Natsu Day 11 Preview


kaiju mode
Ozeki Terunofuji Headed to McDonalds In Ryogoku, 11:22 PM Tuesday

We Start The Final Act

As we begin the last 5 days of this awesome tournament, it’s time to check up on a few of our story threads

Takayasu’s Ozeki Run – I would declare this on uncertain footing but still quite possible. Takayasu needs to face another Yokozuna who is currently unbeaten, and both Ozeki, one of which is operating in kaiju mode. That leaves him with 2-3 plausible wins, so still possible.

Injured Yokozuna Corps – Kakuryu already has withdrawn. He is probably facing pressure now to retire. He can in fact hang his hopes of delaying that by his November yusho in Fukuoka. Kisenosato insists on competing even though he lacks the strength in his upper body to present a reasonable threat to the upper San’yaku. Harumafuji and Hakuho have reverted to their genki forms, and are unbeaten and undeterred. It’s wonderful to see them both back to their former potency, and we are reminded of how they dominated everything sumo for years.

No-Zeki – Goeido is kadoban, this tournament, and is only 6-4 as of today. It’s not too far of a stretch to think he can pick up 2 more wins, but that’s very weak performance for an Ozeki. This week he faces all 3 Yokozuna, so I would guess at least 2 more losses are inbound. His match with Tamawashi may be the decider. Terunofuji on the other hand seems to be in the same mode he was in during Osaka. That of a rampaging sumo powerhouse with unbeatable strength. He has yet to face any Yokozuna, and I am guessing that he has a fair chance of beating any of them, except Kisenosato. I think he could actually injure Kisenosato.

Mitakeumi’s Komisubi Residency – He was out to strong start, but then hit some very rough patches. Now, Mitakeumi is in real danger of going make-koshi and being pushed back to rank and file Maegashira. I personally don’t think that’s going to harm him, as there is still a bunch of brush clearing that needs to take place in San’yaku before the promotion lanes are actually open. He has faced all of the Ozeki, but still needs to get by Harumafuji on day 11. After that he should draw some easier matches, and may end up 8-7 if he is not too discouraged.

Ojisan Kotoshogiku – We are at day 10, and he is still not make-koshi. His next loss seals his demotion, but he has faced both Ozeki and all three Yokozuna. Is it possible he can win his last 5 matches and escape demotion? Yes, but it would be highly improbably. But look at who he is likely to face: Chiyonokuni (2-8), Okinoumi (1-9!), Daieisho (2-8), Aoiyama (2-8)? We get to Tochiozan before we find a rikishi who is looking strong. So don’t write of Kotoshogiku yet. Then there is the thought of a Shodai – Kotoshogiku match, which might be a big deal.

Upper Maegashira Blood Bath – Ranks M1 – M5 contain 10 rikishi, only 3 of them have even or winning records. This is not atypical by any means, as the upper Maegashira are frequently the punching bags of the San’yaku, but the last few basho had been relatively gentle on these folks. But Natsu has brought the pain back with vengeance.

Juryo Meat Grinder – Upper Juryo is in worse shape than anything I have seen in some time. None of the top 6 Juryo ranks has anyone with more than 6 wins. Without a strong leader or leaders, it throws the promotion picture into chaos. It’s clear that a number of rikishi will be booted out of Makuuchi, but are any of these Juryo guys worthy to replace them?

Osunaarashi In Trouble – He is 1-9 right now. Given that the NSK has given him brutal demotions in the past, it’s reasonable to ask how far down the banzuke he will fall. It was clear from watching him in person that his multiple, unrecovered injuries have robbed him of the physical presence he used to command.

Natsu Leader board

LeadersHarumafuji, Hakuho
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura

5 Matches Remain

* Note, we are almost to the point where the math required for anyone to catch Hakuho or Harumafuji becomes unworkable.

Matches We Like

Kaisei vs Toyohibiki – In spite of his injuries, it seems Kaisei decided he is not going back to Juryo, no matter what. He needs 2 more wins to make that a reality. He has a 10-5 career advantage over Toyohibiki.

Tochinoshin vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu trying for kachi-koshi against a resurgent Tochinoshin. I am looking for Tochinoshin to employ his massive strength and size advantage if he can grab the mawashi, Tochinoshin will be thrusting with everything to keep the big Georgian away.

Chiyotairyu vs Takakeisho – Less of a mismatch than a M7 vs M14 bout should be. If Takakeisho wins, he claims his kachi-koshi. But Chiyotairyu has beaten him 2 out of their 3 times they have matched before. I would guess Chiyotairyu is going to try for a quick slap down before Takakeisho can set his feet and start his sumo.

Ura vs Shodai – Also a match likely better than you would expect with a M10 vs M5 bout. Ura deploy his quantum sumo against Shodai’s flawed tachiai. As Ura will probably go low and crazy, it’s going to be fun to see how Shodai reacts. This is their first ever match. May be the best match of day 11.

