Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

Haru Day 13 Preview

Takayasu-Shrugs

You can’t count on good fortune, but today sumo fans got a gift. In defeating Yokozuna Kakuryu, Tochinoshin opened up the yusho race once more. But who could imagine that all of the other leaders would lose as well? With just 3 matches left, a loss tomorrow against Kaisei puts the yusho up for grabs. While that would be very exciting, there is almost no chance that this will come to pass. Kakuryu made a huge mistake in going chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and the Hatsu yusho winner made him pay. I am going to guess the Yokozuna will not be so cavalier on Friday.

One item of note for sumo conspiracy theorists, Chiyotairyu has won 2 of his last 3 matches, after a disastrous start to Haru. Look closely at his image on the NHK video, and we can all see why he is returning to genki status.  That’s right! He is regrowing his sideburns.  We heartily welcome the return of Sumo Elvis, and hope that he will never remove his sideburns again.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Daishomaru, Ikioi

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daiamami – Apologies to the purists, but I am very frustrated with Ishura and his continuous henka deployment. The winner of this match gets kachi-koshi, and I think I am rooting for anyone but Ishiura at this point. He won their only prior match.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Battle of the Yama’s, this one is big against bigger. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is mostly for rank velocity. I would guess Aoiyama wants to repair his pride following his day 12 match with Ishiura.

Ikioi vs Chiyonokuni – Do you think Ikioi is going to slow down now that he is kachi-koshi? Hell no! Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins, and I am going to guess he will need to look elsewhere. I wish this version of Ikioi came to every basho, he’s pretty nifty.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has been fighting well against his own cohort lower down the banzuke, but today he’s going a bit higher against Okinoumi. Jason’s favorite rikishi (from Shimane-ken) has been lukewarm this tournament, but he can still get his 8 wins if he presses ahead.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Daieisho looking to get his kachi-koshi against an already make-koshi remnant of Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Daieisho is doing surprisingly well at Maegashira 8 this time, but Kotoshogiku is ranked Maegashira 3, and despite age and injuries is quite dangerous if you let him go chest to chest.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – As a true-green Yoshikaze fan, I can only watch with increasing sadness as the Berserker struggles daily with his torikumi. Tamawashi is likely to pick up his kachi-koshi today, and move to return to a san’yaku rank for May.

Endo vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru shocked Ozeki Takayasu on day 12, and now he is going to try his sumo against Endo. Endo dearly wants to make a bid for san’yaku himself, and needs to keep winning. Time will tell if Chiyomaru is having one good basho, of if this is a step change in the power of his sumo.

Abi vs Chiyotairyu – Sure, let’s put a Maegashira 7 up against a Komusubi. Slender Abi goes against the massive dreadnought-class Chiyotairyu. Both of them are going to unleash oshi-war on each other, but Abi is out-massed, and likely out-gunned. Nevertheless, this is going to be an interesting match! Oh, and Abi still needs 1 more win to secure promotion.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Big mass vs big guns, here we go! Their career record is 3-3, so I am expecting a battle here. It’s unlikely that Shohozan is going to be able to shove Ichinojo around easily, so his one hope is to grab a handful of fabric and maybe a roll of flesh, and push.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Somehow, it seems that Shodai was able to find his sumo, and make friends with it once more. But the chances of Shodai being able to take down the Hatsu yusho winner is, at least in my guess, very slim. I predict a quick belt grab by Tochinoshin off the tachiai, and a few steps to the tawara.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – If the Yoshikaze situation were not enough for me to swear off having favorites, it’s these two guys. Both of them have huge potential. Both of them seem to be completely out of sorts, run amok, possibly hurt and in no condition to strive for higher rank.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Ozeki fight! I think Takayasu has this one by a wide margin unless we get a Goeido henka, which is actually not very far fetched. I did like that Chiyomaru leveraged Takayasu’s cannonball tachiai on day 12. Serves him right. Serves him right again if he deploys it against Goeido and he makes him eat it.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – The big match of the day. If Kakuryu loses this, the last two days will be a barnyard brawl for the hardware. But I am going to suggest that Kaisei won’t represent an impossible challenge for the Yokozuna: he has never managed to beat Kakuryu in any prior match.

Haru Day 9 Highlights

Kakuryu-Happy

A few quick bites of the day 9 action – apologies to fans if their favorite rikishi is skipped due to lack of time. Act 2 is working its magic, as the leaderboard is being shredded by the bout schedule. Kakuryu and Kaisei are still undefeated. At the end of day 9, there are no 1-loss rikishi remaining, and a decent group have fallen out of the 2-loss crowd as well.

With the nearest competitors now 2 losses behind, the next task is to see if Kaisei and Kakuryu can go the distance. At this point, both men would need to pick up 2 losses to re-open the yusho race. While that would be great for fan excitement and TV ratings, it’s a tall order. Kakuryu seems to still be healthy, wily, fast and strong. Kaisei is plain enormous and is no easy man to move, even when he is not ultra-genki. [Kakuryu is matched up against Chiyomaru tomorrow. Since there are five days of basho left after that, and five san’yaku opponents still for Kakuryu to face, it is unlikely we will see Kakuryu vs. Kaisei unless the yusho goes to a playoff or someone goes kyujo. –PinkMawashi]

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Hidenoumi – Aminishiki picks up a much-needed win, but he sure does look rough. Uncle Sumo is clearly banged up all the time now, but I admire his drive.

Aoiyama defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai really provided no significant challenge for the Bulgarian Man-Mountain. Aoiyama’s 7-2 (8-1?)

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – The happy sumotori drops the sole remaining man with one loss. It’s now two wins that separate the leaders from everyone else.

Daishomaru defeats Myogiryu – Daishomaru is not going to give up, he wins on day 9 to keep rooted in the 2 loss group.

Ikioi defeats Kotoyuki – A fight so nice, they did it twice. The shimpan called for a rematch after both men touched down in tandem, and Ikioi blasted Mr 5×5 over and out. Yep, Ikioi is part of that 2 loss crowd!

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyonokuni – Good to see Yoshikaze pick up a win. I would consider Chiyonokuni a possible heir to Yoshikaze’s berserker form in time, and he gave Yoshikaze a solid fight today. Double bonus points today for camera work. As Chiyonokuni drops to the clay, Yoshikaze has a grip on his mawashi knot, and it comes undone. With a palpable sense of urgency, the camera pans to the ceiling before Chiyonokuni can rise from the dohyo.

Abi defeats Okinoumi – Abi showed better form today, he kept his weight from getting too far forward and powered through Okinoumi’s defenses.

Kaisei defeats Ryuden – Again on day 9, there seems to be no stopping Kaisei. He faces Ichinojo on day 10, so it’s time to see how genki the Brazilian actually is.

Arawashi defeats Takarafuji – Arawashi finally gets his first win. Sadly it’s at the expense of Takarafuji picking up his make-koshi.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo needs to come up with a few new battle plans. This match was far too similar to prior bouts with Tamawashi, and it was all Tamawashi.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho looked hurt yesterday and looked more hurt today. Something about the right leg, or perhaps a groin pull. Ichinojo was surprisingly gentle with him once he won.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Wow, Tochinoshin looks really solid today. Shohozan is struggling now, after a fantastic start.

Kotoshogiku defeats Mitakeumi – Old school Kotoshogiku came from the shadows, with most of his strength but all of his skill today against Mitakeumi, and it was great to see. Mitakeumi is once again fading hard. What will it take for this guy to get double digits in san’yaku?

Chiyomaru defeats Goeido – Big surprise today, and it was the Ozeki who stepped out first by a wide margin in this “fling fest”. Goeido did not look bad today, he just had a mistimed step.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Takayasu delivers a mini-henka and rolls Chiyotairyu down. The surprise is that the spherical Chiyotairyu can actually stop before reaching Nagasaki.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – This bout is one part Kakuryu’s reactive sumo in spades, one part “Dancing with the Stars”. As expected, Shodai is high at the tachiai, and Kakuryu plays with him for a few moments before evading Shodai’s charge.

Haru Day 9 Preview

Haru Day 8 Dohyo Iri

Act 2 is running on overdrive and rikishi are being shunted away from the yusho hunt, but our leaders – the undefeated Kaisei and Yokozuna Kakuryu – have yet to show any inclination to lose a single match. At this point, the main group of contenders are two wins behind, and we would need to see both men lose not just one, but two of their next six matches. Mathematically possible, but it could be a tall order.

