Natsu Day 12 Highlights

No commentary this morning, straight to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Tokushoryu – Takagenji looked solid today in his 11th win of the tournament, using a combination of oshi and yotzu techniques to shut down Tokushoryu. Takagenji is running away with Juryo yusho, and will make his Makuuchi debut in July.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Yago – Yago was controlling this match until he tried to pull Terutsuyoshi down by the neck. Given the size difference and how the mechanics would work, a pull down against a much shorter opponent was foolish. Bad habits I suppose.

Sadanoumi defeats Shohozan – When Sadanoumi can get into his offense immediately at the tachiai, he tends to win. Shohozan knew he had trouble, and tried to pivot into a throw, but could not follow through.

Daishoho defeats Kagayaki – I am not sure what is plaguing Kagayaki, but he’s running the risk of resetting to Juryo. Daishoho had him beat in foot placement, body placement and grip. Daishoho is one win away from a kachi-koshi.

Onosho defeats Enho – Enho took Onosho on face to face, and found that while Onosho may over-commit, when you are in front of him, that can work to his advantage.

Chiyomaru defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze inching closer to his first make-koshi (it’s ok, everyone gets them in the top division). Chiyomaru keeps Tomozake in front of him, and keeps his thrusting attack running well.

Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Look at Shodai’s stance as Tochiozan is working on pulling him down, that is some solid sumo foot work. Tochiozan decided he was going to try to pull Shodai down twice, each time giving up about ⅓ of the dohyo, and he found himself at the bales, off balance and in trouble. Shodai had the sumo sense to give him enough of a shove to send him out. Shodai is now kachi-koshi.

Yoshikaze defeats Ishiura – I like Yoshikaze’s tachiai in this match, he stands up kind of slowly, keeping his eye on Ishiura the whole time. Ishiura seems to lose whatever battle plan he might have, and Yoshikaze slaps him around for his troubles.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi picks up make-koshi, after getting Myogiryu in the double arm lock that Nishikigi prefers. Twice Nishikigi tried to pivot into a throw, but Myogiryu was just too stable to get rolled.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoeko – I again call readers attention to Okinoumi’s foot work. Foot placement is the primary sumo defense mechanism, and Okinoumi’s foot movement is quiet, controlled and deliberate compared to Kotoeko jumping about.

Tamawashi defeats Asanoyama – We knew this was coming, Tamawashi drives inside and keeps thrusting against center-mass. Asanoyama’s got excellent defensive foot placement, but there is just too much power behind Tamawashi’s sumo, and Asanoyama goes back, back, and out. Tamawashi is kachi-koshi while Asanoyama gives up sole possession of yusho race leadership.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s attempt to pull early in the match opened the door and Endo walked right through, getting inside, then a left hand inside, then morozashi. Hokutofuji gave it his all, but Endo had is “good” sumo on today.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s canon-ball tachiai seemed to only have half power today, and Kotoshogiku took the hit and got his double inside grip. Advancing, he did not engage the hug-n-chug, but rather loaded a tsukiotoshi, and rolled Chiyotairyu to the clay. Kotoshogiku’s experience may carry him to 7 or 8 wins in the final days, when some others are running out of focus or stamina.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Mitakeumi swithces back to the burgundy mawashi after a bad run in the burt orange one, and his sumo has returned to a better form, too. Now one win from kachi-koshi and a likely return to Sekiwake.

Ichinojo defeats Aoiyama – A strength battle with a combined 400 kg or so on the dohyo. For us Americans, thats 900 pounds of rikishi battling it out. This quickly turned into a mawashi battle, and I am pleased to say that Aoiyama recused himself well, but there was just too much Ichinojo to move, to toss or to pull down. Great match today from the Boulder.

Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – Many fans expected Tochinoshin to pick up #10 today, but Meisei got Tochinoshin’s balance shifted to his heels at the tachiai, and just kept driving forward. The last 2 days we have not seen Tochinoshin generate much in the way of forward pressure, has he re-injured that foot?

