Aki Basho day 11 – Lower Makuuchi results

All eyes might be on Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Hakuho and Kakuryu, but I’m going to keep my spotlight aimed at mid and lower Makuuchi for a bit longer, because some of these bouts were very good sumo, and because I’m eagerly watching to see who can and can’t avoid demotion.

Ryuden – Kotoyuki. As I said before, Kotoyuki really needed this win, and I didn’t expect it to be easy for him. However, he pulled it off, a fine display of oshi-zumo keeping Ryuden at arms’ length and stopping him getting anything resembling a mawashi grip. It was really more Ryuden’s loss than Kotoyuki’s win, since the Takadagawa-beya man misjudged his place in the ring and stepped outside while retreating, but Kotoyuki definitely deserves credit for clearly winning the tachiai and preventing Ryuden from ever getting a touch of the belt.

Ishiura – Nishikigi. Another “must-win”, and although Ishiura’s sumo looked solid yesterday, he can’t pull it off again. Nishikigi’s rising arms prevent the low tachiai, and Ishiura finds himself entangled, controlled, and forced out. He can’t disengage, he can’t get low enough to lever Nishikigi upright, and with only a right outside grip he can’t manage a throw. Ishiura is now make-koshi and his return to Juryo is all but assured.

Okinoumi – Takanosho. Both come in to their first ever meeting with 5-5 scores. Takanosho puts on an excellent display of no-tricks, chest-to-chest sumo without a mawashi grip, and is able to drive Okinoumi (ten years his senior) out with pure force.

Kyokutaisei has apparently decided that if he tries to wrestle on that leg again, it will just come off at the knee. Chiyomaru gets the fusensho and avoids make-koshi for one more day.

Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma. The Villain of Kokonoe-Beya has no interest in moving forwards, and after his hatakikomi attempt fails, his arm-pull fails, and Sadanoumi goes chest-to-chest with arms high, he’s able to perform a Sukuinage (beltless overarm throw) right at the bales and secure a win. I’m still not sure how he manages to find the leverage for that throw and end up on top, although he faceplants down the side of the dohyo for his trouble.

Yoshikaze – Daieisho. Daiesho looked almost like a shorter, rounder Abi in this, with an absolutely unceasing windmill of tsuppari and thrusts that slowly drove Yoshikaze back to the tawara and out.

Takanoiwa – Kotoshogiku. Takanoiwa has a plan here. In the first few seconds of the bout, he’s able to get a good firm belt grip first on the right outside and then the left inside, which does wonders to neutralize the gaburi-yori attack. After Takanoiwa makes two failed attempts to lift him, Kotoshogiki struggles mightily to get the bulldozer into first gear, but Takanoiwa is able to rotate and throw him down with that underarm grip (shitatenage).

Shohozan – Hokutofuji. This bout seems to be all Hokutofuji. With a firm nodawa, an excellent ability to deflect Shohozan’s thrusting attacks, and enough stability to withstand slap-down attempts, Hokutofuji drives Shohozan on two complete laps of the dohyo before finally shoving him out. With this win, Hokutofuji is kachi-koshi.

No-one is going to call Aoiyama – Onosho a highlight with a straight face. Onosho is now disappointingly make-koshi. It was at least better sumo than Daishomaru‘s henka win over Asanoyama.

Myogiryu – Takarafuji. Myogiryu gets both hands inside from the tachiai, and when Takarafuji tries to retreat to avoid being caught in a full moro-zashi, he’s able to follow, withstand the kotenage attempt, and drive him out.

Since the rest of the torikumi involves rikishi from the joi-jin (the upper 16), I’m going to leave that to Herouth to cover.

Aki Day 9 Highlights

Kisenosato - Tochinoshin Day 9
Image courtesy of the Sumo Association Twitter Feed

The basho is rushing towards the close of act two, and the damaged are being sorted from the survivors. Nowhere was that more clear than the final match of the day which  saw Kisenosato and Tochinoshin battle for a single white star that only one of them could claim.

