Yokozuna Kakuryu Withdraws From Nagoya

Kakuryu

Announced this morning – Yokozuna Kakuryu has withdrawn from the Nagoya basho. As we had surmised, his poor sumo form over the past two days has been the result of a (as of present) unspecified injury. This is the first time in 19 years that all Yokozuna have been absent from a honboasho. As mentioned earlier, the “Nokazuna” status is nothing to worry too much about, but it does signal the next phase in the slow decline of the long serving members of sumo’s top echelon.

Update: the doctor’s certificate is for arthritis of the right elbow, requires immediate two-week rest. The Yokozuna was checked at a local hospital, and now plans to leave Nagoya and get re-examined at a hospital in Tokyo. (Source: Nikkan Sports – Herouth)

As with Hakuho’s withdrawal, the biggest beneficiary is kadoban Ozeki Goeido.

NHK News Article

Nagoya Day 6 Preview

Tochinochin Smile

With act 1 complete, let’s get into act 2! Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. As lksumo has already posted (see the post below this one), there are some rikishi are already in trouble. But among the already burning wreckage there are a handful of men who are clearly starting out well. Heading into Saturday, the schedule will flip, and the upper ranks will be more focus on fighting among themselves, and the lower portion of the joi will have their chance to pull in some much needed wins.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ryuden vs Okinoumi – A fun match as they are more or less the same rikishi 5 years apart. Near the bottom of Makuuchi, Okinoumi should be doing better than 3-2, but it’s a sign of just how hard some of the prior mainstays are fading.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Both of these guys come into this match 4-1, and as with the match above, they are kind of the same rikishi about 7 years apart. Both men are (in my opinion) over-demoted from May, so this will be a fun contest to see if age and skill can trump youth and vigor.

Sadanoumi vs Hokutofuji – Although its their first time meeting, I would give an advantage to Sadanoumi, because frankly Hokutofuji has been a shambles this tournament.

Chiyomaru vs Onosho – Chiyomaru has been fighting soft the entire first act. And by soft I mean that his enormous bulk slows his motions, and blunts his attacks. When he gets his mass in motion it’s very tough to prevent it from continuing on its path, but his ability to strike with precision and effect has been terrible. Add into that he fights Onosho on day 6, who is underperforming like a grade school musical.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama got off to a shaky start, but seems to have settled into his sumo. He has a limited range of attack profiles, but he does them very well. This is why he’s never viable above Maegashira 6, but he beats the snot out of the middle and lower banzuke. Myogiryu seems to be in a sweet spot on the banzuke, and he in fact fields a wide range of offensive and defensive set pieces. This will come down to Myogiryu weathering the blows and working center-mass. I think he can make it happen.

Nishikigi vs Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi really lost the plot on day 5, and you have to wonder if Kyokutaisei is going to continue to sputter along. Clearly Kyokutaisei is only about 60% ready, and he can’t seem to finish his offense.

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – Yutakayama holds a 4-1 career lead over Daieisho, who has been struggling more than his 3-2 might indicate. Yutakayama, however, is ranked about as high as he should be until he can get more comfortable with his increased weight, and maybe tune up his sumo a bit. Its clear he has been working on bulk, and like the other young Makuuchi debutants, it takes some time for them to adjust to the higher heft needed to compete.

Kaisei vs Endo – Heft? Heft, meet deft! The king of bulk, the mighty Kaisei is going to take his dump-truck brand of sumo up against Endo on day 6. Endo is clearly doing more than just going through the motions. I think he understands that the promotion lanes are about to swing wide open, and it may be now or never for him.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Wow, this has great potential. I am really happy with Chiyotairyu’s sumo this tournament. He has been fast, aggressive and seems to have finally gotten used to his jacked-up body mass. Just outside the joi at this time, he’s a brick wall in the middle of the banzuke. Kagayaki has had some hard fought defeats in act 1, but he’s not the kind of rikishi who is going to give up and phone it in. I expect that Chiyotairyu is going to blast hard off the line, and Kagayaki is going to struggle to find a way to contain that much force. If he can survive the first 6 seconds (much like riding a bull), he is probably going to be in business.

Ikioi vs Shohozan – Both of these guys are likely very frustrated. Like all good folks at the top of the banzuke (below Ozeki), they are the punching bags of the upper ranks. Both of them have finished their tours in Yokozuna land, and now they get to express their frustration on each other. Both are big, strong, and like communicating though tossing their opponents off the dohyo. This could be explosive!

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – If Ichinojo likes his Sekiwake rank, he needs to get it in gear. He has yet to face to big dreadnoughts of the San’yaku battle fleet, and he is clearly struggling. There is no mercy at this level of the banzuke, as Kotoshogiku knows all too well.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – I am surprised to find that Shodai has a 8-5 career lead over Mitakeumi in head to head match ups. But Shodai has reverted to his bad habits, and Mitakeumi seems to have shed several of his. I continue to think that like Endo, Mitakeumi senses that the promotions lanes will open soon, and it may be his best chance at right rank for the remainder of his career.

Takakeisho vs Takayasu – The giant bruise on Takayasu’s forearm told a story on day 5. In his bout with Ikioi, there was a powerful scuffle for grip, and Takayasu’s arm took a lot of punishment. As he is kadoban, he’s got no choice but to tough it out. If he has banged up an arm, it’s going to be bulldozer sumo for him the rest of the way through this basho. Takakeisho is not looking crisp this tournament, and that was always a strong suit of his. He had several ideas to get his opponents to present him with opportunities to unleash his sumo, and he executed those ideas with flair and energy. But that seems to be largely missing in Nagoya.

Goeido vs Abi – Abi is certainly feeling rather genki following his kinboshi win over the lone surviving Yokozuna. And Goeido has been hit or miss this tournament. Some fans still think this may be his curtain call as Ozeki, but with Hakuho gone, I think he has a narrow margin of safety that he can exploit – if he can win out in act 2.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – Tamawashi has one job, keep Tochinoshin off his mawashi. But as we have seen in the past few days, everyone is going into their Tochinoshin match with that plan. Then they find out that it does not seem to matter.

Kakuryu vs Chiyonokuni – Herouth has reported that Chiyonokuni seems to have a bandage bracing a knee, and perhaps his stunt recovery with Takayasu did some damage. But we also suspect that Kakuryu has taken damage below the waterline. So Big K is possibly ripe for another unfortunate kinboshi. If the Yokozuna pulls, he is probably going down.

