Haru Day 14 Highlights

I think the big, double-wide story of this basho is going to be the enormous pile of rikishi who own demotion worthy scores at the end of this basho. If you take a look at the records vs banzuke position, I count at least 10 rikishi who might be worthy of a return to Juryo. That does not mean there will be 10 men dropping to the 2nd division, as Juryo has 3-5 rikishi who could be considered promotion worthy.

Before the basho, Team Tachiai remarked that all of the really great action might be in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke, and for folks who enjoy the Darwinian nature of sumo, this basho has been a banquet of slaughter. There are 3 veterans below Maegashira 6 who have double digit wins, and a vast crater of make-koshi devastation around them that fed those double-digit win scores. Do we stop there? No indeed.

There are no fewer than 8 rikishi who will decide kachi/make koshi on the final day, including the man at the bottom edge of the banzuke, Chiyoshoma. The competition in the rank and file has been so brutal that even getting to 8 wins has been a struggle for most. While its tough to see so many great athletes come up short, this kind of tournament breeds excellence. Haru is somewhat unique, in that most of the rikishi have not had to do anything other than train and improve their bodies since Hatsu. The old veterans, who feel the pains and injuries of years of battle, have enough time to pull their sumo together for another hard climb to day 15, and that extended rest as let them once again use their experience and years of skill to edge out youthful vigor and health.

Highlight Matches

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from not picking a strategy and enforcing it, as this match was very much a “try anything” affair. With the loss, Ishiura joins the growing pile of demotion worthy rikishi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – Sure, lets throw Kotoeko into the “return to Juryo” bin too! Terutsuyoshi gives us the “bounce” tachiai that works well when he uses it, and he gets a firm hold of Kotoeko, who can do little more than react. Both men are make-koshi and part of that pile of demotion capable rikishi.

Ryuden defeats Daishoho – Daishoho gets his 8th loss, and joins the incredibly crowded barge of rikishi who could find themselves in Juryo for May. Ryuden got a deep right hand inside grip and made it work, while Daishoho looked like he had nothing to give.

Tomokaze defeats Shohozan – While not in danger of heading to Juryo, Shohozan gets his make-koshi too. The fact that Tomokaze was able to out-slap him indicates that Shohozan is worn down from the lengthy competition.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – As the captain of the Juryo barge, Ikioi managed to take one from a horrifically demoralized Yutakayama, who seems to be capitulating for now.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Still no 8th win for Asanoyama. Kagayaki stays low and moving forward and just motors Asanoyama around the dohyo and finds him an exit.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – Kotoshogiku got the better of the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage.

Aoiyama defeats Meisei – Meisei somehow decided that taking on Aoiyama straight on was going to work for him, when in fact it threw away all of Meisei’s advantages. Aoiyama did not waste the gift, and slapped Meisei to the clay.

Shodai defeats Sadanoumi – Is that the second day in a row where Shodai came close to a proper tachiai? Sadly it looks like Sadanoumi may have hurt his good knee in this match.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Should Abi end with a kachi-koshi, it will simply delay the time when he diversifies his sumo. Sumo fans around the world are eager for that transition, and we hope it comes soon. Today’s win was a standard Abi-zumo attack that Daieisho did nothing to avoid.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – Myogiryu used superior strength to out muscle Okinoumi into a throw position. Okinoumi’s final day match will decide his winning or losing record for March.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – Two things for Onosho to focus on. 1) Improve your balance, it seems to have taken a big hit from your injury / surgery / recovery, and everyone knows it now. 2) Bring back that red mawashi. Some powerful kami inhabited that one, and when you wore it onto the dohyo, it gave you some kind of edge.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – It seems that this match is a bit of a controversy. There is a point where Endo steps aside of a charging Nishikigi where toes on Endo’s left foot would seem to hit the janome. But the gumbai went to Endo, and there was no monoii. Endo did show some solid sumo today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi went flat out at the tachiai, attempting to overpower the mighty Chiyotairyu. Interestingly enough, today it worked. Mitakeumi got a double inside arm position, dropped his hips and marched forward.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan joins Captain Ikioi in holding a dismal 2-12 record. Though not as visible beaten and broken as Ikioi, for Tochiozan to perform this poorly, he has to be having body problems.

Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Not sure what Takakeisho had in mind here. He seems to channel Abi, but lacks Abi’s height, his reach or his technique. Ichinojo looks puzzled for just a moment, and the all to familiar “hand of god” sweeps down and pulls Takakeisho to the clay. Ichinojo stays 1 behind Hakuho.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin keeps his hopes alive, overcoming Tamawashi in what was an odd hybrid between oshi and yotzu. At times chest to chest, at times pushing and shoving. Tochinoshin as throwing everything he could into this win (as well he should), and looks rather sore at the end. He needs 1 more win to clear kadoban, and it will be decided by his day 15 match with Ozeki hopeful Takakeisho.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – A lot of posturing, dominance display and tension in the run up to this match. Hakuho wins the tachiai, and was faster off the shikiri-sen. Takayasu is immediately balanced too far on his heels, and Hakuho digs in. Try as he might, Takayasu cannot connect with that left hand, and his struggle to land a grip continues to put him high and balanced unevenly. Hakuho capitalizes on this, and gets moro-zashi, and moves to put the Ozeki away. Takayasu’s last ditch attempt at a throw collapses into abisetaoshi, and Hakuho takes the match to remain undefeated.

Goeido defeats Kakuryu – As we expected, Goeido’s approach to this match was an all or nothing opening salvo so fast and so powerful that either Kakuryu would not have time to react, or Goeido would have no recovery. Goeido’s plan payed off, and Kakuryu had no time to react.

Haru Day 13 Preview

With lksumo doing a fantastic job of spelling out exactly what is at stake for the remainder of the tournament, let’s talk a bit about the continuing transition period. As we saw at Aki 2018, the transition from the old warriors to a newer generation will not be a straight line. Many of these rikishi are some of the highest skill the sport has seen in some time. In fact the current dominant cohort has had an impressively long and stable tenure. Many of these rikishi have been fixtures of the top division for several years, some of them more than a decade.

Like Aki, we have a point in the transition where the old guard can muster a strong basho, and compete like the “old days”. Frankly I love it, and I am sure the fans love it too. It’s great to see the named ranks laying waste to the upper Maegashira, and fierce action at the bottom of Makuuchi as the staple for each day of the tournament. As much as folks like to gripe about Hakuho, his reign as the king of the ring has been very stable, but it is fading. We don’t need to look back too many years to find Hakuho taking 4-6 yusho a year. Now we see him taking 2, or maybe 1. He has taken to (wisely) sitting out any tournament where he is not strong and healthy. As a result, if Hakuho shows up, he is the man to beat for the cup.

As the old guard comes out the dominate again, we see the tadpoles taking it in the shorts, we see the Freshmen faltering, and we see at least 2 more waves of fresh faces forming up to attack the top division. But make no mistake, we are in the twilight of this era, and setbacks for rikishi like Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji are part of the evolution of sumo. This will be a big year for the tadpoles, the freshmen, and we are going to see the pixies start to elbow their way into Makuuchi too. I think this year we lose at least one Ozeki, and maybe two. I think we may also gain a Yokozuna if you-know-who can take advantage of the next time Hakuho rests up in his sumo-life-extension project.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chaser: Ichinojo
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daishoho – A whole lot ‘o make-koshi out for offer in the lower matches. Daishoho is one loss away, and if Ishiura can deliver the goods, it adds another rikishi to the hopper of demote-able guys with lots of pomade in their hair. What are they going to do with this mess – especially if (as lksumo points out) there are not a whole lot of Juryo guys who are making the case for promotion.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoyuki – Once again Mr 5×5 comes to town, ready to crowd surf his way through another match. Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, and winning again today would push Kotoyuki to make-koshi, further hashing the group of the top Juryo men into an even smaller promotable pile.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – It’s shin-Ikioi’s time to beat on the ever elusive Chiyoshoma. He’s in a tight spot with wins, so I am going to look for every move, trick or gambit he can think of. And he can think of a lot. Fortunately Ryuden is already kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Yago – Will Kotoeko be able to save his muscular hinder from joining the demote-able, pomade covered dog-pile? Somehow I think the lure of that much hair-grease, and that many mawashi clad fellows might be more than a small town boy from Miyazaki can resist. Aim for the rafters, Yago!

