Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of the basho. A reminder to fans around the world: NHK World Japan will be carrying the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live on their global streaming service. With Abema now a fading memory for many sumo fans, this is your ticket to live sumo action. So stay up, stay engaged and watch sumo!

The big news is that Ozeki Takakeisho is going to attempt to return to competition today. He went kyujo earlier in the tournament after day 4, when he strained his knee in a surprising yotsu match against Mitakeumi. Also on the hurt list is Kaisei, who seems to have suffered at least minor damage to his right arm in his loss to Ryuden. Word is he may go has gone kyujo from day 8 to give his arm a chance to recover.

Natsu Leaderboard

Time to dig into the yusho race for the Natsu basho. With only two undefeated rikishi on day 8, it may seem quite clear. But I am going to guess that someone gets dirt on both Kakuryu and Tochinoshin before Wednesday, and this one may come down to a closer race than it looks today.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser: Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Tochiozan, Enho, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyoshoma vs Daiamami – With Takakeisho returning, the imbalance in the torikumi returns, and we are once against having a daily Juryo visitor to the top division. Today it’s former Maku-man Daiamami, who does not seem to be on track to win back his top division slot this tournament. Chiyoshoma has never lost to him, either.

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi seemed to wake up in his day 7 match against Enho, and we do hope he can stay awake and fighting well. The two are fairly evenly matched, and I would expect that we may see Terutsuyoshi attempt more “stunt sumo” like that leg sweep he used day 7 that delighted everyone.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – The NHK announcers keep pointing out how Kotoeko has not had a kachi-koshi in the top division yet, which was interesting but is now a bit stale. He is moving well, fighting well now, and dominating many of his matches. With 5 wins, we are likely to see him break that run of make-koshi, and find his place in the top division. Tokushoryu on the other hand seems to not really have a handle on his sumo right now, which is a shame.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – The ultimate big vs small battle—Chiyomaru is 2x Enho’s mass. Think about that – it would take 2 Enho units to make 1 Chiyomaru unit. But that being said, we are all really interested to see what kind of pixie magic Enho unleashes to send Chiyomaru tumbling.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – There are plenty of comments that Ishura’s sumo has morphed closer to Enho’s – to which I say “Good!”. The fact that Ishiura has returned to actual aggressive sumo is nothing but a plus all around, and I hope it’s here to stay. Shimanoumi fans are starting to hope that he’s got his sumo back in shape, and can at least make a fair try at a winning record.

Shohozan vs Yago – Both of these men have oversized heads. It’s as simple as that. I think Yago’s head is larger, and it’s certainly more conical than most. Shohozan’s is large and blocky, and seems to be permanently configured to scowl. Maybe we should call it “Resting Shohozan Face”. I think Yago wants revenge for that Osaka Oshidashi, so he will need to be more mobile than he typically is, as Shohozan refuses to stand still most days.

Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – If Sadanoumi can get control in the first 5 seconds, he can limit Tochiozan’s sumo, which he must do in order to win. Tochiozan will, as always, play to stalemate and wait for an advantage to appear. The longer the match lasts, the better for Tochiozan.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – First time match between these two, and it’s got a lot of interest. The aspect is that both of them are very mobile, and tend to have good lateral motion. Tomokaze tends to employ it at the center of the dohyo, Shodai at the tawara.

Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has yet to defeat Meisei in their 3 prior matches. The good news is that Meisei tends to win by grabbing Onosho and pushing him around for a loss, rather than by taking advantage of Onosho’s natural forward 10% list. Perhaps he should consult a naval architect after the basho and see if they can adjust his ballast tanks.

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Fans worried that Asanoyama’s day 6 loss would put him off his focus can rest easy—he returned to excellent form, and that brings us to a great pairing against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is also in the habit of exercising excellent form, coupled with excellent combination moves. I predict they go chest to chest early, and it’s a medley of move and counter move until Asanoyama wins.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – The battle of the broken toys. We see Mr. Fundamentals struggling with just one win, and Yoshikaze looking like his better days are past. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that Kagayaki will take his second win today.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – Kaisei is kyujo to heal up his right arm, Myogiryu gets the fusen win.

Nishikigi vs Ryuden – Nishikigi has been breaking out that armlock and double armlock a lot this basho, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ryuden when he has to break free. Ryuden is on pace to bid for a nice banzuke slot for Nagoya.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Time for Chiyotairyu to rehabilitate his record, and where better to start than with Daieisho, against whom he holds a 9-1 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Abi – The brotherhood of the flailing arms is in attendance; let the ceremony begin! The only prior match it was all Abi, but I think we may see more from Hokutofuji this time.