 

Nagoya Day 5 Highlights

Abi-Head

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

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

Highlight Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nagoya Day 5 Preview

Mitakeumi Fan Club

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

What We Are Watching Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nagoya Day 4 Highlights

ikioi tegata

Overnight, the big news was that Yokozuna Hakuho withdrew from competition. The notification came quite late in the day, and took many by surprise. According to sources, he strained his right knee warming up prior to his day 2 bout, and the problems have been increasing ever sense. Thanks to Herouth for posting about it while the US part of the Tachiai team were snug in our beds.

Hakuho fans will note that he has yet to win a yusho in 2018, and for the most dominant man in the history of sumo, this is a big deal. With just 2 tournaments remaining, the chances that “The Boss” will pick up yusho #41 are fading for this year. The biggest benefactor from this unfortunate turn of evens is clearly Goeido. With his loss today, he drops to 2-2 and is looking rather shaky. His week 2 fight card just went from 2 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki, all of which were likely to beat him, to 1 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki. Frankly, for Goeido this could be the difference between clearing kadoban or not.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Hokutofuji – Meisei wins his first match of the basho going yotzu against Hokutofuji. At this level of the banzuke, Hokutofuji should normally be cleaning up, but that massive bandage on his right leg probably tells the story. Hopefully he can get his body repaired, as he has a huge amount of potential.

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Visiting Juryoist Takagenji dismantles Ishiura’s chicanery for a fairly convincing win, which is also his first to the tournament as well as his first win in Makuuchi!

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama had a good tachiai, but Ryuden quickly reached for, and obtained a solid left hand deep grip which he converted to a mae-mitsu after turning Asanoyama around. Ryuden was completely dominant in this match, and seems to have cleared his earlier ring rust successfully.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – Tochiozan very effectively contained Onosho’s offense, and kept him from really setting up any attack. Onosho drove for, and got, inside Tochiozan. But Tochiozan used his close position to keep Onosho from really getting a solid stance, or any effective thrusting room. I am going to guess Onosho’s knee is still not quite good enough for full power sumo. Plus – no red mawashi.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Another strong showing from Nishikigi today. I do like the fact that he’s just driving forward every day, and it seems to be working for him. Chiyomaru continues the the slide that started in Osaka, and we have to wonder if maybe his body is too big for his sumo. (fixed)

Chiyoshoma defeats Kyokutaisei – Battle of the no-win rikishi, with Chiyoshoma coming out on top. The bout was a oshi-match, and it was Kyokutaisei who lost his balance first, and Chiyoshoma pulled him to the clay.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – Chiyotairyu attacks with a massive cannon ball tachiai, which Endo absorbs well, and as Endo advances he reaches deep with his right hand for Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. Chiyotairyu reads this perfectly, and routes Endo’s energy forward and away. Clean, solid technique win from Chiyotairyu.

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – a protracted battle of the purple mawashi set, it was a struggle for grip that saw Yoshikaze too far forward most of the time, and finished by Takarafuji’s pull down from his grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s mawashi.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Outstanding yotsu battle. When Kaisei landed morozashi, it was clear how this was going to end, but Kagayaki kept battling on. I still think Kagayaki has a lot of potential, and he continues to make steady if gradual progress.

Takakeisho defeats Daishomaru – Takakeisho looked a bit early into the tachiai, and Daishomaru was a half step behind from the start. Daishomaru could not set up an effective defense or counter to Takakeisho’s forceful forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – “Big Guns” Shohozan picks up his first win of the basho, and it’s clear that Ichinojo is not at all genki right now. Ichinojo traded face blows with Shohozan, but seemed to offer little resistance once Shohozan started to advance.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi launched strong and low into Tamawashi, who went for the immediate nodowa to try to raise him up. Tamawashi continued to focus on Mitakeumi’s face and shoulders, while Mitakeumi focused on center mass and moving forward. Tamawashi was unable to hold back Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, and it was over in a hurry. Mitakeumi is finally looking very solid, and we may see him finally reach double digits.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate as he frantically danced about to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. After his traditional double arm thrust at the tachiai, the match devolved into chaos. At this level of the banzuke, Abi is not making much headway with his antics.

Takayasu defeats Shodai – Takayasu delivers his no obligatory enormous shoulder blast from the tachiai, which almost tossed Shodai out of the ring on its own. Is it sumo? Maybe in Japan. To me this looks like bumper-cars.

Kotoshogiku defeats Goeido – A dreaded kuroboshi for the kadoban Goeido. Kotoshogiku took early control and pushed Goeido backward to the tawara, where the Ozeki managed to rally and advance. Goeido tried a trip, failed, rotated into a throw, failed, then slipped and broke his grip. Kotoshogiku responded in the blink of an eye and thrust Goeido to the clay.

Ikioi defeats Kakuryu – Ikioi hits strong at the tachiai, and goes hazuoshi (armpit attack) at once. This seems to destabilize the Yokozuna, and Ikioi moves forward strongly, keeping his hips low. Kakuryu breaks contact, but before he can dodge, Ikioi charges center-mass and launches the Yokozuna off the dohyo. Great sumo from Ikioi today, well earned Kinboshi, and the purple rain falls in Nagoya.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview

Endo - Chiyoshoma

So far most of the rikishi have been true to form, and the basho is proceeding along expected lines. I would caution readers and sumo fans not to read too much into this. With Act 1 focusing on getting everyone to an actual honbasho competition level, the first week frequently offers few surprises until we hit Saturday.

The rikishi that really sticks out to me right now is Endo once more. I am not going to say he is (as he was once proclaimed) the savior of sumo. But the man is fighting well, and has overcome an amazing array of injuries and set-backs to be in the top half of Makuuchi. He is just outside the joi-jin this tournament, and that’s probably where he should be until his arm is 100%.

With Kisenosato likely to take his final bow this year, Japanese fans need another star to pin their hopes on. Many might think Takayasu is the likely candidate, as I once did, but frankly his sumo is chaotic enough that its causing him injuries. More and more I am coming to think that Aki 2018 will be the pivotal basho that may be later seen as changing point for the current era of sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Ishiura vs Takagenji – The rikishi with very poor manners (Takagenji) comes to Makuuchi to face off against Ishiura. As they have never matched before, this should be worth a good look. Like Ishiura, he’s a relative light weight at 126.2 kg.

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Ryuden seems to have regained his sumo, and his day 4 match against Asanoyama could be a bellwether. The two are fairly even with they are both healthy an in their sumo. My guess is that Asanoyama may hold a slight edge, as I am convinced Ryuden is still injured from Natsu.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Surprisingly genki Tochiozan will put Onosho to the test on day 4, and I think Onosho really needs to face vigorous challenges. His match against Nishikigi was a complete surprise to him and to me, and my have put a nick in his typical overwhelming confidence.

