Kyushu Day 4 Highlights – Not Spoiler Free

Tochiozan

I will come out and say it, Kyushu 2018 is Aki’s battle injured uncle with PTSD. You love them, but you keep wondering if they are going to snap. The two tournaments seem to be night and day different. Aki was a parade of sumo’s top guns, all performing fairly well and dominating the ring. Kyushu continues the prior trend we have been watching for the past few years; the fading away of well loved veterans as their bodies break down and their sumo fails them.

The biggest story of the tournament is Kisenosato, and his dismal 0-4 start. As Team Tachiai writer Herouth has pointed out, “The last time a Yokozuna had 4 consecutive losses from the start was in January 1931. 29th Yokozuna Miyagiyama got his first win on day 5. He ended up 5-6 (this was before the 15 day basho system) and retired by the next basho.” Fans of Kisenosato, or even people who have come to respect his ability to keep pushing through the challenges no matter what should prepare themselves.

But with the lone Yokozuna in career trouble, the door is wide open for the yusho. This includes Kisenosato’s kohei, Takayasu, who has yet to win a tournament. Make no mistake, retirement of the only active Japanese Yokozuna would be a blow to the sport, and nothing could staunch that wound better than to shift focus to that Yokozuna’s understudy.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Chiyomaru – The banzuke team gave Chiyomaru a last chance to rescue his Makuuchi self, but it seems that whatever physical problems are plaguing him, he is not yet healed. The guy is hugely popular in Japan, so I am sure he will be ok, but for fans of “Spheroid Sumo”, the future is not looking good, with Planet Gagamarus relegated to the outer solar system and other giants continuing to struggle.

Meisei defeats Arawashi – Fast fun match that ended with both rikishi trying to throw the other, and the first monoii for the Makuuchi division this tournament. The result was a somewhat novel interpretation of the “dead body” rule, that confirmed the gyoji’s gumbai and awarding the match to Meisei.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyoshoma – Aoiyama seems to have reconnected with his sumo, but he’s looking fairly rough and sloppy. His match against Chiyoshoma was fairly chaotic, as if the big Bulgarian was throwing anything he could at his smaller and more agile opponent. But any white start you can grab counts.

Endo defeats Takanosho – Endo also seems to have gotten enough ring rust removed to execute working sumo. At Maegashira 12, he should be paving with these opponents, but thus far he is only 2-2. Endo represents another “Great Japanese Hope” that has yet to pay off, and the calendar is not his friend now.

Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – Okinoumi made it look easy, and it seems to this sumo fan that Yutakayama is still moving well, but can’t generate any power offensively or defensively. At Maegashira 10, he’s probably going to stay in the top division for new years if he can get at least a couple of wins. But right now that looks like it might be a struggle.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – I know I keep hyping for Abi to unleash something new, but like any successful organism, why evolve when you keep winning. At Maegashira 7, the double arm thrust is probably enough for a kachi-koshi most times. But it’s not going to be universally effective in the top ranks.

Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Ikioi finally gets his first win, but both rikishi looks like they could use a tune up. Both are in the same boat as Aoiyama, painfully throwing everything they can muster in hopes of getting enough wins to hang on.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Kagayaki continues to dominate their matches, and the normally challenging Shohozan. When Kagayaki can get the right kind of opening, he knows how to win. He is surprisingly powerful in a handful of attack styles, and as long as the match can be squeezed into those parameters, he’s a force of nature.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – For the first time in a long time, I think we are going to be watching for an endurance check against a rising star. Takakeisho made easy work of Shodai, and remains unbeaten. It’s always tough for rikishi to elevate their sumo into the second week, when a strong winning record against a shattered Yokozuna / Ozeki corps starts to work on a person’s mind. But I think we are going to see Takakeisho show the world what the future of sumo looks like.

