Makushita Yusho Race Heats Up

Tonight there are three yusho race elimination matches in Makushita between 3-0 record-holders with kachi-koshi on the line as well as a slot in another to follow. The headliner in tonight’s action is Abi. The former Komusubi will face Shinohara. Shinohara is certainly a young one-to-watch, having won first yusho last year in his debut tournament…the “silent basho” back in Osaka.

That’s right, the same tournament that saw the debut of Nabatame, Hayatefuji, and Taiyo (all of whom he defeated in that first tournament). Others to debut in that same tournament were Kirameki and Takeoka. A solid recruiting class. Thanks to the SumoDB, YouTube, and Twitter, there are several videos of him in action out there but Abi will clearly be his biggest challenge yet. One bout of interest would be this one against former sekitori Takaryu, from Hatsu.

He’s got a complimentary oshi-style so this bout against Abi should be a bit of a slap-fest, if the two get into it. He’s also got a great hatakikomi weapon at his disposal. In a similar move, he got wrapped up here against Hokutoshu but at the tawara tries ottsuke to dislodge Hokutoshu’s arm before deciding to bring him down with Midorifuji’s patented katasukashi.

With his fast, powerful tachiai, Shinohara will be an interesting challenge but should certainly be out of his league against someone who has faced Hakuho four times, including this kinboshi. There were a few videos online but I chose this one because it’s over so quickly so the slow-mo replay is helpful. Some of the other videos made me really miss zabuton-throwing.

Tomorrow, a bit further down the banzuke, Tomokaze is up for his kachi-koshi in another yusho race elimination bout.

Bouts from the lower divisions: Match Day 1

With a few asterisks, we’ve concluded Match Day 1 for rikishi from the lower four divisions. The men from these divisions only fight seven times during the tournament, so the first half fought on opening night and most of the rest (who aren’t kyujo) fought last night. So on the first night we got to see the return of Wakaichiro and Ura’s first bout was last night.

Jonokuchi:

I figure I’ll start here with the rookies, Mudoho, Nihonyanagi, and Dewanoryu.

Mudoho, grandson of the legendary Yokozuna Taiho, kicked off the tournament under his own shikona, drawn from the characters used by his Grampa. The Kyokai started the whole tournament early Sunday morning with this decisive win over Iwata from Naruto beya, who is returning from kyujo and his second round of maezumo. You can find more of his backstory and Herouth’s coverage of his maezumo debut here and introductions for our Jonokuchi debutants.

Two willow trees, Nihonyanagi was next, (“Over the oka and through the mori, to Roppongi we go”). Conveniently, he fought against our other debutant, Dewanoryu. Both were introduced by Herouth in the article link above.

Nihonyanagi secured a morozashi quickly after a rather defensive (oshi-minded) tachiai. Once he secured that left hand inside, right hand outside, he began to yank Dewanoryu around at will. to the side of the dohyo. Dewanoryu’s next match is scheduled tomorrow against Hattorizakura, one of our asterisks, in that he has not fought yet. Taiga is also kyujo to start this tournament and he will likely compete once to stay on the banzuke. Ryuden did this several times before storming back and becoming the Maegashira mainstay we know and love today. May Taiga be so blessed.

Jonidan:

In Jonidan, we’ve got Senho who jumped from Jonokuchi into the midst of the division at Jd74 (of 108 ranks). Unfortunately for him, he lost against the more experienced, dedicated pusher-thruster in Harada. And unfortunately for us, I’ve not been able to find video anywhere because Harada won by yoritaoshi and I’m very curious about how that worked out. But the headliner in Jonidan is former maegashira Ura in his second tournament back. He dominated Sorakaze from the outset, with an oshidashi win. After a good tachiai, he worked his left hand inside Sorakaze’s right arm, grabbed him by the armpit, and ejected him from the dohyo. All of his wins last tournament were of the oshi-tsuki variety.