Endo vs Yoshikaze – Time to see if Endo learned anything from the Mitakeumi vs Yoshikaze bout. I am guessing he did not. Interestingly enough, these two are tied 5-5 over their career. Endo is looking a bit off now, and may be hurt, where Yoshikaze seems to actually be enjoying himself almost as much as Hakuho is.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyonokuni – Yes, Chiyonokuni is already make-koshi, but he has not been phoning in his matches. He has stepped on the dohyo each day with a plan to win, and he has given it his all. Kotoshogiku has a narrow path to hold onto Sekiwake, and the next step is defeating Chiyonokuni.

Tochiozan vs Takayasu – This is a must win for Takayasu. Given the brutality of the rest of his schedule, he needs to bank this win. Tochiozan is stronger this basho than he has looked since Nagoya 2016, so it’s not a foregone conclusion. Also of note is Tochiozan leads the career matches 18-5, so he has a habit of beating Takayasu. Much as Kintamayama seems to play on it, it does seem true that Takayasu is a chronic worrier, and it may restrain his sumo on day 11.

Terunofuji vs Aoiyama – The only question is what look of pain Aoiyama will have on his face moments after the tachiai. Kailua for the win over the man shaped meat mountain.

Hakuho vs Goeido – Only Goeido 2.0 has a chance here, and it would be so very magical if he appeared and battled Hakuho to a win. But reality says Hakuho is going to play with Goeido for a bit, then toss him around. Success here means that Goeido can come out of it without an injury.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – I am still hoping to see the death-spin. It’s been many months since Harumafuji tried to put a man in orbit, and I do so hope he can pull that one out this basho. Mitakeumi is still going to be a big deal in a while, but day 11 he gets to “enjoy” Harumafuji.

Kisenosato vs Tamawashi – Although Kisenosato has won all 9 of their prior meetings, Tamawashi has a fair chance against the one-armed Yokozuna. I am still looking for Kisenosato to do the responsible thing and go kyujo.

Kisenosato – Most Wins For 2016


kise-most-wins

Prevails Over Harumafuji In Victory Derby

At the completion of the Kyushu basho, perpetual runner up in all things sumo earned an important achievement. Kisenosato was recognized for the most wins this year in Makuuchi, a distinction normally claimed by Hakuho. As Hoakuho sat out all of Aki, the contest was wide open, with Harumafuji and Kisenosato tied until the last week in Kyushu.

Kisenosato’s final record for 2016 stands at:

69 Wins – 21 Losses

Not a stunning run, but it’s nice to see Kisenosato finally win something, and earn some recognition. In spite of the fact that I make him the butt of jokes, he is a solid Ozeki, probably one of the more dominant in a while. In this world of superlatives, everyone feels that he must become a Yokozuna to really have mattered. I would point to the mighty Kaio as an example of a fantastic sumotori, who continues to contribute to the sport, but never was promoted past Ozeki.

Congratulations to Kisenosato, well done.

Kyushu Story Line Wrap-Up


Sadly, our Kyushu basho has come to a close. Kakuryu has won his third tournament in solid, convincing fashion. I’ve been critical of him in the past and will continue to be critical of him. I still feel he was elevated early. We expect this performance from our yokozuna every tournament. We need to see this carry into the next year with Kakuryu in contention again. The same goes for Harumafuji…who was in contention this tournament and had FOUR yusho under his belt as an OZEKI. I think it is always a better legacy to be a great ozeki than an underperforming yokozuna.

As I review the tournament I will revisit the key story lines we raised before the matches started.

  1. Terunofuji survives as Ozeki, barely. His first few bouts were painful to watch. But he must have eaten his spinach after Day 2 as he won his next seven straight.
  2. Shodai and Endo both put on a show. Endo sure shocked me by beating three Ozeki and Hakuho in his first week. Things cooled off for him and he just missed getting a winning record, and likely a special prize. His losses weren’t to pufters, though, either. He fell to Tochiozan and Yoshikaze who both ended on worse records but are clearly solid former sanyaku wrestlers. As for Shodai, his easier schedule sure helped him as he DID get a special prize. His biggest victory was likely the spoiler win against Kisenosato at the end of the first week. The Ozeki was in contention but Shodai’s win ended up being decisive. He’ll face a much harder schedule as shin-sekiwake in January. Both times he went through the ringer as Maegashira 2, going 0-6 and 0-7. Personally, I’m more impressed with Endo this tournament, in spite of the worse record and it’s great to see him competing well at this level.
  3. The sinkhole got fixed in a week. Efficient.
  4. Hokutofuji and Ishiura had very successful debut tournaments. Ishiura’s performance was a bit more electric as he was even in yusho contention well into week 2, garnering a special prize. Hokutofuji finished with one fewer win but I feel he will fit better among the middle maegashira in January.
  5. Mitakeumi’s sanyaku debut was quiet as his only win during week one was to the poor-performing Kotoshogiku. He picked up much needed wins in week two against easier opponents but is clearly not ready to take on championship caliber competitors.
  6. Yay, Hakuho’s back! His loss to Endo was quite the shocker but a 90% Hakuho is still a great competitor. He finished with 4 losses which is better than his previous 10-5 record in July. I’m not going to break out a crystal ball and prognosticate about how many more tournaments or how many more years he’s got of competitive sumo ahead. I’m just looking forward to January.
  7. Takayasu’s path to Ozeki will need to start again at square one. He was unable to secure even a winning record but he may not drop out of sanyaku altogether. He’ll likely be komusubi in Tokyo.
  8. Ichinojo under-performed but it was probably a good thing. He’ll stay in the lower reaches of the makuuchi and can hopefully work on his technique and speed. We saw speed from Aoiyama, now the big man in the division. Ichinojo will get there with more training.