From now to Senshuraku on Sunday, we will see the highest ranking rikishi battle daily, while the lower ranks face increasingly unusual pairings. Many rikishi will have double digit losses this tournament – the fully-staffed upper ranks guarantee it. So don’t worry if one of your favorites is doing poorly; they will have another chance at glory in November.

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Points to Okinoumi for defeating Yoshikaze without actually touching his rash covered torso. It was painfully obvious that Okinoumi wanted no contact with Yoshikaze’s mystery rash.

Takanoiwa defeats Kyokutaisei – I always wonder why these guys come back from kyujo. They were busted up enough to seek medical treatment, and it’s clear they don’t have the mojo to compete. Kyokutaisei is make-koshi, and I am sure he is going to try and pick up enough wins to keep himself in the top division.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki put up a solid fight today, but ends the match with his obligatory crowd-surfing run, which ends with him cuddling Daieisho. Kotoyuki’s sumo is not quite together enough for Makuuchi this basho, so it will be a long shot for him to stay in the top division for Kyushu.

Daieisho defeats Ishiura – Also on the express Juryo return voyage is Ishiura, who has not been able to win in spite of putting his back into his sumo. The man has talent, and is clearly driven to excel, but something is missing (besides a kachi-koshi).

Ryuden defeats Shohozan – Ryuden masterfully shuts down Shohozan’s mobility advantage, and traps him in a painful embrace. Unable to clear the hold and unleash his barrage of blows against Ryuden, Shohozan struggles to free his arms, as Ryuden makes him dance to his tune. Every time he nearly breaks free, Ryuden locks him up once more. Actually a fantastic display of a specific, narrow strategy executed with grim determination to great effect. Ryuden scores his 8th win, and looks to be on track for double digits.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – I am fairly certain that after the basho we may learn that Onosho’s knee is going to require further work. He simply cannot generate much forward pressure right now, and Takarafuji contains him and drives him from the ring. It’s important that Onosho get this thing healed up and working, as he has a lot of great sumo coming his way over the next few years.

Kagayaki defeats Hokutofuji – A bit of a surprise as Hokutofuji’s hot streak turns cold. It’s true that Kagayaki executed well, Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai / nodowa did not last more than a moment, and Kagayaki successfully landed a right hand inside, with his left setting up the arm-bar. From there he rotated and rolled into the kotenage for the win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama foolishly goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer and gets left in the ditch. The crowd loves to see him do it, and Asanoyama should have known better.

Abi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan could not pierce Abi’s “wall of tsuppari” to produce any meaningful offense. Abi advances to 6-3.

Shodai defeats Myogiryu – Back to weak tachiai from Shodai, but he is able to execute the kotenage while traveling in reverse. Myogiryu had higher intensity, but Shodai remained calm and executed.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama finally picks up his first win, after returning from kyujo. Chiyotairyu delivered his typical thunderous tachiai, but ceded the inside thrusting position to Yutakayama who used it to dominate Chiyotairyu and control the match.

Kaisei defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi lost this one at the tachiai, as he was beaten off the shikiri-sen by slow moving Kaisei. From there he was always reacting and could not quite generate any offense. This is Tamawashi’s 8th loss and he is now make-koshi and will almost certainly be out of the Komusubi spot next basho.

Ichinojo defeats Ikioi – Ichinojo decides to execute some sumo today, and easily tosses Ikioi aside for the win. Ikioi won the tachiai and pushed Ichinojo to the tawara. But rather than surrendering today, Ichinojo rallied and won. Ikioi’s win over Mitakeumi seems even more bizarre and worrying in this context.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni had command of the early portion of this match. He set the tone and tempo, and Takayasu was forced to follow. But yet again Chiyonokuni found himself stepping a foot out of the ring and losing. Somehow his typically good ring sense is gone, and his feet are costing him dearly needed wins. The disappointment on his face following the match betrays his frustration.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Excellent work today from Goeido. He endured a flurry of blows to get inside of Takakeisho, who could only get one wave of attack in before Goeido applied pressure center-mass and advanced. I declare Goeido 2.2 to be one of the better upgrades in a while.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – This match was entertaining because it featured a number of odd elements, including a lengthy pause in the middle with Hakuho nearly upright. In fact, he glanced across Mitakeumi’s back, taking stock of Mitakeumi’s body and leg position. Feigning a leg trip, Hakuho tap’s Mitakeumi’s calf, and breaks the deadlock, to Hakuho’s waiting attack. Ladies and Gentlemen, example 32 of dai-Yokozuna sumo. Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid is close to failure now, it seems.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo’s make-koshi bout was another example of Endo going through the motions in spite of some undisclosed injury that has left him in no condition to fight as a Maegashira 3.