Sandanme:

Unfortunately, in Sandanme we have the late-timed intai of Kaishu for personal reasons. He was still on the banzuke and his retirement came as quite the surprise. He’s been active on Instagram, where he’s been updating his story from what looks like the Philippines? Yesterday Kobayashi-san was riding along a road as an apparent passenger on one of those hire-bikes. The day before he was at a water park. We wish him well in his post-sumo endeavors and we’ll keep people filled in on his future successes.

Wakaichiro fought against Baraki on Day 1 and unfortunately came away with a loss. He was a bit off balance for a lot of the bout and it looked like he’d recovered well for a moment but Baraki was able to finish him off. Sadly, I can’t find video. This is surely a lamentable predicament for the former American Footballer since studying one’s past games and those of one’s opponents is such a crucial part of practice in that sport, and he’ll need it for his next fight against Fujinowaka. Both men are Oshizumo specialists, so it will likely be a strength vs strength bout.

Hokutenkai on the West, or left side, of this video faced off against the appropriately named Azumasho. The Mongolian has had an exceptional start to his career with a 6-1 debut followed by the Jonidan yusho in Kyushu. He’s proven himself comfortable with oshizumo but he is able to win on the belt as well. The strong blast at the tachiai pressed the bigger Azumasho back on the defensive. Azumasho hunkers down and forces a shift to a belt battle. Hokutenkai is not shy about it and starts to get to work. Just as Azumasho’s foot gets to the bales (and I’m sure he could have withstood a yorikiri attempt) Hokutenkai executes a great uwatenage overarm throw.

Makushita:

Up in Makushita, we got another great uwatenage from Kitanowaka against Narutaki.

Roga battled Onami Jr, sorry, Wakatakamoto but I can’t find video. Sorry.

A bit further up we get a humdinger of a bout between a former Makuuchi regular, Chiyonokuni, and Mudoho’s big brother Naya. Chiyonokuni wound up and tried to deliver a whopper of a slap to Naya but landed two – rather ineffectively – at his shoulder/armpit instead. The younger man forced the issue and kept bringing the oshi-battle to the grizzled veteran. As Chiyonokuni ducked away, Naya pursued, and thrust his prey out with a forceful final blast. I may be over-stating this point but that’s the kind of power I’d like to see Abi develop behind his attack to get to the Ozeki level.

Well, action has already started for Match Day 2, so I bid y’all adieu.

Ones To Watch – Post Haru Round Up (Makushita)

Why is this man smiling? Ah yes, kachi-koshi in Makushita joi can feel like winning a Powerball jackpot.

With the glorious Haru basho in the record books, we can now examine how our up-an-coming, and well loved rikishi fared in the lower divisions. While we remarked at length at how brutal the competition was in the top division, the carnage carried down the banzuke to a surprising degree, with many of our “Ones to Watch” going down to make-koshi or squeaking out their final win with their last match.

Today we are looking at the Makushita rikishi, with lower divisions following soon.

Wakamotoharu – The second Onami brother to break into the salaried ranks, he had a disastrous record for Osaka, with only 5 wins against 10 losses. Ranked at Juryo 10, this is quite possibly enough certain to return him to the Makushita joi for May, where he will once again face some of the most difficult matches in sumo.

Hoshoryu – The rising star from Mongolia faced a 3 match cold streak in the first half of Haru, and closed with 3 straight wins to end 4-3. Prior to this tournament, Hoshoryu had been able to dominate the bulk of his matches, and may have found the competition a bit sedate. Ranked at Makusihta 7 in Osaka, he came up against some of the highly motivated rikishi, seeking to mangle each other in search of the final step into Sekitori status. While all of his fans are happy for his kachi-koshi, we expect him to have to repeat this kind of brutal slog at least a few more times before he can make his Juryo debut.

