly.

Takarafuji vs Yutakayama – Takarafuji won their only prior match, but since Aki 2017, Yutakayama has improved his sumo dramatically. But if he follows his pattern from this basho, win 2, lose 1, he will lost on day 10.

Nishikigi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s biggest impediment seems to be consistency. It’s tough to know how genki he will be on any given day. I am beginning to suspect Nishikigi has adopted a Kagayaki style approach. He is not going to make waves, or really do anything to get noticed, but he’s quietly going to keep plugging away at his sumo.

Abi vs Takakeisho – This match may turn out to be lighting in a bottle. At least that is what I am hoping as we have two very dynamic oshi-zumo types with very specific and unique styles going head to head. To make things even more enticing, this is their first ever match. So will the head of the Freshmen be able to stand up to the Tadpole? Long reach or wave action? I can’t wait to find out.

Endo vs Chiyonokuni – I have absolute confidence that short of injury, Endo will get his kachi-koshi this tournament. If he can run up his score, we may see him in san’yaku. But today’s match is all about if Endo will pose a credible claim to the yusho going into act 3. They have spit their career series 3-3. This will likely be a really good match.

Shodai vs Ikioi – Shodai is clearly discouraged, disrupted and disorganized now. So he is probably easy pickings for Ikioi, who could use the wins. If Shodai loses he is make-koshi.

Tamawashi vs Kotoshogiku – Tamawashi is a master of strong oshi, and Kotoshogiku is almost exclusively yotsu. So this match will have obvious interests for fans who want to see the clash of two opposing styles. Tamawashi holds a slight numerical edge in their career series (9-7), but Kotoshogiku has not won against Tamawashi since May of 2017, so 5 consecutive losses.

Ichinojo vs Yoshikaze – If I had to rank genki on every rikishi in the top division, these two might come out on the bottom. So they get to face off on day 10. Where this goes, who can tell.

Kagayaki vs Mitakeumi – This win would make Mitakeumi’s first double digit winning score in san’yaku, and would represent the start of a possible Ozeki bid. This is also a huge mental test for Mitakeumi. If he can stay in his groove, this is an easy match. If he is off his sumo, Kagayaki will be a stiff challenge. Mitakeumi won their only prior match.

Goeido vs Shohozan – Shohozan has make-koshi on the line today, and he has a chance to stave off demotion by beating Goeido. Which Goeido will show up on day 10?

Kaisei vs Takayasu – This should be an easy match for Takayasu, Kaisei is enormous, but not in the same class of sumo as Takayasu.

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

Day 9 Dohyo Iri

With day 9 in the books, it’s clear that Mitakeumi is headed for double digits as Sekiwake for his first time ever. His sumo is strong, confident, efficient and effective. Right now he is fighting better than any man still in the basho. But as we come to close out act 2 tomorrow, the battleground will change from the dohyo to the mind. Pressure will mount on Mitakeumi, anticipation and expectations will start to cloud his thoughts. He has the mechanics to take it to the yusho, but the question will come down to: “Can he think his way though this”. If he can, we are likely to see Ozeki Mitakeumi by this time next year. Should Mitakeumi succumb to his own demons, the chances that Tochiozan, Endo or Takayasu will be there to capture the prize are a bit shaky, but very real. While Asanoyama is lauded to be sitting with just 1 loss at this point is to be lauded, I expect the schedulers to throw him some problems starting day 11.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Asanoyama kachi-koshi, and remains 1 behind Mitakeumi. As an upstanding member of the group I call “The Freshmen”, Asanoyama has shown solid sumo for several tournaments. Do I think he’s a yusho contender? Not really, but I think he’s one to watch for the years to come. Ishiura chose to meet him head on, but bounced off of his broad chest.

Tochiozan defeats Meisei – Meisei came in strong from the tachiai, and had excellent hand and foot placement, going chest to chest with Tochiozan. But the veteran showed his amazingly efficient sumo once more. I marvel at watching how little energy and movement it takes Tochiozan to turn the tables on Meisei and toss him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – Watch how low Hokutofuji is at the tachiai. He knew Onosho was going to come in low, and in spite of his large body, managed to come in below Onosho. Hokutofuji engages in some highly effective hazu-oshi (armpit attack), scooting Onoshi towards the bales. Onosho rallies for a moment, but Hokutofuji lays in with a nodawa, leading Onosho out by the neck. Ouch!

Chiyomaru defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi bounces off Chiyomaru’s belly at the tachiai, and although Chiyomaru seems to control most of the match, once Okinoumi rallies at the tawara, Chiyomaru is almost immediately in trouble. Chiyomaru does recover enough to execute a kotenage for the win, but it’s clear that Chiyomaru quickly runs out of energy in the heat hauling that much Unadon around.

Nishikigi defeats Daieisho – They went in at 4-4, with a career record of 4 to 4, and I think the match started fairly close to 4:44 in the afternoon. It was fairly straightforward Nishikigi oshidashi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kyokutaisei might have just saved his Makuuchi posting with his second win of the tournament. It was half hikiotoshi, half slippiotoshi, but he got the job done.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Endo drops to 2 losses, which reduces the chances he can contend for the yusho. He allowed Yutakayama to dictate the terms and cadence of the match, and from the moment he was reacting rather than attacking, he was done.

Takakeisho defeats Yoshikaze – We saw more “wave action” today against Yoshikaze, and the ailing berserker gave him a good match. But it was really just Takakeisho playing with him until it was time to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Abi – Points to Abi, he went for a right hand mawashi grip straight into the tachiai. Sadly, he is clearly not very skilled at this kind of fight, and Chiyonokuni put him away easily. Abi – practice that. Look what it did for Mitakeumi. With your reach and body proportions, you could win a lot of matches with a hybrid approach. Is it just me, or does Chiyonokuni seems surprisingly good natured these day? I believe the man is actually enjoying his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi goes chest to chest with the Kyushu bulldozer at the tachiai. But this match was all Ikioi, as he never allows Kotoshogiku to square his hips. Instead, Ikioi simply overpowers Kotoshogiku and tosses him from the dohyo. Impressive win.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – The match starts with an odd and mis-timed tachiai that could almost have bene a matta if it were not Shodai. Shohozan keeps him reacting and disrupted, and Shodai is easily dispatched.