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – The enigma that is Ichinojo continues to befuddle. He’s hot, he’s cold, he fights, he loses. His fans want him to get it together, but something prevents it.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Cue sky crane in 3… 2… 1…

Takakeisho vs Aoiyama – Why you crazy Ozeki? I get it, hold up the tradition of Ozeki, the whole gaman thing, but Japan needs you to not wreck your body just yet. Okay, well, Aoiyama only looks to be operating on one reactor right now. You might be okay. Just no more yotsu until you are healed up.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs to rack a few more wins before the “tough” part of his schedule, and we hope his 12-3 career edge over Okinoumi counts as an advantage in this match.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Probably the big match of the second half, although the returning Takakeisho will get the hype. These two are actually fairly evenly matched, and I am less sure today that Goeido is fighting hurt. I know Mitakeumi can smell a return to Sekiwake, and it would be great for him to go into his Nagoya with double-digit wins at Natsu.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Tamawashi’s run-and-gun sumo is not overly effective against Kakuryu’s reactive style. I think this one goes to Big-K and he stays unbeaten.

Natsu Day 7 Highlights

Sold Out/Sellout Banners at Kokugikan - Natsu 2019
The Natsu basho is sold out, and many of Tachiai’s friends make up the audience

As Bruce related, we’re happy that many Tachiai readers and friends of the site have descended on Ryogoku, especially this weekend, to join together and watch sumo. On a personal note, it has been great to see old friends and meet new friends, and I will be again in attendance Day 9. If you’re attending the basho as well, let us know!

Let’s get into the day’s action:

Quick Juryo Week 1 Update

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will have yet another top division debutant when the Nagoya basho rolls around. Takagenji quickly dismantled the promising Wakatakakage with a furious nodowa and tsuppari attack to move to 7-0 and retain sole lead of the yusho race, and close in on the last couple of wins to all but guarantee his promotion from Juryo 2. His brother Takanofuji also won down in Makushita to grab kachi-koshi and perhaps seal a quick return to Juryo, with the brothers a combined 11-0. Toyonoshima, now 6-1 following his straightforward win over Takanosho, also looks likely to make an instant return to makuuchi.

All but guaranteed not to make an instant return to the top division he occupied for so long is sumo mummy Ikioi, who scored a painful first victory which saw him collapsing in a heap off the side of the dohyo having narrowly pushed out Azumaryu. The gyoji’s call survived a monoii, which is probably more than could have been said about Isenoumi’s long time sekitori were a torinaoshi to have been called. The good news for Ikioi is that his sole victory almost certainly spares him the indignity of a (possible, small sample size caveats apply) demotion straight through the trap door to Makushita had he continued to draw a blank.

And now, for the top division, on a day that saw the legendary Kitanofuji again join the NHK commentary team…

Day 7 Matches

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – It’s a double henka! Just kidding. It’s just Ishiura that henkas, which he attempts to turn into an arm-bar throw that doesn’t quite come off. The match then develops into some submarine sumo with both men quite low on one side of the dohyo, with Ishiura landing the better left hand grip on Chiyoshoma’s somewhat loose mawashi. Eventually Chiyoshoma changes stance which prompts Ishiura to pull the winning shitatehineri. We’ve seen Ishiura do that a few times in the past and it’s one of his better winning moves.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – Here are two men who can’t even make one Ichinojo between them. Terutsuyoshi lands a strong right hand grip early on in this one, which Enho spends a second trying to work out how to break. Terutsuyoshi takes him on a mini Harumafuji style death spin before sweeping the Hakuho recruit straight down on his back, and it’s ruled a rare susoharai. Enho walks off the dohyo looking like he’s been buried in the beach, he’s 5-2 and Terutsuyoshi gets a much needed 3rd win.

Daishoho defeats Tokushoryu – With Nishikigi fighting Shodai, Daishoho got called up to the Kakuryu dohyo-iri so he must have been all kinds of excited to show off his brand of sumo today. It’s tough to say he needed to do it, as Tokushoryu moved him straight back from the tachiai, at which point he stepped to the side, gave a tug on the big Kise man’s shoulder and let gravity do the rest – hatakikomi. Daishoho takes the battle of the 2-3 men to move back to .500 on the basho.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko might be looking soon at his first top division kachi-koshi as he grabs a 5th win in a fairly unremarkable match. Sadanoumi starts by moving forward, but just can’t get a grip here. Kotoeko’s able to use a blend of mawashi work and finally, thrusting to win by oshi-dashi and deposit Sadanoumi in the lap of the shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s 90s Geocities website background green mawashi inspires perhaps a little trepidation. Shohozan pulls after a cagey tachiai before the two lock up in the centre of the dohyo, and yet again in this basho, Chiyomaru finds himself in a grappling match. Shohozan is a slapper but better in this position, and manages to get both hands all the way around the big man on the belt. That’s fairly incredible. The bigger issue is actually moving him, which Shohozan tries a couple times with no luck. Chiyomaru tries to shake off Shohozan, but can’t manage a throw, and Shohozan simply runs the roly poly Kokonoe rikishi out of real estate and corrals him across the dohyo to take the win. Weird sumo.

Onosho defeats Yago – After a matta, the two bounce off each other and exchange pulling attempts. Unfortunately for Yago, Onosho actually lands his and picks up a fairly quick win. He’s 4-3, and Yago is now 3-4.

Shimanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Shimanoumi moves forward well from the tachiai, survives a couple very weak throw attempts and and an even poorer pull attempt from Kagayaki, and wins easily by a light oshidashi. It’s a 3rd win for the new makuuchi man which helps get his kachi-koshi mission back on track, and for “Tactics” Kagayaki it’s a disastrous 6th loss in 7. Fans of obscure stats will find it curious that we could soon see an absence of single kanji shikona rikishi in the top division for the first time in many years, if he doesn’t turn his act around.

Tochiozan defeats Tomokaze – Even tachiai, but it’s another lesson in top division sumo for the promising Tomokaze as Tochiozan sees him leaning forward and puts a firm hand on the back of the Oguruma man’s head and hits the firm hatakikomi. Both men are still “in the black,” but it’s Tochiozan that grabs his 5th win today.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – It’s a slow motion tachiai as Shodai predictably stands up and it feels like Nishikigi is running for ages – even if it’s only 2 steps – until he makes contact with the Tokitsukaze man. Shodai implausibly moves forward well from this position, but does not land a belt grip and this is his key mistake, choosing instead to get in under the arms of Nishikigi. Moving backwards, Nishikigi pulls what is ruled a kotenage arm-lock throw that at first glance didn’t look massively different than a sukuinage.

Asanoyama defeats Yoshikaze – The violet shimekomi derby ends with a win for the man from Takasago-beya. Asanoyama rebounds from a loss and continues his strong tournament by taking control of the match after a fairly even tachiai. He attempts a grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s belt but only succeeds in untying it, but spares the fans an X-rated view by dispatching the Oguruma veteran with an oshidashi before the censors have to get involved. Asanoyama is up to 6-1 and very much still on the fringe of the yusho race for now.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Habitual line-stepper Ryuden seems a little off rhythm as it takes Kaisei ages to complete his pre-basho routine, so it’s no surprise when the matta addict commits another neutral zone infraction. He deploys an odd strategy here and allows Kaisei to take full control of proceedings, and his strategy is clearly to use the large Brazilian’s mass-inertia combination against him. At the very edge of the edge, Ryuden goes for the pull and very, very narrowly wins by hatakikomi as the two men crash into the crowd. Kaisei seems to have suffered a right arm injury as a result by Ryuden’s pull down, which was executed primarily with a pull of said arm after an initial tug on Kaisei’s head. Ryuden is 5-2 with Kaisei now 3-4, and it will be interesting to see what effect the injury may have on his attempts to get kachi-koshi from here.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei in some ways looks like a young Myogiryu. There’s an almighty blast at the tachiai in this battle of 2-4 rikishi, but it’s Meisei that keeps moving forward. Despite a last ditch pull attempt from Myogiryu, it’s a quick and straightforward oshidashi for Meisei as he grabs his 3rd win.

Okinoumi defeats Takarafuji – Most of this match is much of a muchness, with the largely defensive Takarafuji trying in vain to find the impetus against a stubborn Okinoumi. Neither man can really get a decent grip, but eventually the man from Shimane-ken manages to get the Aomori native Takarafuji high, and with Takarafuji’s center of gravity raised, Okinoumi simply pushes – almost tipping – him over for a much needed 2nd win.

Abi defeats Endo – This pretty-boy battle has a properly zen Kotoshogiku looking like he’s ready to fall asleep on the side of the dohyo before the match. Hopefully he opened his eyes because this was over in a flash. After a matta (courtesy of Abi), the yobidashi gets forced into quick action on the run with the chikara-mizu barrel as a listless Endo gets thrusted out at the back corner by a trademark Abi attack. 5 wins for Abi, 5 losses for Endo.

Mitakeumi defeats Aoiyama – This is all oshi all the way. My computer tried to autocorrect that to Oshiogawa. The funny thing is that maybe not unlike the former Takekaze, Aoiyama entered this match looking for a quick pull-down. However, he was unable to execute and subsequently a little late to the party when it came to finding the type of brutal tsuppari for which he is better known and which did for Tamawashi earlier in the basho. His mistake here was probably not sticking with his more established brand of sumo from the start. Mitakeumi took a couple hits but simply weathered the storm, kept his balance and positioning and footwork on point and shoved the bigger man out. Very composed stuff again from Mitakeumi, who moves to 5-2.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku enters this match with a 24-9 lifetime edge over his fellow former ozeki but very much the severe underdog. But that’s sumo. Tochinoshin’s right knee appears to have even more intense bandaging on it than usual. In a world starting to become dominated by pusher-thrusters, it’s refreshing to get two classic old fashioned belt guys to go at it, and they take it in turns.