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Battle of the Maegashira 10s! Chiyomaru has been surprisingly soft thus far, so we may yet again see Nishikigi exceed habitually low expectations. The biggest worry being the sheer size of Chiyomaru.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – The battle of the yamas! Which mountain will reign supreme? Given Aoiyama’s injuries, he’s not quite the threat he normally is. Yutakayama has added some visible bulk (though his mass is still listed as 171 kg), so he is hefty enough to take Aoiyama haymakers.

Chiyoshoma vs Kyokutaisei – Both of these poor rikishi come in with zero wins. So the good news is one of them gets to be 1-3 at the end of Tuesday. Will we see another Chiyoshoma flying henka? Or will the Hokkaido man keep the match down to earth? Kyokutaisei leads the series 3-1.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Endo is looking surprisingly good so far, and for day 4 he gets to take on the burly Chiyotairyu. If Endo can survive the tachiai, he’s got plenty to work with. They are mostly even at 6-5 in their career records.

Takarafuji vs Yoshikaze – These matches are just painful for me to watch. I continue to be a Yoshikaze fan, but it seems to be a shadow of his original self.

Kaisei vs Kagayaki – Even though the 2-3 career record would seem to indicate this is an even match, I am going to guess that Kagayaki may find Kaisei’s enormity to be a real challenge. Kaisei looked completely lost and befuddled on day 3, and I expect him to bounce back with purpose.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – I am guessing the schedulers are giving Takakeisho a bit of a breather before he is fed into the wood chipper that is the Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Its another fairly close to even match, with Daishomaru holding a 3-2 career lead.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Our beloved boulder is not looking strong or aggressive, and today he’s going to face Shohozan, who has faced some pretty rough competition, plus one match where he fell down much to his embarrassment. Will Shohozan’s preference for a running, high-intensity brawl (dare I say broom battle?) intimidate the Mongolian giant, or will it be the motivation he needs to summon his overwhelming strength?

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – These two were Sekiwake twins for many tournaments, and while both of them fell from that rank, Tamawashi fell at a poor time when his bounce back basho was not good enough to return him even to the san’yaku. With only one win in Nagoya, he may have something to motivate him day 4 as he faces the unbeaten Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi holds a career 11-2 advantage, so Tamawashi should be looking to gamberize!

Abi vs Tochinoshin – Will Abi try for another henka? The day 3 one was fairly comical, and well timed. Or will we get another Tochinoshin sky-crane-tsuridashi? Abi strik es me as they kind of guy who would do things like drink a whole bottle of hot sauce on a dare. Maybe someone will dare him to grab Tochinoshin’s mawashi.

Shodai vs Takayasu – Don’t worry Takayasu, it’s only Shodai. But in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, keep up the offense until you see the shimpan raise a hand.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – a 48 match history between these two, and it somewhat favors Goeido. Kotoshogiku comes in without a win, but looking fairly well put together this basho. Once his tour through Ozeki and Yokozuna is complete, I am expected Kotoshogiku to rack quite a few wins.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Kakuryu is dialed into his sumo, and even a brave soul like Ikioi is not going to be able to offer much to slow him down right now.

Chiyonokuni vs Hakuho – After Chiyonokuni overwhelming display of fighting spirit on day 3, I would advise the Boss to take no chances. A quick, efficient win here. I know you like to try to beat people with their own brand of sumo to prove you are better at it than they are, but Chiyonokuni may be in possession of some kind of hot streak right now.

Nagoya Day 3 Highlights

Nagoya Day 3 Highlight

With the ring rust now falling away, we are starting go see some good sumo from the men in the top division. Today’s big result is of course Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu. I don’t know if Takayasu is injured, distracted or simply not quite up to fighting form yet. Takayasu of 18 months ago would likely find his current sumo almost comical to watch, and fans of his (as I am) have to wonder if there is some way he will return to the sumo fundamentals that took him this far.

In the meantime, there were some fantastic matches today, and act 1 is doing it’s job of dividing the “Hot” from the “Not”.

Highlight Matches

Ryuden defeats Daiamami – Ryuden seems to have broken free of his off-season rust, and showed some great, strong, high-stamina sumo against Daiamami, who I hope will make it back to Makuuchi soon.

Ishiura defeats Hokutofuji – Ishiura starts with a mini-henka, but follows up with some great high mobility sumo. Hokutofuji is already a move or two behind as Ishiura gets to his side, and applies the pressure. It’s all over for Hokutofuji, who has no way to face Ishiura, or plant his feet. Nice work Ishiura!

Kotoeko defeats Tochiozan – Kotoeko gets his first win ranked in the top division. He tried a henka and multiple pull downs before finally using a nodowa to force Tochiozan out. Sloppy sumo, but a win is a win.

Asanoyama defeats Arawashi – Arawashi had the better tachiai, but Asanoyama dug in fast, lowered his hips and advanced with purpose. With a 0-3 start, I worry Arawashi is out of gas.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama also seems to have shaken off his ring rust, and he was back in form, blasting away at Sadanoumi straight from the tachiai. Sadanoumi stood up to the blows, and fought to go chest to chest, which he eventually achieved. With a the man-mountain’s mawashi firmly in hand, Sadanoumi advanced and won. Great effort from Sadanoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Onosho – The first “what did I just watch?” moment of the day. Most sumo fans think of Nishikigi as this guy at the bottom of Makuuchi who is always just scraping by. Then he comes up against a real up and coming power like Onosho, and swiftly puts him away.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyomaru – The crowd certainly thought that Chiyomaru prevailed, but the gyoji’s gumbai pointed east, and the judges concurred. Myogiryu starts Nagoya 3-0.

Yutakayama defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei can’t seem to buy a win so far. After a rather sloppy tachiai, Yutakayama advanced, but could not finish Kyokutaisei, who rallied. They battled back and forth, finding themselves at the tawara, and both went to throw, with Kyokutaisei stepping out first.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – Daieisho put a huge effort into trying to land a nodawa against Takarafuji’s nonexistent neck. That being said, Takarafuji gets his first win of the basho and needs to regroup.

Endo defeats Chiyoshoma – Fantastic sumo from Endo today. Chiyoshoma tries the flying henka, but Endo reads it like a boss. Endo hooks the left arm around Chiyoshoma, and latches his right hand at the front of Chiyoshoma’s mawashi. With his opponent laterally tethered, Endo backs Chiyoshoma over a waiting kneed for a really well executed kirikaeshi. The crowd goes wild. Endo with a 3-0 start.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – As a Yoshikaze fan, these matches are tough to watch. Clearly the Berserker is injured in some way, and just cannot maintain forward pressure. Kagayaki employs his excellent fundamentals and keeps moving forward. A clean and straightforward win.