Mitakeumi defeats Daishomaru – Mitakeumi remains unbeaten, and in excellent form. Daishomaru had not effective offense, although he presented a solid, low tachiai.

Kaisei defeats Ichinojo – A match that unfolded in a languid and turgid manner. Of course it featured Ichinojo giving up and softly going away.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi gave the Ozeki a bold and vigorous match, and in fact controlled the action right up until Takayasu’s rescue move at the bales. Takayasu is racking the wins up, but his sumo was especially crummy today.

Goeido defeats Kagayaki – Professor Kagayaki did in fact apply is excellent fundamentals against Goeido, and gave him more trouble than a Maegashira 4 should present to an Ozeki. Goeido got an inside grip at the tachiai, and worked hard to finish him before Kagayaki could get set up to attack. It nearly worked, but Kagayaki made a valiant stand at the tawara, and returned pressure to the Ozeki to bring them back to the center, now chest to chest. Kagayaki then attacked, driving Goeido back and rotated for a throw, which failed. Driving forward, Kagayaki tried to disrupt Goeido’s defense with a nodowa, but Goeido deftly realized his opponent was horribly balanced, rotated and applied an uwatenage for the win.

Nagoya Day 9 Preview

Endo Day 8

Abbreviated preview tonight, as I am recovering from a chanko nabe coma. For those of you following on twitter, it was my best batch ever, and it is only due to my iron constitution that I did not succumb to the overwhelming urge to nap it off.

If we let ourselves think about the leaderboard, and how the yusho race will progress, one handy trick is to consider what record is needed to win the cup. Let’s say its 12-3. If we do that, any rikishi with only 3 losses today could mathematically take home the hardware. When you look at it that way, this race is wide open, and could be one of the most thrilling in a long time. Of course to get to that broad field, wide open barnyard brawl in the final weekend, we need Mitakeumi, Endo and Asanoyama to suffer a few losses. I am sure the scheduling team has matters well in hand.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – Endo, Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Tochiozan, Chiyotairyu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – Are you thinking it? Yes, it’s a perfect time for a henka. Ishiura is 0-3 against Asanoyama, and Ishiura needs the wins.

Tochiozan vs Meisei – this first time meeting features hapless Meisei going up against a man who could conceivably challenge for the cup. I think we know how this is going to end.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko needs to get his sumo in gear if he wants to stay in Makuuchi. I think that even if he gets the punt back to Juryo, he will be a top division mainstay by 2019. The guy is solid, just having a tough time with all of the heavies at the bottom of the banzuke for Nagoya.

Hokutofuji vs Onosho – Onosho has been showing some new dimensions to his sumo the past 3 days, and I think Hokutofuji is in for a few surprises. Onosho holds the advantages of low center of gravity and speed.

Nishikigi vs Daieisho – Both men come in 4-4, and their career record is 4-4. How could the schedulers resist? Who wins? Who cares! This is what sumo is for! (4)

Takarafuji vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu lost a tough set to Endo on day 8, and he would likely want to get back into a winning rhythm, so it’s going to be Takarafuji who gets to try and contain him. Myogiryu leads their career series 10-4

Kyokutaisei vs Chiyotairyu – A loss today and Kyokutaisei is make-koshi. The Hokkaido man is really struggling in Nagoya, and Chiyotairyu is a tough opponent when he’s hot. Sadly for Chiyotairyu he was cold Day 8.

Endo vs Yutakayama – You have to know they are saving the big Endo matches for later in the week. But Yutakayama has been looking fairly genki this tournament. Yutakayama is moving well, and his increased bulk seems to be working for him at long last.

Yoshikaze vs Takakeisho – The battle of ultimate sadness. Whatever plagues Yoshikaze, it’s really grim.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – a pair of highly mobile oshi-zumo men are squaring off in a match that will be full of action. I am keen to see if Abi tries something new, and how much effort he has to put into chasing Chiyonokuni around.

Ikioi vs Kotoshogiku – Ikioi’s strong attacks up the middle vs Kotoshogiku trying to go chest to chest and bump out the big man from Osaka. Ikioi will need to strike early to keep Kotoshogiku getting a grip.

Shodai vs Shohozan – Color me surprised that Shodai holds a 7-3 career lead over Shohozan. I am going to guess that one or both of these guys are going to be joining the make-koshi ranks very soon. Especially for Shodai, he really needs to regroup, as he is (mentally) rattled at this point. His sumo has become vague and hesitant.

Daishomaru vs Mitakeumi – I am not looking for Daishomaru to hand Mitakeumi his first loss. The guy can smell double digits clearly, and I am sure that’s the next stop on his road through Nagoya. If Mitakeumi hits 10 or above, the talk of the town will be their hopes for him to join the Ozeki ranks. As noted prior to the basho in a post that got many people upset, Mitakeumi is very consistent. Sadly his level of consistency is below what is needed to rise above Sekiwake. But anyone can evolve and improve.

Ichinojo vs Kaisei – In what is possibly the ultimate stress test for the strength of the Nagoya dohyo, a half ton of rikishi will mount the clay and face off in combat. I give the advantage to Kaisei, even though he trails the career series 2-8. Ichinojo is out of sync, out of step and just plain off right now. After a string of excellent tournaments, this is a sad setback.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two used to face off in Sekiwake battles all the time, and Tamawashi had a habit of spanking Takayasu. Takayasu had a good match on day 8 against a new opponent who was probably in awe of the Ozeki. This is not the case with Tamawashi, who is more than capable of giving Takayasu a strong contest.