Akua – Electric green Akua went down to his second make-koshi in Osaka, putting his 3rd trip to Juryo further out of reach. Akua has been nursing nagging injuries after being forced to withdraw from the Aki basho on day 12. He has drive, speed and talent, but like so many hopefuls, his body suffers from the brutal pounding that is the top ¼ of Makushita.

Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto blazed a 6-1 record from Makushita 11, earning him a solid berth in the Makushita joi-jin for Natsu, and possibly a shot at Juryo if he can excel one more time. This will be no easy feat given how many strong rikishi had winning records in the top 10 Makushita ranks, who did not end up making the Juryo cut. He’s made one trip to these elevated ranks last summer, but suffered a brutal 1-6 at Aki 2018, and has been pushing to recover ever since.

Midorifuji – Midorifuji came to Osaka at his highest ever rank, and looking to do one thing – bring home 4 shiroboshi and a kachi-koshi. He closed the deal on this proposition on the final day, and assured himself a modest move higher. We will likely see him test his sumo against some of the joi-jin in May, and this might present him his biggest challenge yet. Midorifuji has shown an impressive range of sumo this year, and it’s only March…

Wakatakamoto – The lowest ranking of the three Onami brothers, Wakatakamoto excelled in Osaka, ending with a 5-2 record. Its likely this score will see him in the teens of the Makushita division, and he may find the level of competition a degree more intense than Osaka.

Ura – After a crippling re-injury to his right knee at Hatsu, Ura wasted no time returning to an orthopedic surgical theater, and undergoing a second surgery. He is not likely to return to the dohyo this year, and his Oyakata has indicated to the press that they are in “no rush” and want his recovery to be “perfect”. We could not agree more.

Musashikuni – The scion of the Mushashigawa clan went into the final day of the Haru basho already with 4 losses, but took his third win from Kotodairyu, to ease his fall down the banzuke for Natsu. We know the big Hawaiian has been nursing numerous mechanical injuries, and may have been at less than full health. He is also one of Takayasu’s tsukibeto.

Naya – One of the great stories of Haru was Naya’s bold run to within arm’s reach of the Makushita yusho from Ms51e. He was toe to toe with rikishi ranking well above him in many cases, but continued to dominated his matches. After a less than spectacular result from Hatsu, fans hopeful that Naya may be driving for higher ranks were delighted with his effort.

For a complementary take on the state of Makushita, see Chris Gould’s video below. -lksumo

Hatsu Day 7 – Lower Division Ones To Watch

A smaller lineup of our “Ones to Watch” for Saturday, but there are some find Makushita matches to track, as we get towards the half way point for many of these rikishi. The competition for what may be just a handful of Juryo slots will be increasingly brutal as we near the conclusion of Hatsu, and we will be watching with interest.

Kenho vs Kirizakura – Kenho is winless, and another loss today would mean a make-koshi, and a demotion back down to Jonidan. Compared to Kenho’s amazing bulk, 100kg Kirizakura is a light-weight, but I am sure we will see some high-agility small-man sumo tonight.

Naya vs Terao – Naya is looking fairly solid thus far, and comes into this 2-1 bracket looking for his next win. Terao has been knocking around Makushita for the bulk of the last several years, and bring a serious challenge to Kaio’s grandson.

Wakatakamoto vs Ohata – Another 2-1 bracket match we see the lower ranked Waka brother up against a fairly young opponent in Ohata. Ohata, from Tokitsukaze heya, is near his highest ever rank, and seems to be competing well. Should be a good match.

Wakamotoharu vs Fujiazuma – Near the half way point, only a handful of Makushita rikishi are still unbeaten, and these two are the highest ranked. This is a Darwin match, and may have a direct impact on if Wakamotoharu has a shot at breaking in Juryo. With this much on the line, it’s going to be a flat out battle!

Akua vs Kiribayama – Both rikishi enter this match with 2-1 records, but Akua has beaten Kiribayama in both of their prior matches. Both are ranked high enough that its possible they could be considered for elevation to Sekitori, so there is a lot on the line for them both.