Day 15 Recap and Comments

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The sumo has ended, and the senshuraku parties are raging on into the night. It’s a celebration in Nagoya as a new rikishi has won his first yusho after a remarkable run of victories. Mitakeumi makes for a really interesting champion, in that he has been remarkably consistent for some time now, but like Tochinoshin was just below the threshold of contender. Then something changed, and he became the man to beat in Nagoya. Part of this is, of course, the natural reaction to the top men of sumo being sidelined. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of the Yokozuna, new champions will rise. The real fireworks begin when the new champion confronts the aging kings of sumo. This is just one reason I expect Aki could be the most exciting basho in several years.

Mitakeumi is clearly in an Ozeki campaign now, and with good cause. The two big wrinkles to any claim he might make have to be the questionable loss to Takayasu, and the fact that Yutakayama beat him today. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn impressed with the sumo on display today by both men. And the fact that Freshman Yutakayama was able to take the fight to Mitakumi and prevail speaks clearly to just how much competition there will be in the next two years. As sumo’s current mainstays all fade and move on, the new crowd are going to battle it out to see who gets to take the top spots. Frankly, I can’t wait.

There may be a pretty good churn between Juryo and Makuuchi for the fall. Takanoiwa won the Juryo yusho in a playoff, and finished with an impressive 13-2 record. The man was on fire, and much like Mitakeumi, seems to have had a breakout basho. In all there were 4 rikishi who finished Juryo with 10 or more wins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Yoshikaze picked up his second win on the final day, and by our sage’s predictions, this will possibly keep him in Makuuchi for the fall. Whatever ails Yoshikaze, I do hope he can heal up and overcome. A healthy Yoshikaze at the bottom of the banzuke is an unmitigated terror that I think every young rikishi should have the pleasure of encountering.

Some Match Notes

Ishiura resorted once more to solid “small man sumo” and used a leg pick to control Chiyomaru’s mighty bulk. By improving his make-koshi to 7-8, he has greatly cushioned his demotion for Aki. I also think that maybe Ishiura may have started a new chapter in his sumo.

Onosho finishes in double digits on his return to Makuuchi, and strongly repelled Myogiryu’s successful opening gambit. I am expecting some great things from Onosho in the fall. I think he will be just outside the joi, and will be “the cutter” of middle Maegashira.

Okinoumi was able to finish with a kachi-koshi as Chiyoshoma went kyujo on the final day. That means that yet another rikishi dropped from this torturous basho, and this broke Chiyoshoma’s near 500 consecutive match attendance streak.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu featured a false start that quickly devolved into a flurry of good manners and congenial behavior. This is one of the reasons I love sumo. Hokutofuji finishes with 11 wins and will be in a much tougher cohort for Aki.

Sadanoumi was able to overcome Daishomaru for his kachi-koshi, while his opponent Daishomaru dropped to 5-10.

Takakeisho went chest to chest at the tachiai against Asanoyama, and kept him there. I suspect Takakeisho is more versatile than assumed, and may be looking to broaden his sumo in wise preparation for maintaining higher ranks. Both rikishi finish in double digits. Asanoyama also picked up the fighting spirit prize (Kanto-Sho).

Abi’s long reach was equaled by Aoiyama, and it was quite the discovery process for both of them. I did like to see Abi do everything he could to try to keep Aoiyama from falling from the dohyo. But frankly Abi, there is only so much you can do when that much mass is in motion.

Then there was possibly THE match of the basho. Yutakayama gave his all against Mitakeumi, and beat him. Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but for some reason started trying to pull down Yutakayama. With these two so evenly matched, the pull attempt did little more than send Mitakeumi off balance and moving in reverse (not a good place to be). He eventually was able to recover offensive footing, but not before Yutakayama had chanced him around the dohyo. Now chest to chest, Mitakeumi advanced to deliver the yorikiri, but Yutakayama loaded and executed a rescue throw (kakenage) at the edge. Fantastic sumo.

Endo continued his fade, and delivered Ichinojo’s kachi-koshi for his final match. After trying to get some kind of offense going from the tachiai, Endo learns he cannot move the boulder. With one arm, Ichinojo lashes out and Endo goes flying.

Lastly, Ozeki Goeido finishes with double digit wins for the first time since Aki 2017 as Takayasu seems to be caught improvising into the tachiai. Both of you knuckleheads go back to Tokyo and get yourselves fixed up.

Thank you, dear readers, for once again sharing your love of sumo with us, and spending your time enjoying the sport on Tachiai.

Nagoya Day 15 Preview

Macacon Of Victory

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

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

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

What We Are Watching Day 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

Day 9 Dohyo Iri

With day 9 in the books, it’s clear that Mitakeumi is headed for double digits as Sekiwake for his first time ever. His sumo is strong, confident, efficient and effective. Right now he is fighting better than any man still in the basho. But as we come to close out act 2 tomorrow, the battleground will change from the dohyo to the mind. Pressure will mount on Mitakeumi, anticipation and expectations will start to cloud his thoughts. He has the mechanics to take it to the yusho, but the question will come down to: “Can he think his way though this”. If he can, we are likely to see Ozeki Mitakeumi by this time next year. Should Mitakeumi succumb to his own demons, the chances that Tochiozan, Endo or Takayasu will be there to capture the prize are a bit shaky, but very real. While Asanoyama is lauded to be sitting with just 1 loss at this point is to be lauded, I expect the schedulers to throw him some problems starting day 11.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Asanoyama kachi-koshi, and remains 1 behind Mitakeumi. As an upstanding member of the group I call “The Freshmen”, Asanoyama has shown solid sumo for several tournaments. Do I think he’s a yusho contender? Not really, but I think he’s one to watch for the years to come. Ishiura chose to meet him head on, but bounced off of his broad chest.

Tochiozan defeats Meisei – Meisei came in strong from the tachiai, and had excellent hand and foot placement, going chest to chest with Tochiozan. But the veteran showed his amazingly efficient sumo once more. I marvel at watching how little energy and movement it takes Tochiozan to turn the tables on Meisei and toss him to the clay.

Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – Watch how low Hokutofuji is at the tachiai. He knew Onosho was going to come in low, and in spite of his large body, managed to come in below Onosho. Hokutofuji engages in some highly effective hazu-oshi (armpit attack), scooting Onoshi towards the bales. Onosho rallies for a moment, but Hokutofuji lays in with a nodawa, leading Onosho out by the neck. Ouch!

Chiyomaru defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi bounces off Chiyomaru’s belly at the tachiai, and although Chiyomaru seems to control most of the match, once Okinoumi rallies at the tawara, Chiyomaru is almost immediately in trouble. Chiyomaru does recover enough to execute a kotenage for the win, but it’s clear that Chiyomaru quickly runs out of energy in the heat hauling that much Unadon around.

Nishikigi defeats Daieisho – They went in at 4-4, with a career record of 4 to 4, and I think the match started fairly close to 4:44 in the afternoon. It was fairly straightforward Nishikigi oshidashi.

Kyokutaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kyokutaisei might have just saved his Makuuchi posting with his second win of the tournament. It was half hikiotoshi, half slippiotoshi, but he got the job done.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Endo drops to 2 losses, which reduces the chances he can contend for the yusho. He allowed Yutakayama to dictate the terms and cadence of the match, and from the moment he was reacting rather than attacking, he was done.

Takakeisho defeats Yoshikaze – We saw more “wave action” today against Yoshikaze, and the ailing berserker gave him a good match. But it was really just Takakeisho playing with him until it was time to win.

Chiyonokuni defeats Abi – Points to Abi, he went for a right hand mawashi grip straight into the tachiai. Sadly, he is clearly not very skilled at this kind of fight, and Chiyonokuni put him away easily. Abi – practice that. Look what it did for Mitakeumi. With your reach and body proportions, you could win a lot of matches with a hybrid approach. Is it just me, or does Chiyonokuni seems surprisingly good natured these day? I believe the man is actually enjoying his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi goes chest to chest with the Kyushu bulldozer at the tachiai. But this match was all Ikioi, as he never allows Kotoshogiku to square his hips. Instead, Ikioi simply overpowers Kotoshogiku and tosses him from the dohyo. Impressive win.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – The match starts with an odd and mis-timed tachiai that could almost have bene a matta if it were not Shodai. Shohozan keeps him reacting and disrupted, and Shodai is easily dispatched.