The easier mark is, of course, Maegashira 6 Kaisei. But don’t be fooled, Kaisei is huge, powerful and seems to be quite determined to keep pushing forward. He is, in fact, a serious contender. Given that Kaisei has in the past served and even had a winning record in San’yaku, he is not a total stranger to the pinnacle of sumo competition.

But this entire yusho race pivots on Yokozuna Kakuryu. Once again we head into the second week with him as the lone Yokozuna, and undefeated. At Hatsu, he struggled in the second week because he sustained an injury to his ankle which robbed him of the ability to create any forward pressure. If we see him looking hesitant, or not moving strongly forward, let’s all do ourselves a favor and assume he’s hurt, rather than that he lacks the fiber, courage or endurance to be a Yokozuna. Frankly, in the back half of this year and into 2019, he may be the only Yokozuna that survives.

Day 9’s matches continue to act 2’s theme – the scheduling team are creating increasingly interesting pairings, working to create three distinct groups, the contenders, the defeated and the survivors.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Aoiyama

8 Matches Remain

What We are Watching Day 9

(Abbreviated due to a shortage of time – apologies if I miss your favorite rikishi)

Aminishiki vs Hidenoumi – Uncle Sumo continues to suffer in Juryo. Now at 2-6, he is nursing a worsening of his injured knee. Likely a Hidenoumi pick-up.

Sokokurai vs Aoiyama – I am going to come out and say it. Aoiyama has only 2 losses. Had he not been robbed in the first week, he would be 7-1 and the second man in the chase group. No going back, but this would be the second time in 12 months that he would have been a contender. As it is, this match is strongly in favor of the Bulgarian.

Daiamami vs Asanoyama – The lone man with 7 wins steps off against Asanoyama. They are evenly matched at 3-3 over their career, but Daiamami is having a good basho, so I expect him to come in genki and strong.

Ikioi vs Kotoyuki – Mr 5×5 has been unable to produce any offense this tournament. I expect Ikioi to dispatch him with a wince and grimace of pain.

Abi vs Okinoumi – First meeting between these two, but it seems to have potential. Abi looked very good on day 8, but he will need to think fast as Okinoumi has a deep library of sumo knowledge and experience to draw upon.

Kaisei vs Ryuden – Odd fact that Kaisei has never beaten Ryuden, they have had two prior matches. But Kaisei is looking very genki, and this is almost a kind of cupcake for him, I would think.

Endo vs Tamawashi – This has the potential to be a great match. Endo’s ablative sumo on day 8 really caught my attention – he took a huge blast to land the grip he wanted, and he made his opponent pay. Tamawashi also likes to open big and open strong. They have had 12 prior matches, and they are split evenly 6-6.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – You can see the frustration on Takakeisho’s face now. His oshi attack will face a significant uphill struggle against the Boulder. Takakeisho has beaten him 3 times out of 4, so I think he has a plan, and it’s time to see which version of Ichinojo shows up day 9: The one that beat Takakeisho in January, or the one that lost in November.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Power and speed are in ample supply when these two are fighting. Shohozan will stay mobile and try to keep the Hatsu Yusho Winner away from his mawashi. Tochinoshin holds a career advantage, but Shohozan is looking to uproot Tochinoshin from the hunt group and return him to the survivor pool.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi is firmly in the survivor pool now, and it’s somewhat frustrating as I think Mitakeumi is going to contend for higher rank at some point, but he just can’t seem to muster any bold forward drive. Kotoshogiku has the aura or make-koshi hanging over him already, but Mitakeumi seems like he may have been hurt day 8.

Chiyomaru vs Goeido – Actually the first time these two have matched, I am going to give the nod to Goeido, as he seems to have a stable build of GoeiDOS 1.5.1 running right now.

Takayasu vs Chiyotairyu – Both of these giant men like to open with a huge overpowering tachiai. If Chiyotairyu were a little lighter, I would suspect a henka, as it would be an easy way to beat Takayasu if you can pull it off.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – Kakuryu loves to exploit mistakes of his opponents. We can assume Shodai will be high off the shikiri-sen and Big K will take over and put him down.

 

Haru Day 8 Highlights

Kaisei Salt

The second week is underway now for Haru. Act two is working as expected, as the number of rikishi who can contend for the cup keeps narrowing.  At this point, the contest is centered on Yokozuna Kakuryu. He has performed masterfully thus far and has certainly shown his detractors as fools.

That said, the dark horse contender, Maegashira 6 Kaisei, is a storied veteran who has held San’yaku rank in the past. At some point in the next week, it’s likely we will see Kakuyru and Kaisei meet on the dohyo.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Kyokutaisei – The gyoji originally awards the match to Kyokutaisei, but the Monoii reversed that. An eagle-eyed judge caught Kyokutaisei’s right hand touch the dohyo as he was chasing down Ikioi to finish pushing him out. The crowd goes wild as local man Ikioi racks another win.

Daiamami defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi put up an excellent fight, but Daiamami wins again to remain only one win behind the leaders. After going chest to chest, the two stalemated in the center of the dohyo for a considerable period of time, but Daiamami rallied and finished Nishikigi by yorikiri. As Maegashira 16, there are many higher-ranked opponents he might face as a “test” of how firm his score is.

Aoiyama defeats Daishomaru – The Bulgarian pulls down Daishomaru with his enormous reach to remove Daishomaru from the group 1 behind the leaders. Quick, effective and uncompromising.

Sokokurai defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama took control of the match early, and they went chest to chest. Asanoyama began moving forward, but Sokokurai unloaded a fluid uwatenage against Asanoyama. Nice win for Sokokurai.

Ishiura defeats Hidenoumi – Dare I say it? Ishiura seems to be gaining confidence, and his sumo is looking better day by day. He dominated today’s match, and Hidenoumi was always a half step behind.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to pick up a single win and is now make-koshi. It’s been a disastrous basho for Mr 5×5.

Yutakayama defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to always put up a good match, but today Yutakayama proved the stronger in this shoving battle.

Abi defeats Chiyonokuni – Excellent sumo from Abi today, he did not get too far forward, and he kept Chiyonokuni reacting to his sumo. His initial attempt to pull Chiyonokuni down failed, but he recovered to land a right-hand grip, which he then used to throw Chiyonokuni. I love the fact that on his way to the clay, Chiyonokuni tried one last attack – a foot grab, that nearly paid off.

Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Kaisei picks up his kachi-koshi on day 8 and is a legitimate contender for the Emperor’s cup. His match against Okinoumi had more in common with the day to day functions of earth moving equipment than it did with sumo. Kaisei lowered the blade, engaged the treads, and cleared the dohyo.

Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – Readers, know I am a sucker for a strength battle between two rikishi, and these two put on quite a show. They went chest to chest early and battled with vigor for any advantage. Unlike some matches that turn into a leaning contest, Ryuden kept pushing for a superior grip, and Hokutofuji kept blocking and breaking. Ryuden, unable to achieve any mawashi grip with his left hand, resorts to a boob-grab, much to the discomfort of Hokutofuji. This turned out to be the winning move, and he was able to keep Hokutofuji high and move him back and out. Although listed as yorikiri, I wonder if a new, breast specific, kimarite should be coined. We saw Harumafuji use this technique in the past against rikishi.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Thank goodness Takarafuji finally wins one. I will be so glad if he can rally now, and actually achieve kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru was slapping him relentlessly, but as Takarafuji tends to do, he just kept working to get his position, which he achieved. From there it was a quick set of steps to heave Chiyomaru out.

Shodai vs Tamawashi – Ok, are we back go the “good” version of Shodai now? I would like this one to stay. The discouraged, ready to quit one should go on vacation, and maybe never come back. Shodai was still too high at the tachiai, but Tamawashi could not move forward, and ended up with his heel on the tawara. Anticipating his counter-advance, Shodai used Tamawashi’s forward push to swing him down.

Ichinojo defeats Arawashi – Arawashi injured and make-koshi. Ichinojo absorbed Arawashi’s initial vigorous attack, and then calmly took him outside the ring.

Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Endo’s head snapped back from the force of Chiyotairyu’s tachiai, but his right hand latched shallow on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. This probably saved him from being down and out immediately. It also seems to have really fired Endo up, as he came back strong, and in a blink of an eye he pushed Chiyotairyu out. Good work from Endo to even up to 4-4. Worth a re-watch on slow motion, that right hand grab was only active for a moment, but it was the key to his win.

Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – The big Georgian forcibly removes Mitakeumi from the hunt group. Mitakeumi shifted at the tachiai, attempted a tottari, then came on strong. Tochinoshin gave ground, but quickly ran out of room. But he had enough of a grip to swing down the King of the Tadpoles for his 6th victory. [Mitakeumi looked to be limping after this bout; we all hope he’s ok. –PinkMawashi]

Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – Blink and you will miss this one. Takakeisho reaches for a left hand grip, but before he is set, he tries to pull the Ozeki down. Takayasu is ready, shifts to his right and pushes with considerable force. Takakeisho is out in a blink of an eye.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku gave him a very good match, but could not set up his hip thrusting attack. Goeido was off balance a few times, but manage to stay stable, and control the match. Both Ozeki are at a respectable 6-2 starting the second week.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – This was always going to be a tough match for the Yokozuna. Shohozan is a tough, brutal and fast rikishi. He prefers to pummel his opponents on the way to winning. Kakuryu started strong, looking to finish him early before anyone got hurt, but Shohozan rallied and began the pursuit. Kakuryu is incredibly mobile, and kept shifting, robbing Shohozan of each opportunity to rain blows down on the Yokozuna. As he moved, he kept striking Shohozan on the head, disorienting him. This worked, and he was able to slap down Shohozan for the win. Kachi-koshi for Big K, and he is the man to beat for the cup.

Haru Day 8 Preview

monoii

Please note – all articles written by Bruce H, IE Bruce Henderson formerly of San Diego, are in fact his opinion alone, and represent only his twisted outlook on the world of sumo. The very young, the very old and the easily outraged may find challenges ahead. [Occasionally there are comments from the proofreader, too. Those are objective fact. –PinkMawashi]

Day 7 was brutal for the chase group, with four contenders picking up losses and being demoted to the hunt group. While at the moment it looks like the zero loss crew can run away with it, keep in mind that the scheduling team is just starting to work their voodoo on the torikumi. The front-runners still face many challenges, and we may yet see both Kaisei and Kakuryu taste clay before we hit day 10.

As mentioned in the day 7 highlights, I am looking for Oitekaze-beya to get a strong showing in the post-basho power rankings. All of the Dai* crew are fighting well, and looking like they are moving towards a lift in basic rank, based on the steady improvements of their sumo. It will be interesting to watch them compete against the likes of Takakeisho and Onosho for lead tadpole.

I will say it again, I am damn impressed with Ikioi this basho. The last few tournaments, he seemed to be really struggling physically, but he put in his days on the dohyo with focus and workmanlike determination. This time (possibly due to his lower rank), he is finding ways to win. I am glad he is not yet ready for the downdraft into Juryo, but at his age his injuries may be slowly overtaking him.

Then there is the depressing case of Yoshikaze. Injuries are not widely publicized in sumo, even less so for rank and file rikishi, but there is no way that a warrior like Yoshikaze goes passive like this. The good news is that he can retire at any time, he has a kabu, he has a huge following, he has a passion for youth sumo, and as long as he has his health, he is going to be a big deal in the sumo world.

It would be remiss of me to go without stating that Kaisei also remains unbeaten at the start of the second week. He has done remarkably well, and I salute his effort and his skill. He has been hit or miss in the past, but this is great to see.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daishomaru, Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Shohozan, Chiyonokuni, Okinoumi, Ikioi, Aoiyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Ikioi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo for the day and draws the injured but fierce Ikioi. I predict an Ikioi win, and then he’s 2 away from his kachi-koshi, and likely kyujo.

Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Team Oitekaze starts early on day 8, and the rikishi who never gives up is going to take on a member of the chase group. I predict a Daiamami win, with some good form. This is in spite of the fact that he has never taken a match from Nishikigi (0-3).

Daishomaru vs Aoiyama – Back to back bouts for team Oitekaze, this time the fierce Daishomaru goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama has won both of their prior matches, and this may be a tall order for Daishomaru. But a win against the Bulgarian would likely result in a tough match further up the banzuke for Monday. [The Monday torikumi will be set before Aoiyama’s match, so if the torikumi committee decide to start giving him tougher opposition, they’ll have to wait until Tuesday. –PinkMawashi, with thanks to Sakura]

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – The Freshmen are having a painful basho, and that’s part of them settling into Makuuchi. Asanoyama has a 4-3 winning record, and he has never lost a match to Sokokurai, so I am hoping his sunny outlook will carry the day on Sunday.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – An all Freshman battle, Yutakayama has won their only prior match, but I think there is a slight advantage to Kagayaki for today’s match. Kagayaki is slowly improving, and I think his sumo is stronger than Yutakayama’s right now.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – The highest ranked rikishi for Team Oitekaze takes on veteran Tochiozan. Tochiozan has been a half-step slow this basho, but his form is still very good. I think this comes down to Daieisho being about 2x as genki as Tochiozan, so advantage to Daieisho.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – Massive ultra-mega oshi-battle here, and folks take note! Both of these young men could work a speed bag like a hungry man taking down the buffet at the Tropicana so this will be one for the slow-motion cameras. Abi will get too far forward, and Chiyonokuni’s tendency to go for haymakers will be the perils. I give an advantage to Chiyonokuni in this first-time match up.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – I don’t even want to know. I am tempted to get on a plane and just hand Yoshikaze a bottle of scotch as some shallow form of comfort.

Kaisei vs Okinoumi – Their history shows this to be an even match up, but I am going to guess Kaisei has the advantage going into this. The thing about Okinoumi is that he has the experience and skill to dismantle Kaisei, but will the Brazilian give him an opening?

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden is getting his “welcome to mid-Maegashira” beating, while Hokutofuji is having a bad basho in a string of bad basho. The frustration for both men is palpable, and there may be some extreme effort as a result. This is their first meeting, but I am giving a slight edge to Hokutofuji because he looks a bit like Kaio.

Chiyomaru vs Takarafuji – The best 0-7 rikishi in the basho goes against the spherical man from Kokonoe. Given their upper bodies, there should be few if any neck attacks deployed today. Chiyomaru has yet to win one from Takarafuji, so maybe Takarafuji gets his first white star today. I promise to drink a generous shot of whisky if he does!

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I know Shodai is feeling genki now after his last two matches. But Tamawashi practices his sumo by driving nails into planks by hitting them with his thumb. The man has so much pectoral strength that he shoved Ichinojo around with ease. So I am guessing Shodai goes high at the tachiai, and Tamawashi helps to keep him moving up, up and away.

Ichinojo vs Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a win. Ichinojo needs to regroup. Someone get him some ice cream before its too late!

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis takes on the man in gold. Endo also needs to re-group, and this might be his time to get his sumo back together. One thing is clear now on day 8, Chiyotairyu’s might was all in his sideburns. He’s been soft and ineffective without them.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Highlight bout #1. Anyone who tells you how this is going to end is guessing. I predict it’s going to be fast and brutal. Both are 5-2, and both want to stay in contention with the leaders. Loser goes to the back of the bus.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – I know Takayasu triumphed in a protracted battle with Shohozan on day 7, but let’s be clear here. Pooh-bear tried three times to set the tempo of the match, and each time he had to follow Shohozan’s lead. His sumo was chaotic but powerful. Now he faces the man who I am pretty sure beat Kakuryu on day 7. This could be a great battle, as Takayasu is going to try to overpower Takakeisho, and Takakeisho’s proportions make him sumo’s greatest weeble. Dear Takayasu, make sure you have a really good plan B and don’t get too far forward or you are going down.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Long and storied history between these two. They have turned in some great matches in the past. It’s not a given that the Ozeki is going to win this one, as Kotoshogiku may find a way to wrap up Goeido and drive him out. Slight advantage to Goeido, as he seems to be fighting well this tournament, and he wants to stay in contention for the cup.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Just to be clear, even though Shohozan wants to stay in the hunt group, this match is a challenge for Kakuryu. Shohozan is big, fast and incredibly aggressive. Kakuryu tends to face these matches with a defensive strategy, buying time until his opponent makes a mistake, and then he attacks. But Shohozan is so amped up this basho, Kakuryu may need to be brutal, fast and direct to prevent Shohozan from setting the pace and tone of the match like he did to Takayasu.

Haru Day 7 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 7 Dohyo Iri

All hail the wisdom of the scheduling team – tasked to begin to separate the good from the great, their will was enacted with great effect during day 7. There is some fantastic sumo action to enjoy today, so it’s another day to find Kintamayama or Jason’s sumo channels and soak in the excellence on display during the Haru basho.