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Shohozan’s happiness is proportional to the number of times he hits somebody. And lately he’s been losing matches, and he just seems… Well, a little blue. As Yutakayama is close to the squishy center of that pile of demote-able folks right now, he may as well do something benevolent, and help cheer Shohozan up.

Sadanoumi vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima did not muster quite the victory lap in the top division that Uncle Sumo managed. It was less of a “here comes awesome” and more “oh, you again? I had no idea you were still doing sumo”. As a bonafied old person, I can relate. Sadanoumi is no spring chicken, but maybe the two of them can yell at Onosho and Takakeisho to get he hell off their dohyo, then go to the Izakaya and pound a few cold ones while singing 90s tunes.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – We can think of Kotoshogiku as some kind of “old guard” barometer. When he’s a mess, it seems many of the other vets are just limping by. Right now Kotoshogiku is really racking up the score, and I think that he may not stop at 10. Meisei has the speed and the high-adhesion feet to make some wild maneuvers in a match. But Kotoshogiku is a master of bracketing these kind of rikishi.

Asanoyama vs Tomokaze – The schedulers love these matches. The winner gets their kachi-koshi. The other one gets a face full of dirt. Asanoyama has kept his spirits up and his outlook positive, so I think he can make it happen. This is their first ever match.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s sumo is defined by patience. But sometimes we wish he would just throw down like someone had dented his wife’s Toyota Harrier in the Aeon parking lot. We can be sure that Kagayaki will do his utmost to make this match as colorless and basic as possible, but will execute with absolute form.

Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – I love me some giant Aoiyama slap-happy sumo. Which will carry the day – a couple of big hits from the heavy guns, or a stream of burning hell from the berserker? They have an 11-11 career record, so give thanks you are not in the front row of the arena, as I suspect that we will see blood.

Ikioi vs AbiEt Tu Abi?

Okinoumi vs Shodai – At this point I think Shodai is so demoralized, he would be happy to have this end. I am guessing this may be his worst spanking since his disastrous 5-10 at Nagoya in 2017 (which included a fusensho), and he may even exceed that basho’s terrible performance.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – Both of these guys join Shodai and Kaisei in the “broken toy” box. All of them have had a terrible tournament and are probably going to be happy for Sunday night parties and the start of the spring jungyo. All 4 of them are worthy members of the top division, but this tournament they were little more than target practice for the more genki elements higher up the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho has his back on the make-koshi line again today, and he has to take a win from the speedy Daieisho to stay out of the losing column for Haru. Daieisho has a 2-6 record against Onosho, but as we have seen from this tournament, Onosho is having balance and foot placement issues.

Kaisei vs Endo – Both in the make-koshi bracket with the rest, both of them capable rikishi who were strip mined for shiroboshi for the past 12 days, and are in no mood to continue. But the show must go on, and we will see size vs agility on display.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Actually, this match has a lot of potential. Myogiryu has been a tough competitor in a really brutal joi-jin, and he still holds on to a chance to win out and be promoted. Hokutofuji has bounced off his first trip to San’yaku, and will have to regroup for a couple of tournaments before we see him test his mettle again. It’s going to come down to that handshake tachiai and nodowa, I think. Land it – and you have control Hokutofuji. Miss and Myogiryu is going to make you dance, and then eat dirt.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Should we start by saying that Mitakeumi has a 6-3 career advantage over Ichinojo? Maybe we should point out that Mitakeumi is hurt, and Ichinojo seems to have adopted Terunofuji’s kaiju form – at once both dazzling and terrifying to behold. I think this one is Ichinojo’s to lose, but I am also going to assume that Mitakeumi is going to work to make sure he does not drop out of the san’yaku.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – The time for Tamawashi to rally is now. He has trouble with Chiyotairyu’s big hit tachiai, but I am certain that the Hatsu yusho winner can take the cannonball and push for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Sumo fans, we can see this one coming from over the horizon. Takakeisho is going to attack with the wave-action, and Takayasu is going to use the smooth tachiai he has shown for most of the basho. If he can land even one hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi, it’s likely the end of an Ozeki bid. I am looking for Takayasu to finish with at least 11 wins, and to me it looks like his next will likely come day 13 if he boxes up Takakeisho.

Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu – This is not a good match for Tochinoshin. He is 3-22 against Kakuryu, who is one of the few rikishi (along with Hakuho) who can escape the “Skycrane”. But we are to the point now where he must win to defend his rank. As I said at the beginning, Tochinoshin is not beyond sacrificing his body to protect his rank. He might do something that leads to worsening his condition, knowing that he might have a few months to try to overcome it, if he can just clear kadoban. A desperate man might unleash some wild sumo power. I am going to watch for it, as he is nearly out of options.

Hakuho vs Goeido – The rikishi with the best chance of putting dirt on the sole leader of the yusho race will face Hakuho today. Goeido in his genki GoeiDOS 2.2 form has been a damn fine rikishi, and he has delivered wins with speed and brutality that match some of his best sumo from Aki 2016. I predict no matter what way this goes, it may only last single-digit seconds.

Haru Day 12 Highlights

Its looking increasingly difficult for anyone to catch Yokozuna Hakuho, and the chances are growing that he will capture not only another yusho (his 42nd) but another zehsho yusho as well. Whatever his injuries or problems, Hakuho has fought with overwhelming skill and determination, and he has demonstrated an almost inhuman ability to escape even the most dire situations.

The only rikishi who might have a reasonable challenge to Hakuho is the amazingly genki Ichinojo. The chances that they would face each other in anything other than a playoff are slim to none, and to get to a playoff, someone would have to win over the dai-Yokozuna this tournament. Frankly, I don’t see it happening. Much like other great athletes, any time he chooses to compete, he completely dominates the event, and at times makes even the ridiculously impossible look easy and natural.

There are 3 days left in the basho, and for the most part, everything has been decided short of the yusho. But true to form for this tournament, each day continues to deliver great sumo.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Enho edges closer to his kachi-koshi, and possibly a bid to enter the top division in May. Hapless Toyonoshima really has sputtered and failed this tournament, after working very hard to return to Makuuchi. As is typical for Enho, he uses combo attacks to keep his opponent from settling to a single defensive strategy.

Tomokaze defeats Ishiura – Ishiura can be frustrating to follow, as he seem to be very easily disrupted from the tachiai, and when that happens his sumo quickly falls apart. Tomokaze did apply quite a vigorous series of jostles to Ishiura’s skull, treating it like a poorly mixed bottle of kombucha.

Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Kagayaki scores his 8th win, and finally can claim a kachi-koshi for the first time since May of last year. Kagayaki kept his hands low into the tachiai, and went immediately for a highly effective right hand hazu / armpit pin that kept Kotoeko from generating any offense at all.

Yoshikaze defeats Yutakayama – With his 9th loss, we can pretty much wave goodbye to Yutakayama, the one time leading rikishi of the Freshman group. Since he was injured at Aki 2018, he has not been even 80% genki at any point. Like most sumotori, there is little or no word on what is still wrong with him, but hopefully he can get himself and his sumo together in Juryo and come roaring back. Great to see Yoshikaze with 9 wins after a very weak start.

Meisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Meisei took the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyoshoma knew he had to do something straight away. Chiyoshoma’s gambit was to attempt a throw, which failed when he could not plant his feet, and Meisei plowed through the pivot point. Meisei gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi.

Daishoho defeats Ikioi – If I had a cat in Ikioi’s kind of condition, I would take it to the vet.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – The Aoiyama recipe is still paying off every time, so he keeps using it. Lift them up, slap them down. Ryuden is already kachi-koshi, so this match was all good fun.