Abi defeats Takayasu – Exact same recipe used against Tochinoshin on day 11, Abi uses Takayasu’s shoulder blast as the energy source to raise him up and slap him down. The look on Abi’s face when presented with that pile of kensho is priceless.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – As expected, Takarafuji gave a very technical, workman like match to Goeido, but Goeido did not lose his patience today, and masterfully controlled Takarafuji in nearly every facet of this match.

Kakuryu defeats Ryuden – After some crummy sumo day 11, we see some strong, powerful work from the Yokozuna today. That right hand grip is nearly perfect, and Kakuryu’s foot placement was exactly right. Not that Ryuden’s form was poor today, just that Kakuryu was excellent.

At the end of day 12, Kakuryu and Asanoyama share the lead in the yusho race with 10-2, with Tochinoshin one loss behind.

Natsu Day 12 Preview

After day 11, it’s going to be a crazy run to the finish. For the most part I expect it to be down to Kakuryu and Tochinoshin now, unless one of them gets (more) hurt. I think both Ozeki will make their 8, but it’s clear they are not at 100% this basho, and are just looking to survive. I would urge Takayasu to take special care with Abi today, he could very well surprise you.

Speaking of surprises, for reasons that we can never know, Ichinojo returns to the dohyo today. Already make-koshi, I am going to guess he is looking to soften the drop down the banzuke for July. I doubt his knee is any better, but as we have seen many times, a rikishi will return hoping a few more wins will help, and just cause himself more problems. He is, however, welcome fodder for the rotation through the top ranks.

Natsu Leaderboard

How’s this for novel – Asanoyama sits alone atop the leader board! I am quite sure they will find some opponent that will put dirt on him once or twice, but for a young guy like him, this is quite an event! With both Ozeki losing day 11, they fall off the pace and only Kotoeko remains 2 behind the leader.

Leader: Asanoyama
Chasers: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Hunt Group: Kotoeko

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Tokushoryu vs Takagenji – With Ichinojo back, the banzuke imbalance has returned, and we will see a visitor from Juryo. Today it’s the runaway yusho leader for Juryo, Takagenji. I am going to assume that Takagenji will make his Makuuchi debut on July, and we will see “Cab Forward” Tokushoryu back in Juryo.

Enho vs Onosho – Enho is still farming for #8, and this is going to be an interesting match for him. Onosho is big, round, and tends to move a lot. He has balance issues these days, so there is that to work with. But should Onosho be able to connect with his pushing attack, 99 kg is not going to take a lot of force to get headed skyward. First time ever match for these two.

Chiyomaru vs Tomokaze – Both men are at 5-6, and I have to think that the advantage is going to go to Tomokaze, mostly due to his better foot placement and balance. Chiyomaru will come out strong, slapping and swatting at Tomokaze. All Tomokaze has to do is stay upright and moving until Chiyomaru runs out of steam.

Shodai vs Tochiozan – Shodai going for kachi-koshi today against the veteran Tochiozan. Shodai showed a lot of endurance, balance and strength against Shohozan on day 11, and I would assume that Tochiozan will focus more on center-mass than Shohozan did.

Ishiura vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze is make koshi already, but I doubt he has given up, no matter how rough his sumo looks. Ishiura wants to be more mobile than his opponent, but Yoshikaze is typically excellent at move and strike sumo.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Both rikishi are 4-7, and the loser walks away make-koshi. Myogiryu comes directly from a kinboshi against Yokozuna Kakuryu, maybe he will bring some of that fighting spirit to this match.

Asanoyama vs Tamawashi – Yusho race front runner Asanoyama faces a master of oshi-zumo today, and chances of Asanoyama leaving the dohyo with win 11 are fairly slim. Should Tamawashi prevail, it would mark his kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Endo – Another “loser gets make-koshi” match between two rikishi with a lot of potential who could not seem to muster their winning form this basho. Endo holds a 4-2 career advantage, and I think that will carry on in day 12 action.

Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi finds himself 2 wins short of his 8th, with 4 matches left. I am sure he wants back in the Sekiwake slot, but his sumo has seemed a notch lower than some of his better performances in the past year.

Ichinojo vs Aoiyama – Clash of the Titans. All we need now is Russel Crowe to shout “Release the Kraken!”. This much mass in motion on the dohyo, I think the chances are high that one of these rikishi is going to get hurt. Ichinojo holds a 7-3 career advantage.