Goeido vs Kagayaki – unlike the day 8 match that was always going to be strongly favoring Takayasu, Kagayaki might be able to hold his own against Goeido. If Goeido tries to get clever, he could find himself in trouble with Kagayaki’s ability to shift to low and strong. Speed favors Goeido, strength favors Kagayaki. Word to the Ozeki – take him down quickly.

Nagoya Day 8 Highlights

Nagoya Day 8 Banner

I admit, I have become addicted to the 2 hour NHK broadcast of Makuuchi. As more of the top level men have dropped out of this basho, NHK has been forced to find things to fill the air time these matches would have occupied. They have had lengthy discussions with sumo elders and former stars. Today they have a highlight show of the Wakanohana / Takanohana era. This was about the time I first began to seriously try to follow sumo, and it was really fantastic to see this retrospective. It’s interesting to compare that time to the present day, many of the good rivalries of even the recent past have been dismantled due to rikishi aging out and losing their edge. Rest assured, new and potent rivalries will spring up before too many more seasons have passed. As we have already seen there is a steady parade of outstanding younger talent that are making it to the top division. However much we lament a tournament like Nagoya where so many kanban rikishi are absent, this is part of the process of “changing the guard”.

In the present day, the facilities crew at Dolphins Arena in Nagoya have their hands full. The heat in central Japan has been lingering in the upper range of normal, which during this time of year can top 100° F. The venue for the Nagoya basho is an older building, and it’s thermal systems are failing to handle this load. Fans get hot, the rikishi get even hotter, and for those competitors who are not overly genki, the heat further saps their performance. There is hope for the future, as Dolphins Arena will be undergoing serious renovations starting later this year, and that may require a different venue for 2019’s Nagoya basho.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – Tochiozan has not looked this genki in perhaps a couple of years. His match against Hokutofuji on day 8 was a grand example of the catalog of sumo moves that Tochiozan can deploy. This battle when on for good length of time, and it was clear that Tochiozan was working to stalemate Hokutofuji. Watch how efficient Tochiozan is during this match. Hokutofuji is flailing away for advantage, and he is getting it. But Tochiozan is calmly keeping him from winning. Of course the pays off as Tochiozan catches Hokutofuji close, pinned in and off balance, and gets to unleash the seldom seen makiotoshi.

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Meisei continues to struggle. Sadanoumi went in with a plan, and executed well. Meisei got inside at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi’s outside grip was well placed, and he immediately raised Meisei by the left elbow. With Meisei off balance, Sadanoumi lunged to the inside and applied a series of thrusts to center-mass. Well executed oshi-zumo today from Sadanoumi.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – A sharp, short unsatisfying match that ended with a near-immediate hatakikomi.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – Asanoyama remains on the leaderboard, and does it with excellent sumo. The big Bulgarian was unable to enforce his desire to keep this as an oshi-match, and Asanoyama was able to drive inside and bring it chest to chest. Asanoyama left hand latched hard to Aoiyama’s mawashi, it was now Asanoyama who called the tune. Aoiyama was really unable to offer much resistance and went out with little struggle.

Onosho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi really only offered a forearm blast at the tachiai, and Onosho pushed through that and got inside and pushed hard. That was all it took. Onosho now seems to be in his groove, and he is a dangerous opponent this far down the banzuke.

Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Nishikigi looked sluggish today, but it was enough to dispatch Takarafuji. The critical element seem to have been Nishikigi’s early morozashi, which Takarafuji did not seem to have a good plan to counter. I have to assume that the oppressive heat must have been effecting them both, as there was not a lot of vigor in this match.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – A bout so nice, they did it twice! The first match was Myogiryu from the tachiai, but as he went to drive Endo out, Endo pivoted and they dropped into the front row. The monoii was inconclusive, and torinaoshi was called. For bout 1, that was an amazing rescue move by Endo. Second bout – Endo launches too early, and its matta time. By now the crowd is really wound up. Second tachiai, and Endo is low, really low. Myogiryu decides it’s time to go chest to chest, but Endo’s mawashi is loose, and Endo has a very strong left hand inside, deep grip. Pressing Myogiryu into his body, Endo walks Myogiryu out. Great pair of matches. Endo’s skill really shines today.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Increasingly plump Yutakayama forcefully ejects Chiyotairyu from the group of chasers with a masterfully concocted tsukidashi. Outstanding example of center-mass oshi, as Yutakayama takes the initiative after a brief clash just after the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu has no space to counter attack or mount any kind of defensive footing.

Daishomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei had the better tachiai, but Daishomaru quickly got the better rhythm going and overpowered Kyokutaisei. Sadly Kyokutaisei still only has 1 win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze make-koshi with zero wins. His fans (including me) are worried about what is plaguing the former berserker.

Ikioi defeats Abi – Abi’s always going to open with a two arm thrust to the shoulders of his opponents. Everyone knows that. So rikishi like Ikioi aim center mass, and knock him back, and get him out of any offensive stance. Abi, it was a good recipe for a while, let’s see you make something new.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – If you are a fan of nodawa, this is your match. Tamawashi spends most of the bout with his left hand at Shodai’s throat. Shodai overcomes a couple of times and tries to counter attack, but Tamawashi was in control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Shohozan has taken such a beating in week 1 that it seems his sumo is totally disrupted. For reasons no one can determine, he decided to go chest to chest against Kotoshogiku at the tachiai. Of course Kotoshogiku is like an excited 5 year old now, and is belly pushing Shohozan around like a shopping cart. Great match if you are a Kotoshogiku fan.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has been really impacted by the heat, but I doubt that can explain his total lack of offensive action during the first week of the tournament. Takakeisho spent the first part of the match confounding Ichinojo, delivering rapid thrusts to his upper body. To me this looked like a variation of his “wave action” tsuppari, and it was getting Ichinojo very anxious. Not sure what to do next, Ichinojo stands at the shikri-sen and tries to deflect the incoming thrusts. Takakeisho decides to try something else, and goes chest to chest for a moment. Ichinojo changes gears and starts grabbing for Takakeisho’s mawashi. Now forward and unbalanced, Takakeisho pulls him down. Masterful confuse / disrupt battle plan from Takakeisho.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Home town rikishi Mitakeumi is kachi-koshi, and sole leader of the Nagoya basho. This was always going to be a match where Chiyonokuni worked to apply is run-and-gun sumo, and he was on form today. Outstanding tachiai, which saw Chiyonokuni able to come in beneath Mitakeumi and raise him up, Chiyonokuni’s immediate attempt at a slap down nearly worked, too. But Mitakeumi recovered instantly and rallied, driving Chiyonokuni to the northwest corner and out of the ring.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Sadly, we did not get the much wished for Kaisei henka, which experts believe would be much akin to a mountain range dodging a lava flow. That being said, Kaisei nearly had him, except for a rescue move at the edge of the tawara that put Kaisei to the clay first. Goeido needs 3 more wins to clear kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki absorbed Takayasu’s strong tachiai, but then both of them struggled for grip. This was always going to favor Takayasu’ superior strength. Then Takayasu decided to try some sumo, and got a left hand outside grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi, then rotated him to the bales. A right hand to the throat to raise Kagayaki up, and a strong left hand shove against his chest and the match was over.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