Myogiryu defeats Mitakeumi – As mentioned in the day 4 preview, I would like the Sekiwake to stop phoning it in. Mitakeumi seems to have thrown in the towel after being shut out of his Ozeki bid at Aki, and he’s failing to impress his opponents. While a 2-2 record is just fine, it’s not the kind of effort that propels a rikishi up the banzuke. However veteran Myogiryu seems to have found his genki, and is exceeding expectations.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo finds it impossible to maintain fighting form, plain and simple. When he’s on, he’s awesome. But he seems to only be able to muster that about ⅓ of the time. Much respect to Hokutofuji who seems to have fired up and is on a run.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – As is usually the case, you have to wonder why Kaisei came back from kyujo. Tochinoshin had him wrapped up in a hurry, and effectively deployed the left hand lift and shift.

Takayasu defeats Nishikigi – My heart goes out to Nishikigi, who shows up to fight these huge battle wagons, and gives it what he can each day. Today, he may have surprised himself when he was not atomized by Takayasu’s nuclear tachiai.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Goeido gets his Mongolian challenger off balance at the tachiai, and does not fail to exploit his advantage. Tamawashi is better than this, but again this basho is a parade of folks performing below their capabilities.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – For whatever reason, Kisenosato is not even fighting at Komusubi level right now. He’s unable to generate offensive pressure to his left side, and everyone knows it. They all attack from the left, and the Yokozuna can only stalemate them for so long. Game-set-match. Tochiozan’s sumo has not looked this good for some time, it’s great to watch as he employs some moves that are not seen anywhere else.

Kyushu Day 4 Preview

Kyushu Day 4 Banner

On the back of Herouth’s excellent write up, everyone is waiting to see which path Kisenosato will take as the days of the Kyushu basho tick by. As of the moment this is being written, it looks like he will gamberize and stay to course, continuing to compete each day. Of the 3 losses that mark his inauspicious start for the Kyushu basho, 2 of them are the kind of matches that a Yokozuna should clearly win. This will be difficult, but not impossible, for him to live down.

Am I calling for him to retire? Not even close. Kisenosato’s story has been an epic push to the top, and his 10-5 return at Aki was quite frankly a shocking surprise. Now stuck between poor performance, his duty as the only Yokozuna, and the high probability that the pressure on him to retire, I fully think he will choose to go out guns blazing.

Even if he struggles and stays in the tournament, his stable-mate Ozeki Takayasu is clearly the man to catch. This basho will likely be a crazy mad-cap runaway beer truck, careening down a mountain road with no breaks. As much of a brutal trench battle that Aki was, this one may be a daily dose of, “Dear lord, what next?”. [We all love your mixed metaphors. –PinkMawashi]

What We Are Watching Day 4

Onosho vs Daishomaru – Coming off of his day 3 loss, Onosho is going to be facing the capable Daishomaru who is also bringing a 2-1 record. The difference, I think, is intensity. Onosho seems to have about 80% of his old intensity back, and for this far down the banzuke, that is fairly dominant.

Takanosho vs Endo – Endo is off to a poor start, but his first ever match against Takanosho may give him a chance to even up his score. Given the 1-2 record this far down the banzuke, we can assume that Endo is continuing to nurse injuries, most likely a continuation of the knee injury he suffered at Natsu this year.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama seems to be continuing his horrific slide that started with an injury at Aki. Thus far he has yet to rack a single win, and he faces off against seasoned veteran Okinoumi, whom he has never beaten. It’s a bit early to start wondering if the bright young Yutakayama will be returning to Juryo before he starts to improve, but for his fans that has to be a worry.

Kotoshogiku vs Sadanoumi – The Kyushu Bulldozer and former Ozeki Kotoshogiku continues to hold his own at Maegashira 8, and it’s really great to see the crowd cheer him on. Sadanoumi has yet to lose, and has his best start since he won the Juryo Yusho at Osaka this year.

Abi vs Takarafuji – It’s been surprising how many opponents have tried to thrust against Takarafuji’s stump of neck this basho. Given Abi’s tendencies towards that end, we may see if he can “Find Takarafuji’s neck with both hands”. Takarafuji has looked sluggish since Nagoya, and while still competent, he is not inspiring right now.

Takanoiwa vs Ikioi – Ikioi’s sumo is in shambles right now. He can’t seem to muster effective offense, and his ability to resist pressure from an opponent is near zero. Takanoiwa seems to be off his sumo as well, so this may be the kind of match where you can nip off to the yakitori stand or the toilet.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has said in prior interviews that he is aiming for the top, and sumo fans applaud that. His focus on mastery of sumo fundaments is undeniable, but the Maegashira 6 range may be as far as that can take him. He holds a solid career advantage over Shohozan, so this may be a chance to even up at 2-2, but he does not seem to be “dialed in” yet.

Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – Asanoyama gets a good chance to pick up his first ever win against Yoshikaze, who, in spite of being in front of his local fans, seems to be at a much lower level of genki than we saw in Aki. Asanoyama on the other hand seems to be off to a solid start.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Takakeisho is certainly dialed in to his sumo right now, and everyone is giving him plenty of time to set up and execute the attack waves until he wins. This is going to be fun to contrast with Shodai’s use of cartoon physics, which seems to be surprisingly potent. The good thing is that Shodai’s tachiai continues to improve.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Maybe I have become far too jaded, but I have to wonder if Mitakeumi is just going through the motions. He lost his Ozeki run last time, and now he’s kind of plodding around. Yes, he is 2-1 to start, but I would also say his sumo looks a step slower than at Aki. Myogiryu should savor his win over Kisenosato, because he may take a lot of pounding until he’s done being a San’yaku chew toy.

Hokutofuji vs Ichinojo – If Ichinojo does not snap-to, I can’t help but hope this is the basho he gives up that Sekiwake slot. He was phoning it in during Aki, and he’s been phoning it in again now. With any luck, Hokutofuji is well motivated after his kinboshi and gives the Boulder a roll down the side of the dohyo.

Nishikigi vs Takayasu – Nishikigi’s tachiais have looked so tentative and almost apologetic. He goes up against the man who blasts off the line each and every time. I feel a bit of remorse for the guy, and hope that he exits Kyushu with enough working parts to remain married.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Speaking of phoning it in, Goeido had a good first day, then he has been a sloppy mess since. Tamawashi’s time in the kitchen gives him a lot of practice with a sloppy mess, and I am going to guess Goeido will be caught trying to improvise once more.

Kisenosato vs Tochiozan – Do we have to? I have to think at some point even Kisenosato will try to save face. Tochiozan is a well known foe. They have had 41 matches, of which Kisenosato has taken 26. That would be the healthy Kisenosato. The broken one who is struggling to generate forward pressure might be untested against Tochiozan, and frankly I hate to watch.

Kyushu Day 3 Preview

Kyushu Day 3 Banner

The top story in our minds is the evident weakness in Kisenosato. His day 1 loss was regrettable, but to some extent plausible as Takakeisho is a hard-charging young man who is primed for higher ranks. His day 2 loss and resulting kinboshi is rightfully cause for concerns among fans. Kisenosato has frequently suffered from performance problems in high stakes / high stress situations, and has jokingly been called a “Chokozuna” more than once. Given his age, his injury, and his record setting string if kyujo, the “Great Pumpkin” might be getting into a spot where he is left with few options save a trip to the barber.

Kaisei has returned from kyujo, and with all rikishi injuries, the reporting around what was wrong with him, and what state he is in, is awfully thin. We know the pressure is on for him to produce at least a few wins to help stave off a deep make-koshi and a heavy demotion. Balancing between injury recovery and rank is one of the brutal truths surrounding sumo: it is a zero-sum game where only the winners can retain rank.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Arawashi vs Chiyomaru – Both rikishi are eager for their first wins, and both are clearly struggling this basho. Both of them are staring at a return to Juryo approaching like a Shinkansen. For all of the glories of being a sumo fan, it’s always tough to see two capable rikishi get in this much trouble so early in a basho.

Onosho vs Takanosho – Onosho has opened Kyushu strong, and I do think that he may have put on some additional mass as well. A healthy and genki Onosho is under-ranked at Maegashira 13, and I think if he finishes week 1 in good shape he will be in the rotation to face off against higher ranks.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Everyone hopes that this basho, Endo will get his body, his sumo and his mind together. Endo is always hoped to be a great rikishi “real soon now”, but always comes up short for a parade of reasons. Aoiyama is winless thus far, and seems to be continuing the struggles he faced at Aki. Both are capable when they are on their sumo, which may not be day 3.