Meisei vs Tochinoshin – The Ozekiwake needs one more to resume his role at sumo’s second highest rank; can he take #10 from Meisei? It’s a first-time meeting between these two.

Abi vs Takayasu – Takayasu’s sumo is back in chaos mode, and that is good news for Abi. A Takayasu who tries to start a match with a bull-charge and a shoulder blast really works well for Abi-zumo. A win today would make it 8 for Takayasu.

Goeido vs Takarafuji – Goeido holds a 13-5 career advantage over Takarafuji, but where Takarafuji seems incredibly patient, Goeido seems to lose patience about 10 seconds into any match, and tries anything that comes to mind. Goeido will try to close the day on win 8 at the tachiai.

Ryuden vs Kakuryu – I do hope that the loss to Myogiryu re-focused the Yokozuna, and that we see him revert to his winning form. Ryuden’s sumo is certainly ascendant, but I have confidence that Kakuryu will be able to stalemate him for a time, find a mistake, and exploit it for the win.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

We all knew that with Hakuho out, it was going to get wild, and while there had been some fun days leading up to the start of act 3, the opening day of the final third of this basho decided to unleash the unexpected, and take this tournament into overdrive.

For starters, the Ozeki corps, including the Ozekiwake, ate clay today in matches that saw their opponents deliver better sumo than they could. Furthermore, Yokozuna Kakuryu paid the price for one of his “bad habits” by delivering a cherished kinboshi to Myogiryu, summoning the zabuton rain at the Kokugikan.

However, Asanoyama won, leaving the Maegashira 8 in sole possession of the lead at the end of day 11. I will state that this guy deserves at least a special prize. His sumo has been dead on since the start, and so far he is not showing any fade into week 2. Now the pressure of being the leader rather than the underdog may crack him as soon as tomorrow, but I think it’s an indication that Asanoyama is going to be one of the stars of sumo in the new era.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – Today Chiyomaru’s sumo was working, and he completely disrupted Kotoeko’s attempts to attack or evade.

Yago defeats Daishoho – A very evenly balanced shoving match that saw no clear advantage until Yago dropped his hips and put more travel in his oshi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochiozan – Terutsuyoshi’s effective submarine-tachiai allows him to lift Tochiozan by the mawashi and charge forward for a much needed win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki looks completely lost in this match. His oshi attacks are focused high, when he runs out of ideas he takes Chiyoshoma to his chest, and that is where he really shut down. I am going to guess that Kagayaki ends up deeply make-koshi.

Tomokaze defeats Enho – Some nice gymnastics out of Enho today, especially recovering his footing and balance after Tomokaze nearly pushes him into a seated position. I still assume Enho will hit kachi-koshi before Sunday.

Nishikigi defeats Tokushoryu – Once again, Tokushoryu’s cab-foward design causes him to have huge trouble slowing his forward momentum. Nishikigi uses this today with great effect.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – In the first “What the hell was that” moments, the shimpan call a monoii, and then completely confuse everyone, including themselves with their resulting narrative. They eventually called the match for Asanoyama, after explaining how Sadanoumi was the winner. From the replay, it’s clear Asanoyama had won the match, and they knew it too, but could not communicate it.

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Meisei gets lower, stays lower and pushes harder to take the match. Ishiura still has some work to do.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – The whole time, Shodai is far too high, but his feet stay stuck to the clay, and he wears Shohozan down, and then finishes him off. Good job Shodai!

Shimanoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze manages some offense today, but it’s only a fraction of what he is capable of, and Shimanoumi shoves him from the dohyo. Yoshikaze make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – There probably should have been a monoii on this one, but after the Asanoyama debacle, I am guessing the shimpan did not want to further confuse matters with a rambling, babbling explanation that left everyone puzzled and anxious.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – Solid Tamawashi sumo today that ends with a Chiyotairyu slippiotoshi. Tamawashi takes the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu is left struggling to keep his balance.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – When you watch this one, pay attention to Okinoumi’s feet. I love how they barely leave the clay. That’s excellent defensive sumo skill on ample display.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – After a matta, Kotoshogiku sets up his favorite hold and applies the hug-n-chug with great effect. Hokutofuji seems likely to end up make-koshi, and he needs to refine his sumo to effectively operate at this rank. I have confidence he will get there.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Endo gets mae-mitsu early, and has firm control of the match, Mitakeumi backs away and attempt to load a throw, but the pivot fails and leaves Endo behind him in control.