Both land their favoured grips immediately – and Kotoshogiku loses his almost as quickly. Kotoshogiku gets a good run at the Georgian as he tries to get both arms inside, but just doesn’t have enough power in his gaburi-yori to finish the job. Kotoshogiku’s relative lightness on his feet is always his undoing, and that’s a perfect match for the power of Tochinoshin who as we know, loves to lift his opponents. As Kotoshogiku vaults up into the air, Tochinoshin pulls back on the throttle and launches his way across the dohyo. It’s 7-0 for the yusho challenger, who needs 3 from 8 to retake his rank and restore the Ozeki count to four for the first time since Kotoshogiku’s demotion.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – One way traffic, and it’s all the impressive Hokutofuji. The Hakkaku man has performed better than his record would indicate owing to a typically brutal week 1 schedule, but he easily gets the better of the enormous Mongolian Ichinojo at the tachiai. He lands his hands under Ichinojo’s armpits in an attempt to drive him back and keep him high, and apart from one desperation shove to the head by Ichinojo, two more shoves are all that’s in this match as Hokotofuji finishes the job quick smart. He’s up to 3 wins now and in with a shout of moving back up to san’yaku if he can finish the turnaround, while Ichinojo has 5 losses with a tough second week still to come and his rank very much at risk.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Both of these guys need a win, with Goeido needing it a little bit more after a rough couple of days and wanting to stay out of kadoban trouble following a good run over the last year. This isn’t particularly good sumo from Goeido, who tries in vain to get a grip, while Tamawashi tries to get Goeido to play into his style of thrusting sumo. Goeido seems to win this by as much sheer willpower as he has lost matches by earlier in the week – he fends off a couple brutal thrusts to the head and just manages to keep his offensive mindset and tendency active and engaged. He’s better on the front foot, and after an ugly series of thrusts, manages to get the oshidashi to move up to 4-3, with Tamawashi holding a mirror record.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – If there’s a better oicho-mage than Takayasu’s then I’ll drink a bottle of binzuke. Takayasu once again gets the worst of the tachiai. His tachiai is confused, disjointed and just plain weird, as he seems to be totally missing a plan of attack. I don’t know what he and Araiso have been plotting for the last month at keiko, but surely this couldn’t have been the battle plan. In today’s case, he can’t even deploy his shoulder blast before Daieisho has his hands all over the Ozeki. Both men trade nodowa attempts, but Takayasu’s experience tells as he simply side steps a thrust to find Daieisho off balance, and just needs a simple push to get the oshi-dashi win. With respect to Daieisho, against a stronger opponent with more experience of san’yaku opponents, Takayasu would have been in real trouble today.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I kind of love Chiyotairyu’s salt toss, as if he’s just absolutely disgusted with the pile of salt. We get a matta here, followed by an incredibly straightforward win for the Yokozuna, moving forward en route to a perfect 7-0 record. Chiyotairyu started a ways back from the shiriki-sen, as if to get a run up to launch his famous cannonball tachiai. But, it would be foolish to expect the Yokozuna wasn’t prepared for the Kokonoe man’s one trick, and landed a quick right hand outside grip on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi before he could even get into the match. With his left hand pushing on Chiyotairyu’s chest, he simply escorted the junior rikishi out in a motion akin to a lazy butsukari session. Easy.

Natsu Day 7 Preview

Are You Ready?

Fans around the world are ready to tuck in to a nearly endless buffet of sumo for the weekend, and readers of Tachiai are ready for more! I would like to give a shout out to some readers and friends of Tachiai who will be in the Kokugikan this very weekend, taking in live sumo in the flesh. No VPNs being blocked, no news highlight shows to step on the action – nothing but 10 or so glorious hours of sumo. So folks who are scanning the crowd during your favorite sumo show, look for friendly folks from around the world, wearing Tachiai T-Shirts, or maybe the long rumored bootleg “Wakaichiro Forever” shirts that seem to be in circulation.

Rumor has it we will see Takakeisho return on the middle Sunday of the tournament, just in time for the NHK World Japan’s live stream of the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi for the worldwide fans.

The big story is, of course, the yusho race. The view going into the middle weekend is that it will be between Tochinoshin and Yokozuna Kakuryu. Tochinoshin is pushing hard for 10 wins to take back his Ozeki rank, and right now he seems to be on track to hit that mark, needing only to win 4 of the remaining 9 matches. But it’s right to wonder if that enormous bear of a rikishi would ease up on the genki once he reaches his 10th, or is he going to take the fight all the way to the cup? From what we have seen thus far of Tochinoshin, he just may push it all the way to day 15. Kakuryu is another story. We expect to see defensive sumo from him for the duration of the basho. Tachiai assumes there is an undisclosed injury in effect in the Yokozuna’s body – his ankle or maybe his back – that has him limiting the amount of forward pressure he can generate. Contrast his day 6 match with that blast-off attack we saw day 1, and you can see what we are noticing. That being said, Kakuryu is a master of defensive / evasive sumo, and he just might be able to make it work for all 9 remaining matches. We wish him luck.

Who is waiting in the wings? Believe it or not, there are only 2 rikishi who have a single loss: Asanoyama and Enho! I would not give either a chance against a genki Tochinoshin or even an injured Kakuryu. But 9 days is a long time in sumo, and we will enjoy watching this one unfold.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura – Both of these henka connoisseurs have been fighting straight-forward sumo so far, and I love it. Ishiura’s day 6 match featured a chest to chest battle with plenty of misdirection and risky diversions, but it carried the day. Might really be some solid, action driven sumo to start the Makuuchi day.