Day 8 Dohyo Iri

Can you believe we are at the middle day of the Nagoya basho? Welcome to nakabi! (The name for the middle day of the tournament). Nagoya has been brutal to the upper ranks, and as of day 8, there is only a 25% participation rate, down from the 40% participation rate of Natsu, and that’s even with adding a new Ozeki! With 4 of the Yokozuna / Ozeki (or maybe Yokozeki?) corps out of action, it’s almost certain the yusho winner will be someone who has never received the Emperor’s Cup before.

After day 7, there are 4 rikishi with 0 or 1 loss. Mitakeumi is alone at the head of the pack, and both Maegashira 6 rikishi trail him with 1 loss apiece. Joining the 1 loss group is Asanoyama all the way back at Maegashira 13 West. Both Ozeki are nursing 2 or 3 losses, and are likely focusing on the safety of kachi-koshi first and foremost. But having reached the middle day, the bias of the torikumi will change. Had much of the joi survived, the upper ranks would focus on fighting each other, having consumed their appetizers and warm ups of the top ranked Maegashira. But with the upper ranks mostly sitting out, the entire final week’s schedule has all of the grace and structure of a 40 car pileup in the fog.

With us reaching nakabi, it’s time for the leaderboard!

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – Endo, Chiyotairyu, Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Kaisei, Myogiryu, Tochiozan, Hokutofuji

8 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kotoeko vs Ryuden – Both of these men can deliver fairly strong sumo, but both of them are now clearly in the danger zone. Their career records tie them at 1-1.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Both of these men are the “hottest” streaks at in the bottom third of the banzuke, coming in at 5-2. But of course the schedulers want to make sure that one of them eats dirt and the yusho race narrows still further. Although Hokutofuji leads their career series 2-1, I give a clear edge to Tochiozan who seems to have gotten back into his sumo.

Sadanoumi vs Meisei – Two more in the danger zone. With a number of strong performers in Juryo as of the middle day, its possible we could see a formula for a mighty churn between the two divisions for Aki.

Ishiura vs Arawashi – There is only one way this match should go: Double Henka.

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – Reports from Japan state that Aoiyama may have injured his hand as he feel forward following the Ishiura henka on Day 7. Asanoyama does have a formula for beating the massive Bulgarian, and has done so twice. But given how Nagoya is going, maybe Aoiyama goes kyujo as well.

Okinoumi vs Onosho – I think Onosho is starting to really get his rhythm, and we may see him disrupt and overpower Okinoumi on day 8. Okinoumi’s sumo is always very efficient, and he clearly enters each match with a few plans to try. But if Onosho uses the “hybrid sumo” he unleashed on day 7, he will be tough to beat. Onosho won their only prior match.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is really fading right now, and going up against Takarafuji may not help. He is 0-3 against the man with no neck.

Endo vs Myogiryu – This is a big match for a number of reasons. Their career record is 3-3, but Endo has won the last 2. Both are fighting well this tournament, and Endo really wants to remain 1 loss behind the leader, as chances are someone will put dirt on Mitakeumi. Endo’s sumo has been excellent in Nagoya, so this match could be the highlight of the day.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – When his sumo is in harmony, Chiyotairyu is tough to beat unless you can stay upright and in the ring for more than 10 seconds. That is likely Yutakayama’s game plan. If he can absorb the cannon ball tachiai, he just have to stalemate him until Chiyotairyu starts to run out of gas. Good luck Yutakayama!

Daishomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is 2 losses away from make-koshi, and he desperately needs wins. He holds a 3-0 career advantage over Daishomaru, so maybe he has a chance.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – A loss today and my favorite rikishi goes make-koshi.

Ikioi vs Abi – On day 7, Abi tried to tackle a freight train. Hopefully he was able to put himself back together, as his day 8 match has more potential for good sumo. Ikioi is a tough fighter who will likely not fall for Abi’s “go high” opening gambit. I would look for Ikioi to focus center mass and remove much of Abi’s mobility. This is their first career match.

Tamawashi vs Shodai – Shodai gets discouraged, and then his sumo goes soft and stale. I would guess given the beating he took week one that he might be feeling a little down. Sadly Tamawashi probably did not bake him any cookies, so he will have to settle for piping hot tsuppari straight from the oven.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Both Komusubi have taken a right proper beating this tournament, as is typically the case. Now Shohozan starts fighting down the banzuke, and he has a chance to get the 7 wins in 8 days needed to maintain his rank. Kotoshogiku is moving well, but seems to lack about 5%-10% of the power needed to win.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho likes to confound Ichinojo, run him amok and push him out with his two hand thrusts. Ichinojo has been hit or miss, and mostly miss so far.

