Aki Day 9 Preview

Kisenosato day 8

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

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

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

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

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

Aki Leaderboard

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

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

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aki Day 5 Preview

Aki Day 5

Thus act 1 of the Aki basho comes to a close. The job of act 1 is to sort who is hot, from who is not. This has been achieved with great flair and a satisfying amount of good sumo. For the first time since 1989, all Yokozuna are unbeaten after day 4. None of the Ozeki have more than 1 loss, and there are a pair of 4-0 rikishi in the Maegashira ranks. Mitakeumi keeps his Ozeki campaign burning bright by his membership in the 4-0 club, too. Following day 5, the 4+ wins club in the mid to lower Maegashira will likely find themselves competing a bit higher up the banzuke.

Kisenosato has made a fairly solid return, but I am becoming worried that he is not quite genki enough yet to survive week 2. The enormous amount of trouble he had with Kaisei denotes that he could be in real danger of running out of gas starting this weekend. A 15 day match schedule is brutal, and the Yokozuna’s stamina may not yet be up to the task.

With Kyokutaisei kyujo, the banzuke is un-balanced, and we will see visiting Juryo rikishi every day until things balance out by someone else going kyujo, or Kyokutaisei returning (which he should not do). My candidate for kyujo is Aoiyama, who badly hurt his ankle with an ungraceful dohyo dismount on day 4.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Arawashi vs Ishiura – Arawashi brings a 2-2 record up to Makuuchi for day 5. At Juryo 1 East, a kachi-koshi would bring him back to the top division. Meanwhile Ishiura is probably starting to worry where he can find 7 wins over the next 11 days.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – In a nearly as perilous position is the bulbous Chiyomaru, who has a loyal army of fans. If this were Nagoya, he could almost count on a walk-over win from Yoshikaze. Instead Yoshikaze is looking genki, if not quite berserk at this point of the basho.

Ryuden vs Nishikigi – A match of some interest! Both of them are 3-1, their career record is tied at 2-2, and both of them are fighting well in the first act. Nishikigi has been especially surprising, and I do hope he can keep delivering aggressive sumo.

Hokutofuji vs Kotoshogiku – Another of the great day 5 match ups. Kotoshogiku has been hit-or-miss, largely due to the cumulative damage to his body. But he has been on his sumo since day 1 for Aki. Then there is Hokutofuji, who suffered for a few tournaments with his own injuries, but seems to be dialed in for Aki. He is low, fast and aggressive. Hokutofuji will try to drive thrusts to Kotoshogiku’s center-mass, and stay moving. Kotoshogiku will try to lock him up and give him the business.

Shohozan vs Onosho – I am going to go ahead and say that Onosho is probably not ready for mid-Maegashira post surgery. He’s got loads of talent, skill and enthusiasm, but his body is just not in the fight. Shohozan is always in the fight, any fight, any time. So I see this one as another hard one for Onosho.

Kagayaki vs Tochiozan – Kagayaki comes in at 2-2, and because he is so deliberate, and focused on fundamentals, he slips below a lot of people’s attention. Like many of the fading generation of rikishi, Tochiozan has good days and bad, depending on how many of his acquired injuries are plaguing him today. In spot of that, this should be a fairly even match.

Myogiryu vs Abi – Myogiryu is compact an intense. Abi is disperse and frantic. This has ingredients for some fine sumo, but let’s see if they can set it on fire and send it screaming into the stands.

Chiyonokuni vs Asanoyama – Chiyonokuni is bound to catch a break at some time, and maybe he can pick one up from Asanoyama the Black Knight. Asanoyama has been steadily bulking up more or less in tandem with Freshman class president Yutakayama, and it seems to have helped his defense quite a bit.

Endo vs Kaisei – Endo, too, will eventually catch a break. He is looking very tentative right now, and I am starting wondering if he has re-injured himself either during Jungyo or in the practice matches just before the basho. He has been iffy since day one, and I am sure his fans want him to do what it takes to get whole. Kaisei has maintained his good humor during the tougher elements of his tour through the upper ranks, and I expect his score will improve soon.