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie Battle Royale! There’s magic in the air, and I think we might just see Tinkerbell show up to help referee this match, if we just believe! No, I won’t encourage people to clap, as that got Hakuho in hot water, but… for Tinkerbell? Seriously, Enho’s going to eat him alive. [Terutsuyoshi holds a 2-1 career edge. -lksumo]

Tokushoryu vs Daishoho – Tokushoryu has not looked certain about his attack plan as of late, and he’s going to get rolled by Daishoho if he can’t produce some offense early. Daishoho has been coming off the line very well, and as a bonus holds a 4-1 career advantage over the low-slung Tokushoryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – When Sadanoumi wins, he tends to do it by seizing the initiative early in the match, whereas Kotoeko has strength and mobility to wait for an opening and rally to great effect. Sadanoumi seemed to get back in his “fast to win” grove on day 6, and if we see it day 7, it may spell a welcome turnaround for his fortunes.

Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” Shohozan pulled one of his signature punk moves on day 6 against Nishikigi, so I hope he got that out of his system, because if you get Chiyomaru fired up, he may just fall on you. While everyone might laugh about that, consider the physics involved.

Yago vs Onosho – Yago has been focusing on hitakikomi for most of this basho, and he’s got a fine opportunity to continue that streak with Onosho as an opponent. Onosho has chronically been too far forward in his stance, and practically begs his opponents to swat him to the clay. Don’ get me wrong, I am an Onosho fan. But I suspect his surgery last year has made it tough for him to center his weight properly, and his sumo is suffering.

Kagayaki vs Shimanoumi – Mr Fundamentals needs something to prompt him to turn this basho around. With only one win, he is in a 3-way tie to the first make-koshi of Natsu. Not a fine distinction for a talented rikishi who has a lot of great, basic sumo to bring to the dohyo. If it’s any consolation, Shimanoumi has looked quite lost thus far, and while he may clean up in Juryo, he’s pants in Makuuchi. This is their first-ever match.

Tochiozan vs Tomokaze – Both rikishi have a 4-2 record, and are thus far beating the average. With any luck this will be a solid “learning match” for the youngster Tomokaze, as Tochiozan has a lot he could teach. This is another first time match.

Shodai vs Nishikigi – Sad news Nishikigi, Shodai is your day 7 opponent. This is sad news because Shodai holds a 4-1 career advantage over Nishikigi, who has had a hard time putting his sumo in gear. The biggest problem for Nishikigi is Shodai’s mobility, which prevents Nishikigi from clamping him down and pushing him out.

Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – We are working on the assumption that Yoshikaze is nursing some kind of injury that has left him unable to move with his normal blinding speed, and unable to produce forward pressure that is the foundation of his long successful sumo career. What he is left with is a mismatched collection of gambits that have thus far only squeezed out 2 wins. Asanoyama had an unbeaten record until day 6 when Onosho took him apart at the tachiai, and we hope this is not the start of any kind of losing streak.

Kaisei vs Ryuden – Kaisei is generally not prone to much in the way of lateral movement. With his current condition limiting that further, he should be a fairly workable target for Ryuden, who specializes in applying lateral force to his opponents. Ryuden also holds a 4-1 career advantage over Kaisei.

Myogiryu vs Meisei – Both rikishi at 2-4, both rikishi struggling this basho to find their groove, and stuck too many times responding to their opponents’ sumo.

Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – Two more solid technicians face off, and I am going to predict they keep the battle going for a while. Takarafuji especially likes to wait for an opening and then attack.

Endo vs Abi – Hopefully Endo was watching Takarafuji dismantle Abi on day 6, because it worked brilliantly. If so, we will get to see Endo shut down the obligatory Abi-zumo attack, and Endo’s obasan army across Japan will swoon.

Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has been looking very sharp off the shikiri-sen so far, and Aoiyama has looked, for lack of a better term, like he is suffering. Hay-fever? A cold? Not sure, but he’s down at least 2 notches in intensity. Mitakeumi seems to be working carefully to line up for Tochinoshin’s soon-to-be-vacated Sekiwake spot.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – If anyone can put a hole in Tochinoshin’s recovery run, its going to be Kotoshogiku. Tochinoshin will man-hug any rikishi, and Kotoshogiku has a special battle-cuddle ready to go. In fact, in the 33 prior matches between these two, its 24-9 in favor of the Kyushu Bulldozer. But I will footnote that by saying that Tochinoshin has won the last 4 meetings.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a lot of work to do to nominate himself for a return to San’yaku, which for him would be a simple majority of wins. The career record with Ichinojo shows them evenly matched, so this will come down to Ichinojo getting the high-intensity attack ready for the opening seconds of the match, and not letting Hokutofuji land his nodowa.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – While Tamawashi won’t be pushing for the cup this time, he seems to be in better form than he has been for a while, and we think Goeido’s ankle is back to being in poor shape. As a result, you can expect to see Goeido focusing less on a strong attack at the tachiai, and more on evading and waiting for a chance to slap or pull down his opponent.