Kisenosato defeats Tochinoshin – What I like to call a “Darwin” match, only one was going to survive, even though fans wanted them both to win. Kisenosato is now all but assured of a kachi-koshi as he faces Endo on day 10, and Tochinoshin is now in deep trouble in an attempt to clear kadoban. The big Georgian struggled to generate forward pressure, in spite of getting a favorable grip. Kisenosato was too high for most of the match, and it was alarming that Tochinoshin’s multiple attempts to throw the Yokozuna failed. Tochinoshin needs to find 3 more wins to reach safety.

Aki Day 9 Preview

Kisenosato day 8

The blinding hot forge that is the Aki basho is burning bright now. Three rikishi are cast into the fire, and it’s not certain that any of them will emerge with the outcome they seek. Many more are lined up to take their turn in the forge, and the basho is getting serious.

First and foremost, it’s gut check time for Yokozuna Kisenosato. With an Ozeki opponent, we think he is tired, and low on stamina. He faces a mandate to reach 8 wins before the end of the basho, and is entering the toughest part of his schedule. The past 3 days have been rough for Kisenosato, and there may be worse to come.

Tochinoshin needs to find 3 wins. Its clear he is quite a bit less than his normal amazing self, but he’s got to gamberize to his utmost. While we are sure that a fully healthy Tochinoshin could bust out 10 wins as an “Ozekiwake” in Kyushu, it would be a huge gamble that he could get his body ready.

Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid hangs by a thread. Dropping the match to Ikioi left him little room for what could be considered normal losses – to Hakuho and Kakuryu. But now he needs to reach deep and win no matter what. Perhaps this will motivate him as nothing else has. We suspect he is kind of a strange rikishi, as he does not train as hard as he competes.

In the midst of these story arcs unfolding, the scheduling team has begun to match opponents from further across the banzuke than the first week had seen. Today seems to be “first time” day, with many rikishi facing each other for their first match.

Aki Leaderboard

The leaderboard underwent a dramatic shift on day 8, with only the two Yokozuna remaining in the undefeated group. The road to the yusho will get steeper, and more difficult with each day.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Goeido, Takayasu, Hokutofuji, Ryuden
Hunt Group: Kisenosato, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Takanoiwa ,Yoshikaze

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – Yoshikaze needs two more wins to lock in his kachi-koshi, but his day 9 opponent has a distinct advantage (11-8) over their career. Fans continue to wonder what that ugly looking rash covering his body could indicate, but none of the options are good. Okinoumi’s superior mass and reach will be his primary tools for shutting down Yoshikaze’s speed and maneuverability based attacks.

Takanoiwa vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei returns from kyujo, and shows up just in time for a first ever match with Takanoiwa. These returns mid-basho from kyujo seldom go well, and frequently compound an otherwise addressable injury. Kyokutaisei is probably not doing himself any favors.

Ishiura vs Daieisho – Watching Ishiura now is painful. We can almost know for certain he is returning to Juryo again, and it’s just a question of how bad his final score will be. Daieisho is not doing much better, but has a career 5-2 advantage over Ishiura.

Takanosho vs Daishomaru – A first time match, and it could be a good one. Daishomaru is in dire need of wins, and will take his oshi-sumo up the middle against Takanosho. Takanosho is keeping an even pace in his first ever top division tournament, and should be considered to have an edge in this match.

Shohozan vs Ryuden – Another first-ever match, it brings Maegashira 7 Shohozan against Maegashira 13 Ryuden. Let me guess, matta matta matta followed by somewhat questionable tachiai. Sorry, I think Ryuden has a lot of potential, but he needs to clean up his sumo. There is a good chance that Big Guns Shohozan just uses him as a speed bag for 20 seconds and then pitches him to the yobidashi.

