Bruce’s Aki Basho Follow Up

Day 15
The Day 15 Group Cheering Like Mad For Takarafuji

Hello dear readers, I am back from Japan and the amazing action that concluded the Aki basho. I must thank the rest of Team Tachiai, including Herouth, lksumo, Liam, Pink Mawashi and Andy for the great coverage while I was in Tokyo. I will work to put together a trip report in hopes of helping others should they choose to travel to Tokyo to watch sumo live. It’s an experience I strongly recommend to any fan.

For fans who only recently started following sumo, the events of Aki 2018 may have been quite a thrilling surpise, as all of the top rikishi were competing, relatively on their sumo, and stayed in the competition for all 15 days. The result was an absolute make-koshi machine that butchered the ranks of many solid performers. Up until recently, this kind of basho was the norm, where the Yokozuna and Ozeki harvested win after win at the expense of the lower ranks of the joi-jin. As we are currently in a transition period, this kind of “strong” basho may not happen every time, but it was quite refreshing after an extended period of declining participation by the top two ranks.

Some short comments coming out of Aki

Hakuho – He is not what he once was, but it’s clear that he can still dominate every other man in sumo today. I am fairly certain we may not see anyone successfully bid to become Yokozuna as long as he remains active.

Kakuryu – Faded in week 2, but turned in a solid performance. If I had to guess he may have re-injured his hand. This also explains the odd ending to his day 15 match.

Kisenosato – He surprised me by getting his 10. The sumo fans in Tokyo adore this guy, and from what I understand some fans were in tears when he picked up his 8th win.

Goeido – Maybe he finally has his health under control, but he looked consistently good throughout the basho. I am delighted to see him in his best form, he’s kind of terrifying when he can do this.

Takayasu – For a man who started with performance limiting injuries, he gamberized his way to excellence.

Tochinoshin – I was really worried he was going to have to fight as an Ozekiwake at Kyushu. I think he has a lot of work to do to strengthen his injured feet.

Mitakeumi – He exited the basho with his kachi-koshi, but he was wholly unprepared for this basho. He consistently came up about 10% short, but it was enough to cost him the 2 wins he needed for an Ozeki bid. I am sure he will improve.

Ichinojo – The big Mongolian continues to be a puzzle. One day he is a teddy bear, the next an unstoppable force of nature.

Tamawashi – Solid, strong sumo, but totally obliterated. Everyone was taking his lunch money, daily. I expect him to be a terror in the mid-Maegashira for November.

Takakeisho – He matched Mitakeumi’s schedule, with nearly the same opponents. This guy is the real deal, and I expect him to be a san’yaku regular.

Ikioi – He had nothing to show for Aki until he blasted Mitakeumi off the dohyo. But is 3-12 record kicks him far down the banzuke

Kaisei – Sometimes being freaking huge can work as a sumo strategy.

As already noted in previous posts, there is going to be a mega-tsunami scale churn in the banzuke for Kyushu. If the top 6 are genki once more, it could be as high-energy and exciting as Aki turned out to be.

 

Day 10 Highlights

Takayasu Salt
Image courtesy of the Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Act two is in the record books, and the yusho race is down to three credible contenders. Entering into the final 3 days, the Ozeki and Yokozuna will face each other daily, and the level of competition will ratchet higher. It’s still possible that Aki will be won with an unbeaten 15-0 record, which would be a great mark to achieve during a year of tournaments plagued by injuries and absent rikishi.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – With no room for another loss, and his position in the top division at stake, Ishiura finds his sumo. Today’s match was some of his best, and one has to wonder where this has been for the past year.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – I swear, you can see Nishikigi get nervous as Yoshikaze pulls him to his chest, and Nishikigi realizes he is in contact with the Yoshikaze mystery rash. You know, if its all over your torso anyhow, why not use it to help win? Dekimono-kiri anyone? In better news, it does look like the rash is clearing up.

Takanosho defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi starts strong, but Takanosho rallies after he lands a nodowa. With his neck pinned back and his body too high, Sadanoumi can offer little defense as Takanosho drives forward and wins.

Kotoyuki defeats Kyokutaisei – Much to my surprise, Kotoyuki looked strong and forceful today, and did not go sailing into the zabuton. Instead he won over Kyokutaisei, who may have compounded his right knee injury.

Takanoiwa defeats Tochiozan – Takanoiwa reaches kachi-koshi on day 10, cementing his return to the top division after almost a year recovering from injury and battling his way back up the banzuke. Kimarite is listed as sotogake, for that leg trip he applied to Tochiozan at the tawara.