Daieisho vs Takayasu – This should be an easy walk over win for Takayasu, but with the Ozeki’s sumo in the first week being as ragged has it has been, you have to consider Daieisho a legitimate threat. I am guessing Takayasu will attempt to take Daieisho off of his attack with an all-or-nothing shoulder blast at the tachiai. [Daieisho pulled off the upset when the two last met on day 3 in March. -lksumo]

Chiyotairyu vs Kakuryu – In 10 matches, Chiyotairyu has been unable to beat Kakuryu. As a master of evasive and reactive sumo, it’s tough to get him to stay put long enough to be on the receiving end of one of your buffalo stampede charges. So I think we won’t see dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna today.

Natsu Day 6 Highlights

Day 6 Sumo Really Was My Cup of Tea

Act 2 opened with some amazing technical sumo, and a lot of the level of skill fans hope to see in the top division. It seems fairly likely that both Kakuryu and Goeido are nursing their old injuries, as both of them have switched to lower intensity sumo. In fact both remaining Ozeki are at 3-3, and the prospect of a suite of kadoban Ozeki for the sweltering basho in Nagoya has made its ugly appearance. We already know that Takakeisho will be kadoban, but the assumption was that the rest of the Ozeki corps, with Hakuho and Takakeisho benched, would have an easy path to their 8. But in fact even Takayasu seems to be struggling with his joints, and we could see both remaining Ozeki struggle right up until the end of the tournament.

With day 6 in the record books, we are now looking squarely at the middle weekend of the basho. This is about the time it becomes reasonable to start seriously looking at the yusho race, and while the yusho contention roster looks clear today, if Kakuryu is hurt it could be a wide-open scramble for the cup. Stay tuned, as I don’t think that it’s going to be gentle, predictable or even obvious.

Highlight Matches

[All of them, frankly]

Daishoho defeats Kotoeko – Fantastic sumo from Daishoho who stuck his grip early and held on. Kotoeko tried any number of moves to get free, but could not shake Daishoho. The match ended with Kotoeko attempting to set up a throw, and Daishoho using the weight shift to drop Kotoeko to the clay.

Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu once again does not seem focused. He was (I think) looking for the henka, and stood straight up at the tachiai, and Chiyoshoma lunged forward, gaining a double inside grip immediately. Twice Tokushoryu loaded a throw with a hip pivot. The first time Chiyoshoma shut it down, the second time Chiyoshoma went over but landed last. Great sumo from Chiyoshoma.

Ishiura defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru may have also been anticipating a henka, and he minimized his forward motion at the tachiai, instead opting to put his hands out and break Ishiura’s approach. This left Chiyomaru’s body wide open, and like Chiyoshoma the match before, Ishiura went for a grip. Now a man of Ishiura’s dimensions could never get his arms around the oblate spheroid that is Chiyomaru, but the left hand digs deep and finds the mawashi knot. Ishiura ducks down and drives, seasoning the assault with a feint to the knee with his right hand that made Chiyomaru stand up and try to back away. Having gotten the big man to do the work, Ishiura just kept him moving and took the match. Great tactic, excellent execution.

Sadanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Sadanoumi had been looking slow for a few days, but today he was back to his winning form with a rapid attack at the tachiai that gave him a grip around Terutsuyoshi’s shoulders. Sadanoumi never relented and quickly took the smaller Terutsuyoshi out. Sadanoumi improves to 3-3.

Enho defeats Yago – Enho is, lets face it, on fire right now. This guy is operating at an energy level seldom seen, and fans are in love with this guy and his sumo. Enho starts the match without much of a tachiai, and focuses on keeping Yago back and flailing, a role Yago is happy to supply. Enho waits for his opportunity, then comes the familiar “duck and dive” as he latches into Yago’s belly, and suddenly Yago is not quite sure what to do. His only real grip is on Enho’s neck, and Enho is kicking at his shins while his right hand is latched to the front of Yago’s mawashi. Simply put, Yago is trapped. Enho spins and dives for the uwatehineri win.

Tochiozan defeats Shimanoumi – Tochiozan’s skill, technique and experience have really been on display this basho. His sumo has not been achingly strong or blindingly fast, just solid, good form. After back to back Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi needs to get his sumo in gear or forsake the top division.

Nishikigi defeats Shohozan – First match started with an all too common Shohozan matta / cheap shot to the face. This seems to have gotten Nishikigi fired up, because he gave Shohozan a good fight, but they touched down together and it was time for a torinaoshi. As with the first match, Nishikigi locked up Shohozan’s arms and used them as anchors to march him around, this time for the win.

Tomokaze defeats Kagayaki – A very simple match, Kagayaki was stood up by Tomokaze’s thrust to the chin, then slapped won. Kagayaki really needs wins at this point, he’s in a tough spot.

Onosho defeats Asanoyama – Onosho takes down the previously undefeated Asanoyama. Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and used it to dictate the terms of the match. Asanoyama was unable to set up any offense, and by the time he tried to defend, he was out of dohyo to work in.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to have no attack power right now. Injury? Poor health? Personal challenges? I could not say, but it’s tough to watch.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai put a lot of effort into the match, a lot of “hit and move” sumo, but Myogiryu kept his focus on center-mass, and that was what carried the day. Myogiryu really needed that win.