Goeido vs Yutakayama – I am looking for Goeido 2.0 or higher again today. Goeido has been able to generate consistent offense thus far, and he is doing quite well. Yutakayama is big enough to require some careful work, but I think Goeido is up to the challenge. I also think that once Yutakayama is done being an Yokozuna-Ozeki chew toy, he will have a fair chance of a kachi-koshi.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – The big, double-wide match of the day. Tochinoshin leads the series 5-2, and both men are focused, intense and eager for wins. Mitakeumi will try to stay mobile, Tochinoshin will work for the left hand outside. I am just hoping everyone exits the dohyo without further injuries.

Ikioi vs Takayasu – In spite of whatever injuries he was nursing when Aki started, Ozeki Takayasu has been a solid wall of sumo thus far, and none of his opponents have been able to generate much offense against him. Ikioi, meanwhile, is getting the rough and brutal week 1 of the top Maegashira.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Kakuryu holds a 9-0 career lead over Chiyotairyu, I don’t see too many chances of that changing today.

Kisenosato vs Shodai – Kisenosato is working harder than he should, most likely because it’s been many months since he has tried to compete. Shodai seems to be evolving, which is quite exiting as it was assume that if he ever got his tachiai into better condition, he would be quite formidable. I still expect Kisenosato to rack another today, but look to see if he struggles to move Shodai.

Takakeisho vs Hakuho – These two have some odd matches in their past. But it seems Hakuho is having some trouble generating forward pressure due to his injuries, and he will default to wanting to throw. This is a challenge against Takakeisho due to his extreme body shape. I still and looking for Hakuho to dominate the Tadpole, but it will be interesting to see how he works it out.

Kyokutaisei Withdraws from Competition

Maegashira 11 Kyokutaisei has withdrawn from the 2018 Aki Basho after suffering an injury to the meniscus in his left knee during his Day 3 match against Daieisho.  The Hokkaido native hurt himself while pivoting on the edge of the dohyo in his first win this September, and was in considerable pain while dismounting the dohyo. Kyokutaisei will require a month of rest and treatment, however, his Oyakata is hopeful that his pain is only temporary and that he will return to action before Aki is over. This marks the first time Kyokutaisei has gone kyujo since joining sumo in 2008. His Day 4 opponent, Ryuden, will receive a fusen win. We at Tachiai hope Kyokutaisei heals up and returns to action soon.

Aki Day 3 Highlights

Kisenosato Day 3
Image courtesy of the Japan Sumo Association

It seems to have been monoii day in the Kokugikan, and the judges had plenty to say about an unusually large number of matches; possibly because there were so many attempted pull down / slap down wins at the tawara that were more or less a photo finish. The sumo today was chaotic and sloppy, with even some tried and true rikishi giving us moments to wonder what was going on. This is probably all part of the ring rust removal process, and by the end of act 1, everyone should be tuned up and back in fighting form.

Highlight Matches

Yoshikaze defeats Kotoyuki – Straightforward match that ended when Kotoyuki succumbed to a slippiotoshi. Still, its Yoshikaze’s third win to start Aki. Please note this win total exceeds his total in Nagoya. We have yet to see the berserker really attack, but that may be coming in week two.

Chiyomaru defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tried a hit-and-shift opening, but Chiyomaru kept his balance focused. Past that opening gambit, Ishiura did not seem to have much of a plan, and Chiyomaru took a firm hold of his opponent and marched forward for his first win of Aki.

Nishikigi defeats Takanoiwa – Nishikigi starting Aki 3-0? What the hell did they put in his chanko? Nishikigi showed much better sumo, advancing strongly against Takanoiwa’s tachiai. Recognizing he was in trouble, Takanoiwa tried for a pull-down but couldn’t stay in the ring long enough to win. Go Nishikigi!

Kyokutaisei defeats Daieisho – Kyokutaisei finally scores his first white star of Aki. Sadly in the act of delivering the tottari that won the match, Kyokutaisei seems to have injured his ankle pivoting into the throw.

Sadanoumi Defeats Aoiyama – Odd little match that featured Aoiyama applying a hearty storm of thrusts to Sadanoumi, but when they reached the tawara, and it looked like Aoiyama was about to win, he seemed to almost throw himself. The judges called a monoii, and talked it over, deciding that Aoiyama dropped first and awarding the match to Sadanoumi. Aoiyama remains winless.