Abi defeats Kaisei – Bizarre tachiai, it starts in slow motion, with Kaisei rising slowly, and Abi pulling a delayed action henka. From there it’s a fairly simple okuridashi / rear push out. Glad Abi got a win, but that is one strange match.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – My most anticipated match of the day, a battle of two tadpoles on the rise. Both of them stayed incredibly low, with the entire battle being fought well below the average person’s knee height. Mitakeumi succeeded in tying up Takakeisho and preventing him from getting any offense started. Takakeisho is fun, and potent, but if he gets his yotsu together he is headed much higher.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo once again goes soft after Tamawashi slaps him around a couple of times.

Chiyonokuni defeats Takayasu – Readers of the site know I take exception to the changes Takayasu has made to his sumo in the past year. Much of it is due to no longer training with Kisenosato, I suspect. But today he took an oshi battle against Chiyonokuni. Chiyonokuni is smaller, lighter and built for a run-and-gun sumo style. Takayasu, who has been looking iffy so far this basho, struggled with Chiyonokuni from the start. Surprisingly, Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi first, and now Takayasu is completely unbalanced, and in trouble. After a failed throw at the edge, Chiyonokuni continues to attack, and Takayasu seems completely off tempo, and disoriented. After his second trip to the tawara, Takayasu reaches out and gets a left hand inside grip, and the two go chest to chest, but its clear that Chiyonokuni is still on offense, and in control of the match. Takayasu shrugs and turns, believing he has thrown Chiyonokuni, who maintains his right hand grip, and somehow stays on his feet. Meanwhile Takayasu has stopped trying to win, and is standing upright watching in disbelief. Chiyonokuni recovers and puts the big Ozeki down. Outstanding effort from Chiyonokuni, and Takayasu – get your sumo together man!

Goeido defeats Ikioi – Ikioi really taking a beating to start Nagoya, and today Goeido seemed to be more in form than prior matches: fast, tight, low inside and driving for the win. That was good to see. 6 more like that to clear kadoban, please!

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Shohozan goes in with gusto, but Tochinoshin quickly goes chest to chest, and implements the sky-crane-tsuridashi / lift and shift sumo. With Shohozan supplying the obligatory desperate kicking in mid-air, it was all over.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku tried to get inside and start the hug-n-chug, but Hakuho contained him, and had him rolling to the clay in the blink of an eye.

Kakuryu defeat Shodai – Shodai was little more than a plaything for Kakuryu, who kept Shodai rocking back and forth, and unable to establish either offense or defense. Once the imbalance was great enough, Kakuryu walked him to the north side an sent him diving for the cushions.

Nagoya Day 3 Preview

Nagoya Day 3

Day 2 seemed to be the day that of matta. In addition to the normal flurry of false starts, there were plenty of rule infractions that were called. This included Goeido having his hands over the shikiri-sen, and Hakuho not touching both hands to the clay. Some fans are very keen to see rules enforced with and impartial absolute standard, but we know that in many cases, the Gyoji work with “close enough”.

With day 3, we should start seeing most of the ring rust fall away from anyone who will be able to get their sumo into a winning form. The top Maegashira are taking their turns acting as warm up ballast for the Ozeki and Yokozuna, and we should not be too worried if they emerge from this first week with a giant list of black stars. Komusubi is an especially hard rank to endure, and its rare that we see a rikishi actually able to reach kachi-koshi from the “K” slot.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daiamami vs Ryuden – Do you miss Daiamami? I think some folks do. He gets to visit Makuuchi to face off against Ryuden day 3, and it could be a good one. Daiamami holds a 6-3 advantage over Ryuden.

Ishiura vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seems to have a good formula for beating Ishiura, and has won the last 2 of their 4 career matches. But honestly, Hokutofuji is still looking somewhat off. Hopefully that concussion he suffered during Natsu had no lasting effect..

Meisei vs Okinoumi – Eventually Meisei is going to win one. Really, he is. This guy is not a stinker, and day 3 is as good as any for him to settle down and start to score white stars. This is his first ever match with Okinoumi.

Tochiozan vs Kotoeko – I could say the same for Kotoeko, but Tochiozan is looking rather good so far. I think all of the training he does with Tochinoshin is probably elevating his performance as of late. Tochiozan is an older rikishi, but he has tons of natural talent.

Asanoyama vs Arawashi – Will we get another dramatic Arawashi tumble? Or is it time for Asanoyama to lose his footing and be sent to the clay? 1-1 career for these two.

Onosho vs Nishikigi – I predict that Onosho will continue to tear a hole in the bottom third of the banzuke as he piles up the sekitori scalps in his bid to return to san’yaku. So for Nishikigi, its your turn for a bit off the top.

Myogiryu vs Chiyomaru – Myogiryu looks to be on top of his sumo, where Chiyomaru is struggling at the start. His enormous size is a heavy tax on his endurance, especially in the heat and humidity of the Dolphins Stadium dohyo.

Takarafuji vs Daieisho – I am used to Takarafuji being a half step slow, but he seems to be especially tentative this basho. It’s a shame because he has great form, great fundamentals and all of the tools needed to be a top tier rikishi. Meanwhile, Daieisho comes in with a 3-1 career advantage, and a 2-0 record.

Endo vs Chiyoshoma – I think Endo is healthy, and he’s on a roll. Natsu was an bump on the road, and if he can keep his body intact, he is going to probably going to be a success story this basho.

Yoshikaze vs Kagayaki – Yoshikaze is my favorite, no question there. But it’s clear he is on the sunset path of his career now. He’s a faction of his former fierce self, and it’s tough to watch him fight. As good as Kagayaki’s fundamentals are, he always seems to be a bit awkward (like Kisenosato, who he reminds me of). Under last year’s terms, I think Yoshikaze would fold, press and starch Kagayaki. But for day 3, I am not so sure.

Abi vs Kaisei – Abi goes from fighting one lumbering giant to another. I am going to assume this is the schedulers having some fun at Abi’s expense. Once again his double arm oshi-zumo is going to be of questionable use against 500 pounds of Kaisei. As mentioned on the day 2 highlights, Kaisei really seems to be dialed in right now.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Yes yes yes! YES! Now we are in for a real battle between tadpoles, and frankly Mitakeumi may have a light edge this time, because he brings winning momentum into this match. But the fact that for a split second we saw Takakeisho unleash the “Wave Action” on day 2 means that maybe he’s done playing nice. Takakeisho leads the career series 3-2.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has had a tough start to Nagoya. Sitting at 0-2, he’s had a chaotic match against Hakuho and a mini-Henka from Goeido. Now he gets to face the human teppo pole, who holds a 5-3 career advantage. Keep your spirit up Tamawashi!

Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu – Chiyonokuni has tried 4 times to best Takayasu, and lost each time. I think day 3 is a unique opportunity for Chiyonokuni, as Takayasu has not been 100% in day 1 or 2. Maybe he’s broken free of the ring rust, or maybe he did hurt himself in warm ups for Nagoya.