Mitakeumi defeats Daishomaru – Mitakeumi remains unbeaten, and in excellent form. Daishomaru had not effective offense, although he presented a solid, low tachiai.

Kaisei defeats Ichinojo – A match that unfolded in a languid and turgid manner. Of course it featured Ichinojo giving up and softly going away.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi gave the Ozeki a bold and vigorous match, and in fact controlled the action right up until Takayasu’s rescue move at the bales. Takayasu is racking the wins up, but his sumo was especially crummy today.

Goeido defeats Kagayaki – Professor Kagayaki did in fact apply is excellent fundamentals against Goeido, and gave him more trouble than a Maegashira 4 should present to an Ozeki. Goeido got an inside grip at the tachiai, and worked hard to finish him before Kagayaki could get set up to attack. It nearly worked, but Kagayaki made a valiant stand at the tawara, and returned pressure to the Ozeki to bring them back to the center, now chest to chest. Kagayaki then attacked, driving Goeido back and rotated for a throw, which failed. Driving forward, Kagayaki tried to disrupt Goeido’s defense with a nodowa, but Goeido deftly realized his opponent was horribly balanced, rotated and applied an uwatenage for the win.

Nagoya Day 8 Highlights

Nagoya Day 8 Banner

I admit, I have become addicted to the 2 hour NHK broadcast of Makuuchi. As more of the top level men have dropped out of this basho, NHK has been forced to find things to fill the air time these matches would have occupied. They have had lengthy discussions with sumo elders and former stars. Today they have a highlight show of the Wakanohana / Takanohana era. This was about the time I first began to seriously try to follow sumo, and it was really fantastic to see this retrospective. It’s interesting to compare that time to the present day, many of the good rivalries of even the recent past have been dismantled due to rikishi aging out and losing their edge. Rest assured, new and potent rivalries will spring up before too many more seasons have passed. As we have already seen there is a steady parade of outstanding younger talent that are making it to the top division. However much we lament a tournament like Nagoya where so many kanban rikishi are absent, this is part of the process of “changing the guard”.

In the present day, the facilities crew at Dolphins Arena in Nagoya have their hands full. The heat in central Japan has been lingering in the upper range of normal, which during this time of year can top 100° F. The venue for the Nagoya basho is an older building, and it’s thermal systems are failing to handle this load. Fans get hot, the rikishi get even hotter, and for those competitors who are not overly genki, the heat further saps their performance. There is hope for the future, as Dolphins Arena will be undergoing serious renovations starting later this year, and that may require a different venue for 2019’s Nagoya basho.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Hokutofuji – Tochiozan has not looked this genki in perhaps a couple of years. His match against Hokutofuji on day 8 was a grand example of the catalog of sumo moves that Tochiozan can deploy. This battle when on for good length of time, and it was clear that Tochiozan was working to stalemate Hokutofuji. Watch how efficient Tochiozan is during this match. Hokutofuji is flailing away for advantage, and he is getting it. But Tochiozan is calmly keeping him from winning. Of course the pays off as Tochiozan catches Hokutofuji close, pinned in and off balance, and gets to unleash the seldom seen makiotoshi.

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Meisei continues to struggle. Sadanoumi went in with a plan, and executed well. Meisei got inside at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi’s outside grip was well placed, and he immediately raised Meisei by the left elbow. With Meisei off balance, Sadanoumi lunged to the inside and applied a series of thrusts to center-mass. Well executed oshi-zumo today from Sadanoumi.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – A sharp, short unsatisfying match that ended with a near-immediate hatakikomi.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – Asanoyama remains on the leaderboard, and does it with excellent sumo. The big Bulgarian was unable to enforce his desire to keep this as an oshi-match, and Asanoyama was able to drive inside and bring it chest to chest. Asanoyama left hand latched hard to Aoiyama’s mawashi, it was now Asanoyama who called the tune. Aoiyama was really unable to offer much resistance and went out with little struggle.

Onosho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi really only offered a forearm blast at the tachiai, and Onosho pushed through that and got inside and pushed hard. That was all it took. Onosho now seems to be in his groove, and he is a dangerous opponent this far down the banzuke.

Nishikigi defeats Takarafuji – Nishikigi looked sluggish today, but it was enough to dispatch Takarafuji. The critical element seem to have been Nishikigi’s early morozashi, which Takarafuji did not seem to have a good plan to counter. I have to assume that the oppressive heat must have been effecting them both, as there was not a lot of vigor in this match.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – A bout so nice, they did it twice! The first match was Myogiryu from the tachiai, but as he went to drive Endo out, Endo pivoted and they dropped into the front row. The monoii was inconclusive, and torinaoshi was called. For bout 1, that was an amazing rescue move by Endo. Second bout – Endo launches too early, and its matta time. By now the crowd is really wound up. Second tachiai, and Endo is low, really low. Myogiryu decides it’s time to go chest to chest, but Endo’s mawashi is loose, and Endo has a very strong left hand inside, deep grip. Pressing Myogiryu into his body, Endo walks Myogiryu out. Great pair of matches. Endo’s skill really shines today.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – Increasingly plump Yutakayama forcefully ejects Chiyotairyu from the group of chasers with a masterfully concocted tsukidashi. Outstanding example of center-mass oshi, as Yutakayama takes the initiative after a brief clash just after the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu has no space to counter attack or mount any kind of defensive footing.

Daishomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei had the better tachiai, but Daishomaru quickly got the better rhythm going and overpowered Kyokutaisei. Sadly Kyokutaisei still only has 1 win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze make-koshi with zero wins. His fans (including me) are worried about what is plaguing the former berserker.

Ikioi defeats Abi – Abi’s always going to open with a two arm thrust to the shoulders of his opponents. Everyone knows that. So rikishi like Ikioi aim center mass, and knock him back, and get him out of any offensive stance. Abi, it was a good recipe for a while, let’s see you make something new.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – If you are a fan of nodawa, this is your match. Tamawashi spends most of the bout with his left hand at Shodai’s throat. Shodai overcomes a couple of times and tries to counter attack, but Tamawashi was in control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Shohozan has taken such a beating in week 1 that it seems his sumo is totally disrupted. For reasons no one can determine, he decided to go chest to chest against Kotoshogiku at the tachiai. Of course Kotoshogiku is like an excited 5 year old now, and is belly pushing Shohozan around like a shopping cart. Great match if you are a Kotoshogiku fan.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has been really impacted by the heat, but I doubt that can explain his total lack of offensive action during the first week of the tournament. Takakeisho spent the first part of the match confounding Ichinojo, delivering rapid thrusts to his upper body. To me this looked like a variation of his “wave action” tsuppari, and it was getting Ichinojo very anxious. Not sure what to do next, Ichinojo stands at the shikri-sen and tries to deflect the incoming thrusts. Takakeisho decides to try something else, and goes chest to chest for a moment. Ichinojo changes gears and starts grabbing for Takakeisho’s mawashi. Now forward and unbalanced, Takakeisho pulls him down. Masterful confuse / disrupt battle plan from Takakeisho.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Home town rikishi Mitakeumi is kachi-koshi, and sole leader of the Nagoya basho. This was always going to be a match where Chiyonokuni worked to apply is run-and-gun sumo, and he was on form today. Outstanding tachiai, which saw Chiyonokuni able to come in beneath Mitakeumi and raise him up, Chiyonokuni’s immediate attempt at a slap down nearly worked, too. But Mitakeumi recovered instantly and rallied, driving Chiyonokuni to the northwest corner and out of the ring.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Sadly, we did not get the much wished for Kaisei henka, which experts believe would be much akin to a mountain range dodging a lava flow. That being said, Kaisei nearly had him, except for a rescue move at the edge of the tawara that put Kaisei to the clay first. Goeido needs 3 more wins to clear kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki absorbed Takayasu’s strong tachiai, but then both of them struggled for grip. This was always going to favor Takayasu’ superior strength. Then Takayasu decided to try some sumo, and got a left hand outside grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi, then rotated him to the bales. A right hand to the throat to raise Kagayaki up, and a strong left hand shove against his chest and the match was over.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

Day 8 Dohyo Iri

Can you believe we are at the middle day of the Nagoya basho? Welcome to nakabi! (The name for the middle day of the tournament). Nagoya has been brutal to the upper ranks, and as of day 8, there is only a 25% participation rate, down from the 40% participation rate of Natsu, and that’s even with adding a new Ozeki! With 4 of the Yokozuna / Ozeki (or maybe Yokozeki?) corps out of action, it’s almost certain the yusho winner will be someone who has never received the Emperor’s Cup before.