Takarafuji vs Onosho – Normally I would say that Onosho would be the clear favorite, but not only is he missing his red mawashi, most of his sumo has gone walk-about as well. So lets see if Takarafuji can finally score his first win against Onosho.

Kagayaki vs Hokutofuji – I am sure Hokutofuji feels quite disappointed in his first loss, but his match today against Kagayaki could be a bit of a “gimme”, as he has a 5-0 advantage over him. I think getting his kachi-koshi might cheer him up quite a bit, yes! Kagayaki’s sumo, which is normally very organized, seems to be pieced together with all of the left over parts best recycled on clear glass day.

Kotoshogiku vs Asanoyama – A very interesting contest, with Asanoyama’s youthful vigor bringing a foil for Kotoshogiku’s guile and experience. Asanoyama is not afraid to go chest to chest, but we all know that Kotoshogiku will have the advantage in that case.

Tochiozan vs Abi – Abi’s sumo is, by its nature, an all or nothing affair most days. But during Aki it has been working for him thus far. Tochiozan will need to figure out how to get inside Abi’s long reach. Every rikishi that has done that so far in Aki has been able to beat him.

Shodai vs Myogiryu – Shodai’s win on day 8 over Takayasu was the kind of event that could turn his performance in this basho around. On day 9 he faces a very intense and focused Myogiryu, over whom he holds a 4-1 advantage. We are starting to see that Shodai’s improved tachiai is becoming a habit, and it’s a matter of time now before it pays off in higher performance.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Yutakayama’s elbow is still damaged, so let’s bring him back, let the Yokozuna throw him around, then let an enormous fellow who uses his tachiai to help compact salarymen into morning commuter trains have a go. I just want Yutakayama’s left forearm to remain attached, please.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – It’s the 8-8 record between these two that caught my attention. Kaisei is at his best when he can land a grip, and Tamawashi prefers to remain mobile, and keep his opponent trying to react to his sumo. Tamawashi has strength and speed, Kaisei has Newton, Einstein and Hawking. If Tamawashi disappears in a blue flash and suddenly Kaisei looks somewhat more compact, the singularity in the giant belly button is to blame.

Ikioi vs Ichinojo – I give up. Ikioi, what happened on day 8? Was it because you wanted to give Kisenosato a clay sandwich in the worst way? Summon that Ikioi today as well please. We know that Ichinojo will likely put forth some effort and then decide to let you win.

Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu – Takayasu looked quite disappointed after Shodai took him apart on day 8. I am sure it gave Chiyonokuni a lot of hope about his day 9 challenge to the Ozeki. Chiyonokuni only needs a small gap in Takayasu’s offense to launch a blistering attack that could find the Ozeki disappointed again.

Goeido vs Takakeisho – I want to see Goeido the Executioner again on day 9. That guy is both awe inspiriting and terrifying. But Takakeisho can give as good as he will receive from Goeido. If Takakeisho can survive two wave cycles, I am sure that Goeido will get frustrated and impatient and try to pull him down. That will be his ticket to handing the Ozeki his second loss.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – The bright fire of Hakuho’s sumo threatens to consume Mitakeumi’s bid to be Ozeki. He has beaten Hakuho twice in their 8 prior matches, and its unknown just how solid the dai-Yokozuna is right now. This will be his toughest challenger to date. The stakes are huge, the drama high, and there is just the thinnest change that Mitakeumi might pull it off.

Kakuryu vs Endo – Endo is just going through the motions right now, and it’s ugly to witness.

Kisenosato vs Tochinoshin – The Aki crucible reaches it’s day 9 hottest, as it blasts two men who both must win. Their 10-9 history is meaningless here. Both are less than 100%, with Tochinoshin likely in better condition. The one saving grace for Kisenosato is that you can count on Tochinoshin to prefer a mawashi battle, and thus it will allow Kisenosato his best chance at defense. The match of day 9, possibly THE match of act 2.