It should be noted, the Oitekaze Makuuchi guys [That’s Endo, Daiesho, Daishomaru, and Daiamami –PinkMawashi] are on fire right now. They have, during past basho, had nicely above average records, but they seem to be on the march this time. I am looking towards them for some future sumo leadership, and I am seeing reasons to hope.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Hidenoumi – I am a sucker for a strength and endurance match, and these two lower end Maegashira men provided a great example of the type. Really good form from both, and it was a pleasure to watch.

Ikioi defeats Aoiyama – Oh yes he did indeed! In spite of the pain and injuries, Ikioi explodes out of the tachiai, leaving Aoiyama on the defensive and moving backward. He tried to grab Ikioi’s head, while Ikioi dropped his hips, spread his feet and hugged the man-mountain. Aoiyama now realizes he’s in deep deep trouble, he’s high, and his heels are on the tawara. A strong and smooth shove by Ikioi and the Bulgarian is out. What a great win for a rikishi who is giving it everything in spite of his problems.

Daishomaru defeats Sokokurai – Daishomaru stays with the chasers in a really strong win over Sokokurai. Daishomaru may be one to watch, as he seems to be coming into his own, and showing some very strong sumo in the first half of Haru.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Try as he might, Tochiozan could not disrupt Asanoyama’s offense today. Asanoyama’s form was excellent today, hips low, feet wide and at 45° to the front, moving low and strongly. This is why I am sure that in a year or so, we are going to be looking at Asanoyama as a mainstay of mid to upper Makuuchi. Tochiozan fought well, but his injuries leave him at only 70% of full power.

Daiamami defeats Chiyonokuni – Both Oitekaze rikishi stay in the chase group, one off the leaders. Chiyonokuni gave Daiamami a rough ride, but Daiamami absorbed it all and worked to get into an attack position. After Chiyonokuni’s failed throw attempt, Daiamami rallied and took the Grumpy Badger to his chest. The closing uwatenage seemed to have an extra kick to it, as if Daiamami were disposing of an unpleasant burden. Excellent sumo.

Ryuden defeats Ishiura – For the second straight day, Ishiura tries doing some battle sumo. He’s not winning, but he looks to be doing better. Ryuden is getting dangerously close to the make-koshi line, and its increasing his drive to win.

Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – As anticipated, strength and experience overcame youthful vigor to carry the day. Okinoumi is at a welcome 5-2 record at the end of the first week of sumo.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Yet another Oitekaze win. Daieisho kept in motion, with Hokutofuji pursuing. This has been a key to defeating him, as he does not move with superior stability. The throw at the tawara is a great example of Daieisho’s ability to keep himself planted to the clay, even in awkward moves.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Kaisei stays in the leader group today. It was an easy bout, Kaisei moved forward, and Kagayaki stepped out and collapsed.

Chiyomaru defeats Abi – Chiyomaru’s mighty chin-bag kept Abi confused and off rhythm, never getting his thrusting attack started. As fans have noted, Abi tends to lean in quite a bit on offense, so Chiyomaru simply stepped aside and let Issac Newton do the rest.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Congrats to Shodai, but what on earth happened to Yoshikaze? This is killing me, folks.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Endo made the mistake of letting the Kyushu Bulldozer start the bump and grind. In his heyday, there were few who could withstand this attack, and Endo should have gone into the match with a means to prevent it. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest immediately, got his grip, and started his motor.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Big surprise for day 7. Ichinojo withered under Tamawashi’s powerful oshi-zumo. Ichinojo seems to have tried for a pull-down, but Tamawashi kept up the pressure and had the giant backward and out before he could mount a counterattack. Good work Tamawashi!

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is really in rough shape physically and provided no actual challenge to Tochinoshin. As soon as the Hatsu Yusho Winner landed his left hand, it was just a matter of when not if.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I do believe Mitakeumi smells the winds of change blowing, and he knows it may be “now or never” for him to elevate his sumo. Chiyotairyu opened strong, but Mitakeumi found an opening and counter-attacked. Due to poor camera work, it’s tough to tell how the match ended, but I think Chiyotairyu touched out first.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, and the much feared “Bouncy Castle Mode” did not activate today for Goeido. Takarafuji battled strongly, but each time it seemed he would put the Ozeki to the clay, Goeido rallied. If any man deserves recognition for fighting spirit this basho, it’s Takarafuji.

Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan was never going to go down easy, and he opened with a blistering oshi-attack. Takayasu realized he was getting moved, and went chest to chest. Pinning Shohozan’s left arm, the Ozeki worked to contain his opponent and wear him down. A failed attempt to throw Shohozan resulted in an escape and Shohozan delivering a brutal nodowa, moving Takayasu back. Back to tsuppari, then once again chest to chest. Shohozan was going to find a way to win, no matter what! Shohozan had a right-hand shallow grip, with Takayasu pinning his left arm high and straight. They broke their grips, and the oshi-battle resumed! Both were clearly tired, and the match ended with Shohozan losing his footing, and hitting the clay. Fantastic effort from both men.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Kakuryu was in real danger two times, as Takakeisho was able to unleash his “Wave Action Tsuppari”, the force and aggression of which moved the Yokozuna back to the bales. He rallied, but Takakeisho once again attacked. The close was a chaotic tumble for Takakeisho from the west side of the dohyo. A monoii is called, as there is some question who stepped out first. Replays showed that as Takakeisho was airborne, Kakuryu’s big toe of his left foot touched the sand outside the ring. The shimpan upheld the gyoji’s decision, and even though I think it should have been a kinboshi, the result was a spotless record for the Yokozuna.

Haru Day 7 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

It will be difficult to beat the level of action and excitement across the board from day 6, but the scheduling team is going to give it a try. We enter the middle weekend of the basho with a solid, competitive group of sumotori all within fighting range of a bid for dominance in act 3, and the race for the emperor’s cup. Act 2 will narrow this broad field of contenders considerably, and that is the thinking behind the scheduling team for the next four days. Give the fans exciting sumo, and get the number of contenders down to a manageable number.

Some of the rikishi below may be fairly easy to pick off and will drop back, some of them will probably prove surprisingly resilient. On day 6 we saw some fire from Tochinoshin, and Ichinojo continues to dominate, as well as disrupting the local gravity field.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Ichinojo, Shohozan, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Daiamami, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Okinoumi, Yutakayama, Ikioi

9 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 7

Ikioi vs Aoiyama – Ikioi is visibly hurt more each day. I think that everyone is hoping he can make his 8 and go kyujo, but his progress ground to a halt in the last 2 days. Now he faces Aoiyama, who takes no prisoners. They have a long record, with Ikioi holding a 13-9 advantage. It won’t do him any good tomorrow, except with the fans.

Daishomaru vs Sokokurai – Daishomaru is on fire right now, and I don’t see any way that Sokokurai is going to slow him down. FYI, for those of you who (like me) are fans of the “Mole Boss”, he is supposedly Sokokurai’s cat. Does this give him magic powers? Perhaps. We know that Hakuho fears the mole boss, but sadly the Dai-Yokozuna is not in this tournament.

Daiamami vs Chiyonokuni – Both come into the match with 5-1 records, and this is their first meeting. Hello scheduling crew! Time to get one of the 5-1 rikishi out of the Chaser group. I think that I would give a slight edge to Chiyonokuni, if for no other reason than he’s very streaky, and right now his streak is running hot.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Two of the hunt group face off, with identical 4-2 records. Okinoumi takes a careful approach to his sumo, in part to avoid aggravating his chronic injuries. I am going to take him over Yutakayama, in this one. The loser drops out of the hunt group.

Kaisei vs Kagayaki – Kaisei shows no sign of slowing down yet, and the schedulers have yet to have him face anyone higher up the banzuke, but I think Sunday may remedy this. Kagayaki is a good rikishi, but Kaisei is good, and huge. Interestingly enough, Kagayaki holds a 3-1 career advantage.

Chiyomaru vs Abi – Ultra-mega slap fest 2018! It’s going to be on like the fall of Saigon, with Abi mobile and pushing like mad, and Chiyomaru being huge and deploying his defensive chin-bag to block any nodowa attempts. Who will win? Tough to guess.

Yoshikaze vs Shodai – For me, Yoshikaze’s matches this time out are like watching a funeral. Shodai has never won a match against him, but who knows. I don’t know what malady has befallen my favorite Sekitori of all time, but I wish him well.