After day 7, there are 4 rikishi with 0 or 1 loss. Mitakeumi is alone at the head of the pack, and both Maegashira 6 rikishi trail him with 1 loss apiece. Joining the 1 loss group is Asanoyama all the way back at Maegashira 13 West. Both Ozeki are nursing 2 or 3 losses, and are likely focusing on the safety of kachi-koshi first and foremost. But having reached the middle day, the bias of the torikumi will change. Had much of the joi survived, the upper ranks would focus on fighting each other, having consumed their appetizers and warm ups of the top ranked Maegashira. But with the upper ranks mostly sitting out, the entire final week’s schedule has all of the grace and structure of a 40 car pileup in the fog.

With us reaching nakabi, it’s time for the leaderboard!

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Mitakeumi
Chasers – Endo, Chiyotairyu, Asanoyama
HuntersTakayasu, Kaisei, Myogiryu, Tochiozan, Hokutofuji

8 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kotoeko vs Ryuden – Both of these men can deliver fairly strong sumo, but both of them are now clearly in the danger zone. Their career records tie them at 1-1.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Both of these men are the “hottest” streaks at in the bottom third of the banzuke, coming in at 5-2. But of course the schedulers want to make sure that one of them eats dirt and the yusho race narrows still further. Although Hokutofuji leads their career series 2-1, I give a clear edge to Tochiozan who seems to have gotten back into his sumo.

Sadanoumi vs Meisei – Two more in the danger zone. With a number of strong performers in Juryo as of the middle day, its possible we could see a formula for a mighty churn between the two divisions for Aki.

Ishiura vs Arawashi – There is only one way this match should go: Double Henka.

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – Reports from Japan state that Aoiyama may have injured his hand as he feel forward following the Ishiura henka on Day 7. Asanoyama does have a formula for beating the massive Bulgarian, and has done so twice. But given how Nagoya is going, maybe Aoiyama goes kyujo as well.

Okinoumi vs Onosho – I think Onosho is starting to really get his rhythm, and we may see him disrupt and overpower Okinoumi on day 8. Okinoumi’s sumo is always very efficient, and he clearly enters each match with a few plans to try. But if Onosho uses the “hybrid sumo” he unleashed on day 7, he will be tough to beat. Onosho won their only prior match.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi is really fading right now, and going up against Takarafuji may not help. He is 0-3 against the man with no neck.

Endo vs Myogiryu – This is a big match for a number of reasons. Their career record is 3-3, but Endo has won the last 2. Both are fighting well this tournament, and Endo really wants to remain 1 loss behind the leader, as chances are someone will put dirt on Mitakeumi. Endo’s sumo has been excellent in Nagoya, so this match could be the highlight of the day.

Yutakayama vs Chiyotairyu – When his sumo is in harmony, Chiyotairyu is tough to beat unless you can stay upright and in the ring for more than 10 seconds. That is likely Yutakayama’s game plan. If he can absorb the cannon ball tachiai, he just have to stalemate him until Chiyotairyu starts to run out of gas. Good luck Yutakayama!

Daishomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is 2 losses away from make-koshi, and he desperately needs wins. He holds a 3-0 career advantage over Daishomaru, so maybe he has a chance.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – A loss today and my favorite rikishi goes make-koshi.

Ikioi vs Abi – On day 7, Abi tried to tackle a freight train. Hopefully he was able to put himself back together, as his day 8 match has more potential for good sumo. Ikioi is a tough fighter who will likely not fall for Abi’s “go high” opening gambit. I would look for Ikioi to focus center mass and remove much of Abi’s mobility. This is their first career match.

Tamawashi vs Shodai – Shodai gets discouraged, and then his sumo goes soft and stale. I would guess given the beating he took week one that he might be feeling a little down. Sadly Tamawashi probably did not bake him any cookies, so he will have to settle for piping hot tsuppari straight from the oven.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Both Komusubi have taken a right proper beating this tournament, as is typically the case. Now Shohozan starts fighting down the banzuke, and he has a chance to get the 7 wins in 8 days needed to maintain his rank. Kotoshogiku is moving well, but seems to lack about 5%-10% of the power needed to win.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho likes to confound Ichinojo, run him amok and push him out with his two hand thrusts. Ichinojo has been hit or miss, and mostly miss so far.

Chiyonokuni vs Mitakeumi – Chiyonokuni has never beaten Mitakeumi in 7 attempts. But this guy is a giant-killer when he can get his sumo to click. Mitakeumi has been impressively patient and well orchestrated in his sumo thus far. But the chaos of Chiyonokuni may disrupt him and find him in trouble.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Good chance that Goeido will get lost in this match. His blistering speed will be blunted by Kaisei’s overwhelming bulk. When faced with complex sumo problems, Goeido frequently resorts to pulling, which frequently spell his doom. +100 points if Kaisei henkas Goeido.

Kagayaki vs Takayasu – I expect Takayasu will tenderize Kagayaki before slicing him thin and serving him shabu-shabu style with sweet chili paste. As much as I love Kagayaki’s school of sumo, there comes a time when a giant hairy man moving at speed cannot be overcome by technical means. This is their first ever match.

Nagoya Day 6 Highlights

Nagoay Day 6

We open act two with the crazy dial set to extreme, and everything turned on its head. It’s likely that the Nagoya basho is going to be the most brutal tournament in a while, with everyone’s favorites for the yusho ending up in puzzling places in the final yusho arasoi. Let’s break it down.

Yokozuna Kakuryu – Announced he was kyuju at the start of day 6. To Tachiai readers who have been able to keep up with the information firehose, this comes as no surprise, as we had noted that his body mechanics and his sumo were telegraphing that he was injured. Thanks to Herouth, we now know it was an injury to his elbow.

Ozeki Tochinoshin – Following Day 6 action, it was announced that the shin-Ozeki and pride of Georgia had suffered a strain to his right knee. That is the knee that is always mummified on the dohyo, and is perpetually threatening to send him to the barber. His fall to the lower ranks and struggle to climb to Ozeki revolves around earlier damage to that knee. I am going to guess they are going to take no chances with it.

Ozeki Takayasu – He strained his left elbow on day 5, and seemed to really be impacted by it on day 7. He is 4 wins away from the safety of kachi-koshi, and is the second highest man on the banzuke. I am going to guess he will gamberize.

Where this one is going now is anyone’s guess, but suddenly Mitakeumi and Endo are the ones to watch. But before anyone things this is the end of sumo, I will say I think we have 2 new Ozeki and 2 new Yokozuna in the upper division today. They just have to work out who they are, and the old guard needs to fade a bit more for it to happen.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura starts with submarine sumo, and Meisei doing his best to fold him in half for easier recycling. Although Meisei seems to have the better position, Ishiura is comfortable folded in half, and battles with the conviction of angry origami. Realizing that origamikiri is not going to win, Meisei starts trying to raise Ishiura up. Hell, that’s not working either. The harder Meisei attacks, the more Ishiura folds himself up. It’s Jinki-zumo on full display! Everyone out of the water now! But Meisei knows the best way to defeat a turtle is to roll him on his back, and that is what he proceeds to do. Wonderful match. Hey, Ishiura – MORE Jinki-zumo please!

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – As mentioned in the preview, there are basically the same rikishi 5 years apart. It was no surprise that the match featured an extended chest-to-chest stalemate at the shikiri-sen. As a wise man once said, “Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything!”. Multiple times they both tried to defeat the other with more or less mirror image sumo. But eventually age won out and Ryuden had to settle for the kuroboshi.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Another highly symmetrical fight, but Asanoyama is a bit more genki, and was able to dispatch his elder with an uwatedashinage.

Hokutofuji defeats Sadanoumi – Watch that tachiai! Hokutofuji goes Ukiyo-e with a classic left hand at center mass, right hand at the chin of Sadanoumi. Nearly perfect mechanics to that attack, and Sadanoumi was on defense, and it was all responding to Hokutofuji’s sumo. Maybe Hokutofuji’s ring-rust has been scrubbed clean now, and we are going to see some of his rather excellent sumo.