Chiyonokuni vs Mitakeumi – Chiyonokuni has never beaten Mitakeumi in 7 attempts. But this guy is a giant-killer when he can get his sumo to click. Mitakeumi has been impressively patient and well orchestrated in his sumo thus far. But the chaos of Chiyonokuni may disrupt him and find him in trouble.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Good chance that Goeido will get lost in this match. His blistering speed will be blunted by Kaisei’s overwhelming bulk. When faced with complex sumo problems, Goeido frequently resorts to pulling, which frequently spell his doom. +100 points if Kaisei henkas Goeido.

Kagayaki vs Takayasu – I expect Takayasu will tenderize Kagayaki before slicing him thin and serving him shabu-shabu style with sweet chili paste. As much as I love Kagayaki’s school of sumo, there comes a time when a giant hairy man moving at speed cannot be overcome by technical means. This is their first ever match.

Nagoya Day 7 Highlights

Mitakeumi Day 8

Delayed but not denied! It’s time to go through highlights of day 7 of what has become a brutal basho. As noted overnight, shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin has withdrawn from the basho with damage to the big toe of his right foot. He will be out of action for the remainder of the basho according to doctor’s orders. That leaves us with the the kadoban twins at the top now. But even then, Goeido’s escape from peril seems uncertain.

There were reports in the Japanese press that the air conditioning in Dolphins Stadium in Nagoya is either broken or not up to the task of cooling the venue in the heat, which reached 100° F / 38° C today. The Nagoya basho is famous for being a swampy affair, but Japan seems to be getting a period of intense heat. So much so, the rikishi are not going to be walking in via the front door, as there is a risk to fans standing in the hot sun to cheer them as they arrive.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Kotoeko – Hokutofuji seems to have finally dialed in his sumo, and is executing well. Today’s match against Kotoeko was a great example of his brand of sumo, and Kotoeko was never able to set up any kind of response.

Asanoyama defeats Meisei – Asanoyama has been holding in the mid to lower Maegashira ranks for several tournaments, and he may be ready to take a step up the banzuke. His sumo has been very strong this tournament, and his match against Meisei was one-sided. Asanoyama got his left hand outside grip at the tachiai, and went to work.

Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Tochiozan establishes morozashi almost at once, and proceeds to call the tune. Ryuden throws some great counter moves, but Tochiozan’s staccato hopping keep Ryuden from setting up counter attacks.

Ishiura defeats Aoiyama – Today’s comic relief is brought to you by Ishiura’s henka. Sadly Aoiyama went pretty hard into the tachiai, and almost made it past the tawara with his own momentum.

Arawashi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi opened strong but seems to be fading a bit as we get into the middle of the basho. Part of the problem was the near-matta at the tachiai left Nishikigi a half step behind. But he stuck with it and got morozashi on Arawashi, but could not put it to good use.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – The bounce back from Chiyomaru’s belly at that tachiai nearly puts Sadanoumi on his backside before the match can really start. But Sadanoumi keeps his mind sharp and gets a shallow left / deep right grip and removes Chiyomaru from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Yutakayama – I had to watch this match a couple of times, because Onosho does some wild stuff. Not Ura wild, but a bit of “what did he just do?”. I would call Onosho’s sumo today “hybrid”. It flowed rather smoothly from Oshi to Yotzu and back to Oshi. Yutakayama was always a moment behind trying to do something to adjust. Nicely done Onosho!

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – The kami in Chiyotairyu’s sideburns is really doing his job now. His sumo was strong, fast and unpredictable. I like where Chiyotairyu is headed.

Endo defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei can’t seem to buy a win. Endo takes his time and keeps Kyokutaisei moving around in a generally rearward direction, until Kyokutaisei loses balance and steps over the bales. Endo made it look quite easy. He, schedulers! Give this man some tougher opponents.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t want to talk about it. Whatever is plaguing Yoshikaze is breaking my heart.

Kagayaki defeats Takarafuji – As predicted, a lot of great sumo fundamentals on display here, and they both worked hard for the finish. It came down to Kagayaki getting the better grip at the tachiai, and try has he might, Takarafuji could not find a way to change it up enough to reverse the tide of the match.

Kaisei defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni attempted to battle him head-on. In doing so he was putting so much of his on body forward of his point of balance it was easy for Kaisei to move aside and lead Issac Newton decide the match.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – Tamawashi seems to have come into this match with the intent of winning by hatakikomi. He kept trying it until it worked. Shohozan stayed highly mobile, and it was only a matter of Tamawashi finding a moment when he was off balance.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi endures then shuts down Kotoshogiku’s signature attack. When Kotoshogiku stops pushing, Mitakeumi lifts him, Tochinoshin style, and moves him to the tawara. Mitakeumi’s the man to beat now. Some great sumo from him in the first half of Nagoya.

Ichinojo defeats Ikioi – The real Ichinojo mounted the Nagoya dohyo today, and his fans were glad to see him. Ichinojo landed a deep left hand outside grip at the tachiai, and absorbed Ikioi’s energetic pushes with all of the mass and immobility you would expect from a boulder. After his initial gambit failed, Ikioi decided to try and wear Ichinojo out. For whatever reason, Ichinojo kept backing Ikioi up, and deftly resisting Ikioi’s repeated efforts to change his grip. The match ended with Ichinojo lowering his hips and advancing strongly. Good sumo from the Boulder today!

Shodai fusen-sho over Tochinoshin – Shodai is likely glad for the shiroboshi.

Takayasu defeats Abi – I knock Takayasu for his tachiai style. But in the case of fighting a chaotic rikishi like Abi, the best approach is to just blow him away in the first moments of the match. Takayasu lauched into the tachiai, grabbed a chunk of crimson mawashi and sprinted like a man who had eaten prunes for lunch.

Takakeisho defeats Goeido – Sadly Goeido suffered a kernel panic, and in the process of trying to hit the reset button with his right hand, knocked Goeido to the clay. Seriously, Goeido is in trouble. He’s king of the surviving upper san’yaku and he gets turfed by a Maegashira 3. Granted that Maegashira 3 is the incredibly aggressive Takakeisho. Check out that pile of kensho!