Endo vs Kotoshogiku – Time for Endo to run up the score, provided he was not injured when he and Tochinoshin took their dive at the end of their day 6 match. I dearly love Kotoshogiku, but he’s out of mojo right now, and Fat Bastard is nowhere to be found.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – This one may not go how we think. Tamawashi is famous for baking. How many cookies would it take to get Ichinojo in a giddy mood? Could he get so distracted that he forgets to compete? Not a chance – Ichinojo is driving hard for wins, and I expect him to hold on to his position in the group chasing down the leaders. There’s just too much of him to move!

Arawashi vs Tochinoshin – Arawashi is really hurt. Easy Tochinoshin win.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has a size advantage, and they are matched 3-3 over their career matches. I will say that Mitakeumi has a slight edge in this one, as he knows he may never have a better chance to rack up double-digit wins.

Takarafuji vs Goeido – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, so Goeido unless there is some kind of software error at the tachiai and he boots up into bouncy castle mode.

Takayasu vs Shohozan – I have been and remain a big backer of Takayasu, but for this match, I really want Shohozan to up-end the big Ozeki. If for no other reason than I want Shohozan to stay in contention. Their career record is 6-5 in Takayasu’s favor, so it’s an even match.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – This one is VERY interesting. Takakeisho has been struggling a bit, but he is capable of beating Kakuryu, and he may be able to uncork some serious, unpredictable sumo. Kakuryu is all about reactive sumo, he often engages to blunt his opponent’s offense, and waits for them to make a mistake, which he then exploits for the win.

Haru Day 4 Preview

Haru 2018 Dohyo Iri

We Need A Hero

I wanted to hold judgment for a few days, with the long break between Hatsu and Haru dulling everyone’s sumo, but it’s clear now that the upper ranks are still in turmoil, and the coming period of change may be even greater than expected. Is the sky falling? Not at all. Sumo is a completely Darwinian environment. The strong survive and rise and the weak are left behind. That is one of the great appeals of sumo, and that principle is core to its enduring place in the world of sport.

With only one damaged Yokozuna on the field for the last two basho, at least one San’yaku holder should be ⅔ of the way to an Ozeki claim. But instead, we have the chief tadpole unable to break double digits, a hard-charging yusho winner who is one bad fall away from retirement, a promising giant, and sumo Elvis. Before the year is out, I am going to guess that sumo will need another Ozeki. Please keep in mind that it takes at least two Ozeki to convene a Honbasho. This can be two Yokozuna, a Yokozuna and an Ozeki, or two Ozeki. Having two Ozeki and one damaged Yokozuna is just bad math, but so far no one has emerged who can contend for the Ozeki slot.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Aoiyama vs Hidenoumi – Aoiyama has returned large and in charge of the bottom end of Makuuchi. I expect him to beat Hidenoumi like a rug before dropping him to the clay. Aoiyama is fighting with mid-Maegashira class sumo right now, so I expect him to clean up the bottom end of the banzuke.

Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Ikioi winces in pain every day, and he still has 3 wins. I am not sure if he is going to be able to pull the plug on Asanoyama for day 4, but I am hoping that the guy can quickly get his 8 and then go kyujo. Asanoyama will likely move fast to get inside, and if Ikioi follows the same formula, he will lure him into over-committing.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Ishiura fought well on day 3, with a left-hand grip he would not release. Yutakayama is quite a bit larger in every measurement, but I am looking for Ishiura to continue his winning streak. It’s time for “Scary Dude” to help educate the Freshmen.

Okinoumi vs Chiyonokuni – I am impressed that Chiyonokuni has gone 3-0. Not very long ago he was Maegashira 1, but that ended poorly for him. He seems to have lost a bit of weight around his middle and maybe added it to his legs, so maybe he is more comfortable with his mass and is moving better. Okinoumi seems to be fading hard.

Abi vs Daieisho – These two should go at it like two ferrets in a bathtub, and I think this could be a real winner of a match. You have Daieisho, who seems to care nothing for how much he gets tossed about, always driving forward against the man with freakishly long limbs. Abi has yet to win a match from Daieisho, but you know he is going to give it his all.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – I will come out and say it, Yoshikaze should win this one, but I have my doubts. Something has robbed him of his boundless energy and overwhelming attack power. This is their first match, ever, so experience may carry the day. But Kagayaki has been looking like he has stripped his sumo down to the fundamentals, and that is usually a winning formula.

Kaisei vs Shodai – Shodai seems to have given up. I hate to say it, as he has a lot of potential. The problem is squarely between his ears, and I am not sure who can help him cure that. Needless to say, Kaisei is going to increment their career record to 5-0 tomorrow, in my opinion.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Shohozan is on a roll right now, and it looks like he has something in his bag of pain for everyone. Kotoshogiku is even more damaged than he was at Hatsu and continuing to fade. The guy has skill and courage, but his body is done with sumo at the top division. That being said, if he can lock up Shohozan, I am sure he can still apply his trademark kimarite with vigor.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – This one is akin to having a giant use you as a doormat. I suspect that unless Mitakeumi has a really well-executed strategy, that Ichinojo is simply going to envelop him like some kind of tiny, round pony that needs a good battle-cuddle. No shame to Mitakeumi, but some great force has possessed Ichinojo now, and  everything sent to stop him will be thrust aside.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am leaning towards the Hatsu yusho winner, Tochinoshin for this one. Takakeisho has a lot of problems when it comes to the mawashi, as day 3 displayed clearly. Takakeisho would be wise to try and block Tochinoshin’s grip, but the Georgian has a much greater reach. Takakeisho, it’s wave-action for you or a black star.

Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi strikes me as a happy go lucky guy, but I could understand if he held a bit of a grudge against Takayasu. They were co-Sekiwake for a while, and Takayasu got himself to Ozeki while Tamawashi ate clay. Takayasu’s sumo is a chaotic mess, as you can plainly see any day of this basho. Only one win, and that had at least one moment where he was off balance and headed out. Tamawashi will know exactly what to do, let’s see if he can seal the deal.

Endo vs Goeido – Keep an eye on Endo. He is looking better than I have seen him in a long while. Goeido is not doing too bad. His sumo is rough, but I chalk that up to ring-rust that is quickly coming off under the stress of Honbasho competition. Goeido holds a 4-2 career advantage, but Endo is on a mission.

Kakuryu vs Arawashi – Easy win for Big K, I just want him to not hurt anything in putting Arawashi away.

Haru Day 3 Highlights

Kakuryu

It seems the top division is starting to clear the cobwebs of two months without sumo and get into fighting form. Already there are a number of great surprises and some expected outcomes that are nice to see.

I have to give massive respect to Yokozuna Kakuryu. On the final day of the Hatsu Basho, he took a fall off the side of the dohyo in his match with Goeido, and in the process injured several fingers on his right hand. He is right-handed, and this has kept him from generating much – if any – grip strength. For whatever reason, he decided not to go kyujo, but instead gamberized and entered the competition. It’s quite early in the basho, but I am impressed that he has managed 3 consecutive wins. If you watch carefully, you can see him wince when he employs that right hand.

Then there is the case of Ichinojo. I know I had a bit of fun with his interview during last night’s preview, but if this giant of a man really has gotten his sumo back in fighting form, everyone is going to have to step up their game. He weighs over 500 lbs in the US system [over 225 kilos –PinkMawashi], yet he does not suffer from some of the mobility issues that plagued the Great Konishiki towards the end of his career at a similar weight. There are practical challenges with combating an opponent who is north of a quarter ton, as very few things will actually impact that kind of mass. The downside is that he is one ungraceful dismount from a career limiting mechanical injury. We wish him, his opponents, the shinpan, and everyone in the zabuton zone good luck and safety.

There was a LOT of good sumo on day 3, as everyone is starting to get their basho-grade sumo on.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Aminishiki – Aminishiki seems to put up some resistance, but this match is 100% Daiamami. I am glad that Uncle Sumo was able to push to return to Makuuchi earlier, but I fear he’s not got the mojo to compete at the top division level.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Very quick win for Aoiyama, who pulls Nishikigi down straight out of the tachiai. Aoiyama seems in better condition than he has been for a while, and may be well on his way to returning as a fixture of Makuuchi.