Aki Day 7 Preview

Hakuho Salt

The Great Sumo cat of the Kokugikan started act 2 in terrific style on Friday. Act 2 is usually when chaos and discord are at their most potent in any basho. You think you know who has started well, and you can start to hope that your favorite among the leaders may find a way to win the Emperor’s cup. Dear readers, it’s not over for many days to come. Hopes will be smashed, dreams will be crushed, and only the truly durable will take home the yusho banner.

Heading into the middle weekend of Aki, there are interesting and exiting match ups spread across the sumo day. With a full slate of top rank rikishi still competing, we are in store for some fantastic sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Yoshikaze vs Takanosho – Now that Yoshikaze has his first loss, some of the pressure is off. At the very bottom of the banzuke, he does not need to do anything too extreme, a solid kachi-koshi will suffice. But he’s not the kind of person who will throttle back. Takanosho is keeping his head above water in his first ever Makuuchi tournament, and he has never faced Yoshikaze before. I think this one will be a good amount of fun.

Ishiura vs Takanoiwa – Ishiura is treading ever closer to the express route to Juryo. I feel for the guy; he’s got talent, strength and speed, but he’s small and he has yet to come up with a good sumo cookbook for himself. In a case like this, I have to wonder if being in the same stable as Hakuho may be holding him back. Takanoiwa, on the other hand, looks like he is doing well. I am going to guess he is on a kachi-koshi path.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – Ryuden has yet to win one from Chiyoshoma, but this could be his day. Ryuden’s matches have been pretty bland so far, but he is winning. Chiyoshoma seems to be suffering from undercarriage problems again, and his sumo has been chaotic.

Okinoumi vs Kotoyuki – Okinoumi is quite the survivor. He enters his day 7 match with a 8-3 career advantage over Kotoyuki, who seems to have found his sumo again. But with 4 losses already, he has to cook up a solid winning streak to keep himself in the top division.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – Aoiyama finally racked up his first win on Friday, and today he faces Chiyomaru, who has never beaten him. At 1-5, Aoiyama is in grave shape. But at 2-4, Chiyomaru is closer to danger. Only ranked Maegashira 14, a significant losing record could remove him from the top division.

Hokutofuji vs Sadanoumi – The only undefeated Maegashira gets what should be a fairly straightforward contest for day 7. Their only prior match went to Hokutofuji. Sadanoumi comes in 4-2, but Hokutofuji is currently out-performing his Maegashira 9 rank.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Both rikishi come in with 2-4 records, and both of them seem to be struggling. For Takarafuji there are injuries that have been reported in the press. Kagayaki seems to be just a bit lethargic, and his sumo is having problems producing the same level of power it has earlier in the year.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan can be counted on for composed, efficient and calculated sumo each time on the dohyo. Asanoyama seems to be at the height of his form right now, and keeps finding ways to win, even when he’s taking a pounding. With a 2-1 career record, this is probably a fairly even match.

Onosho vs Abi – We saw on day 6 that Abi can improvise when the need strikes, but against Onosho it’s probably going to be a straight slug-fest. Advantage for Abi – his reach. Advantage for Onosho – low center of gravity and speed.

Ikioi vs Kaisei – Both rikishi must view day 7 with great relief. They have completed their tour of the upper ranks for now, and can transition to working on their 8 wins. Ikioi took an especially hard beating during Act 1, and will need to put together a solid winning streak to stay at rank. Today’s match should be a lot of fun, as we get Kaisei’s bulk up against Ikioi’s strength.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – The Ozeki hopeful absorbed his first loss on day 6, and on day 7 he gets to fight his fellow tadpole, Takakeisho. Takakeisho is no easy match, in spite of his 2-4 record heading into the middle weekend. Mitakeumi’s magic number is still probably 11, so he needs this match as a buffer against the Ozeki and Yokozuna on tap for week 2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – Even though Ichinojo is back to his bad habit of giving up, he still stands a chance against Tochinoshin on day 7. Tochinoshin is wisely not trying to use brute strength so much this tournament. A primary reason is likely his injured foot, but he also needs to diversify his sumo.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Tamawashi has a habit of beating Takayasu, so this is going to be a test match to see if the Ozeki can remain unbeaten. Tamawashi is in a deep hole at 0-6, so his motivation will be all the stronger.