Arawashi defeats Kotoeko – Notable that Arawashi finally has his first win of the tournament. It was short, direct and over in a hurry.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Ok, that’s more like it. Onosho launches into the tachiai, goes chest to chest with Chiyomaru and pushes with conviction. It’s over fast and Onosho looks like he’s found some of his sumo once more.

Kyokutaisei defeats Nishikigi – Hokkaido man Kyokutaisei gets his first win of the basho at last, converting Nishikigi’s attempt at a throw into his own sukuinage.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma put forth the effort, but this was Takarafuji’s style of sumo. The two were chest to chest early, and Takarafuji seems to have a lot of endurance, and absorbed everything Chiyoshoma tried, and tried again. When Chiyoshoma began to wear down, Takarafuji went deep with a left hand inside / right hand outside and advanced into a spread-leg uwatenage.

Yutakayama defeats Daieisho – Oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi-oshi… OUT! Yutakayama extends his winning streak over Daieisho. Yutakayama seems to be getting the hang of his bulkier form.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I see Yoshikaze going to the barber soon.

Endo defeats Kaisei – With Kaisei’s mass, if you get him falling backward, he does keep falling for a while. I am sure the ladies swooned as Endo kindly gave a hand to help haul the giant back upright. Keep an eye on Endo, with the top end of the banzuke in tatters, he smells opportunity.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kagayaki – An excellent bout from Chiyotairyu. He has correctly identified that Kagayaki gets worried when going up against a large opponent, and will juice his tachiai. This leaves him unbalanced for a moment following the collision, and susceptible to being turned, dislodged and generally run amok.

Ikioi defeats Shohozan – After a matta, Shohozan was a bit slow at the tachiai the second try. Ikioi got close and kept one hand pushing against Shohozan at all times. Classic Ikioi winning sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – The Kyushu bulldozer is NOT intimidated by this boulder. Ichinojo works hard to keep Kotoshogiku from squaring his hips and starting his preferred attack. What impressed me about the early portion of this match was how low Ichinojo was for a part of it. I am quite sure this kept Kotoshogiku busier than he expected. Kotoshogiku loaded a throw, but had nowhere near the leverage needed to rotate the Mongolian giant. With Kotoshogiku dangerously off balance, Ichinojo advanced strongly but lost his grip on his opponent. Then he seemed to just give up.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – The Mitakeumi fan club was on hand to watch the undefeated Sekiwake take full advantage of Shodai’s weak tachiai, landing a shallow left hand grip immediately, and swinging Shodai to the side. With his balanced ruined, Shodai was easy to move to the west side and dump him over the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Takakeisho has thus far looked very disorganized, his sumo was uncoordinated, reactive and lacked his usually aggressive edge. That was gone today as he overpowered Takayasu and blasted him from the dohyo. Takayasu started with that ridiculous and pointless shoulder-blast, which Takakeisho absorbed, waited for the Ozeki to recoil, and gave him a wave-action tsuppari. This rocked Takayasu to his heels, and Takakeisho blasted forward. Takayasu was little more than clumsy dead-weight today. Delighted we had genuine Takakeisho sumo today.

Goeido defeats Abi – Goeido came off the shikiri-sen low and fast, and Abi, to his credit, attempted to counter. But the Ozeki contained, restrained, and applied the uwatenage.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tough match for Tochinoshin. He opened oshi-style, but it was not getting him any advantage. He then tried for a pull, which left him high. Of course Tamawashi sensed the pull coming, and grabbed the Ozeki center mass and pushed forward. Tochinoshin recognizes he is in trouble and circles away. But now he is hideously off balance, and he has handed control of the match to Tamawashi. Tochinoshin reaches for Tamawashi’s belt, but his feet are set at an odd angle, and he is still off balance. Tamawashi plays this perfectly and rolls the Ozeki forward and over for a clean kotenage. I think that Tochinoshin’s attempt to lunge for a grip with his feet not set was the moment he put his injured right at jeopardy. Hopefully he can get it addressed.

Nagoya Day 6 Preview

Tochinochin Smile

With act 1 complete, let’s get into act 2! Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. As lksumo has already posted (see the post below this one), there are some rikishi are already in trouble. But among the already burning wreckage there are a handful of men who are clearly starting out well. Heading into Saturday, the schedule will flip, and the upper ranks will be more focus on fighting among themselves, and the lower portion of the joi will have their chance to pull in some much needed wins.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ryuden vs Okinoumi – A fun match as they are more or less the same rikishi 5 years apart. Near the bottom of Makuuchi, Okinoumi should be doing better than 3-2, but it’s a sign of just how hard some of the prior mainstays are fading.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Both of these guys come into this match 4-1, and as with the match above, they are kind of the same rikishi about 7 years apart. Both men are (in my opinion) over-demoted from May, so this will be a fun contest to see if age and skill can trump youth and vigor.

Sadanoumi vs Hokutofuji – Although its their first time meeting, I would give an advantage to Sadanoumi, because frankly Hokutofuji has been a shambles this tournament.

Chiyomaru vs Onosho – Chiyomaru has been fighting soft the entire first act. And by soft I mean that his enormous bulk slows his motions, and blunts his attacks. When he gets his mass in motion it’s very tough to prevent it from continuing on its path, but his ability to strike with precision and effect has been terrible. Add into that he fights Onosho on day 6, who is underperforming like a grade school musical.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama got off to a shaky start, but seems to have settled into his sumo. He has a limited range of attack profiles, but he does them very well. This is why he’s never viable above Maegashira 6, but he beats the snot out of the middle and lower banzuke. Myogiryu seems to be in a sweet spot on the banzuke, and he in fact fields a wide range of offensive and defensive set pieces. This will come down to Myogiryu weathering the blows and working center-mass. I think he can make it happen.

Nishikigi vs Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi really lost the plot on day 5, and you have to wonder if Kyokutaisei is going to continue to sputter along. Clearly Kyokutaisei is only about 60% ready, and he can’t seem to finish his offense.

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – Yutakayama holds a 4-1 career lead over Daieisho, who has been struggling more than his 3-2 might indicate. Yutakayama, however, is ranked about as high as he should be until he can get more comfortable with his increased weight, and maybe tune up his sumo a bit. Its clear he has been working on bulk, and like the other young Makuuchi debutants, it takes some time for them to adjust to the higher heft needed to compete.

Kaisei vs Endo – Heft? Heft, meet deft! The king of bulk, the mighty Kaisei is going to take his dump-truck brand of sumo up against Endo on day 6. Endo is clearly doing more than just going through the motions. I think he understands that the promotion lanes are about to swing wide open, and it may be now or never for him.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Wow, this has great potential. I am really happy with Chiyotairyu’s sumo this tournament. He has been fast, aggressive and seems to have finally gotten used to his jacked-up body mass. Just outside the joi at this time, he’s a brick wall in the middle of the banzuke. Kagayaki has had some hard fought defeats in act 1, but he’s not the kind of rikishi who is going to give up and phone it in. I expect that Chiyotairyu is going to blast hard off the line, and Kagayaki is going to struggle to find a way to contain that much force. If he can survive the first 6 seconds (much like riding a bull), he is probably going to be in business.

Ikioi vs Shohozan – Both of these guys are likely very frustrated. Like all good folks at the top of the banzuke (below Ozeki), they are the punching bags of the upper ranks. Both of them have finished their tours in Yokozuna land, and now they get to express their frustration on each other. Both are big, strong, and like communicating though tossing their opponents off the dohyo. This could be explosive!

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – If Ichinojo likes his Sekiwake rank, he needs to get it in gear. He has yet to face to big dreadnoughts of the San’yaku battle fleet, and he is clearly struggling. There is no mercy at this level of the banzuke, as Kotoshogiku knows all too well.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – I am surprised to find that Shodai has a 8-5 career lead over Mitakeumi in head to head match ups. But Shodai has reverted to his bad habits, and Mitakeumi seems to have shed several of his. I continue to think that like Endo, Mitakeumi senses that the promotions lanes will open soon, and it may be his best chance at right rank for the remainder of his career.