Ryuden defeats Meisei – I am continuing to be impressed by how consistently Ryuden is improving his sumo. Both rikishi go for left hand inside and deep grips, and get to work trying to overpower the other. Watch Ryuden’s feet, really outstanding placement, giving him the best possible foundation to move aggressively forward. His biggest challenge today was that Meisei’s legs are short enough that Ryuden could not drop his hips enough to make a difference. Meisie figures this out and pivots for a throw. Ryuden senses this and dismantles the move, with Meisei collapsing for the loss. A great match to watch on slow motion replay.

Takarafuji defeats Abi – Abi does what everyone knows he will do, but the technical skill and match-winning patience of Takarafuji lets him get underneath Abi’s arms, disrupts his attacks, and converts Abi’s advantage into his defeat. Great technical sumo from Takarafuji. Abi, always good to have a plan b.

Endo defeats Okinoumi – For technical sumo fans, this match was a delight. We always knew that these two were likely to pull out some of the less used recipes from the sumo cookbook, and they had a great time doing it. Okinoumi took the advantage first with a left hand inside grip, but getting there left him off balance and fairly far forward. Endo followed suit and got left hand inside and deep – the two were stalemated, but Okinoumi was still too far forward. After an attempt to raise Endo, Endo responded by a quick pull and drop, and Okinoumi hit the clay. Great example of an uwatedashinage.

Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is not typically this docile, so I am going to say “injury” for him too. His lone attempt at offense was a pulling move that only set him up for the oshidashi that followed. Thus begins the rehabilitation of Hokutofuji’s record.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – People knock Mitakeumi because he does not train like a maniac, and I think that’s why he has yet to make Ozeki, although it seems he is close to that level most basho. But check out this match against Kotoshogiku. Perfect tachiai from Mitakeumi gets him chest to chest with Kotoshogiku. For most rikishi, that’s a quick trip to the hug-n-chug express, but Mitakeumi shuts that down and keeps Kotoshogiku wigging like next-week’s bonito. Bagged and tagged, he keeps moving forward while lifting the former Ozeki. Great sumo from Mitakeumi today.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Everyone was looking forward to this match, I think even Ichinojo and Tochinoshin were keen to see how this one turned out. Simply put, it was brilliant stuff. Ichinojo put up a hell of a fight today, but Tochinoshin was not going to be denied. Yotsu – check, Lift and shift – check, Ichinojo fighting vigorously – check. One for the highlight reels. Tochinoshin moves to 6-0. Watch out.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – I think both remaining Ozeki are hurt, and are struggling to find a way to make it through this tournament with 8 wins. Takayasu tries his shoulder blast, but Tamawashi has known for a couple of years that is coming, and knows exactly what to do with it. While the Ozeki is dithering between oshi and yotsu, Tamawashi has position and stance to apply maximum forward pressure on Takayasu, and he has the inside position. As Takayasu realizes he has given every advantage to Tamawashi, Tamawashi starts piston like thrusts to Takayasu’s chest. A nodowa here, followed by a slap, back to thrusting. Takayasu has no way to slow it down, and takes the okuridashi for a loss.

Chiyotairyu defeats Goeido – Goeido is not operating well, and today Chiyotairyu was perfect for his sumo. A blast off the line rolling into an immediate slap down. As Goeido is usually 100% on attack, there was no recovery option backed into the plan. Goeido drops to 3-3 with Takayasu.

Kakuryu defeats Daieisho – The Yokozuna again wins in reverse gear, and you can see him favoring that ankle that he has had trouble with in the past. I am going to assume he stays in all 15 days out of dedication to the sport, even though his sumo is less than awesome right now.

Hatsu Day 6 Preview

Welcome to the start of act 2! We sort the survivors from the damned, and we get our first look at the yusho race. The second act also includes the middle weekend of the tournament, and we know that NHK World Japan will be doing another Grand Sumo Live broadcast for the final hours of Makuuchi on day 8 (Sunday), which works out to the early morning hours of Sunday in the USA. We also know that a number of great folks who are friends of Tachiai will be in the Kokugikan taking on the sights and sounds of the day. As always, we will bring you all the coverage.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Daishoho vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko has been producing some of the most consistently fun to watch sumo this basho. The guy is fairly small without being an Enho-class pixie, he’s got a lot of strength, and each match features a flurry of frantic sumo delivered with power. The fun fact is that Kotoeko and Daishoho have a good history in the lower division, and they come into day 6 with an even 5-5 record across their career.

Tokushoryu vs Chiyoshoma – This one just screams henka.

Chiyomaru vs Ishiura – Also enough henka bait to lure Harumafuji out of retirement with Aminishiki ready for support.

Terutsuyoshi vs Sadanoumi – First-time match between these two, with Terutsuyoshi clearly still struggling to find his groove in the top division now 1⅓ tournaments in. Sadanoumi has been around enough that unless Terutsuyoshi has a good battle plan and can execute well in the first few seconds, Terutsuyoshi is likely to see loss #4.