As  always, a big Thank You to Bruce for his great contributions (and the new look)!

Kyushu Day 15 Preview


kakuryu-victory

One More Time!

The last day of sumo for 2016, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. The Kyushu basho has taken us on a wild and exciting ride, but now it’s time to bring this glorious and unpredictable tournament to an end.

As Andy mentioned, there are still a few more rikishi who are fighting for their winning record (kachi-koshi), and there are few “test matches” on Sunday’s card. The following men are on the bubble, and their matches will be the ones to watch.

  • Endo – He had some great successes during this basho, but he has been inconsistent. He would likely receive several special prizes if he can secure his winning record. On Sunday he takes on Tamawashi: Komusubi and soon to be Sekiwake. This will be no easy match.
  • Myogiryu – He has really been hit or miss, and he has been matched with Maegashira 16 Gagamaru for this final bout. A loss here would not demote him out of Makuuchi, so make-koshi is not a total loss this time for Myogiryu
  • Ichinojo – Ichinojo is clearly still healing up, but he has managed to almost achieve a winning record. His final match is against Takekaze, who I would guess can bottle up the big Mongolian and put him down if he wants to. Ichinojo needs to summon everything for one final push.

Other Notable Matches

Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – As mentioned by Andy, Hidenoumi had to be wheeled out of the Fukuoka stadium on Saturday, and I would be surprised to see him back. There is nothing to be won by fighting the day after a concussion.

Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Another test match for Ishiura. He had to re-match against Shodai, but did fairly well in his first bout. Tochinoshin dispatched Kisenosato on day 13, then lost to Gagamaru on day 14. Who can tell which version of Tochinoshin Ishiura will face.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – After Aoiyama’s day 14 henka, I am going to be eager to see what Yoshikaze can apply to the giant man from Georgia.

Hakuho vs Goeido – It would be very useful for Goeido to finish with double digit wins. Hakuho would love to finish with a win, and possibly tie with Harumafuji should he lose to Kakuryu.

Kyushu Day 14 Results


Now that Santa pictures are over, I’ve got some time to wrap up the rest of Day 14 action. Kakuryu’s yusho is a lock and Goeido’s yokozuna hopes are dashed. Kisenosato’s sleeper run was put to an end the day before, so Terunofuji caught him in a bad mood; he’s lucky the veteran had not been able to wrap the mawashi around his neck rather than just up to his man boobs. Kotoshogiku’s continued presence is a bit of a puzzle to me. If he were injured, kyujo would have been a good option days ago. Today he just faced the ignominy of falling flat on his face, victim of an Aoiyama henka.

Other Notable Matches

Hidenoumi got knocked out by Kotoyuki. It was a tense several minutes as he laid still on the dohyo. Kotoyuki’s right paw caught got him under the chin and he was out cold. The scariest bit is the way he fell as his right knee seemed to twist. Several yobidashi scurried to help but I’m not sure how much medical assistance these guys are prepared to provide. There needs to be more medical attention ready ringside.

Gagamaru really wanted his kachi-koshi. I think Tochinoshin was the most surprised that he couldn’t beat his fellow Georgian. Endo just got flat beat by Tochiozan and will be battling a hot Tamawashi for his winning record. Given his performance in the first week, I would hope he’d be in the running for a special prize. Gotta meet friends for dinner…will finish later tonight.

Jun-yusho battles


As Bruce mentioned, Kakuryu has locked up the basho. Tomorrow he will close, win or lose, against Harumafuji. Therefore, the drama is in the jun-yusho. Can Harumafuji maintain his second place position? Will Kisenosato be a bridesmaid for the twelfth time? He’ll “battle” the Yokozuna’s stablemate Takarafuji. The Ozeki has dominated this matchup, winning 11 straight – mostly by yorikiri. Shodai has been great but did not have the insane schedule faced by Endo. By virtue of that lighter schedule, he’s in the running for the jun-yusho as well and will likely get it on the back of Arawashi, a Maegashira 10.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Clinches Kyushu Yusho


yokozuna-kakuryu

Impressive Performance, Outstanding Results

Congratulations to Yokozuna Kakuryu, who has had a long and difficult struggle to recover from injuries in 2016. The key to his victory in the Kyushu basho was adaptability. He was constantly on the move, and his approach to any given match could and would change in the blink of an eye.

With Kakuryu’s victory on day 14, there is no means that any other rikishi can catch him tomorrow, on the final day. With a 14-1 record tomorrow, or 13-2, the next closest would be Yokozuna Harumafuji, who could possibly finish 12-3 should he defeat Kakuryu.

Update: The original version of this post included discussion of a monoii for this match. Sadly this was my mistake given early morning match reviews via videos posted on the Grand Sumo app. Clearly I got that wrong, and I apologize.