Takarafuji defeats Yago – Takarafuji prevented any offense from Yago, except on Takarafuji’s terms. Yago gets his 8th loss, but is safe in the top division unless something terrible happens. Yago is a solid rikishi, but his second Makuuchi tournament has been a real struggle.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi’s deep sumo library brings us more fascinating technical action today. He took Shohozan’s primary offensive style off the table and kept himself firmly in control of the match. When this guy is a coach, he is going to produce some excellent future rikishi.

Abi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Added to the slow barge back to Juryo is one Terutsuyoshi, who many hoped would bring his high-energy, small-man sumo to a top division that is increasingly dominated by behemoths. Abi continues to rack wins with his back to the make-koshi wall.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku now has double digit wins. How high can he run up the score? Chiyotairyu has only beaten Kotoshogiku once, and his typical cannonball tachiai has little effect on the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – After 5 straight losses, Onosho claims another white star. Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and his overly forward posture was supported by Sadanoumi’s efforts to find his footing.

Ichinojo defeats Asanoyama – When Ichinojo is operating in this form, I am not sure anyone below Sekiwake can do much to slow him down. So the boulder will keep rolling down the hill, crushing anyone who tries to hug him. I am still confident that Asanoyama will get his 8th win this basho.

Daieisho defeats Tochiozan – As Tochiozan ages up, he increasingly has hot and cold streaks. I would chalk this up to his hit or miss health problems, whatever they might be. But for Haru he is clearly quite cold. Daieisho is operating at speed, and today he employed a well executed arcing turn to apply torque to Tochiozan that set up his defeat.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Kaisei did not take my advice to change format to a dance-off, but he managed to score his second win, even without employing his moon walk skills.

Myogiryu defeats Mitakeumi – This match surprised me a bit, in that Mitakeumi let Myogiryu bracket him. (Bracketing – when used in naval gunfire, means the enemy has your range and can land shells on you at will. In sumo it means that your opponents feet straddle your stance, and you are going down). Myogiryu’s nodowa was especially effective, and Mitakeumi could not really decide on offense or defense, and paid the price.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s lightning fast “handshake tachiai” left Nishikigi unable to do much other than try to push back against Hokutofuji’s forward pressure. Its great to see that the pounding Hokutofuji took has not dampened his fighting spirit.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo had this one, but failed to maintain close cover on Tamawashi during an osha-match. As a result, Tamawashi’s perilous toes-out pose at the tawara was not his moment of defeat, and he was allowed to resume the fight. Endo now make-koshi.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – A battle of local favorites, Goeido boxes and ships Takakeisho back to Hyogo in short order with a face full of Osaka clay for a souvenir of his fun on the dohyo today. I am eager for the day 13 match where Goeido brings his genki self up against Hakuho. Just a hunch that this might be the one match that could take Hakuho off the pace.

Hakuho defeats Tochinoshin – Quite the battle, as Tochinoshin lands his deadly left hand outside grip at the tachiai, with Hakuho lower and inside with a mae-mitsu. With his right hand now deep, Hakuho masterfully breaks Tochinoshin’s “Skycrane” setup, and it’s all down hill from there. The Yokozuna patiently sets up, with his feet in excellent position while Tochinoshin continues to work back towards his offensive stance. The end comes when The Boss goes morozashi and advances. Tochinoshin gets Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 13.

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Takayasu made it clear he was coming out fast, but Kakuryu took the inside at the tachiai. But again, watch Takayasu’s position on the dohyo and his feet. He’s lower, he owns the center and he has enough of Kakuryu to advance. Kakuryu’s excellent mobility and balance keep him in this fight, but the improved Takayasu sumo is really paying off in this match.

Haru Day 12 Preview

I find myself wondering about day 12. There is a lot on the line, as lksumo so expertly described, but it falls between a crew of rikishi who find themselves on the precipice of a make-koshi, and a narrow group of competitors who are fighting for bigger goals. This basho has been a return to the older days of sumo, where the upper ranks harvested vast numbers of wins from the lesser ranks, and everyone ended each tournament wondering what happened to their sumo.