Goeido vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu surprised everyone by disrupting and then defeating Kisenosato on day 6. But his day 7 match against Goeido is going to be a contest of rapid brutality writ large. There is a small chance that their tachiai collision might form new exotic particles of interest to science, and teams are standing by to clean up the debris if the worst should happen.

Kisenosato vs Chiyonokuni – Kisenosato gets a chance to recover against Chiyonokuni, who is struggling to keep his sumo on track. After the surprising loss to Chiyotairyu, fans will hopefully have a more realistic expectation of Kisenosato for the remainder of Aki. I seriously think that if he can get to 8 wins, everyone calls it success and nobody cares until November. He is 3 wins away from that goal, but is nearly to the part of the basho where he fights the upper ranks.

Endo vs Hakuho – Endo’s a shell of his normal self. Hakuho’s going to dismantle him and play with the pieces.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – I am keen to see what kind of cruel sumo feedback loop Kakuryu employs against Shodai. Not that he does not have it coming, just that sometimes it’s fun to try and guess.

Aki Day 5 Highlights

Yoshikaze Fansa

Act One is a wrap! By now everyone should have the ring rust scraped away, and should be in tournament form. We can certainly tell who is hot, and who is not. There is a solid block of undefeated rikishi at the end of the first five days, and that includes the entire Yokozuna population. As a result, the upper Maegashira and the Komusubi are getting crushed. This is typical for a basho where the upper ranks are actually participating.

5 – 0 Rikishi: Kakuryu, Hakuho, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Yoshikaze

Combined Komusubi – Maegashira 3 Records: 7 – 34 (Ouch!)

Mitakeumi is off to a 5-0 start, and today he beat an Ozeki, which counts as a “quality” win. On day 6 he will face Goeido, who is fighting well and got day 5 to rest thanks to his fusensho over the injured Yutakayama. Mitakeumi has started well enough to be seriously considered as bidding for an Ozeki promotion.

Highlight Matches

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – I can’t stop thinking about Yoshikaze’s disastrous 2-13 Nagoya, and how completely different things are for him at Aki. Chiyomaru gets a bit of offense in just after the tachiai, but Yoshikaze takes command and masterfully maneuvers the burly Chiyomaru to defeat. Given that he has finished act one 5-0, I am curious if the scheduling team are going to keep him fighting the bottom of the banzuke, or start seeing what he can do against the likes of Hokutofuji.

Kotoyuki defeats Takanosho – Kotoyuki reverted back to his (apparently better-fitting) light blue mawashi, and his sumo seems to have come back with it. His match today against Takanosho was more in control and focused than his first three. Kotoyuki got the inside position at the tachiai and set the tempo for the match.

Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma took the fight to Takanoiwa’s face… again and again. But Takanoiwa kept driving forward and working to disrupt Chiyoshoma’s slaps. It worked, and Chiyoshoma found himself arse-first into the zabuton.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – A great endurance match. Nishikigi putting on a great demonstration of persistent ottsuke, pinning Ryuden to his chest while keeping Ryuden away from his mawashi. Ryuden kept working, and kept wearing Nishikigi down, eventually landing morozashi and driving forward. Some solid sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Notable because Aoiyama remains winless, and once again seems to have collapsed during the fight, rather than succumbing to a specific kimarite. The judges did rule it a tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Aoiyama’s right knee gave out.

Hokutofuji defeats Kotoshogiku – If you are looking for some first class battle-sumo, this is a place to start. Kotoshogiku was always going to try to go chest to chest with Hokutofuji, and launch the gaburi-yori hug-n-chug attack. Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai” puts him in command before the first step, landing firmly on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, and preventing his left hand from getting a grip. Hokutofuji then endures a few face blows to get inside, and completely lock out Kotoshogiku’s primary attack. Kotoshogiku fights back with skill and power, but Hokutofuji stays inside and thrusting against Kotoshogiku’s neck and shoulders. A shift to hazuoshi (armpit grip) at the edge and Kotoshogiku hands over the shiroboshi. Hokutofuji starts Aki with an impressive 5-0.