Chiyonokuni vs Okinoumi – An evenly balanced match between Chiyonokuni’s raw, frantic battle style and Okinoumi’s more measured and balanced approach. As fans of Chiyonokuni are aware, his frantic sumo tends to include a lot of mistakes and missteps, and any skilled opponent need only wait for him to execute something in a sloppy or careless manner to find their opening for a winning move.

Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama is suffering a cold start to Kyushu, which seems to be an extension of his struggles at Aki. It is not uncommon for a rikishi to suffer for several basho following a brutal ride through the top end of the Maegashira ranks, and this may be the case with Yutakayama. Sadanoumi, one the other hand, has started strong and seems to be on his sumo.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Hometown boy Kotoshogiku really does much better at Kyushu. He seems to become energized by the atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the crowd. He has never lost to Daieisho, and I don’t expect he will start today.

Abi vs Shohozan – Oh fun – the street brawler “Big Guns” Shohozan will have to puzzle through Abi’s crazy long reach to remain unbeaten. Fans around the world are waiting for Abi to decide that the double arm shoulder thrusting approach needs a rest, and to try something more.

Takanoiwa vs Kagayaki – Takanoiwa is probably eager to pick up his first win, but fans should keep in mind he sat out jungyo with injuries, and is unlikely to be 100%. Add to that the stress of the Harmafuji lawsuit debacle, the retirement of his Oyakata, changing stables and all of the stress that came with that, and you have a recipe for a solid rikishi underperforming. He holds a 7-5 career advantage over Kagayaki, but Mr Fundamentals may hold the edge on day 3.

Chiyotairyu vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama took white stars from both Takanoiwa and Kagayaki, but now faces a bigger, rounder challenge. Chiyotairyu’s sumo is fairly one dimensional, and Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will work hard from the tachiai to keep Shodai reacting. If he gives the man in blue a chance to set up any offense, it could get tough for the Berserker in a hurry. So for Shodai, he needs to use his excellent balance and stability to endure Yoshikaze’s opening gambit, and rally to have a chance to win.

Takakeisho vs Ryuden – I am going to guess with a win over the Yokozuna and the top ranked Ozeki, the schedulers are going to save Takakeisho’s remaining Ozeki bouts for later in the basho. The young man could be on a hot streak, and he may be useful in creating drama for act 3 if he keeps winning. Today his opponent is Ryuden, who continues to be inconsistent, but could plausibly win against Takakeisho.

Tamawashi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo, what is it going to take? So much potential, but something in your mind seems to impede your sumo. You have a lot of fans who are behind you, but worry when we see you struggle with the easy stuff. Today is a fairly even match against his countryman Tamawashi. Fast and brutal, Tamawashi may struggle with Ichinojo’s scale busting mass, but I anticipate that Tamawashi will attack with force, and likely prevail.

Mitakeumi vs Nishikigi – Ever have a business trip to some place you always wanted to see, like maybe Thailand. But the flight breaks down, your luggage gets lost and sold on the black market, and the food gives you horrific digestive problems. But you get to see amazing sights and meet truly wonderful and unique people in a whirlwind adventure you will never forget, and probably never attempt again. This is Nishikigi’s magical holiday in the joi-jin.

Kaisei vs Takayasu – Welcome back Kaisei! Leg still hurt? Good, we would like you to work out with Mr Takayasu-zeki today. Both of you are big, hairy beasts so we decided it would be good for you to share hobby time together.

Goeido vs Tochiozan – Now Tochiozan has taken both Sekiwake scalps, the schedulers try him against the top-ranked Ozeki. Goeido’s day 2 match saw him fall prey to the same offensive strategy that Takakeisho used against Kisenosato, so one has to wonder if Goeido has lost the plot.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – A surprisingly interesting and balanced match. Tochinoshin does not yet look to be on his sumo, and that day 1 loss seems to be occupying his mind. Myogiryu is coming off of a Kisenosato supplied kinboshi, and probably feels like he can overcome the “lift and shift” of Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin holds a 11-7 lead in a surprisingly even career record.

Kisenosato vs Hokutofuji – Kisenosato seems to be on a path to turn each of his matches into a high-drama nail biter. Day 3 is no better as he faces Hokutofuji, who has no wins (same as the Yokozuna), but has been fighting well. Does Kisenosato take one step closer to the barber in the final match of the day?