Nagoya Day 6 Highlights

Nagoay Day 6

We open act two with the crazy dial set to extreme, and everything turned on its head. It’s likely that the Nagoya basho is going to be the most brutal tournament in a while, with everyone’s favorites for the yusho ending up in puzzling places in the final yusho arasoi. Let’s break it down.

Yokozuna Kakuryu – Announced he was kyuju at the start of day 6. To Tachiai readers who have been able to keep up with the information firehose, this comes as no surprise, as we had noted that his body mechanics and his sumo were telegraphing that he was injured. Thanks to Herouth, we now know it was an injury to his elbow.

Ozeki Tochinoshin – Following Day 6 action, it was announced that the shin-Ozeki and pride of Georgia had suffered a strain to his right knee. That is the knee that is always mummified on the dohyo, and is perpetually threatening to send him to the barber. His fall to the lower ranks and struggle to climb to Ozeki revolves around earlier damage to that knee. I am going to guess they are going to take no chances with it.

Ozeki Takayasu – He strained his left elbow on day 5, and seemed to really be impacted by it on day 7. He is 4 wins away from the safety of kachi-koshi, and is the second highest man on the banzuke. I am going to guess he will gamberize.

Where this one is going now is anyone’s guess, but suddenly Mitakeumi and Endo are the ones to watch. But before anyone things this is the end of sumo, I will say I think we have 2 new Ozeki and 2 new Yokozuna in the upper division today. They just have to work out who they are, and the old guard needs to fade a bit more for it to happen.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura starts with submarine sumo, and Meisei doing his best to fold him in half for easier recycling. Although Meisei seems to have the better position, Ishiura is comfortable folded in half, and battles with the conviction of angry origami. Realizing that origamikiri is not going to win, Meisei starts trying to raise Ishiura up. Hell, that’s not working either. The harder Meisei attacks, the more Ishiura folds himself up. It’s Jinki-zumo on full display! Everyone out of the water now! But Meisei knows the best way to defeat a turtle is to roll him on his back, and that is what he proceeds to do. Wonderful match. Hey, Ishiura – MORE Jinki-zumo please!

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – As mentioned in the preview, there are basically the same rikishi 5 years apart. It was no surprise that the match featured an extended chest-to-chest stalemate at the shikiri-sen. As a wise man once said, “Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything!”. Multiple times they both tried to defeat the other with more or less mirror image sumo. But eventually age won out and Ryuden had to settle for the kuroboshi.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Another highly symmetrical fight, but Asanoyama is a bit more genki, and was able to dispatch his elder with an uwatedashinage.

Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – Watch that tachiai! Hokutofuji goes Ukiyo-e with a classic left hand at center mass, right hand at the chin of Sadanoumi. Nearly perfect mechanics to that attack, and Sadanoumi was on defense, and it was all responding to Hokutofuji’s sumo. Maybe Hokutofuji’s ring-rust has been scrubbed clean now, and we are going to see some of his rather excellent sumo.

Arawashi defeats Kotoeko – Notable that Arawashi finally has his first win of the tournament. It was short, direct and over in a hurry.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Ok, that’s more like it. Onosho launches into the tachiai, goes chest to chest with Chiyomaru and pushes with conviction. It’s over fast and Onosho looks like he’s found some of his sumo once more.

Kyokutaisei defeats Nishikigi – Hokkaido man Kyokutaisei gets his first win of the basho at last, converting Nishikigi’s attempt at a throw into his own sukuinage.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma put forth the effort, but this was Takarafuji’s style of sumo. The two were chest to chest early, and Takarafuji seems to have a lot of endurance, and absorbed everything Chiyoshoma tried, and tried again. When Chiyoshoma began to wear down, Takarafuji went deep with a left hand inside / right hand outside and advanced into a spread-leg uwatenage.

Yutakayama defeats Daieisho – Oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi… OUT! Yutakayama extends his winning streak over Daieisho. Yutakayama seems to be getting the hang of his bulkier form.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I see Yoshikaze going to the barber soon.

Endo defeats Kaisei – With Kaisei’s mass, if you get him falling backward, he does keep falling for a while. I am sure the ladies swooned as Endo kindly gave a hand to help haul the giant back upright. Keep an eye on Endo, with the top end of the banzuke in tatters, he smells opportunity.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki – An excellent bout from Chiyotairyu. He has correctly identified that Kagayaki gets worried when going up against a large opponent, and will juice his tachiai. This leaves him unbalanced for a moment following the collision, and susceptible to being turned, dislodged and generally run amok.

Ikioi defeats Shohozan – After a matta, Shohozan was a bit slow at the tachiai the second try. Ikioi got close and kept one hand pushing against Shohozan at all times. Classic Ikioi winning sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – The Kyushu bulldozer is NOT intimidated by this boulder. Ichinojo works hard to keep Kotoshogiku from squaring his hips and starting his preferred attack. What impressed me about the early portion of this match was how low Ichinojo was for a part of it. I am quite sure this kept Kotoshogiku busier than he expected. Kotoshogiku loaded a throw, but had nowhere near the leverage needed to rotate the Mongolian giant. With Kotoshogiku dangerously off balance, Ichinojo advanced strongly but lost his grip on his opponent. Then he seemed to just give up.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – The Mitakeumi fan club was on hand to watch the undefeated Sekiwake take full advantage of Shodai’s weak tachiai, landing a shallow left hand grip immediately, and swinging Shodai to the side. With his balanced ruined, Shodai was easy to move to the west side and dump him over the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takakeisho has thus far looked very disorganized, his sumo was uncoordinated, reactive and lacked his usually aggressive edge. That was gone today as he overpowered Takayasu and blasted him from the dohyo. Takayasu started with that ridiculous and pointless shoulder-blast, which Takakeisho absorbed, waited for the Ozeki to recoil, and gave him a wave-action tsuppari. This rocked Takayasu to his heels, and Takakeisho blasted forward. Takayasu was little more than clumsy dead-weight today. Delighted we had genuine Takakeisho sumo today.