Goeido vs Ikioi – 15-1 in favor of Goeido is what you need to know here. Goeido needs to rack the wins by any means necessary. Nobody is going to give him a pass in week 2.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Boom! Bang! Crash! I expect this match to go along the lines of day 2’s Chiyonokuni vs Tochinoshin match, expect that Shohozan is a street fighter. Main goal is to have the shin-Ozeki exit the match with no further injury to his right wrist, or that bionic knee.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho seems to be “over the top” eager to give each opponent a proper beating. Kotoshogiku has only won 6 out of their 60 career matches.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – Kakuryu is dialed in on his sumo. Shodai needs to focus on getting past the Yokozuna and Ozeki with his mobility and health intact. Sadly for Shodai, he has yet to find a way to beat Kakuryu.

Nagoya Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho Dohyo Iri Day 2

The fans were out in force today in Nagoya, and I mean everyone was far too warm and fanning themselves with vigor. Parts of Japan are facing a very moist and hot summer this year, which is natural for that part of the world. While it may be uncomfortable for the fans sitting near the dohyo, it’s brutal on the clay, under the hot lights and struggling to out muscle a 400 pound opponent. Worse still is the lot of the gyoji. Not only do they have to stay up there for a series of matches, as the day wears on (and the temperatures rise), the regalia the gyojis wear increases in layers, accessories and complexities. One has to assume that during the Makuuchi matches, the poor gyoji is drenched in his own broth.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Akiseyama – Hokutofuji looking decidedly less awesome today in his win over Juryo visitor Akiseyama.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – Ishiura delivers some decent sumo today, stays mobile and keeps Kotoeko off balance. As a result he is able to stick the uwatedashinage for a respectable win.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – The only thing more impressive than the way that Okinoumi was able to keep Asanoyama away form his belt was the moment Asanoyama says, “To hell with it”, and just rolls Okinoumi over and thrusts him down.

Onosho defeats Arawashi – Nice tachiai from Arawashi, who worked to get a right hand on the mawashi from the start, but Onosho overpowered every attempt and controlled the match. The end features a classic Arawashi cartwheel / tumble.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji never really was able to generate much offense against Endo, who absorbed the tachiai and turned the Isegahama man, then stepped out of the way when Takarafuji pressed forward.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – Big Chiyotairyu unleashes denshamichi-sumo (railroad sumo) on Yoshikaze and derails any hope the berserker might have had for a day 2 win.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – Its hard to describe a giant, lumbering rikishi as genki, but so far Kaisei is really looking dialed into his sumo. He made quick work of Daishomaru.

Takakeisho defeats Kagayaki – This was always going to be an odd match. Takakeisho got the better of the tachiai, but Kagayaki set up the oshi attack first, and best by getting inside. There were a couple of kinetic slaps that really rang out during the match, at one point the crowd gasps, as these two held nothing back. Then Kagayaki decided to go for a haymaker aimed at Takakeisho’s face, and lost focus. Sad mistake, Mr Fundamentals, as Takakeisho dropped his hips and gave him one blast of the “wave action tsuppari” and that was all it took to send Kagayaki clear of the tawara. This was the first time that Takakeisho was able to beat Kagayaki.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – As we previewed, Abi’s reach advantage is meaningless against Ichinojo. But Abi’s extreme maneuverability nearly carried the day, as he circled to his left and got behind the Mongolian, and nearly shoved him out. To his credit, Ichinojo recovered rapidly. The near loss clearly energized him and he attacked with purpose, getting a mawashi grip and finishing Abi in seconds. I do like Abi, but I pray he expands his sumo before everyone figures out how to shut down his only effective attack.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Great effort from both men, a solid tachiai followed by decision to go for the belt. Sadly it looks like Ikioi went too far forward reaching down to Mitakeumi’s hips, and Mitakeumi deftly encouraged him to follow through and hit the clay. Will Mitakeumi finally hit double digits?

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – They had a tough time getting this one started, but the actual match featured a Goeido hit and shift, so lksumo was nearly correct (he was expecting a Goeido henka). Tamawashi sailed past Goeido and into Shohozan’s ringside lap.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyonokuni – Tochinoshin likely knew going into this one that he would never get a hand on Chiyonokuni’s mawashi, and might very well injure himself if he tried too hard. So he chose to meet Chiyonokuni with his own brand of flailing oshi-zumo that included a couple of half hearted attempts at the mawashi. Just to be clear, when you have someone that strong putting his elbow into your face, that’s going to be a big deal. He overwhelmed the faster, more mobile Chiyonokuni and it was over in a hurry.

Takayasu wins against Shohozan – Takayasu gets a freebee as Shohozan absorbs a pride-obliterating slipiotoshi and falls down on the dohyo after he clearly established the upper hand in the match. Officially recorded as a tsukihiza (knee touch down), it’s one of the non-winning moves (more or less, a losing move). Takayasu looks quite iffy right now. At least he can bank 2 wins in 2 days, but his fans all need to hope he’s not too hurt, and can get his sumo together.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Wow, Kakuryu is looking very solid right now. He accepted Kotoshogiku’s invitation to go chest to chest, and Kotoshogiku engaged in as much hug-n-chug as he could muster. But in true Kakuryu form, he kept shifting his weight from foot to foot, preventing Kotoshogiku from pumping with both legs. As his rocking motion increased, he danced Kotoshogiku to the tawara and followed through with a classic uwatenage. Excellent form by Kakuryu today.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today. No anvils, Acme brand giant magnets or pianos dropping from the sky. The first time through, Hakuho launches for the kill straight off the line, with the gyoji screaming matta and chasing him down. Hakuho follows through and puts Shodai out (that’s how you do it), but they are going to try again. What was fun about the second match was it was more or less identical to the first. Hakuho wins, and looked quite solid doing it.

Nagoya Day 2 Preview

Hakuho Dohyo Iri

While we were enjoying day 1 action, so news surfaced about injured former Ozeki Terunofuji. Fans may recall that Terunofuji has suffered multiple injuries to his knees, along with diabetes and numerous other maladies that robbed him of any ability to execute sumo. As a result he lost his Ozeki rank, and then rocketed down the banzuke, where the Nagoya ranking sheet finds him in ranked Makushita 6 East. As reported prior to the basho, Terunofuji underwent a second set of surgeries to try to repair his knees, and is reported to still be recovering in the hospital. It is quite possible we may never see him on the dohyo again, and if we do it will be part of a long, painful restart of his sumo career. Terunofuji is currently a physical wreck, and likely a mental wreck as well. His sumo had been questionable for a time, but really took a dive following the Harumafuji scandal. To some fans, it seemed the events robbed him of his natural fighting spirit. But his drive, his energy, his cunning and his sumo skill remains. If he body can be repaired, it would be an overwhelming comeback story. We hope whatever path he takes, that he does well.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Hokutofuji vs Akiseyama – With Hokutofuji at the very bottom edge of the banzuke, he has a real opportunity to recover if he indeed has resolved the injuries that had plagued him for the past few tournaments. Today he faces Juryo man Akiseyama, whom he has never matched against in the past.