Kagayaki defeats Aoiyama – Kagayaki’s first ever win over the Bulgarian meat mountain. Clearly Aoiyama desperately needs some recovery time, and is now make-koshi.

Onosho defeats Daishomaru – A quick but effective hatakikomi, notable in that it’s only Onosho’s 3rd win of the tournament.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Myogiryu’s speed and intensity prevents Kotoshogiku from setting up any offensive sumo.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – After a blazing 7-0 start, Hokutofuji seems to have hit a wall, and is now on a three-match losing streak. Hokutofuji invested too much time trying to get his nodowa to pay off, all the while Asanoyama was moving forward and maneuvering Hokutofuji’s body into an increasingly perilous position.

Chiyonokuni defeats Shohozan – It was a given that these two would show a lot of action, and it did not disappoint. Repeatedly charging each other, it was more a game of bumper cars at first. The match ended before there could be any bloodshed when Shohozan lost his footing and stepped outside the bales.

Takarafuji defeats Abi – Takarafuji shows us how its done. He patiently absorbs Abi’s double arm thrusts, carefully deflecting part of each thrust and circling a step to his left each time. Forced to constantly adjust his stance, Abi’s rhythm is disrupted. Takarafuji reads this with great skill, finds an opening, and drives Abi out. Great tactics from Takarafuji today.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu picks up his make-koshi. The NHK team did not necessarily concur with the gyoji’s indication that Shodai had won the match, but none of the judges asked to review the gunbai.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Both rikishi fought with a lot of power, with Tamawashi finishing the match with a burst of strength that lifted and threw Ikioi from the dohyo. That was big!

Takakeisho defeats Yutakayama – Solid Takakeisho style oshi-zumo today, Yutakayama was powerless to mount any kind of useful defense. Why did he come back from kyujo again?

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin sores a much needed win against Kaisei, keeping the chances of him clearing kadoban plausible. The two were chest to chest from the start, and both men were trying to outmuscle the other. Both were able to lift each other, but struggled to do more than stand in the center of the dohyo, keeping their opponent at bay. Kaisei tired first, and Tochinoshin lifted him enough to carry him out. Tochinoshin’s magic number is now 2.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – The two Ozeki surprisingly decided to go chest to chest and fight it out yotsu-style. This seems to have been a smart move for Takayasu, as Goeido’s mobility did not factor into the match, and Takayasu was able to contain and control his fellow Ozeki. For fans of unusual winning moves, we got to see Takayasu apply a kainahineri, or a two handed twist down. This leaves Takayasu as the sole rikishi one loss behind the Yokozuna.

Kisenosato defeats Endo – As expected, Kisenosato picks up his kachi-koshi and completes his return to active sumo competition. A series of matta marred the match, and when they finally launched on the fourth attempt, Kisenosato charged forward ahead and took Endo out quickly. With win number 8, the pressure on Kisenosato subsides a bit. He can remain an active, competing Yokozuna, and work to improve his performance at Kyushu. The sumo world breathes a sigh of welcome relief.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – Glad to see Ichinojo actually put in an effort today. He had Hakuho working to keep the giant contained, and several times Ichinojo was able to generate good forward pressure. However, Hakuho remains undefeated and tied for the lead.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Points to Mitakeumi for a strong tachiai and backing the Yokozuna to the tawara, but Kakuryu rallies and hands Mitakeumi his 4th defeat. This likely puts his Ozeki bid on hold until Kyushu unless he can find a way to overcome both Kisenosato and Takayasu. Frankly, Mitakeumi is not looking genki enough to pull that one off, as stamina is starting to play a role in everyone’s sumo.

Aki Day 10 Preview

Hakuho Dohyo-iri

Act 2 comes to a close, and with a full roster of Yokozuna and Ozeki still competing every day, the carnage is back to pre 2017 levels. Kisenosato looks within range of his kachi-koshi today, Mitakeumi’s Ozeki run will hinge on winning every match from here to the end of the basho, and Tochinoshin is in a deep dark kadoban hole. As we did earlier, lets look at the joi-jin bloodbath. The combined record for all of the Komusubi to Maegashira 3 rikishi: 17 wins, 55 loses. That’s going to leave a mark!

