Nagoya Day 15 Preview

Macacon Of Victory

All too soon we have arrived at the end of the Nagoya basho. Ir has been rough and crazy, with an amazing number of rikishi dropping out due to injury. Some may try to limit or diminish Mitakeumi’s yusho by saying that it took place when none of the Yokozuna were competing. They are welcome to their opinions, but you can only fight the men who show up. With at least 13 (should have been 14) wins, Mitakeumi remained remarkably focused and consistent throughout the basho. I do not ever recall seeing him in this state of mind, and with his focus his sumo has flourished. Much will change now for this young man. There is a lot of celebration that follows a yusho, and there is a lot of media attention that will gravitate towards the man from Nagano-ken.

It increasingly looks like Aki 2018 may be the pivotal basho for our long forecast tidal shift in sumo. The old guard continues to fade, and multiple cohorts of young rikishi seem to be coming into their own. At some point the old guard will rally, and there will be a tournament of some of the most intense competition seen in years. I think that could be Aki.

For fans, there is another Grand Sumo Live broadcast overnight in the US (daytime in Japan). For those who are awake, it should be a fun time with John Gunning and Hiro Morita in the booth.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Most of the make / kachi kochi rikishi have been sorted, but there are a few notable matches that still stand out.

Chiyomaru vs Ishiura – There is a chance that a win here might save Ishiura, even though he is already make-koshi.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – They are both 9-5. The winner will go double digits, and have a significant banzuke boost for Aki.

Chiyoshoma vs Okinoumi – A win here would be kachi-koshi for Okinoumi, his first since November of last year.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu – Both men are going to get a nice promotion, but this match is just pure fun. Both are fast, strong and sometimes brutal. Chiyotairyu has been hot or cold this basho, so it’s a puzzle which version of him is going to show up. Hokutofuji has a 4-2 career lead.

Daishomaru vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi comes into the match 7-7, needing to pick up one more win. Daishomaru is 7 ranks above him in the banzuke, so this will be one of these ugly matches where the underdog is in a must-win situation.

Asanoyama vs Takakeisho – Both rikishi have had very strong tournaments in Nagoya, and this is another “I want to see that!” matches. Asanoyama seems to have gotten a bit more serious since March, and is fighting with stoic determination. Takakeisho is going to be deep in the joi for Aki, which may be a very rough and dangerous assignment. His first tour was a bit of a disaster (they usually are), and I am eager to see what he has improved in his second posting.

Abi vs Aoiyama – And yet another of “I want to see that” matches. Its their first meeting, and we have two oshi fighters with impressive reach, a tendency to attack above center mass, and tons of attitude. Who’s going home bruised and pulpy?

Ikioi vs Kaisei – I think they should skip the sumo, and settle this through karaoke. Do you know who would win? That’s right – we would!

Shodai vs Kagayaki – I can’t help but think that in some old Soviet research lab, in a dark corner, is a frail but brilliant old surgeon who would be willing to part out both of these rikishi to create the ultimate Japanese battle golem. He could wear a half sky-blue half gold mawashi, and run around with twice the tsukebito, twice the chanko and just the good parts from both men. We could call him Fukugouyama. (複合山)

Yoshikaze vs Shohozan – Man, the battle of sadness today. Big Guns Shohozan has stunk this basho. But at least he’s done better than Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze needs a win to stay in Makuuchi, unless he’s planning a trip to the barbers.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Why is this match happening? Well, you see, the schedulers ran out of matches that made sense. So they just put everyone’s shikona on a shōji and started throwing chopsticks. That or they hired one of those psychic octopuses that seem to always predict the World Cup. Anyhow, Tochiozan has this odd habit of beating Tamawashi. And after the hospital bill Tamawashi has racked up, he needs a bit of a beating.

Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – We wanted a Sekiwake battle, but instead we got this guy against Captain Yusho / Ōkatō. Ok, fine. Let the chopsticks fall where they may. The only other time they matched, Mitakeumi overpowered him. Yutakayama has been especially genki, but I as long as Mitakeumi did not drain too many sake casks with his celebration, he will be able to dispatch this rising star.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Endo has faded like a “Relect Yoshihiko Noda” poster. But Ichinojo needs one win for kachi-koshi. But ask yourself, does Ichinojo deserve a kachi-koshi? I love the pony-tossing Mongolian behemoth, but his sumo has been terrible this tournament. I say turn him out and let him get his act together.

Goeido vs Takayasu – My advice to both, make it look good but nobody get hurt. Both of you survived in no small part because all of the bigger predators were sidelined. Be thankful and go home and get healthy. Especially you, you big hairy mess. I was happy to see that once you were really hurt you decided you could compete with sumo skill. So you didn’t forget!