Meisei vs Ryuden – Both men lost their day 1 matches, but over their 8 career bouts, Meisei has won 6. Right now Ryuden needs to get back to a winning formula after a disastrous 3-12 record in May.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – These two would seem to be a very even match, although Asanoyama holds a 3-0 lead in their career series. Like many of the 30+ crowd in the top division, Okinoumi is slowly fading. His skills are still amazing, but his body is a half step slower than his peak.

Arawashi vs Onosho – Arawashi is fast and mobile, and Onosho works that kind of sumo ver well. I am sure this will be a match where Arawashi wants to move and strike, and Onosho wants to pin him down.

Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – XXXL Chiyomaru has never beaten the Man-Mountain Aoiyama, but Aoiyama’s day 1 performance would seem to indicate he is at least mildly injured, so day 2’s match against super-heavyweights may be the chance for Chiyomaru to start evening up the score.

Nishikigi vs Yutakayama – After being permanently affixed to the bottom of the banzuke for many cycles, suddenly Nishikigi finds himself facing off against a tougher class of opponents. I think his day 2 match against Yutakayama has a lot of potential, as they have similar fighting styles. Given his poor eyesight, Nishikigi will work to stay in close.

Endo vs Takarafuji – This match pits two very technical, very studious rikishi against each other. We know that Endo has superb technique, and Takarafuji seems to be a master at finding ways to lose a match while executing great sumo. So if Takarafuji is genki on day 2, I would suggest Endo may have his hands full, as Takarafuji will likely work to let Endo set the cadence, then thwart him. Career record favors Takarafuji 6-4.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze, sadly, is firmly in the camp of the fading over 30 crowd. I love the guy’s sumo, but he seems to be struggling now. Their day 2 match will be a great data point to see if Chiyotairyu really has upped his endurance, and any match with Yoshikaze can turn into a protracted bar room brawl.

Kagayaki vs Takakeisho – I am really looking forward to this bout. Kagayaki is very traditional plan / execute, based firmly on fundamentals. Takakeisho seems to go into a match eager and full of enthusiasm for slapping around anyone who mounts the dohyo. Takakeisho is 0-4 against Kagayaki, could day 2 be his first win against Mr Fundamentals?

Ichinojo vs Abi – Both men lost their day 1 matches, and Abi is facing significant challenges in the form of the biggest and best men in sumo. When it comes to Ichinojo, it’s tough to know which version is going to mount the dohyo, the massive sumo machine, or the cuddly teddy bear. If Abi gets the sumo machine, this may be over quickly, as he does not really have much of a reach advantage over Ichinojo.

Ikioi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi looked very good day 1 against Abi, but Ikioi is likely to be quite a bit more trouble. Ikioi has yet to beat Mitakeumi, and if Mitakeumi is in form this basho, he will likely use his tadpole body to confound Ikioi’s preferred attack style.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Both men seem to have suffered day 1 bouts of explosive ring rust. But for Goeido the case is much more serious. The first week is the “easy” portion of his schedule. He needs to rack as many wins here as possible. For Tamawashi this is the “hard” part of his schedule, so he has room to work towards kachi-koshi starting next weekend. Their career record is 8-8. When both are on form, they are fast, low and can win within 3 steps of the tachiai.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochinoshin – Reports of Tochinoshin’s right hand being a problem seem to have not born out thus far. This will be a match of two clashing styles. Tochinoshin wins when he can get a belt war started, and Chiyonokuni is a mobile flurry of oshi. Chiyonokuni is 1-6 against the shin-Ozeki, but I am eager to see what Chiyonokuni tries to overcome Tochinoshin’s size and strength advantage.

Shohozan vs Takayasu – Its likely that Takayasu will be forced into a running battle with Shohozan, which I feel greatly favors Shohozan. Takayasu now seems to favor high force pushing and thrusting, which leaves him perilously misbalanced. Though Takayasu leads the career series 7-5, Shohozan has a real edge this time, as I think Takayasu is still hurt.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this one has history. They have faced off 49 times over their careers, with Kakuryu taking 27. They are more or less even. Though at this point I would put the advantage on Kakuryu. As he displayed in his day 1 match against Takayasu, Kotoshogiku is surprisingly resistant to displays of strength against him, so this match may be decided by misdirection and footwork.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Some learned sumo fans (who I respect) seem to think that Hakuho’s day 1 match was rough or worrisome. But I think his match against Shodai is going to be a better barometer of what kind of condition the boss is in right now. Advantage clearly to Hakuho, but Shodai’s opponents seem to be self destructing quite a bit as of late.

Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.

Nagoya Day 1 Preview

sumo-coasters.jpg

After a lengthy pause in sumo action, we are at long last on the eve of the July tournament. With the torrential rains in Japan, this could be one of the most hot and tropical fortnights in Nagoya in some time. Conditions in Nagoya are always somewhat unique. Rikishi find the dohoyo slippery in the humid air, and endurance is sapped by the endless heat. I will reminder our readers that we tend to look at each basho as a series of three acts, each with their own mood, tempo and purpose. Some of this is driven by the scheduling team, and some of it from the rikishi themselves.

Act One – Who is hot, and who is not. Many competitors will have been training hard, outdoors in the humid Japanese summer for the past two weeks, but will begin Nagoya with a layer or two of “ring rust”. Some rikishi may be slow off the line, some may be slow or clumsy. But for many it will take 2-3 days to get up to full tournament power (or maybe more). Act one is where we find out who is going to be strong, and who will suffer.

Act Two – We narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. As act two includes the middle weekend, we usually find out who is going to be actually competing for the yusho.

Act Three – Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we crown a champion. Someone takes home the hardware and hoists a big fish. We see who survives with a kachi-koshi, and who gets relegated to the demotion queue with a maki-koshi. Act three can sometimes be a snoozer if one rikishi is really dominating. The schedulers try their hardest to make sure the yusho race stays interesting up to the end.

With that in mind, let’s step off into the Nagoya basho. Ready or not, here we go!

What We Are Watching Day One

(Who am I kidding, I am watching the whole thing)

Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – The battle of “what are you guys doing here” on day 1. Both of them are hard-charging up and coming rikishi who took a beating during Natsu. Both are at the bottom end of Makuuchi now, and hopefully both have recovered some of their sumo. Both of them are people we will be very excited about next year, so get with it men!