Aki Leaderboard

The leaderboard continues to narrow, as the road to the yusho gets more challenging. So far the undefeated Yokozunas have control of their destiny.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Goeido, Takayasu, Ryuden
Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Hokutofuji, Takanoiwa

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Ryuden vs Ishiura – Make no mistake, Ryuden has been given the task to deliver the make-koshi doom to Ishiura, and relegate him back to Juryo. Given Ryuden is fighting well and already kachi-koshi, it’s not going to take him much effort to seal Ishiura’s fate.

Yoshikaze vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi has been trending towards going chest to chest and taking a grip on his opponent’s mawashi. But the Yoshikaze mystery body rash may give him a second thought. Their only prior match went to Yoshikaze.

Kotoyuki vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei draws the somewhat overly theatrical Kotoyuki for day 10. Both of them are in dire need of wins, with Kotoyuki much closer to the Juryo express than Kyokutaisei. I anticipate Kyokutaisei will be chased around the dohyo for a few seconds, then Kotoyuki will be launched into the crowd, even if he has to do it under his own power.

Takanoiwa vs Tochiozan – A win today would give Takanoiwa his kachi-koshi in his return to Makuuchi. After nearly a year on the road to battle back to the top division, it would be an interesting bookend to Harumafuji’s retirement at the end of the month.

Kagayaki vs Aoiyama – In 6 attempts, Kagayaki has never been able to defeat Aoiyama. But for Aki 2018, Aoiyama is hurt and only fighting at a fraction of his power. So the advantage today is clearly with Kagayaki. Aoiyama will try to keep Kagayaki at a preferred swatting distance, and Kagayaki will work to set up in much closer range.

Myogiryu vs Kotoshogiku – If Myogiryu can stay mobile, he has a chance of beating Kotoshogiku. But we know that Kotoshogiku tends to latch onto his opponent during the tachiai. Kotoshogiku will try to be inside to try to land a grip, and Myogiryu’s inclination will be to stay mobile, and that opens a narrow avenue for Kotoshogiku to seize control at the tachiai.

Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Both of these bright rising stars are working to regroup after losing their shares of the leaderboard. They are evenly matched, and I expect that they will throw fairly symmetrical sumo at each other. The “handshake tachiai” into a nodowa is not quite working for Hokutofuji in week 2, so hopefully he’s got another offensive gambit. If Asanoyama can constrain Hokutofuji’s sumo, he should be able to set the tempo and terms of the match.

Chiyonokuni vs Shohozan – We know that both of these men are looking forward to this match, as they probably want someone who they can pound the daylights out of. Both of them have had a rough time this basho, and probably have a lot of frustration to work out. Shohozan holds an 8-2 career advantage.

Takarafuji vs Abi – How many days out of Aki 15 can Abi-zumo actually work. We are keeping track, and so far it’s 5, plus 1 where he went for the mawashi. Takarafuji will try to get a hold of Abi and keep him from leaping around and using his double-hand oshi attack. Good luck with that.

Shodai vs Chiyotairyu – If Shodai can withstand the tachiai, he has a pretty good shot at winning another one. Chiyotairyu’s lateral motion is poor, and Shodai can use this to his advantage.

Tamawashi vs Ikioi – Both make-koshi, both having a rotten Aki basho. Both of them are strength-oshi rikishi, so I am looking for some high power, high mobility sumo.

Yutakayama vs Takakeisho – First time match up for these two, and it should be a good one. Yutakayama picked up his first win on day 9, and he’s back looking for a few shiroboshi to soften his fall down the banzuke. Yutakayama will bring strength and stamina to the match, where Takakeisho will bring speed an fury. Should be a good battle!

Kaisei vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin will continue his task to find 8 wins, and he may have an opportunity on day 10. Over the 16 career matches, Tochinoshin holds a 9-7 slight advantage. He needs this win, and I am going to guess he is willing to endure a lot of pain and possible injury to defeat the mighty Brazilian.

Goeido vs Takayasu – As we continue to rotate through the Ozeki matches, it’s time for speedy Goeido to take his sumo against the strong and chaotic Takayasu. Takayasu holds a 18-10 lead in the career series, but Goeido 2.2 seems to be increasingly effective executing his rapid, forceful sumo. This match may only take a moment, and it’s anyone’s guess who will prevail.

Kisenosato vs Endo – Endo is make-koshi, and clearly injured. So I am calling that Kisenosato will pick up his kachi-koshi today, and seal his successful return to sumo. We all know that “10” is a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, but no one is going to give a care about that. The Japanese sumo fans will have Kisenosato back, he will have successfully gotten a majority of wins, and he is free to improve and recover before Kyushu.