Takakeisho vs Takayasu – The giant bruise on Takayasu’s forearm told a story on day 5. In his bout with Ikioi, there was a powerful scuffle for grip, and Takayasu’s arm took a lot of punishment. As he is kadoban, he’s got no choice but to tough it out. If he has banged up an arm, it’s going to be bulldozer sumo for him the rest of the way through this basho. Takakeisho is not looking crisp this tournament, and that was always a strong suit of his. He had several ideas to get his opponents to present him with opportunities to unleash his sumo, and he executed those ideas with flair and energy. But that seems to be largely missing in Nagoya.

Goeido vs Abi – Abi is certainly feeling rather genki following his kinboshi win over the lone surviving Yokozuna. And Goeido has been hit or miss this tournament. Some fans still think this may be his curtain call as Ozeki, but with Hakuho gone, I think he has a narrow margin of safety that he can exploit – if he can win out in act 2.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – Tamawashi has one job, keep Tochinoshin off his mawashi. But as we have seen in the past few days, everyone is going into their Tochinoshin match with that plan. Then they find out that it does not seem to matter.

Kakuryu vs Chiyonokuni – Herouth has reported that Chiyonokuni seems to have a bandage bracing a knee, and perhaps his stunt recovery with Takayasu did some damage. But we also suspect that Kakuryu has taken damage below the waterline. So Big K is possibly ripe for another unfortunate kinboshi. If the Yokozuna pulls, he is probably going down.

 

Nagoya Day 5 Highlights

Abi-Head

As a result of today’s action, we have to wonder about Kakuryu, and if he may have injured himself along the way to the end of act 1. He has given off two kinboshi in two days, and both times it was while trying to pull an opponent down in reverse gear. In the past this has correlated very well to Kakuryu having problems with his lower back or his drive train, and it could well be true now.

Having a portion of Nagoya go to a “Nokazuna” status would not be a tragedy, or even more than a footnote. But it once again underscores that the current crop of Yokozuna are all over 30 years old, and their bodies are banged up thanks to a lifetime of competition in a physical sport. Fans should be warned that we are in the middle of a large scale transition in the top division. Many of the “Stars” of Makuuchi are reaching the end of their careers. The team at Tachiai had expected a wave of retirements earlier this year, and we expect that there are quite a few fence sitters who are waiting for some larger event (Kisenosato retiring?) to decide their time to bow out and exit the stage has come.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – Ishiura had a plan, and executed well. Thank you for an excellent reminder that you have excellent sumo skills, and can win when you apply them. Ryuden gave him quite the fight, but could not prevail.

Kotoeko defeats Meisei – Another great battle that ended when Meisei started a throw, but Kotoeko finished it. Meisei starting to look like he’s headed back to Juryo.

Tochiozan defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi opened strong, but Tochiozan rallied and had control of the match shortly after the tachiai.

Hokutofuji defeats Arawashi – Arawashi can’t seem to buy a win, and today was no exception. Hokutofuji jumped early on their first attempt, resulting in a matta. The second saw Arawashi apply a solid nodawa, but then go for a pull, which only resulted in his own defeat launching backward from the dohyo.

Aoiyama defeats Onosho – Onosho was only able to generate any offense for the briefest moment, and it did not seem to really slow down Aoiyama’s overwhelming attack. Onosho needs to regroup, as he’s in a bit of a losing streak now. Aoiyama’s extra shove once Onosho was already out seemed gratuitous.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – After a matta, the two launch into a tachiai that leaves them chest to chest, and there they stay for a moment. Myogiryu, after seeming to think it through, executes an underarm throw which rolls Nishikigi across the dohyo. A simple bout, but a near textbook shitatedashinage.

Chiyomaru defeats Kyokutaisei – Sadly, Kyokutaisei starts Nagoya 0-5 as Chiyomaru finishes him with a somewhat flabby yorikiri. I am going to assume that Kyokutaisei is probably hurt.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – To my eye, Chiyoshoma won the tachiai, and established clear advantage early in the match, but as Yutakayama started a shoving match, Chiyoshoma focused on trying to land massive round-house blows to Yutakayama’s face. This single targeting ignored Yutakayama’s center-mass, and Chiyoshoma was driven from the ring.

Chiyotairyu defeats Daieisho – Chiyotairyu shows us excellent form for an oshi fighter. Note how he focuses his thrusts against Daieisho’s chest and shoulders. A solid win, with the sideburns of Chiyotairyu leading the way.

Takarafuji defeats Daishomaru – Takarafuji seems to have found his sumo, and is fighting well. Daishomaru throws half the menu at him, and Takarafuji absorbs it with stability. Once Daishomaru starts to fade, Takarafuji advances and finishes the match with a win.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Endo was lower at the tachiai, and Kagayaki got his preferred inside spot, but Endo forced him high. Thus he could only push against Endo’s face, while Endo was able to respond closer to center mass. Endo reaches for a right hand inside grip, and gets to work. Kagayaki masterfully broke Endo’s grip, but now chest to chest, there is no way for Kagayaki to stop Endo’s advance. Some really solid sumo today from these two.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – The sadness that is Yoshikaze sumo for Nagoya 2018 continues.

Tamawashi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho looks unfocused and unaggressive. He was able to move Tamawashi back, but in the process lost his balance and Tamawashi tipped him over with a single, one-arm shove. I think at least one of the tadpoles is going to be in the top ranks of sumo in the year to come, but the two younger ones need to settle into their sumo, and overcome their injuries.

Mitakeumi defeats Shohozan – Meanwhile, Mitakeumi as grand tadpole (Ōkato / 大蝌蚪) appears to be king of this puddle. Shohozan focused on slapping Mitakeumi’s face, meanwhile Mitakeumi focuses on applying massive force to Shohozan’s body. Don’t blink or you will miss it. Mitakeumi finishes act one 5-0, tied with Tochinoshin for the lead.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Ichinojo shows some signs of life after a 3 day break. Shodai nearly bounces off Ichinojo at the tachiai, and persistently tries to get a hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi. The Boulder is having none of it, and blocks Shodai’s every attempt. Good to see Ichinojo not go soft and give up today.

Goeido defeats Chiyonokuni – I am relieved that Goeido was able to boot up in 2.1 mode today. Chiyonokuni rose from the tachiai to find Goeido latched onto him, and Chiyonokuni was never able to get any offense started. When Goeido is running well, this is how he operates. You don’t get a chance to attack because the match is already over.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin did a great job of forcing Kotoshogiku to shift his weight from foot to foot every few seconds. This stopped the hug-n-chug while Tochinoshin set up his mawashi grip. Try as he might, Kotoshogiku continued to block his left hand. So Tochinoshin worked with what he had, which was a deep right hand grip and the strength of a bear that has the strength of two bears. The look of overwhelming exertion on Kotoshogiku’s face tells the story as Tochinoshin gives him a belly bump at the tawara for good measure, and finishes him.

Takayasu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi launched with surprising force into Takayasu at the tachiai, and the Ozeki found himself struggling to block Ikioi’s right hand. Takayasu broke contact, and the match shifted to oshi, with Takayasu struggling to maintain pressure. As Ikioi moved forward, Takayasu pulled him down. Somewhere in the process, the Ozeki seems to have hurt his left elbow, I am guessing in that struggle to block Ikioi’s attempt to land a right hand outside grip.

Abi defeats Kakuryu – The lone surviving Yokozuna gives up his second kinboshi in 2 days. Abi, of course, attack with his double arm thrusts high against Kakuryu’s body. As is Kakuryu’s style, he works to stalemate Abi and disrupt his sumo. For a time it works, and Abi retreats. But Abi summons his fighting spirit with his heels at the edge, and catches the Yokozuna trying to pull, and make Kakuryu pay for his mistake. Abi advances and drives the Yokozuna from the ring. For the second day the cushions fly.

Nagoya Day 5 Preview

Mitakeumi Fan Club

Thus the first act comes to a close. We have lost a Yokozuna, and that dramatically changes the nature of the basho. We have only 2 rikishi who come into day 5 with no losses: Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi, followed by a huge crowd with 3 wins. We also have 3 unfortunate rikishi with no wins: Yoshikaze, Kyokutaisei and Arawashi. Given the goal of the first act, determine who is hot and who is not, I think we have a pretty clear indication that this basho is going to come down to a massive lateral brawl going into the middle weekend. This makes for great sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Ishiura vs Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have gotten his sumo under control, and is fighting well now. I might also say that Ishiura can still save himself from a return trip to Juryo, but he needs to stop rolling the dice with the henkas.