Nagoya State of Play, Day 14

mitakeumi-tochiozan-finish

The yusho race

Congratulations to Sekiwake Mitakeumi on his well-deserved first yusho! This performance should surely earn a special prize (or two) as well. If we count his 9 wins as Komusubi at Natsu, he now has 22 over two basho, with a chance at a 23rd when he faces Yutakayama on senshuraku. This is a strong start to an Ozeki run, and I’m going to say that 11 wins at Aki will secure Mitakeumi sumo’s second-highest rank.

The two big surprises of the basho, Yutakayama and Asanoyama, have clinched at least a share of the jun-yusho, and only Hokutofuji has a chance of joining them (from M16, no less!) should he win and they both lose. I’m guessing the Yama Twins are in line for special prizes as well. In yet another bit of curious scheduling, they don’t face each other (and neither do the two Sekiwake).

The San’yaku promotion race

Ichinojo’s close victory over Goeido today means that he will not drop out of San’yaku. The only thing at stake when he faces fading Endo tomorrow is whether he switches spots with Tamawashi. So only one slot will open up. By defeating Ikioi, Takakeisho has placed himself in the driver’s seat, and can take his second spin at Komusubi with a victory tomorrow over Asanoyama. If he falters, Ikioi can pass him with a victory. Whether a 12-3 M9 Yutakayama would jump over a 9-6 M3 Takakeisho is doubtful. Everyone else is out of the running.

Demotions to and promotions from Juryo

The lists of demotion and promotion candidates narrowed considerably after today’s action. In particular, all the marginal promotion candidates in Juryo lost, leaving only the certain to advance Takanoiwa, Takanosho and Kotoyuki and the likely to advance Aminishiki. This of course means that at least 3 and at most 4 top-division rikishi will be demoted.

The two men going down to Juryo for sure are Meisei and Kotoeko. The only other three in danger of demotion, in order of how likely they are to take the trip down, are Arawashi, Ishiura and Yoshikaze. Aminishiki advances with a win or with a loss by Ishiura or Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze can hang on to a top-division slot by his fingernails by earning his second win of the basho against Shohozan, or by having Arawashi and Ishiura both lose. Other scenarios will be sorted out based on tomorrow’s results by this quartet.

Nagoya Day 14 Commentary

Yoshikaze

Good morning all – rather than do full highlights, if you want the read on the matches and how action unfolded on day 14, let me direct you to the fantastic live blog Herouth conducted during the day 14 broadcast. Please note that there is another live stream from the good folks at NHK World overnight (Sunday afternoon in Japan). So if you are keen to see the final day’s action live, plus a lot of trophies, do tune in. The big question on everyone’s mind – what color will the macaron be this time?

Whatever demon had a hold of Yoshikaze’s sumo loosened his grip just enough for him to finally score his first win of the basho. It’s great that he did not finish Nagoya 0-15. On twitter there are nearly as many posts about Yoshikaze as there were for Mitakeumi, such is his support among sumo followers. His lone win (thus far) does not negate that there is something sadly wrong with Yoshikaze, and all of his fans dearly hope he can get well or at least get comfortable.

A group of rikishi that I call “The Freshmen” have really out-performed this tournament. This includes the last two men who had any credible chance of competing for the yusho: Yutakayama and Asanoyama. In addition, Ryuden, at the rallied to win 5 of his last 7 matches and secure his kachi-koshi. Hell, on day 14 Yutakayama convincingly beat Takayasu. Granted Takayasu is only at about 75% of his normal burly self, but Yutakayama was not intimidated, and executed some really solid sumo.

Then we have the “Tadpoles”. The Grand Tadpole / King Tadpole scored his first ever yusho. In the tags I have been carrying on for over a year, referring to Mitakeumi as “Future Ozeki Mitakeumi”. For the longest time, it was partially a bit of a taunt, as clearly he wanted it, but had not reached the threshold where his sumo could accomplish that goal. I think we now know that he’s made that step, and will campaign hard to score his 33 before the end of the year. Should Aki turn out to be a fully staffed roster in the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks, sumo fans will be in for a real treat, as the confidence he gained in Nagoya works to power him against sumo’s best. I would also note the rest of the tadpoles (Onosho, Takakeisho) are already kachi-koshi, and it’s been a big success for that cohort.

Day 14 was a solid day of sumo, and many of the Nagoya themes have played out as best they could within the brutal parameters of this basho. One last day to go, then it’s on to Aki!