Ichinojo vs Hakuho – Hakuho is probably going to rack win #10, as Ichinojo is not fighting well. Regardless of whatever injuries “The Boss” might have, he’s still bringing some of the best sumo each day.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid hangs by a thread now, and Kakuryu holds the other end of that thread. Their career record is 4-3 in favor of Kakuryu, so it’s not a given that Big-K can score a win. But Mitakeumi cannot afford a single loss from here on out, and he is in the toughest part of the schedule. Every eye in sumo fandom will be locked to this match.

Aki Day 9 Highlights

Kisenosato - Tochinoshin Day 9
Image courtesy of the Sumo Association Twitter Feed

The basho is rushing towards the close of act two, and the damaged are being sorted from the survivors. Nowhere was that more clear than the final match of the day which  saw Kisenosato and Tochinoshin battle for a single white star that only one of them could claim.

From now to Senshuraku on Sunday, we will see the highest ranking rikishi battle daily, while the lower ranks face increasingly unusual pairings. Many rikishi will have double digit losses this tournament – the fully-staffed upper ranks guarantee it. So don’t worry if one of your favorites is doing poorly; they will have another chance at glory in November.

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Points to Okinoumi for defeating Yoshikaze without actually touching his rash covered torso. It was painfully obvious that Okinoumi wanted no contact with Yoshikaze’s mystery rash.

Takanoiwa defeats Kyokutaisei – I always wonder why these guys come back from kyujo. They were busted up enough to seek medical treatment, and it’s clear they don’t have the mojo to compete. Kyokutaisei is make-koshi, and I am sure he is going to try and pick up enough wins to keep himself in the top division.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki put up a solid fight today, but ends the match with his obligatory crowd-surfing run, which ends with him cuddling Daieisho. Kotoyuki’s sumo is not quite together enough for Makuuchi this basho, so it will be a long shot for him to stay in the top division for Kyushu.

Daieisho defeats Ishiura – Also on the express Juryo return voyage is Ishiura, who has not been able to win in spite of putting his back into his sumo. The man has talent, and is clearly driven to excel, but something is missing (besides a kachi-koshi).

Ryuden defeats Shohozan – Ryuden masterfully shuts down Shohozan’s mobility advantage, and traps him in a painful embrace. Unable to clear the hold and unleash his barrage of blows against Ryuden, Shohozan struggles to free his arms, as Ryuden makes him dance to his tune. Every time he nearly breaks free, Ryuden locks him up once more. Actually a fantastic display of a specific, narrow strategy executed with grim determination to great effect. Ryuden scores his 8th win, and looks to be on track for double digits.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – I am fairly certain that after the basho we may learn that Onosho’s knee is going to require further work. He simply cannot generate much forward pressure right now, and Takarafuji contains him and drives him from the ring. It’s important that Onosho get this thing healed up and working, as he has a lot of great sumo coming his way over the next few years.

Kagayaki defeats Hokutofuji – A bit of a surprise as Hokutofuji’s hot streak turns cold. It’s true that Kagayaki executed well, Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai / nodowa did not last more than a moment, and Kagayaki successfully landed a right hand inside, with his left setting up the arm-bar. From there he rotated and rolled into the kotenage for the win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama foolishly goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer and gets left in the ditch. The crowd loves to see him do it, and Asanoyama should have known better.

Abi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan could not pierce Abi’s “wall of tsuppari” to produce any meaningful offense. Abi advances to 6-3.

Shodai defeats Myogiryu – Back to weak tachiai from Shodai, but he is able to execute the kotenage while traveling in reverse. Myogiryu had higher intensity, but Shodai remained calm and executed.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama finally picks up his first win, after returning from kyujo. Chiyotairyu delivered his typical thunderous tachiai, but ceded the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama who used it to dominate Chiyotairyu and control the match.

Kaisei defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi lost this one at the tachiai, as he was beaten off the shikiri-sen by slow moving Kaisei. From there he was always reacting and could not quite generate any offense. This is Tamawashi’s 8th loss and he is now make-koshi and will almost certainly be out of the Komusubi spot next basho.