Onosho defeats Shohozan – Perhaps Onosho has shed his ring-rust. His thrusting attack displayed the speed and focus that was missing on prior days, and he overwhelmed his stronger opponent. He gets Shohozan’s shoulders turned, and slams the motor into drive. Much better from Onosho!

Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Notable in that Kagayaki was completely shut down by the more experienced Tochiozan. This match was lost / won at the tachiai, when Kagayaki went for a thrusting attack at Tochiozan’s neck and face, then shifted to try for the belt. Tochiozan went center-mass with his hands at Kagayaki’s chest, and controlled the man and the match from there.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Like a pair of tabbies battling for a feather duster, these two delivered a train of windmill tsuppari, with Abi’s superior reach being the deciding advantage. Fun sumo, if a tad repetitive in terms of Abi-zumo.

Asanoyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has been consistently a half step behind each match. Today he drove inside at the tachiai, with Asanoyama bringing him to his chest and setting up a see-saw battle for grip that ended with Chiyonokuni reaching over Asanoyama’s shoulder to attempt a pull down. With both men off balance, Asanoyama gambled on a hard drive forward and it paid off as Chiyonokuni became a dropping dead body before Asanoyama went spiraling into the dohyo. The monoii that followed affirmed that Asanoyama was the winner.

Ichinojo defeats Tamawashi – Notable because Ichinojo was not passive today. He rallied strongly with his heels against the tawara and drove forward to win the match. Tamawashi starts Aki with a surprising 0-5 record.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s signature move (like Kotoshogiku’s) is so effective, he tries to use it as his first choice every time. Mitakeumi knows this, and used it to distract Tochinoshin and secure the win. You can see Tochinoshin work for a left hand outside grip on Mitakeumi’s mawashi, but Mitakeumi pushed hard at the tachiai to get an inside position and lands his hands of Tochinoshin’s chest, thrusting him back strongly. Tochinoshin has lost about 3 feet of dohyo, but thrusts forward to try for the grip again. Again Mitakeumi is inside against his chest, but Tochinoshin gets his grip now and starts to lift. But he’s already too far back, and he’s too high. Mitakeumi has moro-zashi, and drives forward a few inches to push the Ozeki out. Masterful sumo from Mitakeumi today.

Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Takayasu landed a deep left hand inside grip at the tachiai, and was in command. Ikioi rallied and advanced strongly after a bit of leaning on each other, but a mis-step caused him to be on the wrong foot, and Takayasu helped him finish turning the wrong way around and gently shoved him out. Ikioi also has a 0-5 start.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Less brutal than expected, it seem Chiyotairyu thought this was a matta. Kakuryu quickly got his preferred grip, and it was an almost polite yorikiri after that.

Kisenosato defeats Shodai – Again, Kisenosato had to work much harder than a Yokozuna should to beat Shodai. But we saw some classic elements of Kisenosato sumo. Kisenosato locks up Shodai’s arms at the elbows and proceeds to constantly shift his weight and bounce around. This keeps Shodai from ever really establishing a firm footing to launch an attack. As the match progresses, Kisenosato keeps the bouncing on rhythm, and it forces Shodai higher, and off balance. The result is a fairly solid throw by the Yokozuna, and a great example of some of his great sumo. I fear for him in act 3, but for now, let’s enjoy a high-functioning Kisenosato.

Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – A bold and clear display of why Hakuho is a dai-Yokozuna, even if he is fading out. Hakuho loves to face up-and-coming rikishi with their own style of sumo. It’s kind of a dominance thing to say, “I am so good, I can beat you with your own techniques”. Today it got him to the edge of trouble when Takakeisho timed a side-step with digital perfection. Hakuho was falling forward towards the bales. But then the dai-Yokozuna DNA kicked in, and he re-asserted his balance and pivoted back to the attack before Takakeisho could finish him. In lunging at the Yokozuna, Takakeishio bet everything on that final move. But Hakuho was ready and a light touch on Takakeisho’s shoulder was all it took to send him rolling to the dohyo. The smile of Hakuho’s face after told the story.