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Two veterans coming head to head with 3-1 records, with an 11-13 career record. Could this be a closer match up? Both are fighting fairly well this basho, so there could be some fine sumo during this match.

Hokutofuji vs Arawashi – Arawashi has zero wins, but I get the impression that he may take down Hokutofuji on day 5. Hokutofuji has been all over the map this tournament, and I think his sumo is out of control because his body is still injured.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – The man-mountain against the tadpole. Onosho seems to be struggling right now, after cleaning up handily in Juryo in May. Given the fact that he was demoted due to surgery on his knee, Tachiai dearly hopes that it was sufficiently healed for top division combat.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – What have they been putting in Nishikigi’s chanko? I have had a fondness for him since he proved he would work hard to excel. Did he finally find a way to higher performance? He and Myogiryu are both 3-1 going into day 5, and Myogiryu has been fighting very well. Seriously looking forward to this match.

Chiyomaru vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei is eager for his first win, and I dearly hope he can pick it up before act 1 closes. Chiyomaru seems really off right now, and I am going to assume that the heat plus his enormous mass are causing him more than a couple of challenges.

Daieisho vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu blasted Endo to bits on day 4, and he holds a 7-1 advantage over Daieisho. Its a fact that his sideburns are currently over 9000, so maybe it’s going to be a hard exit for Daieisho.

Endo vs Kagayaki – Interest galore for this one. Endo had no counter for Chiyotairyu, and today he faces Kagayaki. It’s easy to underestimate Kagayaki, but he has beaten Endo 4 times to Endo’s 2. I am looking for a wide stance and a center mass thrusting attack from Kagayaki.

Tamawashi vs Takakeisho – Tamawashi is due to start winning matches, and he may have a good chance today against Takakeisho. Takakeisho is still a fierce opponent, but he has been looking 10% less than his normal intensity. We did see one quick blast of the “Wave Action” on day 3, but so far he has kept his most lethal attack in the bag. Takakeisho, all of your fans want to see you blast someone past the shimpan. Please fire when ready.

Shohozan vs Mitakeumi – Career record tie between 4 and 4, with Shohozan coming in with only 1 win, and Mitakeumi with 4. I do think there is a good chance we will see “Big Guns” put dirt on Mitakeumi today. Shohozan has a lot of pent up sumo he needs to resolve.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – Oh good lord, where to start with this one. The Shodai of May is away. Ichinojo of lore is here no more. It’s going to be a bit of a waltz for at least a few moments, and it comes down to which one gives up and goes soft first.

Goeido vs Chiyonokuni – Goeido, you better watch your ass. Goeido is teetering on mathematical peril in his struggle to escape kadoban, and Chiyonokuni already has one Ozeki scalp. Chiyonokuni seems to have caught the energy of the winds of change blowing through sumo. If he hits his mark, there could be a place for him in the upper ranks for a while.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – A critical match here, as Kotoshogiku has a workable formula for defeating Tochinoshin. However as our astute readers have noted, Tochinoshin has departed dramatically from his formulaic approach to sumo for the first 4 days of this basho. Given Kotoshogiku’s 24-8 career lead over Tochinoshin, it’s high time for the shin-Ozeki to bring a new set of moves to this match.

Ikioi vs Takayasu – It took less than 4 seconds for Ikioi to get Kakuryu flying backward on day 4. Given Takayasu’s chaotic sumo, he is ripe for a pasting from an experienced, strong rikishi who may not fight as expected. Please, Takayasu, bring your sumo back.

Kakuryu vs Abi – I am pretty sure Kakuryu got distracted on day 4. I am going to guess with Hakuho out, he knows that his path to a 3rd consecutive yusho is now easier, and he needs every win. So I expect him to keep Abi dancing and light on his feet, making him easy to launch into the zabuton.

Nagoya Day 3 Preview

Nagoya Day 3

Day 2 seemed to be the day that of matta. In addition to the normal flurry of false starts, there were plenty of rule infractions that were called. This included Goeido having his hands over the shikiri-sen, and Hakuho not touching both hands to the clay. Some fans are very keen to see rules enforced with and impartial absolute standard, but we know that in many cases, the Gyoji work with “close enough”.

With day 3, we should start seeing most of the ring rust fall away from anyone who will be able to get their sumo into a winning form. The top Maegashira are taking their turns acting as warm up ballast for the Ozeki and Yokozuna, and we should not be too worried if they emerge from this first week with a giant list of black stars. Komusubi is an especially hard rank to endure, and its rare that we see a rikishi actually able to reach kachi-koshi from the “K” slot.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daiamami vs Ryuden – Do you miss Daiamami? I think some folks do. He gets to visit Makuuchi to face off against Ryuden day 3, and it could be a good one. Daiamami holds a 6-3 advantage over Ryuden.

Ishiura vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seems to have a good formula for beating Ishiura, and has won the last 2 of their 4 career matches. But honestly, Hokutofuji is still looking somewhat off. Hopefully that concussion he suffered during Natsu had no lasting effect..

Meisei vs Okinoumi – Eventually Meisei is going to win one. Really, he is. This guy is not a stinker, and day 3 is as good as any for him to settle down and start to score white stars. This is his first ever match with Okinoumi.

Tochiozan vs Kotoeko – I could say the same for Kotoeko, but Tochiozan is looking rather good so far. I think all of the training he does with Tochinoshin is probably elevating his performance as of late. Tochiozan is an older rikishi, but he has tons of natural talent.

Asanoyama vs Arawashi – Will we get another dramatic Arawashi tumble? Or is it time for Asanoyama to lose his footing and be sent to the clay? 1-1 career for these two.

Onosho vs Nishikigi – I predict that Onosho will continue to tear a hole in the bottom third of the banzuke as he piles up the sekitori scalps in his bid to return to san’yaku. So for Nishikigi, its your turn for a bit off the top.

Myogiryu vs Chiyomaru – Myogiryu looks to be on top of his sumo, where Chiyomaru is struggling at the start. His enormous size is a heavy tax on his endurance, especially in the heat and humidity of the Dolphins Stadium dohyo.

Takarafuji vs Daieisho – I am used to Takarafuji being a half step slow, but he seems to be especially tentative this basho. It’s a shame because he has great form, great fundamentals and all of the tools needed to be a top tier rikishi. Meanwhile, Daieisho comes in with a 3-1 career advantage, and a 2-0 record.

Endo vs Chiyoshoma – I think Endo is healthy, and he’s on a roll. Natsu was an bump on the road, and if he can keep his body intact, he is going to probably going to be a success story this basho.

Yoshikaze vs Kagayaki – Yoshikaze is my favorite, no question there. But it’s clear he is on the sunset path of his career now. He’s a faction of his former fierce self, and it’s tough to watch him fight. As good as Kagayaki’s fundamentals are, he always seems to be a bit awkward (like Kisenosato, who he reminds me of). Under last year’s terms, I think Yoshikaze would fold, press and starch Kagayaki. But for day 3, I am not so sure.

Abi vs Kaisei – Abi goes from fighting one lumbering giant to another. I am going to assume this is the schedulers having some fun at Abi’s expense. Once again his double arm oshi-zumo is going to be of questionable use against 500 pounds of Kaisei. As mentioned on the day 2 highlights, Kaisei really seems to be dialed in right now.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Yes yes yes! YES! Now we are in for a real battle between tadpoles, and frankly Mitakeumi may have a light edge this time, because he brings winning momentum into this match. But the fact that for a split second we saw Takakeisho unleash the “Wave Action” on day 2 means that maybe he’s done playing nice. Takakeisho leads the career series 3-2.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has had a tough start to Nagoya. Sitting at 0-2, he’s had a chaotic match against Hakuho and a mini-Henka from Goeido. Now he gets to face the human teppo pole, who holds a 5-3 career advantage. Keep your spirit up Tamawashi!

Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu – Chiyonokuni has tried 4 times to best Takayasu, and lost each time. I think day 3 is a unique opportunity for Chiyonokuni, as Takayasu has not been 100% in day 1 or 2. Maybe he’s broken free of the ring rust, or maybe he did hurt himself in warm ups for Nagoya.