Goeido defeats Abi – Goeido came off the shikiri-sen low and fast, and Abi, to his credit, attempted to counter. But the Ozeki contained, restrained, and applied the uwatenage.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tough match for Tochinoshin. He opened oshi-style, but it was not getting him any advantage. He then tried for a pull, which left him high. Of course Tamawashi sensed the pull coming, and grabbed the Ozeki center mass and pushed forward. Tochinoshin recognizes he is in trouble and circles away. But now he is hideously off balance, and he has handed control of the match to Tamawashi. Tochinoshin reaches for Tamawashi’s belt, but his feet are set at an odd angle, and he is still off balance. Tamawashi plays this perfectly and rolls the Ozeki forward and over for a clean kotenage. I think that Tochinoshin’s attempt to lunge for a grip with his feet not set was the moment he put his injured right at jeopardy. Hopefully he can get it addressed.

Nagoya Day 5 Highlights

Abi-Head

As a result of today’s action, we have to wonder about Kakuryu, and if he may have injured himself along the way to the end of act 1. He has given off two kinboshi in two days, and both times it was while trying to pull an opponent down in reverse gear. In the past this has correlated very well to Kakuryu having problems with his lower back or his drive train, and it could well be true now.

Having a portion of Nagoya go to a “Nokazuna” status would not be a tragedy, or even more than a footnote. But it once again underscores that the current crop of Yokozuna are all over 30 years old, and their bodies are banged up thanks to a lifetime of competition in a physical sport. Fans should be warned that we are in the middle of a large scale transition in the top division. Many of the “Stars” of Makuuchi are reaching the end of their careers. The team at Tachiai had expected a wave of retirements earlier this year, and we expect that there are quite a few fence sitters who are waiting for some larger event (Kisenosato retiring?) to decide their time to bow out and exit the stage has come.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – Ishiura had a plan, and executed well. Thank you for an excellent reminder that you have excellent sumo skills, and can win when you apply them. Ryuden gave him quite the fight, but could not prevail.

Kotoeko defeats Meisei – Another great battle that ended when Meisei started a throw, but Kotoeko finished it. Meisei starting to look like he’s headed back to Juryo.

Tochiozan defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi opened strong, but Tochiozan rallied and had control of the match shortly after the tachiai.

Hokutofuji defeats Arawashi – Arawashi can’t seem to buy a win, and today was no exception. Hokutofuji jumped early on their first attempt, resulting in a matta. The second saw Arawashi apply a solid nodawa, but then go for a pull, which only resulted in his own defeat launching backward from the dohyo.

Aoiyama defeats Onosho – Onosho was only able to generate any offense for the briefest moment, and it did not seem to really slow down Aoiyama’s overwhelming attack. Onosho needs to regroup, as he’s in a bit of a losing streak now. Aoiyama’s extra shove once Onosho was already out seemed gratuitous.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – After a matta, the two launch into a tachiai that leaves them chest to chest, and there they stay for a moment. Myogiryu, after seeming to think it through, executes an underarm throw which rolls Nishikigi across the dohyo. A simple bout, but a near textbook shitatedashinage.

Chiyomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Sadly, Kyokutaisei starts Nagoya 0-5 as Chiyomaru finishes him with a somewhat flabby yorikiri. I am going to assume that Kyokutaisei is probably hurt.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – To my eye, Chiyoshoma won the tachiai, and established clear advantage early in the match, but as Yutakayama started a shoving match, Chiyoshoma focused on trying to land massive round-house blows to Yutakayama’s face. This single targeting ignored Yutakayama’s center-mass, and Chiyoshoma was driven from the ring.

Chiyotairyu defeats Daieisho – Chiyotairyu shows us excellent form for an oshi fighter. Note how he focuses his thrusts against Daieisho’s chest and shoulders. A solid win, with the sideburns of Chiyotairyu leading the way.

Takarafuji defeats Daishomaru – Takarafuji seems to have found his sumo, and is fighting well. Daishomaru throws half the menu at him, and Takarafuji absorbs it with stability. Once Daishomaru starts to fade, Takarafuji advances and finishes the match with a win.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Endo was lower at the tachiai, and Kagayaki got his preferred inside spot, but Endo forced him high. Thus he could only push against Endo’s face, while Endo was able to respond closer to center mass. Endo reaches for a right hand inside grip, and gets to work. Kagayaki masterfully broke Endo’s grip, but now chest to chest, there is no way for Kagayaki to stop Endo’s advance. Some really solid sumo today from these two.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – The sadness that is Yoshikaze sumo for Nagoya 2018 continues.

Tamawashi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho looks unfocused and unaggressive. He was able to move Tamawashi back, but in the process lost his balance and Tamawashi tipped him over with a single, one-arm shove. I think at least one of the tadpoles is going to be in the top ranks of sumo in the year to come, but the two younger ones need to settle into their sumo, and overcome their injuries.

Mitakeumi defeats Shohozan – Meanwhile, Mitakeumi as grand tadpole (Ōkato / 大蝌蚪) appears to be king of this puddle. Shohozan focused on slapping Mitakeumi’s face, meanwhile Mitakeumi focuses on applying massive force to Shohozan’s body. Don’t blink or you will miss it. Mitakeumi finishes act one 5-0, tied with Tochinoshin for the lead.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Ichinojo shows some signs of life after a 3 day break. Shodai nearly bounces off Ichinojo at the tachiai, and persistently tries to get a hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi. The Boulder is having none of it, and blocks Shodai’s every attempt. Good to see Ichinojo not go soft and give up today.