Abi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s triumphant 10th win is delayed as Abi employs his best Abi-zumo with devastating effect. It seems Tochinoshin ramped up the forward pressure the counter Abi’s expected double arm thrusts, and Abi turned that forward lean into the seed of the winning hatakikomi.

Ryuden defeats Goeido – Goeido got into trouble when Ryuden landed his right hand grip and used it to keep Goeido leading forward to compensate. This was not Goeido doing crappy sumo, this was Ryuden really doing fantastic sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Takayasu – Frankly some of the best sumo I have seen from Aoiyama in a year or so. He was low, he was relentless and he never let Takayasu really enact any offense.

Myogiryu defeats Kakuryu – Kakuryu gets stalemated, loses patience, decides to pull, and Myogiryu is waiting for it. Excellent planning and execution by Myogiryu, and I am sure Kakuryu is chiding himself for falling into his bad sumo.

Natsu Day 10 Preview

Myogiryu: “Then Takayasu said, pull my finger..”
Goeido: “No matter what, don’t pull Takayasu’s finger!”

We come to the end of act 2 now, and we have sorted the rikishi nicely into piles: the ones we know are doing well, the ones we know are doing poorly, and the third group who are struggling to stay afloat. For myself, I find the zero-sum game that is sumo quite fascinating. Every win comes at the expense of some other rikishi’s loss. When you have basho like Osaka, the devastation can be remarkable.

Launching into act 3, we are going to sort everyone into make and kachi koshi, and crown a tournament champion. With a broad front of 3 rikishi with 1 loss with 2 more just behind, there is a lot of competition left to play out this May. Starting on day 10, we will see a larger span of ranks in some matches, as the schedulers work to find pairs that keep the competition interesting and fair. Our worries about the 2 surviving Ozeki and the lone surviving Yokozuna seem to have been laid to rest, and we are all enjoying a re-energized Tochinoshin. I think that Team Pixie has really made a huge impression this basho, and I have to say that Enho may not be their captain, but he is certainly their heart. We are also watching Asanoyama have a great tournament, and we hope he can sustain this level of performance for the rest of the year.

Who has caught your eye this basho? Let us know in the comment section.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chasers: Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Shodai, Shohozan, Daishoho

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Chiyomaru vs Daishoho – Chiyomaru: a man of substance who has been mugged by elves a couple of days in a row. His record is in tatters, and I am sure he wonders how he finishes out with 8 wins now. Going up against Daishoho is not going to help. Daishoho is near the bottom of the banzuke for Natsu, but he’s fighting well and dominating his matches. The NHK-G showed the comically large soaking tub in the rikishi’s changing room – I encourage one of Chiyomaru’s tsukibeto to have that thing loaded and steaming hot for day 10.

Ishiura vs Sadanoumi – Ishiura has been able to conduct some good “Enho inspired” sumo the past few days, but he has taken his time to develop his attack before being able to close the deal. The issue with Sadanoumi is that he is a “fast mover” – his plan is on the dohyo and executing at fast forward speed. If Sadanoumi can keep Ishiura in front of him, it’s win #6 for the Sakaigawa man.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both of these rikishi are struggling to stay close to the line that takes them to a winning record, so the schedulers put them head to head. But Terutsuyoshi holds a 4-1 career advantage, and seems to be finally in touch with his sumo.

Chiyoshoma vs Yago – Chiyoshoma, clinging to the bottom left corner of the banzuke, desperately needs a win, but then again, so does Yago. Is it time for Chiyoshoma to bring out his henka paddle and start evading the tachiai?

Enho vs Tochiozan – Enho might get his 8th win today, but the challenge is that Tochiozan is not large enough that the submarine tachiai is going to phase him, not slow enough that the normal scampering pixie sumo is going to baffle him, nor inexperienced enough that he is going to worry if Enho puts his face into his navel. First time match between these two.