Ikioi defeats Hidenoumi – In spite of his injuries and pain, Ikioi keeps finding ways to win. Granted, Ikioi competing at Maegashira 14 is a bit silly, but he seems to be able to survive down here in his injured state.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoyuki – Once again, Daishomaru focuses on this opponents center of mass, applies pressure and marches forward. This guy has an excellent command of the fundamentals, and I like it. Of course, Kotoyuki goes airborne off the dohyo. I may give Kotoyuki a nickname – “The Porg”

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – What a match! Neither man was willing to give an inch in this battle. No henka from Ishiura today, thank goodness. Asanoyama found himself challenged to get Ishiura under control, as Ishiura kept pressing inward and moving forward. Ishiura landed a left-hand grip, and try as he might, Asanoyama could not break it. The match was not so much won as lost, as I think Ishiura lost his footing, and Asanoyama let him drop.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ryuden – Chiyonokuni had a game plan, and he was able to execute it well. Ryuden over-committed at the tachiai (which he is inclined to do). Chiyonokuni gave token resistance, then allowed Ryuden to follow through all the way to the clay. Nicely done to Chiyonokuni, who has started this basho 3-0.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – Okinoumi finally picks up his first win. Daieisho was on the attack from the tachiai, but Okinoumi was able to shift his forward motion downward and to the right for the win.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – I know Kagayaki does not attract much attention, as he is quiet and composed, but this guy is showing steady improvement. He’s off to a solid start, and I would guess this may another basho where he shows incremental increases in the power and skill of his sumo. Much like Kisenosato, he is not a gifted rikishi like Hakuho or Enho, but is willing to work himself endlessly to improve.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Abi pulls up early for a matta, but they get underway with reckless abandon on the second try. Hokutofuji is working with everything he has, but Abi’s freakishly long reach is giving him the advantage. Hokutofuji is relentlessly moving forward, but Abi plays matador and sends the charging Hokutofuji down and out.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Not sure if this is “What happened to Yoshikaze” or “What happened to Kaisei” question. Yoshizake is clearly a fraction of his normal attack power, while Kaisei seems to have decided to dust off his sumo and win. As a Yoshikaze fan, I would rather see him dominate, but it’s nice to see Kaisei running up the score for a change. Kaisei lands a deep left-hand grip early, and Yoshikaze seems to have no counterattack available.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – As predicted, Shodai was beaten up and lost his lunch money for a week. Shohozan applied a rotating “slap, slap, shoulder blast” program, and kept Shodai reacting to his sumo. Shohozan even landed a nice slap to Shodai’s face in there. Match finished with Shohozan applying a rolling sukuinage, with Shodai tumbling to the clay. Please, Shodai – get it together man!

Chiyomaru defeats Takakeisho – A surprising mawashi battle here, as both men are so rotund that their belts could be considered unreachable. Takakeisho is clearly looking to improve his yotsu chops, but in this bout, Chiyomaru comes out on top. Much respect to Takakeisho for working to expand his attack repertoire.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Over the past 24 hours, we have come to find out more about Ichinojo, including the fact that he used to wrestle small horses when he was living on the steppes of Mongolia. So now we will forever try to visualize what kind of pony he imagines each opponent to be. In the case of Takarafuji (aka, treasure-fuji), it’s better not to consider. Takarafuji, as always, gives it everything. But he is attempting to overpower a 500-pound mountain of Mongolian beef. With both men latched on to the other’s belt, there was only one way this was ever going to end. We can assume that Ichinojo routinely sleeps standing up against various fixtures and support beams, so leaning against the comparatively tiny and lightweight Takarafuji was unlikely to tire him. I do like the fact that when it came time to finish Takarafuji, Ichinojo was both careful and gentle. Neither man faced injury. Well done.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin got his left-hand grip early, and no matter which way Kotoshogiku rotated, the Georgian stayed with him. Solid win for Tochinoshin using his preferred form.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Still sticking with my pre-basho proclamation: Keep an eye on Endo. Today he handed Mitakeumi his first loss of Haru, and he looked solid in the process. Mitakeumi launched low and compact into the tachiai, and once again Endo read the situation and reacted in a blink of an eye. He collapsed into Mitakeumi’s charge, turned him and got out of the way. Endo has always had outstanding ring sense, and split-second reactions. If he has resolved his health and injury issues, we could be seeing a new contender for a long duration San’yaku slot.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Don’t blink or you will miss it. Goeido delivers a face slap at the tachiai and then steps to the side. Chiyotairyu’s massive forward momentum does the rest.

Takayasu defeats Arawashi – Shoulder blast again from Takayasu leaves him dazed and off balance for a split second, but Arawashi does not notice or cannot capitalize. From there it’s a ragged chase scene that sees Arawashi step backward out of the ring. Kind of a dud match.

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – No complaints about that pull, as we all know Big K is hurt, and that right hand is the worst part of his body right now. Quite impressive that he beat Tamawashi off the line – that’s hard to do. Tamawashi once again came in strong, but Kakuryu was just enough ahead that he could force him back and up. From there the pull-down worked, and the Yokozuna had a victory before anyone got hurt.

Haru Day 2 Highlights

Kakuryu Osaka 2018

A quick recap of day two action from Osaka. Ichinojo looks to be the real spoiler for this basho, and as long as he keeps up this run, he’s going to be tough to beat. Takayasu seems to be off to a cold start, and Mitakeumi can smell the opportunity ripe in the air. Can he finally score double digits this time? We get to see Takakeisho unleash his wave-action attack, and Shohozan lands a beauty of a slap.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – It’s tough to know what plagued Aoiyama in Kyushu, but he looks to be back to his overpowering self now. At the very bottom of the Makuuchi division, he can do a lot of damage if he is healthy. The enormous left knee bandage is a worry, but he seems to be moving well enough for now.

Hidenoumi defeats Takekaze – Takekaze tries to hit and shift, but Hidenoumi stays low and engaged. Clearly, Hidenoumi knew what to expect, and read the situation well. This could be the twilight of veteran Takekaze’s time on camera.

Ikioi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu came out of the tachiai strong, but Ikioi very effectively blocked him, tied him up and shut him down. Myogiryu rallied, but Ikioi had the inside position and stepped back, forcing Myogiryu off balance. Ikioi charged and used his momentum to drive Myogiryu from the dohyo. Nicely done, in spite of Ikioi’s injuries.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – These Ishiura henkas are getting boring. This one had a nice variation, in that Ishiura rolled into a quick sukuinage.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Nice drive from Yutakayama, and Chiyoshoma can put up almost no resistance. Yutakayama had difficulty holding on to his Maegashira rank in his first few attempts, but he seems to have settled into the top division.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is clearly still injured, but Chiyonokuni drives hard (as he always does), and dominates Tochiozan.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Some nice work here by Kagayaki, who fights hard to get inside, and focuses on keeping control of Okinoumi’s upper body while relentlessly driving forward. The veteran can’t recover, and it’s Kagayaki’s win.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Daieisho came off the line hard and was nothing short of fierce in his bout today against Ryuden. At no point did he let Ryuden mount an effective defense or offense. A half step ahead from the start, Daieisho drove Ryuden from the ring.

Kaisei defeats Abi – It’s really interesting to see Abi work at this higher rank. He is encountering some big men who are fairly genki this tournament. Abi starts with nodowa and tries to convert that into a slap down, but Kaisei is too massive and too stable. Once Abi starts moving backward, Kaisei chases him down for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji really applies himself in this match and has Yoshikaze back in a hurry, and off balance. But the Berserker rallies and gets Hokutofuji in retreat. Both of them take a dive off the lip of the dohyo, with an unfortunate tea-bag delivered by Yozhikaze in the lap of a shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Trading blows from the tachiai, this match features a really energetic slap delivered to Chiyomaru’s face, which seems to disrupt his thrusting attack. From there it’s all Shohozan for the win.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Takakeisho takes full advantage of Shodai’s weak and high tachiai, coming in low, strong and fast. From there, he fires up the “wave action” and Shodai is doomed. Shodai tries a wave himself and receives a pride obliterating face-slap from Takakeisho. This was all Takakeisho’s sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – While it looked like Kotoshogiku was going to set up the Hug-N-Chug, he rolled to his right for a nice sukuinage. Chiyotairyu was defeated before he knew what happened.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Mitakeumi battles hard immediately to block Takarafuji landing a controlling grip, and for a time the two of them struggle almost motionless in the middle of the dohyo. You can see the extreme exertion as each man tries to overpower the other. To Mitakeumi’s credit, Takarafuji breaks the scrum and manages to get Mitakeumi moving backward, but Mitakeumi takes his time and counter-attacks. Nice sumo from both men.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin was driving hard for a grip, and Tamawashi used that to his advantage. Unable to get the match on his terms, Tochinoshin battled hard but it was Tamawashi who called the tune.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – I fear that Pooh-Bear has gotten so used to using that shoulder blast, he is not sure how to engage someone like Ichinojo. Clearly, he is off the pace and out of his element from the start, and Ichinojo gives him no quarter. Takayasu drives forward against Ichinojo’s immovable bulk, and Ichinojo helps him continue in motion all the way to the clay. The big Mongolian made it look easy.