Kyushu Day 2 Preview

Kyushu Day 2 Banner

Day 1 got everyone off to a rather rusty and clunky start, albeit with some good sumo mixed in. It’s clear from the opening day that fans should keep their minds open for at least the first week, and it may take a few days for the top performers to get tuned up and ready to compete.

I think the stand-outs for day 1 were clearly Kagayaki, Shodai and Takakeisho. Kagayaki for quickly and effectively dismantling Abi’s favorite attack style, Shodai for containing then controlling Ryuden as effectively as he did, and Takakeisho for unleashing his “Wave Action Tsuppari” against a Yokozuna and making it stick.

The microphone setup in Kyushu seem to be an interesting departure from other venues, they seem to catch quite a good amount of crowd noise, and the venue itself is probably a lot more “live”, providing a lot of complex acoustics. The result seemed to be that there was a lot more detail to the crowd noise, and the crowd was more reactive to the action in the ring. Overall, I thought it worked.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Chiyomaru vs Meisei – Chiyomaru continued looking quite iffy, which was a trend that started at Aki. The man has a large and enthralled following, so I am sure everyone hopes that he can get his body in better health and remain in the top division. Today’s opponent, Meisei, won their only prior match.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – There is little chance that Aoiyama’s day 2 opponent will lure him into a losing mawashi battle, as Onosho prefers the oshi style. Aoiyama needs to over-perform this basho if he wants to break out of the bottom of the banzuke rut he finds himself in this year.

Endo vs Okinoumi – Endo will be looking to bounce back from his day 1 loss, and he may have trouble with Okinoumi, who looks genki for a change. Like many of these long-serving vets, Okinoumi can put together quite a powerful string of matches if his body cooperates. Endo is still trying anything he can to get his body, his sumo and his mind to work together during a basho.

Sadanoumi vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni looked strong and on plan day 1, and fans should note that he’s (if you average it out) a Maegashira 6 or 7 rikishi right now. So he will have a decent advantage at this slot in the banzuke. I am sure his fans are hoping he can even out his sumo and consistently produce wins. I am looking for an early attempt to pull or slap down from either man.

Ikioi vs Kotoshogiku – Two old veterans in less than awesome physical conditions will try their sumo, and the fans will be pulling for home-town favorite, Kotoshogiku, who we affectionately label the “Kyushu Bulldozer”. The two are quite evenly matched, and it will come down to if Kotoshogiku can land a grip and begin his “Hug and Chug” attack.

Takanoiwa vs Abi – Takanoiwa’s compact and nearly rectangular body may present an interesting puzzle to Abi’s preferred double-arm thrusting technique. We can hope that Takanoiwa studied Kagayaki’s day one match, and learned that coming at Abi’s elbows will break off the attack, and leave sumo’s favorite stick-insect momentarily perplexed. Then again maybe Abi will grab the mawashi from the tachiai and disrupt everyone’s expectations. To add more interest, this is their first ever match.

Kagayaki vs Asanoyama – A couple of ‘fundamentals’ rikishi in a great head to head match. Kagayaki has won all 4 of their prior contests, but Asanoyama is not the kind of person who lets that weigh too much on his mind. The advantage will go to whichever rikishi gets inside at the tachiai, and can focus center-mass. The fun part is that both men tend to do this when they are on their sumo. Could be a highlight match of the first half.

Shodai vs Chiyotairyu – Shodai’s weak tachiai against the Chiyotairyu cannon-ball. It may seem one-sided, but Shodai has this ability to get his opponents to make mistakes that he is quite expert at exploiting for a rapid change of fortunes. If he can absorb the initial charge, I expect him to work to get Chiyotairyu’s substantial body off balance and under his control.

Yoshikaze vs Ryuden – I find it amazing that Yoshikaze trails Ryuden 2-1 in their career series. This is possibly due to Yoshikaze having a pair of really tough basho, but he may have some specific weakness to Ryuden’s sumo. Ryuden will need to do whatever he is going to do in the first few moments, before Yoshikaze can set up his relentless, frantic offense.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – To quote the immortal Sheldon Cooper, Tamawashi can look at Mitakeumi across the shikiri-sen and say, “you’re in my spot”. Both of these rikishi tend to put a lot of force into their thrusting attack, so this battle may not take long to decide. Mitakeumi has a 13-2 career advantage, but right now Mitakeumi looks rattled and off his sumo.