Kotoeko vs Asanoyama – Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, please spend your first day with the happy rikishi, Asanoyama. Kotoeko looked very strong in Tokyo, and rightfully earned his spot in the top division. I am eager to see him going the distance with power and spirit that has become the hallmark of a rikishi’s first Makuuchi tournament.

Sadanoumi vs Onosho – Will Onosho suit up with the red mawashi? Some of his fans think that a portion of his power flows from that thing. I think he’s just got some fantastic sumo. Sadanoumi may come in more tuned up, and may hand Onosho a surprise on his first day of what we hope will be an impressive return to the top division.

Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi somehow managed to do fairly well for a change during Natsu, and now he’s going to be facing a somewhat heavier caliber of rikishi. Up first is the man-mountain Aoiyama, who will probably slap him into submission. But Nishikigi is so genki, I think that even if you knocked him out cold his lower body would continue to move forward.

Chiyomaru vs Yutakayama – Chiyomaru needs to bounce back – heck, so does Yutakayama after his disastrous tournament in May. Chiyomaru has a legion of fans who just adore his dirigible aesthetics, but his sumo is pretty sharp too. He had a LOT of ring rust for Natsu, I am curious how his pre-Nagoya workup has been proceeding.

Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei turned in a great performance in May, with a stunning 10-5. He was able to leap from Maegashira 15 to Maegashira 8, and is now facing against much higher grade competition. Myogiryu also went 10-5 in May, and it’s time to see which one of them has an edge to start Nagoya. I think this could be a highlight match of the first half.

Takarafuji vs Chiyotairyu – I want Chiyotairyu to show up with sideburns that would put the great Takamiyama to shame. I dearly hope he gave the kami that gives him power (and lives in those side burns) a fiercely tufted thicket of faciale hair from which to operate. Takarafuji is a solid rikishi with outstanding fundaments, but seems to lack about 5% each and every match. I wish we could give him some kind of tune up. I expect that Takarafuji will absorb Chiyotairyu’s cannonball charge, and it will be Chiyotairyu who will be on defense.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo’s arm is still hurt. If you recall, he withdrew for a while in May, and then came back for some reason only to lose every single match. The diagnosis on the certificate that took him kyujo in May was a torn bicep. Just like Kisenosato’s torn pectoral, that’s surgery time in most cases. One thing is for sure, the crowds in Nagoya will be shouting with both lungs for these two fan favorites.

Daishomaru vs Kagayaki – I make no effort to hide that I really like Kagayaki’s sumo. It’s driven by fundamentals, and his technique is steadily improving. It will be great to watch him deal with Daishomaru’s low center of gravity and energetic oshi-zumo style. If he can get Kagayaki moving backward, he wins.

Kaisei vs Takakeisho – What a great match. The truly massive Brazilian against a tadpole with something to prove. Takakeisho is out-massed by a large factor, so I am curious if we are going to see him unleash the “wave action” tsuppari to overcome the gravity well.

Abi vs Mitakeumi – Back at Sekiwake, Mitakeumi needs to get in gear. He has the potential to join the Ozeki ranks, but he just can’t seem to get consistently into double digits. Abi has a lot of potential, but his sumo is a bit narrow right now, and this may be the basho where everyone figures out how to negate his enormous reach.

Ichinojo vs Chiyonokuni – The battle of the Grumpy Badger and the Boulder, my only disappointment is that the match is on day 1 when both men are going to be slow and rusty. Watching Chiyonokuni flail away in his energetic style against a rikishi made of stone is best savored in week 2, when everyone is warmed up and eager for wins.

Ikioi vs Tochinoshin – Eager for wins? Why yes, we have three Ozeki, and two of them are kadoban and need wins at all costs. Reports going into Nagoya hinted that the right wrist, which Tochinoshin hurt in May, is still bothering him. During the break prior to Nagoya, Tochinoshin traveled home to Georgia, and attended many functions and events. I think even his hard core fans know that he is going to be less than fully genki this time, and that’s ok. Ikioi is hopefully in better physical shape than he was for the last two tournaments, where he could barely walk off the dohyo at the end of each match.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – A savory match. Kadoban Ozeki Takayasu, who looked pretty terrible in pre-tournament practice bouts, up against a re-energized Kotoshogiku. We hope that Kotoshogiku continues to carry forward his winning ways in Nagoya, as it would be a delight to see him return to the San’yaku for Aki. Takayasu needs 8 wins to clear kadoban, which should be easy for him if he’s healthy.

Goeido vs Shodai – Goeido also needs 8 wins in the worst possible way, and we just hope he does not resort to lame-ass sumo techniques like daily henkas and obligatory pull downs. His day 1 against Shodai will be all about Goeido, as I am not sure Shodai can repeat his startling performance of Natsu, where every opponent seemed to find ways to self-defeat to Shodai’s benefit.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – The Boss is looking solid. If he can keep his toes in working condition, he’s a yusho contender this time. Tamawashi is eager to push back to Sekiwake, and if possible double-digits.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Kakuryu, at times, is the crown prince of ring rust. But I think he will overcome Shohozan’s mostly frontal attacks. Just don’t complain if he does it moving backwards.

Nagoya Yokozuna Report

Kakuryu

It’s banzuke Sunday in the western world, and while the sumo fans eagerly await to see who came out on top, or how their guess the banzuke entry scored, let’s take a look at the top end of the Nagoya ranks. The Yokozuna have had their problems this year, and Nagoya may continue to underscore the tremendous change at work in sumo’s upper ranks.

First up is sumo’s top man for Nagoya, the unexpectedly genki Yokozuna Kakuryu. A year ago, if you had told me that Kakuryu would take back-to-back yusho and supplant Harumafuji as sumo’s anchor Yokozuna, I would have considered it unlikely. But he has somehow managed to get his body healthy and his fighting spirit aligned. His sumo looks quite good, and as long as he keeps from going for pulls, he tends to prevail. Kakuryu’s sumo is highly reactive. In most matches his approach is not to conquer his opponent at the tachiai, but rather to put up a strong defence and keep his opponent stalemated, waiting for a mistake. These mistakes almost always appear and Kakuryu is without peer in detecting and exploiting even the smallest error in his opponents. After his Natsu yusho, he suggested that he would like to see if he could achieve 3 consecutive titles, which would be remarkable for a man who many (myself included) suggested a year ago hang up his rope due to lack of competition. Prospect – Surprisingly Positive.