Kagayaki vs Tokushoryu – Loser of this match receives a brand new make-koshi, and a hearty invitation to regroup and come back in July with their normal top-division class sumo. Kagayaki has stayed true to his form, but has bungled nearly every match. Tokushoryu has forgotten his form, but done what he could with whatever sumo came to mind. Try again guys.

Kotoeko vs Onosho – Although Kotoeko is 5 ranks lower on the banzuke, I personally think he may take this one from Onosho this time. Kotoeko seems to have some of his best sumo going in some time, and Onosho is still struggling with what seems to be a persistent balance problem.

Shodai vs Asanoyama – Someone on the scheduling team is really pushing my buttons, as they pair Shodai with Asanoyama. I am looking for some solid cartoon sumo out of Shodai day 10, and depending on what Asanoyama was doing most Saturday mornings as a child, he may have no idea what happened to him. Shodai won their only prior match, after opening a box from Acme moments before walking down the hanamichi.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Meisei has this “Little Engine That Could” vibe going on right now, so I am sure he will do his utmost. Shohozan seems to have gotten his punk moves out of his system, and has settled own into some first rate sumo in the past few days. This might be a really exciting match.

Takarafuji vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze has a 3 match losing streak going, and all of the piano time he wants is not fixing his sumo. But Takarafuji won’t take any pity on the Oguruma man, as Takarafuji is going to always execute his plan, no matter who he’s facing.

Nishikigi vs Yoshikaze – I predict this will result in Yoshikaze getting his make-koshi. What has been plaguing him for the past several basho? He’s not telling. I just hope that he’s ok when this is all done.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has a real chance to be back in San’yaku, and maybe even back at Sekiwake. Myogiryu will have a very different opponent than his day 9 match with Takayasu – this one will be sharp, short and intense. There will be plenty of kinetic energy in play, Myogiryu will just need to make sure it’s working for him instead of Tamawashi.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both come in with 3-6 records, and are looking at the make-koshi line racing toward them. Only one of them will exit with a much needed win. These schedulers are being complete bastards, aren’t they?

Daieisho vs Kotoshogiku – I know I commented on lksumo’s day 5 storyline post that I liked Kotoshogiku for a possible San’yaku slot. Of course that was the cue for the Kyushu-Bulldozer to suffer a performance-robbing breakdown. Since then Kotoshogiku has been unable to produce much in the way of offense, and looking poor. If it’s any help, he has a 4-1 career advantage over Daieisho.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Much like that Hokutofuji/Chiyotairyu match, team “3-6” throws two more onto the dohyo for a beating, this time the rubbery man-mountain Aoiyama and the perpetually “almost genki” Endo. Aoiyama holds a 7-3 career advantage, and may just smack Endo around for a while before sending him a loss closer to that make-koshi-bound angry bouillabaisse stewing in that soaking tub near the shitaku-beya.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin got a day away from competition with the Takakeisho re-kyujo, so he comes to this match rested and ready. Sure, he’s going to try to to land the left hand outside, and engage the sky crane. We just want to see what Mitakeumi is going to do about it. I am sure Mitakeumi is well aware of the 7-3 Tochinoshin career advantage, and has no desire to make it 8-3.

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Did you know Ryuden (aka Shin-Ikioi) holds a 2-0 career lead over Takayasu? Sure, one of them is from Makushita in 2009, but this certainly removes some air of invincibility around the Ozeki. Takayasu seems to be working well enough that he can figure out a win on whatever terms evolve during the course of a match, so I think Ryuden has his hands full.

Goeido vs Okinoumi – You know what would go really well in the make-koshi hot tub? Some fresh Shimane Taimeishi! I am sure Okinoumi will give him a solid, but ultimately losing, fight. (The two have a long 25-bout history, which the Ozeki leads 19-6, though Okinoumi pulled off the upset the last time they met, in January. -lksumo)

Abi vs Kakuryu – These two have split their 2 prior matches, and I think Abi is due a win or two this week. I can see someone getting dirt on the Yokozuna at least one more time, and it may as well be a nice kinboshi.