Goeido defeats Arawashi – Good thing, too! Goeido launched early, and it should have probably been a matta. He was in Arawashi’s chest in no time and drove him back and out.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo made him work hard for this win, and really put up a strong fight against the sole surviving Yokozuna. Endo drove Kakuryu back to the tawara within the first few moments, but the Yokozuna’s reactive sumo took over and got Endo off balance and moving towards the center of the ring. A well-timed hatakikomi sent Endo to the clay.

Haru Day 1 Highlights

Haru Headliners

Overnight, the Tachiai team conducted our first successful live blog in parallel with the NHK World Live broadcast of a portion of Makuuchi. The live broadcast was a real treat, but unfortunately for viewers, the torikumi was running about 10 minuets ahead of schedule. The commentary by Murray Johnson and John Gunning was engaging and delightful, definitely a cut above the remarks that make it into the highlight show. As several people have mentioned, we were shocked and delighted when our humble sumo fan site got mentioned on air. Wow. This is a testament to the team that puts Tachiai together, and the thousands of readers who share their time with us. Thank you to everyone for helping take the sport of Sumo to a broader audience. The broadcast started just as Chiyomaru and Shodai went for the tachiai, and it was (hopefully) the shape of things to come.

Earlier today, readers may have noted I posted a story about Kisenosato taking a full year off to address his injuries. This came from a prolific sumo poster on Twitter, SumoSoul, who has been quite reliable in the past. In my sleep deprived state, I went with it. At the moment we can’t find a second source in the Japanese press, so we consider it to be more of a rumor than a story at the moment. Apologies for the lapse in the QA process.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei up from Juryo to fill the hole caused by Onosho going kyujo. The Bulgarian Man-Mountain makes fast work of Kyokutaisei, with a forceful pull down. Hopefully whatever problems Aoiyama suffered during Kyushu are resolved.

Daiamami defeats Hidenoumi – Now THAT was a tachiai! It reverberated through the EDION arena like a thunderclap. Both men went chest to chest and fought it out in a battle of strength and stability. Solid win by Daiamami.

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Quite the battle here, another explosive tachiai, and both men went quickly for each other’s mawashi. Myogiryu held the advantage for most of the fight, but Nishikigi kept him blocked, and Myogiryu could never establish control or a solid throwing grip. At the tawara, Nishikigi rallied and put Myogiryu off-balance. Nishikigi got behind and shoved. Great match, great effort from both.

Ikioi defeats Sokokurai – Straightforward win for Ikioi, but he is clearly still hurt.

Ishiura defeats Kotoyuki – Ishiura shifts to the side during the tachiai, Kotoyuki expects the move and catches Ishiura, but Ishiura evades, gets behind and takes control.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyoshoma – Bout ended by mutual slippio-toshi, with Chiyoshoma hitting the clay first. Of course, there was a monoii, and the shimpan decided Chiyoshoma touched first.

Ryuden defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi put up a solid fight, but he is not consistently able to produce high-powered sumo right now. Ryuden is fast, strong and in good shape right now, and after a mawashi battle, he puts Okinoumi over the bales.

Abi defeats Yoshikaze – I would almost guess that whatever has impacted Yoshikaze is still causing problems. Abi produced a flurry of thrusts, and completely took control of the match. Excellent win for Abi, he looked solid. Yoshikaze needs to revert to the green mawashi.

Kaisei defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was simply outmatched, and Kaisei appears to be back to fighting form. At one point, Hokutofuji was a solid San’yaku hopeful, but now seems to be struggling. We can only hope that he can get his sumo together soon.

Shodai defeats Chiyomaru – In spite of a sloppy tachiai, Shodai keeps up the pressure and gets Chiyomaru high, off balance, and moving backwards. From there it’s a quick trip over and out.

Shohozan defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho never had a chance to set up his deadly “Wave Action Tsuppari”, as Shohozan took immediate control, and forced Takakeisho into reactive sumo by going chest to chest. We know Takakeisho can fight this way, but he was outmatched by the massive strength and power from Shohozan. Outstanding strategy and execution from Shohozan, that was a solid win.

Ichinojo defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku took him to his chest and tried to set up the Hug-N-Chug attack, but Ichinojo is simply too massive. By the time his heels are on the tawara, rather than giving up Ichinojo rallies and finds Kotoshogiku can offer no resistance to that much mass in motion.

Tochinoshin defeats Takarafuji – Unlike their match at Hatsu, Takarafuji could not find a way to block Tochinoshin’s left hand grip, and from there the Hatsu yusho winner took command and used his superior strength to finish Takarafuji.

Mitakeumi defeats Arawashi – Missing his tomato red mawashi, Mitakeumi gets inside Arawashi’s defenses at the tachiai, and quickly converts to a rolling sukuinage that was all shoulder and hip power. Wow!

Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Goeido pushes inside at the tachiai, absorbing blows to his face, but can’t get Tamawashi off balance. Tamawashi keeps his sumo on track and attacks at once, and it’s Goeido who is forced to retreat. Goeido blows a shallow left mawashi grip attempt, and Tamawashi capitalizes to get behind and force him out.

Endo defeats Takayasu – I am a big Takayasu fan, but his sumo has gone to hell since Kisenosato got hurt. This match is a prime example. Endo knows his big, all or nothing shoulder blast is coming, and he is ready for it. The effort he puts into an up-front winning move leaves him unprepared for counter attack, and that’s exactly what he gets. Endo keeps him reaching forward, and unable to establish either an offensive or defensive posture. When you weigh as much as Takayasu, a clever opponent will use that mass and momentum against you. Try again Pooh-Bear.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I loved this match because the Yokozuna kept moving forward, landed a right-hand grip, which surprised Chiyotairyu. Kakuryu lifted hard with that injured hand and moved forward strongly. It was over in seconds. Way to win Big K!

Haru Day 1 Preview

Wasabi Mawashi

It seems like a long time, waiting for the Osaka basho to get underway. Part of that was due to the Olympic news blackout – the sumo world kept quiet in order to let the Olympics have the stage. Now the snow party in Korea is done, it’s time for the big men of Japan to take to the dohyo and compete. Oh boy, are we ready for some sumo!

If you are just now joining our coverage, a few things to note

  1. Tachiai is not spoiler free – we report things as they happen. If you want to wait until you can watch things on NHK or YouTube, you will want to visit us after you watch the highlights.
  2. We will attempt to live blog tonight, in conjunction with NHK showing the second half of Makuuchi live on NHK World. It may be a spectacular flaming train wreck, but it will be fun read along as we all watch live sumo together
  3. Tachiai is a team effort. There are multiple authors contributing to the content here, and we are greatful for all their efforts. Please be kind to them, or at least respectful. They give up their free time to comment on a sport we all love. Nobody here gets paid, we do it for the love of sumo.

With that down in writing, lets get started!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Aoiyama vs Kyokutaisei – The man-mountain Aoiyama made it back to the top division by the barest of margins, and his first match is against a Juryo rikishi filling a gap brought on by Onosho going kyujo. Aoiyama has been struggling, and frankly his mass has gotten out of control. We will be looking for him to put everything he has to stay in the top division.

Ikioi vs Sokokurai – Ikioi at Maegashira 14? What manner of cataclysm is this? Ikioi has been struggling for the last several basho, and his nursing injuries. With no jungyo tour this February, we all hope that he has gotten himself back together, and is ready to compete. Going against Sokokurai should be a fairly easy win for a healthy Ikioi, so it will be time to guess if he’s genki. Sokokurai holds a 5-1 career advantage

Daishomaru vs Asanoyama – Sumo’s happy boy goes up against Daishomaru, who has never lost to Asanoyama. This is usually a thrusting battle that gets Asanoyama off balance and out. With Asanoyama looking to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing Hatsu, he will need to break with tradition and defeat Daishomaru top one strong.

Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – My compliments to both rikish for surviving Hatsu, both of which have spent a good amount of time slumming in Juryo over the last year. Ishiura is still looking for a way to compete in spite of his small size, and tends to get confounded by larger opponents. Kotoyuki goes all out, and quite possibly Ishiura will use this against him. Even chances of a henka on this one.

Yutakayama vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni’s Grumpy Badger Sumo has not taken him as far as one might imagine, and after a disastrous Hatsu, he’s now down at Maegashira 10. Yutakayama won their only prior match, and his 30 kg mass advantage will likely be the deciding factor.

Okinoumi vs Ryuden – The perpetually injured veteran Okinoumi faces off against rising start Ryuden. One has to wonder how much longer Okinoumi will stick with professional sumo, where Ryuden has caught quite a bit of attention with double digit wins during his first Makuuchi tournament. This is their first match.

Abi vs Yoshikaze – I hope and pray that the NHK live stream starts here. This is possibly the highlight match of the day. Yoshikaze was a fraction of his normal level of genki during Hatsu, and I expect him to be fully recovered from the flu or cold or whatever plagued him. He faces off for the first time against leading man of the Freshman class, Abi. This will either be Yoshikaze dispatching the youngster with a deft and rapid kimarite, or it could be a great battle that rotates between oshi and yotsu-zumō in the blink of an eye. This is their first career match.

Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Kaisei is near the top of his effective rank these days, given his weight and the limitations it places on his sumo. For a time Hokutofuji was a force of nature, but a series of small, but performance limiting, injuries kept him from living up to his awesome potential. With the Hatsu-Haru break, we can only hope that he returns to the dohyo healthy and ready to advance once more. These two have split their prior 2 matches.

Chiyomaru vs Shodai – The crew are all waiting for the day that Shodai fixes his tachiai and becomes a contender. Could Haru be the time we see him snap off shikiri-sen, catching the bulbous Chiyomaru by surprise? More likely, Chiyomaru will use his enormous belly to keep Shodai away from his mawashi, and dominate the match. Chiyomaru has won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs Takakeisho – Oh goodie! “Big Guns” Shohozan goes against Takakeisho’s “Wave Action Tsuppari!” In their prior two matches, Takakeisho has carried the day. But Shohozan is a street brawler with the strength to overwhelm the tadpole. This is likely to be fast and brutal, and we can watch it live!

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – Ichinojo’s back in San’yaku, and he’s put on a vast amount of additional weight. This guy is so seriously huge that an awkward fall is an instant mechanical injury and possibly a ride in the oversized wheelchair. Day one he faces fading former Ozeki, the much loved Kotoshogiku. We all know that Kotoshogiku’s going to try for his hug-n-chug, and will likely get it. But will Ichinojo’s ridiculous bulk be too much for Kotoshogiku’s damaged knees?

Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – January’s yusho winner goes up against Takarafuji the neck-less wonder. There have been reports that Tochinoshin may have injured himself in training, and this will be our first peek at if the party circuit post-Hatsu took its toll. Their match in January was some solid sumo, with Takarafuji able to block and counter Tochinoshin’s left hand with impressive skill. They are evenly matched with the 8-7 career score slightly favoring Tochinoshin.

Mitakeumi vs Arawashi – The Mitakeumi faithful are hoping that he will finally elevate his sumo and be able to turn in double digit wins at Sekiwake. With a likely cull in the Yokozuna ranks coming in the next 12 months, there is no better time to start driving for higher rank. But Arawashi is not going to be an accomplice to that plan. Though Mitakeumi leads their career bouts 3-1, Arawashi is fast, flexible and not afraid to deliver a henka.

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Tamawashi is frustrated. After losing his coveted Sekiwake slot, he has been a man on the outside looking in. He starts Haru by facing home town favorite Goeido, who may be the key man in this basho. If he delivers his “good” sumo style, he could be unstoppable. Tamawashi is a powerful oshi practitioner, and Goeido will need to get inside fast, and then endure punishing blows to win.

Takayasu vs Endo – Since his thigh injury, Ozeki Takayasu’s sumo has gotten sloppy. He tends to bounce around, not minding his hips or his center of gravity. He relies on a shoulder blast at the tachiai to put him in control of the match. Endo is my sleeper favorite going into Haru, and I would delight to see him counter the Ozeki’s predictable opening move. They are evenly matched at 6-6 for the career, so this is no easy walk over win for Takayasu.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Though he is missing his side burns, Chiyotairyu will always be sumo-Elvis to me. We know he’s facing an injured and diminished Kakuryu, who’s main right hand weapon is not working well at all after a bad fall on the final day of Hatsu. So fans should restrain their reactions if Kakuryu uses a lot of pulls and “reverse sumo” this tournament. I give him huge credit for showing up and giving it his all.

Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

Aminishiki

Unlike the Hatsu banzuke mess, the Hatsu results should make for a fairly predictable Haru banzuke.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

The rankings aren’t in doubt, but nonetheless there are many questions about this group. Which if any Yokozuna will show up? Kakuryu (ankle) and Hakuho (toes) are nursing injuries. Kisenosato has declared that the next tournament he enters will be his make-or-break one—perform at Yokozuna level for 15 days or retire. My guess a month before the basho is that Hakuho is very likely to participate, Kakuryu is also likely to compete, and Kisenosato will most likely sit this one out.

Lower San’yaku

S

Mitakeumi

Tochinoshin

K

Ichinojo

Chiyotairyu

In the upper ranks, a kachi-koshi (winning record) is no guarantee that your position within the rank won’t change: witness the Yokozuna and Ozeki getting reshuffled based on their performances at the previous basho. This used to be the case for Sekiwake as well, with 8-7 East Sekiwake frequently moving to West Sekiwake for the subsequent tournament when a more deserving candidate for East Sekiwake existed. However, this seems to have changed about ten years ago (perhaps someone can shed light on the history), and an 8-7 record at Sekiwake (or Komusubi) now appears to guarantee retention of rank and side. A recent example of this is S1e Tamawashi not switching sides with S1w Takayasu even after their respective 8-7 and 12-3 performances at last year’s Haru basho. Long story short, 8-7 Mitakeumi will retain his S1e rank, with 14-1 yusho winner Tochinoshin joining him at Sekiwake on the West side. Ichinojo and Chiyotairyu, the highest-ranked maegashira with winning records at Hatsu, should take over the Komusubi slots vacated by Takakeisho and Onosho.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Endo

M2

Arawashi

Kotoshogiku

M3

Takakeisho

Takarafuji

M4

Shodai

Shohozan

M5

Chiyomaru

Onosho

Endo has been ranked M1 twice before, but has never broken through to San’yaku. Is this his time? Arawashi would similarly tie his highest rank, while Chiyomaru has never been ranked above M8. Everyone else in this group has been ranked in San’yaku, most of them within the last couple of years.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Kaisei

Hokutofuji

M7

Yoshikaze

Kagayaki

M8

Abi

Okinoumi

M9

Chiyoshoma

Chiyonokuni

M10

Daieisho

Tochiozan

M11

Yutakayama

Ryuden

A mix of rikishi in a holding pattern in this part of the banzuke (Kaisei, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, Tochiozan), higher-ranked rikishi dropping down after rough Hatsu performances (Hokutofuji, Yoshikaze, Okinoumi), and up-and-comers making a move up the banzuke (Kagayaki, Abi, Daieisho, Yutakayama, Ryuden). Three of the rikishi promoted from Juryo for Hatsu put up good numbers and find themselves here.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoyuki

Daishomaru

M13

Ishiura

Ikioi

M14

Asanoyama

Nishikigi

M15

Myogiryu

Sokokurai

M16

Daiamami

Hidenoumi

M17

Aoiyama


Predicted demotions to Juryo: Terunofuji, Aminishiki, Takekaze. Predicted promotions: Myogiryu, Hidenoumi, Aoiyama. Often, this area of the banzuke contains a bunch of poor performances from the previous basho, but the only one who really fits that bill is Ikioi, who is dropping from M6 after putting up a 4-11 record. Kotoyuki, Daishomaru, and Sokokurai put up mediocre numbers, but Ishiura, Asanoyama, Nishikigi, and Daiamami all earned kachi-koshi records at Hatsu. Nevertheless, they’ll be fighting for their Makuuchi lives again in Osaka, as everyone in this group needs a minimum of 6 wins (more for those closer to the bottom) to be safe from demotion.