The big question of the basho – will Hakuho take another yusho? Depends on if someone can put dirt on him between now and Sunday. There are a couple of candidates, but Hakuho seems to be in his genki mode, and short of injury, will be tough to beat.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chaser: Ichinojo
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu, Takayasu

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Enho vs Toyonoshima – Spritely Enho is back for a second visit to Makuuchi, this time it’s against Toyonoshima who is already make-koshi, and possibly headed back to Juryo. After winning his first 3 matches, Enho has faltered a bit, and is now at 6-5, and not making the strongest case for promotion.

Kotoeko vs Kagayaki – A win today would give Kagayaki his first kachi-koshi since Aki 2018. Kagayaki got off to a slow start, but reconnected with his sumo on the middle weekend, and has been operating well.

Yutakayama vs Yoshikaze – In some prior tournaments, Yoshikaze has eased up once he reached kachi-koshi, and that may happen here too. Yutakayama is clearly on the bubble for demotion, pending how the Juryo promotion race plays out. Any win now would increase his chances of staying put and recovering his formerly genki status in the top division.

Chiyoshoma vs Meisei – Chiyoshoma really needs to pick up this win today. At Maegashira 17, he will need a kachi-koshi to remain in Makuuchi for May. Meisei is very much using speed sumo right now, and this suits Chiyoshoma just fine. We may see a series of Chiyoshoma henka, and hopefully Meisei is expecting that.

Aoiyama vs Ryuden – I very much doubt that the day 11 loss to Ichinojo did more than frustrate sumo’s man-mountain Aoiyama. His day 12 match against Ryuden may be a pugilistic pageant of planetary proportions. But Ryuden may also be little more than a straw bag that Aoiyama uses to work out his frustrations and unfulfilled need to hit things.

Okinoumi vs Shohozan – Another veterans match, there seem to be these every day and they are quite a contrast to the sumo of the younger crowd at times. I expect that Okinoumi will once again dig into this bag of sumo technical mastery and find something unique to use against the always flailing arms of Shohozan.

Terutsuyoshi vs Abi – The battle of the hapless under performers! Who will be let down more, the fans of Abi or the fans of Terutsuyoshi? Honest truth, Terutsuyoshi’s sumo lexicon (at least during Honbasho) seems more diverse than Abi’s.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Chiyotairyu has only beaten Kotoshogiku once in 12 tries. So I am going to guess we may see Chiyotairyu get a train of pelvic thrusts that rock his world. A win today would move Kotoshogiku to double digits, and it increasingly seems that the Kyushu Bulldozer may be back in the joi-jin for May.

Sadanoumi vs Onosho – It seems everyone in sumo knows what to do with Onosho’s balance problems, except Onosho. Today we see if Sadanoumi can hand Onosho his make-koshi to match the one that Sadanoumi already achieved.

Asanoyama vs Ichinojo – Nope!

Daieisho vs Tochiozan – How did Tochiozan end up make-koshi? This basho really has been a rough ride for a number of storied veterans and solid sumo practitioners. Daieisho holds a 4-1 career advantage, so this could end up being loss #10 for Tochiozan.

Kaisei vs Shodai – I will come out and say it, both of you guys should start breakdancing at the tachiai. This is no time for sumo for either one of you, so just give up and admit you’re not going to do any more sumo in Osaka. Bring a boom box, and a big boat of Takoyaki and just hold a dance off at the shikiri-sen. You bet it will annoy the NSK, but.. you know… YOLO.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Once you bleach the mental image of Kaisei moonwalking out of your mind, I am going to suggest that Mitakeumi will likely give Myogiryu the black star he is missing for his commemorative make-koshi from Osaka. Myogiryu has a lot of speed, but Mitakeumi has been protecting his knees, and not moving as much. This has resulted in him giving busy little guys like Myogiryu fewer chances to actually get an advantage.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Two more members of team make-koshi in good standing, I would guess that Hokutofuji will attempt a handshake tachiai blasting into a nodowa. Nishikigi typically is no too badly impacted by this stunt, so it may be a waste of Hokutofuji’s time. If Nishikigi can land a mawashi grip, he will likely take the match.

