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.

Aki Day 3 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakiesho Aki 2018

For anyone who has been a sumo fan for the last couple of years, Aki 2018 is a welcome departure from the normal. It has been along time since this many of sumo’s top competitors were all present at the start of a tournament. Given that some of them are in less than perfect health, we may not see them at the end of act 3, but this is a great and exciting way to start a basho. The Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have not only shown up, they are competing with vigor, energy and skill. Sadly for the Komusubi and Sekiwake (as well as Maegashira 1-3), this means that they take the full brunt of being warm up cannon fodder for the Yokozuna and Ozeki. Excellent rikishi like Takakeisho and Tamawashi will find it hard to reach kachi-koshi, let alone some of the 10 win figures seen earlier this year. That spells trouble for Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid, as we will likely see him face all 6 of the Yokozuna and Ozeki starting soon.

The other thing that has caught my eye is just how well the “Freshmen” are fighting this tournament. This is the cohort that includes Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Kagayaki and Abi. Sure, Yutakayama is winless so far because he is a Yokozuna chew-toy. But he is moving well, putting together excellent matches and generally showing some solid sumo. It’s going to be a while before we see these rikishi make their way to being headliners, but it’s great to see them showing a lot of promise early on.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Kotoyuki vs Yoshikaze – Kotoyuki has looked a half step behind both days, and we can’t help but wonder if he is going to snap out of it and present a credible challenge in any of his matches. Yoshikaze, however, seems to have recovered a great deal of his genki, and has been back to his old power levels thus far. Kotoyuki holds a 6-3 career advantage over Yoshikaze, so maybe today is the day “Mr 5×5” recovers.

Takanoiwa vs Nishikigi – If you did not see Nishikigi’s day 2 match, go watch it now. Nishikigi is the poster boy of calm and polite. But on day 2 he was positively aggressive – kind of a shock, but a welcome one. But speaking of aggressive, lets see what he does with Takanoiwa! Both men come into the match with 2-0, and tied career wise at 2-2.

Kyokutaisei vs Daieisho – Kyokutaisei seems to be stuck right now, and he has nothing but kuroboshi to show right now. Fans will recall he started Nagoya the same way, taking it to 5 straight losses. He holds a career 4-2 lead over Daieisho, so maybe today is the day he gets into the win column. It could also be the case that he has family in Hokkaido, and the disaster there may be occupying his thoughts.

Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama is also in the winless column, and I think he may be feeling the pain of injuries. We have yet to see him unleash his overwhelming upper body strength, and he has been even slower than normal moving around the dohyo. Sadanoumi comes in straight from giving Okinoumi a good fight.

Daishomaru vs Kotoshogiku – One of the strange results of Kotoshogiku being this far down the banzuke is that he is fighting some familiar rikishi for the first time. Today it’s Daishomaru. Thus far Kotoshogiku has been moving well, and seems to not be in pain. His motions are smooth and efficient, and he would seem to be locked in to his sumo.

Takarafuji vs Hokutofuji – Today’s fight of the fujis, what I am going to look for is Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, and Takarafuji to take it chest to chest. Takarafuji is a great technical wrestler, and seems to always have a careful plan of how to win. Hokutofuji seems to be more of a “hold my beer” kind of rikishi, who decides he is going to try something fast and violet and work with whatever emerges.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Both of these guys are zero wins? Strangely enough, yes. Onosho especially has looked to be only about 80% thus far. I am going to assume that at some point his sumo will click and he will pick up a good number of wins, enough to remain in the top division anyhow. Tochiozan’s matches have boiled down to a few choices that did not break his way, so I am expecting him to leverage his 3-1 career advantage and possibly rack his first win.

Kagayaki vs Shohozan – Big Guns will take his daily brawl to Kagayaki’s school of sumo. Both of them come in 1-1, but out of their 8 prior matches, Kagayaki has won 6 of them. I am going to be watching to see if Kagayaki can set up his preferred thrusting position center mass, inside of Shohozan’s wood-chipper style tsuppari.

Asanoyama vs Abi – Both men with 2 wins, career series tied at 1-1. What’s going to be the edge here? Lord knows. First off Abi is tough to handicap. As Herouth pointed out, everyone knows about his “One Weird Trick”, but he is still getting away with it. Asanoyama has brought a lot more speed to his sumo this year, but it’s nothing compared to Abi’s stick-insect inspired sumo.

Chiyonokuni vs Myogiryu – Another fun match for day 3, two very high intensity rikishi are going to try to move up from their 1-1 records. I am going to look for Chiyonokuni to surge early, and try to close the match before Myogiryu can set up his offense. Chiyonokuni will want to stay mobile and use his superior reach. Should be a slap fest worthy of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Shodai vs Endo – Another great enigma, at least we know that one of these two deserving rikishi will exit the match with a win. Both of them are fighting well, but have lost their first two. Shodai may have been robbed on day 2 when the fact that his tachiai has improved resulted in a matta. I want to see Shodai do it again, be fast and low. Don’t worry about your score today, get the mechanics right.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Tamawashi will try a kotenage. The big question being, will Mitakeumi fall for it? Career advantage is 12-2 in Mitakeumi’s favor, but to me his sumo has looked a bit tentative thus far. We are still in act 1, so there is plenty of time for him to dial it up.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – This will likely be a very sloppy battle of the bellies, starting with an earth-shattering tachiai. In spite of the pain and injuries, Takayasu is managing to rack the shiroboshi so far. His sumo is still wild and chaotic, which is just begging for another mechanical injury. Chiyotairyu struggles this high up in the banzuke, where it’s tougher to win matches just by being enormous and smashing into people at the tachiai. Takayasu leads their career series 8-3.

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Well, Ichinojo tried the “Bad Pony” technique again on day 2, but it fell flat. Goeido managed to win one, but he still looked a half step behind. It will be easy to get the jump on Ichinojo, but I like how he is not giving up at the tawara right now. They are more or less tied over their career.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho was fired up day 2, and nearly overwhelmed Kisenosato. He is a terrifying ball of energy in a compact spherical package, which may be trouble for Tochinoshin. Thus far the injured kadoban Ozeki has been fighting well, and has been very careful with his overwhelming strength; enough to win, but just enough. Interestingly enough, Takakeisho leads their career matches 3-1.

Kaisei vs Hakuho – Day 2 Kaisei took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, and Kakuryu showed him how well tended the east side hanamichi is. He has never defeated Hakuho, who is hiding whatever pain and stiffness he might have well. I am predicting a return voyage to the lap of someone in the front row.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi is strong, and seems to be willing to sacrifice his body to do what it takes to win. But Yokozuna Kakuryu is the master of reactive sumo, so he will play with Ikioi, stalemating him until he makes a mistake. Kakuryu may be the one to beat this tournament.

Kisenosato vs Yutakayama – Last match of the day features Kisenosato taking on the head of the Freshman class. Each basho Yutakayama shows up bigger, stronger, and with improvements in his sumo. He is winless right now, but I view him as a formidable opponent. This is their first match, and I am (as always) just hoping no one gets hurt.