Enho vs Yago – Yago is this bulky bison kind of fellow. Even his head is ridiculously meaty, and I sometimes think that his head could easily win the Jonidan yusho on its own should it ever detach from his body. Enho is expected to do the hop-and-duck tachiai popularized by Mianoumi, and then latch on firmly to any exposed extremity and pull with vigor. Come to think of it, should he catch a grip of Yago’s neck, we may still get to see that Jonidan yusho bid.

Nishikigi vs Shohozan – The enchanted Cinderella man that was Nishikigi seems to be on holiday somewhere, and we return to the normal work-a-day Nishikigi who can’t remember which tsukibeto has his spectacles. I want to see the guy who survived in the joi-jin for a while come back. Shohozan is likely to take the current Nishikigi to the wood shed in short order.

Kagayaki vs Tomokaze – Kagayaki is a mess right now. I am not sure if he is hurt, or just at a transitional phase in his training. But it’s not working out for him at the moment, and even his distracting man-boobs seem to have called it a day. Tomokaze won their only prior match.

Onosho vs Asanoyama – This match gives me great pain, as I want them both to win. It’s clear that Asanoyama is having a great start to the tournament—a win today would tie his longest unbeaten streak to start a tournament, which was back at Hatsu in 2018, where he finished 10-5 with a tiny Kanto-sho for his debut (at Maegashira 16). Onosho on the other hand has a problem with balance that has only gotten worse since his knee surgery. I wish I could find a way to recommend yoga for Onosho; it did wonders for my balance.

Kaisei vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze has a tough time with Kaisei, probably due to the huge amount of mass that has to be shuffled off the dohyo or down to the clay. Yoshikaze has always been about speed, but there are no fast roads in Kaisei-town. Kaisei holds a 12-4 career lead.

Myogiryu vs Shodai – I am going to watch Shodai do some great “stunt sumo” again on day 6, and it’s marvelously fun or annoying. Myogiryu is looking far off his sumo this basho, and I expect that as long as Shodai does not do anything too egregious at the tachiai, he should be able to control Myogiryu.

Meisei vs Ryuden – I really like Meisei’s chances against Shin-Ikioi today, as Meisei has been showing some good balance and footwork even though he has a 2-3 record coming into the match. [The head-to-head favors Meisei 7-4. -lksumo] Overall I think Ryuden is looking like a good candidate for a top Maegashira slot in the sweatbox of Nagoya.

Takarafuji vs Abi – Takarafuji will want to go chest to chest, Abi will want to windmill the Isegahama man into submission. Will this be a quick slap-slap-down event, or some kind of epic battle that makes us all cheer?

Endo vs Okinoumi – Both of these banged up rikishi come into day 6 with a meager 1-4 record, both of them are on course for a make-koshi, and both of them are safe from any serious demotion threat. Both of them are fairly technical, and I personally think Okinoumi is fighting better right now.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – Battle of the punching-bags, as both men have been chew-toys for the upper named ranks for the past few days. Both of them have a 1-4 record to show for it. Hokutofuji is going to try to grab a handful of man-mountain, and Aoiyama is going to try to bludgeon Hokutofuji into the clay. Fun times. [Hokutofuji has prevailed in all but one of their previous 7 meetings. -lksumo]

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – I continue to be impressed with Kotoshogiku, while it looks like Mitakeumi is “holding station” for the moment, and waiting for a Sekiwake slot to open up for Nagoya. We still don’t know how serious Mitakeumi’s knee problems are, or what kind of injury state he is currently managing during competition. We do know that Kotoshogiku has most of the “tough” parts of his schedule complete now, and if he can keep racking up wins, should return to the named ranks for July. [Mitakeumi holds a 9-4 career edge against the former Ozeki. -lksumo]

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – Which Ichinojo will climb the dohyo on day 6? Will it be the strong, confident one that tosses people about with almost inhuman force? Tochinoshin holds a 15-5 career lead over Ichinojo, but will Tochinoshin engage the sky crane against about 505 pounds of rikishi?

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two used to share Sekiwake duties a few years back, and would always smack each other around once a basho. Their records show it, with a 12-11 slightly favoring Takayasu. I am going to guess we will see Takayasu’s wild, chaotic “kitchen sink” sumo as he throws everything at least once or twice against Tamawashi.

Goeido vs Chiyotairyu – I was surprised by Goeido’s day 5 loss, and I have to start wondering if the Ozeki is once again fighting hurt, and if so, how damaged he might be. A frequent problem is that right ankle, which has undergone surgery at least once. Genki Goeido has few problems with Chiyotairyu, but Goeido with ankle problems can do little more than try to pull Chiyotairyu down. [Chiyotairyu owns 6 upset wins in their 14 previous encounters. Will we see a Goeido henka? -lksumo]

Daieisho vs Kakuryu – A 2-0 career advantage for the Yokozuna, but there is that nagging question of Daieisho’s upset of Goeido on day 5. Kakuryu has also been using a lot of pulling / reverse motion sumo the past 2 days, and we have to wonder if maybe he has re-injured things as well.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.