Tochiozan vs Ichinojo – Tochiozan impressed day 1 with a solid win over Mitakeumi, and today he faces the Mongolian giant, Ichinojo, whom he has a habit of defeating (8-4 career). Ichinojo’s day 1 sumo was lethargic against Nishkigi, but he decided not to go soft once his heels touched the tawara for a change, so perhaps there is some fight in the boulder for this tournament.

Goeido vs Takakeisho – Fresh from his win over Kisenosato, Takakeisho brings his sumo to Goeido. Takakeisho takes time to set up his offense, and always plays for time. Goeido, when he is in good form, is lightning fast and will defeat you before you can establish an attack. Whatever Takakeisho’s plan might be, it involves him buying enough time to get started.

Nishikigi vs Tochinoshin – Nishikigi is outclassed in this one. Tochinoshin will go for the mawashi straight away, and there will be little that Nishikigi can do about it. I am looking for a Tochinoshin “sky crane” moment with Nishikigi’s feet off the clay, kicking in the air.

Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – I am a fan of both rikishi, but Hokutofuji is likely outside of his range in this match. Both use similar sumo styles, and Takayasu is larger, faster and stronger. But Hokutofuji has a 3-1 career advantage over the Ozeki.

Kisenosato vs Myogiryu – I am looking for Kisenosato to get his sumo back together and stop dropping matches that should be easy for him. He holds a 16-4 career advantage over Myogiryu, with the last time Myogiryu took a match from him being 2015, so I am expecting the Yokozuna to put him away quickly and easily, or there could be trouble in the pumpkin patch.

Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

Kyushu Day 1
Let’s Get Started! – Photo From The Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

Welcome to our Kyushu highlights, dear readers! Team Tachiai look at any basho as a series of three acts, each with its own character and goals. Act 1 – get started, remove the ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. Act 2 – Narrow the field and find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and start sorting the survivors from the damned. Act 3 – Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we hand someone the Emperor’s Cup.

Day 1 featured heaps of ring-rust, and it seems a lot of rikishi arrived at Kyushu in somewhat worn condition after the fall jungyo tour. In addition, many are still nursing injuries large and small from the fight-club that was Aki 2018. While day 1 is frequently rusty and a bit off the typical basho pace, there was some excellent sumo on display in the small and rather loud Kyushu arena.

Highlight Matches

Yago defeats Chiyomaru – As predicted, a lot of huffing and puffing, and it was clear that Chiyomaru lost stamina early. Getting that much mass in motion takes an enormous amount of energy, and it was clearly draining him. But a lot of credit goes to Yago who stood up to that much oshi and carried the match. Solid technique from an up and coming young man we are likely to see more of in 2019.

Onosho defeats Endo – They made a good fight out of it, and Endo put a lot of pressure into his attacks, but Onosho’s low center of gravity and impressive balance were the deciding factors. I would guess that at least for now, Onosho’s knees are good enough for some first class sumo. I will be interested to see how long into the basho his health carries him.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – When the match evolved into a mawashi fight, it was clear that Aoiyama was in trouble. Okinoumi took charge and waltzed him over the tawara without too much drama. Aoiyama is still working to recover from injuries earlier in the year, and did not look ready to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – A brutal tachiai that stood both men up, and Yutakayama quickly moved to get an inside position. Chiyonokuni’s lighting reflexes saved the match for him, as he took advantage of Yutakayama’s hold of his right arm and used Yutakayama’s grip to move him back. Yutakayama’s giant head was too tempting a target, and Chiyonokuni grabbed hold, hooked his right hand into his opponents mawashi, turning and pushing Yutakayama out. Excellent work from Chiyonokuni.

Sadanoumi defeats Daieisho – Notable in that the kimarite listed is the seldom seen okurihikiotoshi, but to my eyes it was more of a slippiotoshi.