Goeido vs Ikioi – 15-1 in favor of Goeido is what you need to know here. Goeido needs to rack the wins by any means necessary. Nobody is going to give him a pass in week 2.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Boom! Bang! Crash! I expect this match to go along the lines of day 2’s Chiyonokuni vs Tochinoshin match, expect that Shohozan is a street fighter. Main goal is to have the shin-Ozeki exit the match with no further injury to his right wrist, or that bionic knee.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho seems to be “over the top” eager to give each opponent a proper beating. Kotoshogiku has only won 6 out of their 60 career matches.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – Kakuryu is dialed in on his sumo. Shodai needs to focus on getting past the Yokozuna and Ozeki with his mobility and health intact. Sadly for Shodai, he has yet to find a way to beat Kakuryu.

Nagoya Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho Dohyo Iri Day 2

The fans were out in force today in Nagoya, and I mean everyone was far too warm and fanning themselves with vigor. Parts of Japan are facing a very moist and hot summer this year, which is natural for that part of the world. While it may be uncomfortable for the fans sitting near the dohyo, it’s brutal on the clay, under the hot lights and struggling to out muscle a 400 pound opponent. Worse still is the lot of the gyoji. Not only do they have to stay up there for a series of matches, as the day wears on (and the temperatures rise), the regalia the gyojis wear increases in layers, accessories and complexities. One has to assume that during the Makuuchi matches, the poor gyoji is drenched in his own broth.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Akiseyama – Hokutofuji looking decidedly less awesome today in his win over Juryo visitor Akiseyama.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – Ishiura delivers some decent sumo today, stays mobile and keeps Kotoeko off balance. As a result he is able to stick the uwatedashinage for a respectable win.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – The only thing more impressive than the way that Okinoumi was able to keep Asanoyama away form his belt was the moment Asanoyama says, “To hell with it”, and just rolls Okinoumi over and thrusts him down.

Onosho defeats Arawashi – Nice tachiai from Arawashi, who worked to get a right hand on the mawashi from the start, but Onosho overpowered every attempt and controlled the match. The end features a classic Arawashi cartwheel / tumble.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji never really was able to generate much offense against Endo, who absorbed the tachiai and turned the Isegahama man, then stepped out of the way when Takarafuji pressed forward.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – Big Chiyotairyu unleashes denshamichi-sumo (railroad sumo) on Yoshikaze and derails any hope the berserker might have had for a day 2 win.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – Its hard to describe a giant, lumbering rikishi as genki, but so far Kaisei is really looking dialed into his sumo. He made quick work of Daishomaru.

Takakeisho defeats Kagayaki – This was always going to be an odd match. Takakeisho got the better of the tachiai, but Kagayaki set up the oshi attack first, and best by getting inside. There were a couple of kinetic slaps that really rang out during the match, at one point the crowd gasps, as these two held nothing back. Then Kagayaki decided to go for a haymaker aimed at Takakeisho’s face, and lost focus. Sad mistake, Mr Fundamentals, as Takakeisho dropped his hips and gave him one blast of the “wave action tsuppari” and that was all it took to send Kagayaki clear of the tawara. This was the first time that Takakeisho was able to beat Kagayaki.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – As we previewed, Abi’s reach advantage is meaningless against Ichinojo. But Abi’s extreme maneuverability nearly carried the day, as he circled to his left and got behind the Mongolian, and nearly shoved him out. To his credit, Ichinojo recovered rapidly. The near loss clearly energized him and he attacked with purpose, getting a mawashi grip and finishing Abi in seconds. I do like Abi, but I pray he expands his sumo before everyone figures out how to shut down his only effective attack.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Great effort from both men, a solid tachiai followed by decision to go for the belt. Sadly it looks like Ikioi went too far forward reaching down to Mitakeumi’s hips, and Mitakeumi deftly encouraged him to follow through and hit the clay. Will Mitakeumi finally hit double digits?

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – They had a tough time getting this one started, but the actual match featured a Goeido hit and shift, so lksumo was nearly correct (he was expecting a Goeido henka). Tamawashi sailed past Goeido and into Shohozan’s ringside lap.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyonokuni – Tochinoshin likely knew going into this one that he would never get a hand on Chiyonokuni’s mawashi, and might very well injure himself if he tried too hard. So he chose to meet Chiyonokuni with his own brand of flailing oshi-zumo that included a couple of half hearted attempts at the mawashi. Just to be clear, when you have someone that strong putting his elbow into your face, that’s going to be a big deal. He overwhelmed the faster, more mobile Chiyonokuni and it was over in a hurry.

Takayasu wins against Shohozan – Takayasu gets a freebee as Shohozan absorbs a pride-obliterating slipiotoshi and falls down on the dohyo after he clearly established the upper hand in the match. Officially recorded as a tsukihiza (knee touch down), it’s one of the non-winning moves (more or less, a losing move). Takayasu looks quite iffy right now. At least he can bank 2 wins in 2 days, but his fans all need to hope he’s not too hurt, and can get his sumo together.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Wow, Kakuryu is looking very solid right now. He accepted Kotoshogiku’s invitation to go chest to chest, and Kotoshogiku engaged in as much hug-n-chug as he could muster. But in true Kakuryu form, he kept shifting his weight from foot to foot, preventing Kotoshogiku from pumping with both legs. As his rocking motion increased, he danced Kotoshogiku to the tawara and followed through with a classic uwatenage. Excellent form by Kakuryu today.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today. No anvils, Acme brand giant magnets or pianos dropping from the sky. The first time through, Hakuho launches for the kill straight off the line, with the gyoji screaming matta and chasing him down. Hakuho follows through and puts Shodai out (that’s how you do it), but they are going to try again. What was fun about the second match was it was more or less identical to the first. Hakuho wins, and looked quite solid doing it.

Nagoya Day 2 Preview

Hakuho Dohyo Iri

While we were enjoying day 1 action, so news surfaced about injured former Ozeki Terunofuji. Fans may recall that Terunofuji has suffered multiple injuries to his knees, along with diabetes and numerous other maladies that robbed him of any ability to execute sumo. As a result he lost his Ozeki rank, and then rocketed down the banzuke, where the Nagoya ranking sheet finds him in ranked Makushita 6 East. As reported prior to the basho, Terunofuji underwent a second set of surgeries to try to repair his knees, and is reported to still be recovering in the hospital. It is quite possible we may never see him on the dohyo again, and if we do it will be part of a long, painful restart of his sumo career. Terunofuji is currently a physical wreck, and likely a mental wreck as well. His sumo had been questionable for a time, but really took a dive following the Harumafuji scandal. To some fans, it seemed the events robbed him of his natural fighting spirit. But his drive, his energy, his cunning and his sumo skill remains. If he body can be repaired, it would be an overwhelming comeback story. We hope whatever path he takes, that he does well.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Hokutofuji vs Akiseyama – With Hokutofuji at the very bottom edge of the banzuke, he has a real opportunity to recover if he indeed has resolved the injuries that had plagued him for the past few tournaments. Today he faces Juryo man Akiseyama, whom he has never matched against in the past.

Meisei vs Ryuden – Both men lost their day 1 matches, but over their 8 career bouts, Meisei has won 6. Right now Ryuden needs to get back to a winning formula after a disastrous 3-12 record in May.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – These two would seem to be a very even match, although Asanoyama holds a 3-0 lead in their career series. Like many of the 30+ crowd in the top division, Okinoumi is slowly fading. His skills are still amazing, but his body is a half step slower than his peak.

Arawashi vs Onosho – Arawashi is fast and mobile, and Onosho works that kind of sumo ver well. I am sure this will be a match where Arawashi wants to move and strike, and Onosho wants to pin him down.

Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – XXXL Chiyomaru has never beaten the Man-Mountain Aoiyama, but Aoiyama’s day 1 performance would seem to indicate he is at least mildly injured, so day 2’s match against super-heavyweights may be the chance for Chiyomaru to start evening up the score.

Nishikigi vs Yutakayama – After being permanently affixed to the bottom of the banzuke for many cycles, suddenly Nishikigi finds himself facing off against a tougher class of opponents. I think his day 2 match against Yutakayama has a lot of potential, as they have similar fighting styles. Given his poor eyesight, Nishikigi will work to stay in close.