Kotoshogiku defeats Daishomaru – Kotoshogiku is also undefeated, and has been fighting well for the first 3 days. At Maegashira 8, his skill level is equal to or beyond all of his opponents, with the deciding factor being how well his body is holding up. At the moment it seems to be holding up pretty well.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – Handshake tachiai from Hokutofuji into a brutal nodowa kept Takarafuji from generating any offense in the match. Once the right hand was at Takarafuji’s throat, it was all Hokutofuji, who also starts Aki 3-0.

Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Onosho gets his first win of Aki while looking strong and focused against Tochiozan, who drops to 0-3. Both of these rikishi are underperforming massively, and I hope they can rally in act 2.

Shohozan defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki took early command of this match, and initiated a tsuppari train against a surprisingly defensive Shohozan. Kagayaki continued to blast away, with Shohozan not even trying to land a single blow. Having had enough, Shohozan landed a couple of double arm forearm blasts that sent Kagayaki reeling, then took a hold and pushed the man in the bronze mawashi out for his second win.

Asanoyama defeats Abi – Abi uses his typical and anticipated double arm thrusting attack straight out of the tachiai. But while his upper body and face are taking punishment, we once again see Asanoyama’s lower body with its associated battle bridge continue to advance. Asanoyama times a move in between Abi’s thrusts, puts his hands center mass, and shoves. Asanoyama is also 3-0 to start Aki.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni won the tachiai, but was too low and too far forward. Myogiryu’s experience led him to drive forward strongly, coming over the top of Chiyonokuni and wrapping him up. Now hurtling backward, Chiyonokuni tried a pull but it just made his position worse, and he stepped out before Myogiryu exited. Solid, patient sumo from Myogiryu today.

Shodai defeats Endo – Endo was too low at the tachiai, and could never find his balance. Shodai overpowered him, and Endo found himself quickly in the wrong part of the dohyo. A desperate pull at the edge failed, and both men went out. A monoii was called, and the match went to Shodai, who picks up his first win for Aki. Endo has an unfortunate 0-3 start.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – A double match, the first one was inconclusive with both rikishi touching down / out at roughly the same time. Attempt 1 featured Mitakumi keeping daylight between himself and Tamawashi, denying the Mongolian challenger any avenue to attempt a kotenage. Second match saw Mitakeumi drive chest to chest against Tamawashi, completely disrupting him. Mitakeumi also starts Aki with 3-0.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – The expected bone crushing tachiai was delivered, with Chiyotairyu knocking the Ozeki off balance and advancing strongly. Takayasu recovered by shifting left and using Chiyotairyu’s strong advance to power his slap down. Takayasu starts Aki 3-0, Chiyotairyu 0-3.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – Goeido’s cannonball tachiai was stopped dead by the mass of Ichinojo, but Ichinojo’s attempt at an arm bar left him turned, and Goeido reached behind and pushed him out. Good, efficient and minimal sumo from Goeido. This was Ichinojo’s mistake.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Takakeisho brilliantly escapes Tochinoshin’s left hand mawashi grab, which leaves the Ozeki too far forward and off balance. Takakeisho’s lighting fast reflexes see him shift and push, sending Tochinoshin to the clay. Great sumo from Takakeisho today.

Hakuho defeats Kaisei – Hakuho lands a left hand outside grip early, and he steers Kaisei around in spite of the Brazilians weight advantage. The Yokozuna keeps leading the dance until Kaisei is far enough off balance that Hakuho manages to piece together a shitatenage. Whatever Hakuho’s physical problems might be, he seems to be working through them for now.

Kakuryu defeats Ikioi – The master of reactive sumo shows his skill once more. Kakuryu perfectly times a side-step against Ikioi’s charge and sends Ikioi face first into the tawara.

Kisenosato defeats Yutakayama – Kisenosato jumped a bit early, and a matta was called. On the second try, Yutakayama really took the fight to the Yokozuna, but Kisenosato was heavy once again today and masterfully stood his ground. Nothing Yutakayama tried today could move Kisenosato from the center of the dohyo. As Yutakayama began to tire, the Yokozuna took over and began to advance. This is the Kisenosato of old! Look at how his feet barely left the clay, and Yutakayama was powerless to stop his advance. Realizing he was running out of dohyo, Yutakayama began twisting, trying to find an escape from the Yokozuna’s iron grip for an opening to load a throw. To his credit, Yutakayama rallied well and almost pulled it off, but Kisenosato was ready and swung him down at the edge. But of course there was a monoii! Maybe the best match of the basho thus far. Fantastic sumo.