Ichinojo defeats Ikioi – Ichinojo decides to execute some sumo today, and easily tosses Ikioi aside for the win. Ikioi won the tachiai and pushed Ichinojo to the tawara. But rather than surrendering today, Ichinojo rallied and won. Ikioi’s win over Mitakeumi seems even more bizarre and worrying in this context.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni had command of the early portion of this match. He set the tone and tempo, and Takayasu was forced to follow. But yet again Chiyonokuni found himself stepping a foot out of the ring and losing. Somehow his typically good ring sense is gone, and his feet are costing him dearly needed wins. The disappointment on his face following the match betrays his frustration.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Excellent work today from Goeido. He endured a flurry of blows to get inside of Takakeisho, who could only get one wave of attack in before Goeido applied pressure center-mass and advanced. I declare Goeido 2.2 to be one of the better upgrades in a while.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – This match was entertaining because it featured a number of odd elements, including a lengthy pause in the middle with Hakuho nearly upright. In fact, he glanced across Mitakeumi’s back, taking stock of Mitakeumi’s body and leg position. Feigning a leg trip, Hakuho tap’s Mitakeumi’s calf, and breaks the deadlock, to Hakuho’s waiting attack. Ladies and Gentlemen, example 32 of dai-Yokozuna sumo. Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid is close to failure now, it seems.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo’s make-koshi bout was another example of Endo going through the motions in spite of some undisclosed injury that has left him in no condition to fight as a Maegashira 3.

Kisenosato defeats Tochinoshin – What I like to call a “Darwin” match, only one was going to survive, even though fans wanted them both to win. Kisenosato is now all but assured of a kachi-koshi as he faces Endo on day 10, and Tochinoshin is now in deep trouble in an attempt to clear kadoban. The big Georgian struggled to generate forward pressure, in spite of getting a favorable grip. Kisenosato was too high for most of the match, and it was alarming that Tochinoshin’s multiple attempts to throw the Yokozuna failed. Tochinoshin needs to find 3 more wins to reach safety.

Aki Day 9 Preview

Kisenosato day 8

The blinding hot forge that is the Aki basho is burning bright now. Three rikishi are cast into the fire, and it’s not certain that any of them will emerge with the outcome they seek. Many more are lined up to take their turn in the forge, and the basho is getting serious.

First and foremost, it’s gut check time for Yokozuna Kisenosato. With an Ozeki opponent, we think he is tired, and low on stamina. He faces a mandate to reach 8 wins before the end of the basho, and is entering the toughest part of his schedule. The past 3 days have been rough for Kisenosato, and there may be worse to come.

Tochinoshin needs to find 3 wins. Its clear he is quite a bit less than his normal amazing self, but he’s got to gamberize to his utmost. While we are sure that a fully healthy Tochinoshin could bust out 10 wins as an “Ozekiwake” in Kyushu, it would be a huge gamble that he could get his body ready.

Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid hangs by a thread. Dropping the match to Ikioi left him little room for what could be considered normal losses – to Hakuho and Kakuryu. But now he needs to reach deep and win no matter what. Perhaps this will motivate him as nothing else has. We suspect he is kind of a strange rikishi, as he does not train as hard as he competes.

In the midst of these story arcs unfolding, the scheduling team has begun to match opponents from further across the banzuke than the first week had seen. Today seems to be “first time” day, with many rikishi facing each other for their first match.

Aki Leaderboard

The leaderboard underwent a dramatic shift on day 8, with only the two Yokozuna remaining in the undefeated group. The road to the yusho will get steeper, and more difficult with each day.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Goeido, Takayasu, Hokutofuji, Ryuden
Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Takanoiwa ,Yoshikaze

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – Yoshikaze needs two more wins to lock in his kachi-koshi, but his day 9 opponent has a distinct advantage (11-8) over their career. Fans continue to wonder what that ugly looking rash covering his body could indicate, but none of the options are good. Okinoumi’s superior mass and reach will be his primary tools for shutting down Yoshikaze’s speed and maneuverability based attacks.

Takanoiwa vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei returns from kyujo, and shows up just in time for a first ever match with Takanoiwa. These returns mid-basho from kyujo seldom go well, and frequently compound an otherwise addressable injury. Kyokutaisei is probably not doing himself any favors.

Ishiura vs Daieisho – Watching Ishiura now is painful. We can almost know for certain he is returning to Juryo again, and it’s just a question of how bad his final score will be. Daieisho is not doing much better, but has a career 5-2 advantage over Ishiura.

Takanosho vs Daishomaru – A first time match, and it could be a good one. Daishomaru is in dire need of wins, and will take his oshi-sumo up the middle against Takanosho. Takanosho is keeping an even pace in his first ever top division tournament, and should be considered to have an edge in this match.