Goeido defeats Chiyonokuni – I am relieved that Goeido was able to boot up in 2.1 mode today. Chiyonokuni rose from the tachiai to find Goeido latched onto him, and Chiyonokuni was never able to get any offense started. When Goeido is running well, this is how he operates. You don’t get a chance to attack because the match is already over.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin did a great job of forcing Kotoshogiku to shift his weight from foot to foot every few seconds. This stopped the hug-n-chug while Tochinoshin set up his mawashi grip. Try as he might, Kotoshogiku continued to block his left hand. So Tochinoshin worked with what he had, which was a deep right hand grip and the strength of a bear that has the strength of two bears. The look of overwhelming exertion on Kotoshogiku’s face tells the story as Tochinoshin gives him a belly bump at the tawara for good measure, and finishes him.

Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi launched with surprising force into Takayasu at the tachiai, and the Ozeki found himself struggling to block Ikioi’s right hand. Takayasu broke contact, and the match shifted to oshi, with Takayasu struggling to maintain pressure. As Ikioi moved forward, Takayasu pulled him down. Somewhere in the process, the Ozeki seems to have hurt his left elbow, I am guessing in that struggle to block Ikioi’s attempt to land a right hand outside grip.

Abi defeats Kakuryu – The lone surviving Yokozuna gives up his second kinboshi in 2 days. Abi, of course, attack with his double arm thrusts high against Kakuryu’s body. As is Kakuryu’s style, he works to stalemate Abi and disrupt his sumo. For a time it works, and Abi retreats. But Abi summons his fighting spirit with his heels at the edge, and catches the Yokozuna trying to pull, and make Kakuryu pay for his mistake. Abi advances and drives the Yokozuna from the ring. For the second day the cushions fly.

Nagoya Day 5 Preview

Mitakeumi Fan Club

Thus the first act comes to a close. We have lost a Yokozuna, and that dramatically changes the nature of the basho. We have only 2 rikishi who come into day 5 with no losses: Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi, followed by a huge crowd with 3 wins. We also have 3 unfortunate rikishi with no wins: Yoshikaze, Kyokutaisei and Arawashi. Given the goal of the first act, determine who is hot and who is not, I think we have a pretty clear indication that this basho is going to come down to a massive lateral brawl going into the middle weekend. This makes for great sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Ishiura vs Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have gotten his sumo under control, and is fighting well now. I might also say that Ishiura can still save himself from a return trip to Juryo, but he needs to stop rolling the dice with the henkas.

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Two veterans coming head to head with 3-1 records, with an 11-13 career record. Could this be a closer match up? Both are fighting fairly well this basho, so there could be some fine sumo during this match.

Hokutofuji vs Arawashi – Arawashi has zero wins, but I get the impression that he may take down Hokutofuji on day 5. Hokutofuji has been all over the map this tournament, and I think his sumo is out of control because his body is still injured.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – The man-mountain against the tadpole. Onosho seems to be struggling right now, after cleaning up handily in Juryo in May. Given the fact that he was demoted due to surgery on his knee, Tachiai dearly hopes that it was sufficiently healed for top division combat.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – What have they been putting in Nishikigi’s chanko? I have had a fondness for him since he proved he would work hard to excel. Did he finally find a way to higher performance? He and Myogiryu are both 3-1 going into day 5, and Myogiryu has been fighting very well. Seriously looking forward to this match.

Chiyomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is eager for his first win, and I dearly hope he can pick it up before act 1 closes. Chiyomaru seems really off right now, and I am going to assume that the heat plus his enormous mass are causing him more than a couple of challenges.

Daieisho vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu blasted Endo to bits on day 4, and he holds a 7-1 advantage over Daieisho. Its a fact that his sideburns are currently over 9000, so maybe it’s going to be a hard exit for Daieisho.

Endo vs Kagayaki – Interest galore for this one. Endo had no counter for Chiyotairyu, and today he faces Kagayaki. It’s easy to underestimate Kagayaki, but he has beaten Endo 4 times to Endo’s 2. I am looking for a wide stance and a center mass thrusting attack from Kagayaki.

Tamawashi vs Takakeisho – Tamawashi is due to start winning matches, and he may have a good chance today against Takakeisho. Takakeisho is still a fierce opponent, but he has been looking 10% less than his normal intensity. We did see one quick blast of the “Wave Action” on day 3, but so far he has kept his most lethal attack in the bag. Takakeisho, all of your fans want to see you blast someone past the shimpan. Please fire when ready.

Shohozan vs Mitakeumi – Career record tie between 4 and 4, with Shohozan coming in with only 1 win, and Mitakeumi with 4. I do think there is a good chance we will see “Big Guns” put dirt on Mitakeumi today. Shohozan has a lot of pent up sumo he needs to resolve.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – Oh good lord, where to start with this one. The Shodai of May is away. Ichinojo of lore is here no more. It’s going to be a bit of a waltz for at least a few moments, and it comes down to which one gives up and goes soft first.

Goeido vs Chiyonokuni – Goeido, you better watch your ass. Goeido is teetering on mathematical peril in his struggle to escape kadoban, and Chiyonokuni already has one Ozeki scalp. Chiyonokuni seems to have caught the energy of the winds of change blowing through sumo. If he hits his mark, there could be a place for him in the upper ranks for a while.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – A critical match here, as Kotoshogiku has a workable formula for defeating Tochinoshin. However as our astute readers have noted, Tochinoshin has departed dramatically from his formulaic approach to sumo for the first 4 days of this basho. Given Kotoshogiku’s 24-8 career lead over Tochinoshin, it’s high time for the shin-Ozeki to bring a new set of moves to this match.

Ikioi vs Takayasu – It took less than 4 seconds for Ikioi to get Kakuryu flying backward on day 4. Given Takayasu’s chaotic sumo, he is ripe for a pasting from an experienced, strong rikishi who may not fight as expected. Please, Takayasu, bring your sumo back.

Kakuryu vs Abi – I am pretty sure Kakuryu got distracted on day 4. I am going to guess with Hakuho out, he knows that his path to a 3rd consecutive yusho is now easier, and he needs every win. So I expect him to keep Abi dancing and light on his feet, making him easy to launch into the zabuton.