Endo vs Takarafuji – This match pits two very technical, very studious rikishi against each other. We know that Endo has superb technique, and Takarafuji seems to be a master at finding ways to lose a match while executing great sumo. So if Takarafuji is genki on day 2, I would suggest Endo may have his hands full, as Takarafuji will likely work to let Endo set the cadence, then thwart him. Career record favors Takarafuji 6-4.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze, sadly, is firmly in the camp of the fading over 30 crowd. I love the guy’s sumo, but he seems to be struggling now. Their day 2 match will be a great data point to see if Chiyotairyu really has upped his endurance, and any match with Yoshikaze can turn into a protracted bar room brawl.

Kagayaki vs Takakeisho – I am really looking forward to this bout. Kagayaki is very traditional plan / execute, based firmly on fundamentals. Takakeisho seems to go into a match eager and full of enthusiasm for slapping around anyone who mounts the dohyo. Takakeisho is 0-4 against Kagayaki, could day 2 be his first win against Mr Fundamentals?

Ichinojo vs Abi – Both men lost their day 1 matches, and Abi is facing significant challenges in the form of the biggest and best men in sumo. When it comes to Ichinojo, it’s tough to know which version is going to mount the dohyo, the massive sumo machine, or the cuddly teddy bear. If Abi gets the sumo machine, this may be over quickly, as he does not really have much of a reach advantage over Ichinojo.

Ikioi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi looked very good day 1 against Abi, but Ikioi is likely to be quite a bit more trouble. Ikioi has yet to beat Mitakeumi, and if Mitakeumi is in form this basho, he will likely use his tadpole body to confound Ikioi’s preferred attack style.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Both men seem to have suffered day 1 bouts of explosive ring rust. But for Goeido the case is much more serious. The first week is the “easy” portion of his schedule. He needs to rack as many wins here as possible. For Tamawashi this is the “hard” part of his schedule, so he has room to work towards kachi-koshi starting next weekend. Their career record is 8-8. When both are on form, they are fast, low and can win within 3 steps of the tachiai.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochinoshin – Reports of Tochinoshin’s right hand being a problem seem to have not born out thus far. This will be a match of two clashing styles. Tochinoshin wins when he can get a belt war started, and Chiyonokuni is a mobile flurry of oshi. Chiyonokuni is 1-6 against the shin-Ozeki, but I am eager to see what Chiyonokuni tries to overcome Tochinoshin’s size and strength advantage.

Shohozan vs Takayasu – Its likely that Takayasu will be forced into a running battle with Shohozan, which I feel greatly favors Shohozan. Takayasu now seems to favor high force pushing and thrusting, which leaves him perilously misbalanced. Though Takayasu leads the career series 7-5, Shohozan has a real edge this time, as I think Takayasu is still hurt.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this one has history. They have faced off 49 times over their careers, with Kakuryu taking 27. They are more or less even. Though at this point I would put the advantage on Kakuryu. As he displayed in his day 1 match against Takayasu, Kotoshogiku is surprisingly resistant to displays of strength against him, so this match may be decided by misdirection and footwork.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Some learned sumo fans (who I respect) seem to think that Hakuho’s day 1 match was rough or worrisome. But I think his match against Shodai is going to be a better barometer of what kind of condition the boss is in right now. Advantage clearly to Hakuho, but Shodai’s opponents seem to be self destructing quite a bit as of late.

Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.

Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

Natsu Day 13 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 13

I note with great enthusiasm that the Juryo yusho is coming down to a final weekend barnyard brawl of epic proportions. Even though I am greatly enjoying my beautiful TV Japan feed now, it sadly does not include Juryo that I must find some other way to watch. Tied with 10 wins each at the end of day 13 are: J1w Onosho, J2e Kotoeko, J4e Meisei and all the way down at J14e Tsurugisho.

The big news from day 13 is that Tochinoshin lost today against Shodai of all people. I have to credit Shodai for stalemating Tochinoshin’s attack, and for reading the right time to drop the big Georgian to the clay. With this loss, Day 14’s match against Kakuryu is more or less going to decide the yusho. A Kakuryu win would open the amazing possibility we could end day 15 with a 3-way 13-2 playoff between both Yokozuna and the presumptive shin-Ozeki. If you think I am going to stay up all night to watch that, should it unfold, you are right.

Highlight Matches

Takekaze defeats Asanoyama – Strange little match that ended when Asanoyama staggered towards the tawara and fell down. Kimarite was listed as hatakikomi, but looked more like a slippiotoshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Sadanoumi – My earlier assumption about Chiyonokuni is clearly wrong, and he keeps up the pressure. His win today saw him defuse a decent throw attempt by Sadanoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – The survivor giving himself some breathing room for the Nagoya banzuke. This was a great yotsu match, with both men really giving it a lot of effort. This style of sumo favors Nishikigi, as his eyesight is rather poor, and when he had his opponent in a chest to chest position, it negates the problems with his eyes.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s superior reach stymied after the hit and bounce back tachiai. Aoiyama continued to land meaty blows to Takakeisho’s face, but it seems Takakeisho decided to endure it, and kept thrusting center-mass, as is his preferred technique. Aoiyama may have been enjoying himself to the point he did not notice that Takakeisho had him moving in reverse. Takakeisho kachi-koshi. Nagoya may be the revenge of the tadpoles.

Aminishiki defeats Okinoumi – Uncle sumo wins another, and he looked fairly good with this one. Aminishiki was known to be in less that optimal condition before the start of the basho, and his record is quite miserable. But it was good to see him use a somewhat rickety but effective uwatenage for a win.

Kagayaki defeats Myogiryu – Kagayaki racks up his kachi-koshi in a really solid win. Again I will state that this guy focuses on sumo fundamentals, and you can see great sumo from him almost any day. A bit more mass, a lot more muscle and a bit more seasoning and this guy is going to be a handful.

Kyokutaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really is a half step or full step slower than he was a year ago. Kyokutaisei continues to look strong in his debut tournament.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru surged out strongly at the tachiai, and almost had Tochiozan out, but Tochiozan rallied, and Chiyomaru found it tough to do anything other than continuously back away. Tochiozan wins the match and is kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru is now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – Abi uses his preferred opening gambit once again, and it is only partially effective on Takarafuji, who keeps working inside. But even Takarafuji’s solid sumo fundamentals are breaking down due to Abi’s near ridiculous proportions. With Takarafuji applying pressure at the extreme end of Abi’s reach, Abi releases the pressure and lets Takarafuji fall.

Shohozan defeats Endo – This match was a running brawl that underscores just how poor the decision was to have Endo return. Shohozan can win out and still get kachi-koshi, Endo is headed south on the banzuke for Nagoya.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – They went yotsu right away, with Mitakeumi getting a double inside grip, but this is not normally a problem for Kotoshogiku. Fantastic battle of strength that featured Kotoshogiku disrupting Mitakeumi’s repeated attempts to finish him. I am going to guess Kotoshogiku’s knees are in better working order these days, and that’s nothing but a recipe for fun. The yorikiri came with Mitakeumi unleashing a Kotoshogiku style hip pumping attack. Nice match

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Shodai has been stumbling through his matches this tournament, and somehow he took down the presumptive shin-Ozeki. The key was blowing Tochinoshin’s repeated attempt at a grip, until he lunges forward to land his left, and Shodai backpedals with vigor, leaving Tochinoshin falling flat to the clay. This came as a huge surprise to everyone, but in general the crowd seemed to thing it was a wonderful thing. This loss opens the yusho race again, and it just gets crazy this weekend. Who would have though Shodai could do what Hakuho could not? Shodai kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Ikioi – I am going to say it, The Boss is only about 80% right now. Who cares why. He’s still the dai-Yokozuna, and he’s still going into the final weekend with 11 wins. Ikioi once again looked solid, persistent and aggressive. This was harder for Hakuho than his fans would expect.

Kakuryu defeats Ichinojo – Big K now tied for the yusho, and the possibility that he could earn his goal of back-to-back yusho is now within reach. This match was a mawashi battle, with Kakuryu taking the fight to The Boulder on his own terms. Even though Ichinojo used the tawara to help make himself immobile, Kakuryu affirmed that he is the Yokozuna, and overcame. He faces Tochinoshin to possibly decide the Emperor’s cup tomorrow.