Shohozan defeats Ikioi – After a Shohozan matta, the real fight was over in a moment, as Ikioi has his balance too far forward and Shohozan lets Ikioi’s inertia finish the job.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – The double-arm thrust at the tachiai was defeated through the master of low drama fundamentals. Kagayaki focuses on getting his hands on Abi’s elbows, and breaks the thrusting attack. Of course when this happens, Abi is quite far forward and not too difficult to route towards the nearest shimpan.

Asanoyama defeats Takanoiwa – A fine yotzu / mawashi battle from these two, and Asanoyama seems to be in the drivers seat. Asanoyama’s performance in this match is an example of why I think he has the potential for higher rank. He’s fast, decisive and controls the much more experienced Takanoiwa.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – Yoshikaze absorbed the cannon-ball tachiai and got inside of Chiyotairyu, who soon found himself on the receiving end of Yoshikaze’s blistering attacks. Chiyotairyu spent the rest of the match trying to get on an offensive footing, but always a half step behind local man Yoshikaze. A solid win against a heavier and more powerful opponent.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Ryuden succeeds in exploiting Shodai’s weak tachiai, but gives up the morozashi (double inside grip) in the process. Shodai then calls the tune and forces Ryuden to dance. Shodai keeps his hips low, and his shoulders below Ryuden’s – really showing excellent form. Ryuden managed to rally, but it only served to put him off balance and set up Shodai’s win. Points to Ryuden for his tenacious grip on Shodai’s belt as he was receiving the shitatenage. Another local favorite racks up a win.

Ichinojo defeats Nishikigi – You have to admire Nishikigi, promoted higher and faster than he should be, he brings as much sumo power as he can muster against one of the largest men in sumo. Ichinojo lets Nishikigi push him around until his heels touch the bales, and rather than give up and go limp, Ichinojo defies his normal style and rallies. Impressively Nishikigi is able to halt Ichinojo’s advance for a time, but Ichinojo takes his time and overpowers his opponent for the win.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – The man who hopes to be Ozeki had his sumo thoroughly dismantled by the 31 year old veteran Tochiozan. Followers of Tochiozan have seen him absorb a nodowa neck attack well before, and he simply shrugs off Mitakeumi’s attempt to raise him up. Mitakeumi’s fans had hoped he would have re-grouped following Aki, but today’s match did not give them hope.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin knew he had made a mistake in the first second, as Tamawashi’s speed was too much for the Ozeki to overcome. Always looking to land his left hand on the mawashi, Tochinoshin’s plan was an invitation for Tamawashi to launch hard inside and apply his considerable pushing force center-mass against the Ozeki. The look of frustration on Tochinoshin’s face told the story as he absorbs a day 1 loss. Note to rikishi who want to follow the oshi-style: this match in slow motion is a fabulous example of the rewards of driving inside at all costs, and focusing on center-mass (rather than head or neck). There was no way to stop Tamawashi.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had no means to stop Takayasu’s powerful, straight ahead sumo today. Myogiryu did manage to get inside at the tachiai, but by then they were chest to chest, and Takayasu’s considerable mass was pressing forward without resistance.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji clearly knew that Goeido was going to be fast, too fast off the line, and his tightly wound anticipation made him jump early for a matta, and likely blew his mental prep for this match. Credit to Hokutofuji, he gave the Ozeki a solid fight. If I had to guess, Goeido was not quite sure what to do with the guy after the matta, and he may have suspected that Hokutofuji was likely to try a henka. The oshi match was always going to favor Goeido, but Hokutofuji showed some solid technique, and won approval from the fans for his fighting spirit. This is an opponent Hokutofuji must learn to overcome if he aims for higher ranks.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – One thing I love about Takakeisho, he is not intimidated by any opponent. He exudes an almost Hakuho level of confidence, and seems ready to take the fight to everyone. Kisenosato’s big mistake in this match was letting Takakeisho dictate the style of the match, and letting him set up the “Wave Action” attack. At that point, the Yokozuna was in trouble and he knew it. Stumped for what to do, Kisenosato tried to overcome Takakeisho’s attack on Takakeisho’s terms. A few waves later, the Yokozuna is too far forward and is slapped to the clay. Not a good match for Kisenosato, but textbook Takakeisho sumo.