Yokozuna Hakuho is the Michael Jordan of sumo. There has never been any rikishi as dominant as he has been, and in all likelihood, none of us will live to see a day when some future sumotori surpasses his records. But his cumulative injuries are starting to impact his ability to compete. Specifically, repeated injuries to his big toes have robbed him of some speed, agility and power. Furthermore, the YDC has admonished him to change up his tachiai, which frequently features a slap to his opponents face. Hakuho has struggled with that guidance, and the lack of that first disorienting blow seems to have thrown his sumo off at least a half step. His performance during Natsu was a respectable 11-4, but his supporters wonder how much longer “The Boss” can keep going. His biggest issue in May was mental. His father had just died a few weeks before, and it clearly impacted the dai-yokozuna’s mental state. Hakuho’s father was his own larger than life figure, and was likely a driving force in his son’s life. Anyone who has lost a parent can attest to the mental impact it can have. But I suspect he took ample time during the summer break to come to terms with the loss, and his mental state will be nothing short of amazing for Nagoya. Prospect – Grim Determination To Win.

In 2017 the world welcomed the first Japanese-born Yokozuna in a generation. Many had their doubts about him, as he was promoted on his first yusho. He silenced all doubters with his outstanding performance the following tournament, winning his second yusho, and finishing in spite of a grievous injury that haunts him to this day. Sadly, since Osaka 2017, Kisenosato has failed to complete a single tournament. Fans have been rightfully depressed that a rikishi who would refuse to even miss a single day of practice would be sidelined indefinitely. As his kyujo tally mounted, he eventually reached a 7th excused tournament, matching Takanohana’s longest absence. For such a proud man, the strain of making the record books in such a inglorious manner must eat at him hourly. Fans have noticed in the past few weeks that he has been taking practice matches with his old training partner, Ozeki Takayasu. They have done this in the past, and it seems to have been mostly for show. But a rumor has been running around sumo fandom that Kisenosato has come to terms with the scope of his injury, and will retire shortly. But rather than fade out a defeated man, he will instead don the rope once more, and go out guns blazing in competition. Personally, reflecting on that outcome and the career of Kisenosato it would make perfect sense. It may not be Nagoya, but it will be before Kyushu. Prospect – Unlikely – or- Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

As we pointed in our Ozeki report, with two Ozeki pushing for 8 wins to relieve kadoban status, the pressure from the top of the banzuke on the rest of the san’yaku and the upper Maegashira will be enormous. Two or possibly three active Yokozuna all hunting wins could spell unrivaled carnage at the top of the banzuke. For fans of sumo, this means some of the most thrilling competition possibly in several months.

Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

Genki Report – Yokozuna & Ozeki

tsuna

With the Nagoya basho behind us, we welcome a new Ozeki into the top two ranks of sumo, and reinforcements could not come at a more important moment. In a continuation of a trend Tachiai has been following for some time, the continued weakness within the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks is causing significant distortions in sumo. Thus it is time for another of our periodic genki reports, looking exclusively at the world of the top two ranks.

Yokozuna - Ozeki Participation

From the chart above, we can see that since this time in 2016, the participation rate of the total Yokozuna and Ozeki corps has been on a steady downward trend. This is computed as a percentage of the number Yokozuna & Ozeki that could participate compared to the number who did participate on day 15. Clearly the men in sumo’s top two ranks are finding it difficult to show up and participate in tournaments on a regular basis.

Sumo is a combat sport, and people who reach the top two ranks have had to battle for every promotion, and every kachi-kochi they have ever achieved. Along the way they have accumulated injuries that range from annoying to severe, but still attempt to find some way to show up and compete.

Let’s take a look at the rikishi:

Yokozuna Kakuryu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: After taking almost a year to recover from a suite of injuries, Kakuryu may in fact be the genkiest of the Yokozuna. He exited Natsu with the Emperor’s Cup, and his first back to back yusho in his career. The injuries sustained during Hatsu have either been mitigated, healed or he is just ignoring them. Clearly he is the man to beat for Nagoya, but odds of him taking 3 in a row are rather thin.

Yokozuna Hakuho
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: There were a number of red flags for Hakuho going into Natsu. His father, who was a driving force in his life, had just recently died. He had sat out Osaka due to re-injured big toes. While it may seem a trivial complaint, the big toe of each foot is massively important to both offense and defense. Hakuho’s sumo depends greatly on his mobility and speed, and injured feet rob him of a significant advantage. I think that going to Nagoya we are going to see a greatly improved Hakuho, as long as he can keep those feet healthy.

Yokozuna Kisenosato
Genki: ✭-
Notes: Tachiai has written extensively about the nature and severity of Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral. While we were controversial in our early call that it was surgery or the scissors, the rest of the sumo world seems to have come around to our point of view. The guy’s Yokozuna career is a tragedy worthy of a new Kabuki story. Our opinion is that there is no road back for him, and the only question now is does he just admit defeat, or does he enter one more basho and go out guns blazing?

Ozeki Goeido
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Where to start with this guy. First off, we complain a lot about Goeido and his flaky sumo. We have likened him to a faulty consumer gadget in dire need of software fixes. In truth, he has been hurt quite a bit in the past two years. None of those injuries are necessarily healed properly, and each time he re-injures himself in a basho, his sumo goes into the toilet. It’s actually quite easy to detect. When his ankles are working and not hurting, he is a fast, aggressive Ozeki who will take you down or out before you can finish your tachiai. You never give him an opening or you are on your face in the clay, and the fat stack of kensho is headed towards his bank account. When he’s hurt he’s vague, he pulls, he moves backward, he loses a bit over half the time. Given that a proper repair job would require about a year of healing, it’s unlikely he will take that step while he is still active.

Ozeki Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: This guy is a favorite of mine. But once Kisenosato got hurt, and he earned Ozeki, his sumo took an unfortunate turn. He came to rely on an increasingly chaotic style that places a big bet up front on a massive, brutal forearm or shoulder hit at the tachiai. Now it comes as no surprises he is having upper body problems, especially with his leading shoulder. This man is a powerhouse of sumo, and an excellent rival for Tochinoshin if he is healthy. I wish he could take after his senpai a bit more now. Kisenosato’s Ozeki sumo was frequently low, powerful and relentless. I fear until he fixes his sumo, he will continue to suffer.

Ozeki Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Though I have my concerns about this guy, thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that he has shown up. Though his injuries may come to ruin him at any time, he’s clearly strong, enthusiastic and competing flat out 15 matches each basho. I hope he throttles back on his “lift and shift” kimarite, as it’s rolling the dice on that bandaged knee each time. As mentioned above, a solid Tochinoshin / Takayasu Ozeki rivalry would electrify the sumo world, and might be a catalyst to drive either or both to higher rank. But it requires both of them to find a way to avoid further injuries. No easy task in the current sumo world.