Shohozan vs Ryuden – Another first-ever match, it brings Maegashira 7 Shohozan against Maegashira 13 Ryuden. Let me guess, matta matta matta followed by somewhat questionable tachiai. Sorry, I think Ryuden has a lot of potential, but he needs to clean up his sumo. There is a good chance that Big Guns Shohozan just uses him as a speed bag for 20 seconds and then pitches him to the yobidashi.

Takarafuji vs Onosho – Normally I would say that Onosho would be the clear favorite, but not only is he missing his red mawashi, most of his sumo has gone walk-about as well. So lets see if Takarafuji can finally score his first win against Onosho.

Kagayaki vs Hokutofuji – I am sure Hokutofuji feels quite disappointed in his first loss, but his match today against Kagayaki could be a bit of a “gimme”, as he has a 5-0 advantage over him. I think getting his kachi-koshi might cheer him up quite a bit, yes! Kagayaki’s sumo, which is normally very organized, seems to be pieced together with all of the left over parts best recycled on clear glass day.

Kotoshogiku vs Asanoyama – A very interesting contest, with Asanoyama’s youthful vigor bringing a foil for Kotoshogiku’s guile and experience. Asanoyama is not afraid to go chest to chest, but we all know that Kotoshogiku will have the advantage in that case.

Tochiozan vs Abi – Abi’s sumo is, by its nature, an all or nothing affair most days. But during Aki it has been working for him thus far. Tochiozan will need to figure out how to get inside Abi’s long reach. Every rikishi that has done that so far in Aki has been able to beat him.

Shodai vs Myogiryu – Shodai’s win on day 8 over Takayasu was the kind of event that could turn his performance in this basho around. On day 9 he faces a very intense and focused Myogiryu, over whom he holds a 4-1 advantage. We are starting to see that Shodai’s improved tachiai is becoming a habit, and it’s a matter of time now before it pays off in higher performance.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama’s elbow is still damaged, so let’s bring him back, let the Yokozuna throw him around, then let an enormous fellow who uses his tachiai to help compact salarymen into morning commuter trains have a go. I just want Yutakayama’s left forearm to remain attached, please.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – It’s the 8-8 record between these two that caught my attention. Kaisei is at his best when he can land a grip, and Tamawashi prefers to remain mobile, and keep his opponent trying to react to his sumo. Tamawashi has strength and speed, Kaisei has Newton, Einstein and Hawking. If Tamawashi disappears in a blue flash and suddenly Kaisei looks somewhat more compact, the singularity in the giant belly button is to blame.

Ikioi vs Ichinojo – I give up. Ikioi, what happened on day 8? Was it because you wanted to give Kisenosato a clay sandwich in the worst way? Summon that Ikioi today as well please. We know that Ichinojo will likely put forth some effort and then decide to let you win.

Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu – Takayasu looked quite disappointed after Shodai took him apart on day 8. I am sure it gave Chiyonokuni a lot of hope about his day 9 challenge to the Ozeki. Chiyonokuni only needs a small gap in Takayasu’s offense to launch a blistering attack that could find the Ozeki disappointed again.

Goeido vs Takakeisho – I want to see Goeido the Executioner again on day 9. That guy is both awe inspiriting and terrifying. But Takakeisho can give as good as he will receive from Goeido. If Takakeisho can survive two wave cycles, I am sure that Goeido will get frustrated and impatient and try to pull him down. That will be his ticket to handing the Ozeki his second loss.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – The bright fire of Hakuho’s sumo threatens to consume Mitakeumi’s bid to be Ozeki. He has beaten Hakuho twice in their 8 prior matches, and its unknown just how solid the dai-Yokozuna is right now. This will be his toughest challenger to date. The stakes are huge, the drama high, and there is just the thinnest change that Mitakeumi might pull it off.

Kakuryu vs Endo – Endo is just going through the motions right now, and it’s ugly to witness.

Kisenosato vs Tochinoshin – The Aki crucible reaches it’s day 9 hottest, as it blasts two men who both must win. Their 10-9 history is meaningless here. Both are less than 100%, with Tochinoshin likely in better condition. The one saving grace for Kisenosato is that you can count on Tochinoshin to prefer a mawashi battle, and thus it will allow Kisenosato his best chance at defense. The match of day 9, possibly THE match of act 2.