Endo vs Tamawashi – The loser joins team make-koshi, and I am not sure which one might have the edge here. Tamawashi has fought well, but definitely a notch below his January yusho grade of sumo. Chalk it up to the distractions associated with being the cup-holder.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – After all of the preliminaries, we get down to the heart of the matter. Goeido is in very good form, and his contest against Takakeisho will be a fast and brutal affair. I am looking for Goeido to open distance to Takakeisho and not let him get close enough to set up the wave-action attack. We saw day 11 that Hakuho did this with great skill, staying just beyond Takakeisho’s attack range, and forcing the Ozeki aspirant to move each time he wanted to engage. This robbed Takakeisho of a firm stance to power his thrusts, and reduced his effectiveness significantly. I am certain that Goeido saw all of this, and will act accordingly. He might also just blast out of the tachiai and take Takakeisho to his chest, shutting down his pushing attack.

Hakuho vs Tochinoshin – This has two primary possible outcomes. Hakuho dismantles Tochinoshin and puts him on the clay for his 6th loss is the most likely solution. But it’s also possible that Tochinoshin gets a grip on the dai-Yokozuna’s mawashi with that lethal left hand, and Hakuho ends up putting a lot of force into a counter move that could injure him or Tochinoshin.

Takayasu vs Kakuryu – This will be the best test yet of Takayasu’s change in sumo. Kakuryu is a fairly even match in most cases, and I am going to look for Takayasu to try to take the Yokozuna to his chest. Should that happen, Takayasu will need to be patient, and rely on his superior stamina – wear Kakuryu down. Any rapid move to finish the match, no matter how much Kakuryu feigns an opening, may lose the match.

Haru Day 10 Highlights

Ichinojo Once Again Shows Us How To Deal With A Bad Pony

What a fantastic close to Haru’s act 2. Exiting act 2, the yusho race solidifies, and it seems that Hakuho will be the man to beat to take the cup. We also have a vast swath of devastation in upper Maegashira, and the churn between the top and the middle ranks will be impressive for May. Many capable rikishi are headed for make-koshi, some of them could see double digit losses. The Yokozuna and Ozeki are all kachi-koshi save Tochinoshin, who will probably struggle well into act 3 to clear kadoban.

Headed into act 3, we will see matches with an increasing banzuke gap, as the schedulers work to sort the winners from the losers, and try some rikishi likely due for a big move (up or down) out in something closer to their new slots. Will fans get to see Kotoshogiku face Toyonoshima? Many of us are hoping we do.

Tomorrow (day 11) will see Tachiai’s “man in foreign lands”, Josh, return to the EDION arena for another day of sumo. Looking at the Torikumi, it’s a full day of action, including lower division yusho battles featuring many of our “ones to watch”.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Daishoho – Chiyomaru, visiting from Juryo and wearing his “Safety Green” mawashi overpowers Daishoho to move one win away from kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru has a lot of fans around the world and on Tachiai, and his return to the top division will be welcome.

Chiyoshoma defeats Tomokaze – Chiyoshoma’s superior mobility was the deciding factor. Chiyoshoma fought quite a bit of this match in reverse, but his agility made it work.

Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi’s opening gambit was blown by multiple mattas, and as a result he had nothing to bring to the tachiai. Terutsuyoshi is now make-koshi and at risk of returning to Juryo.

Meisei defeats Yutakayama – This match was carried by Meisei’s superior speed and mobility. The match unfolded at a blinding pace, and the injured Yutakayama could not react quickly enough to counter Meisei’s attacks.

Toyonoshima defeats Yago – Toyonoshima won the tachiai, and never gave up the initiative, maintaining an inside position that forced Yago to react to Toyonoshima’s sumo.

Yoshikaze defeats Ikioi – Yoshikaze turns a ripe 37, and picks up a win against Ikioi, who is a little more injured each day. Already with 9 losses at Maegashira 9, could this mainstay of the top division be headed to Juryo?

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura had this one for a win, but could not maintain his grip on Asanoyama. I have to compliment Ishiura for an inventive and effective offensive plan, and Asanoyama for having the strength and mobility to escape it.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Shohozan never gets close enough to really start landing blows on the Bulgarian man-mountain. Aoiyama employs his overwhelming strength to toss Shohozan around, and then off of the dohyo. Aoiyama remains 1 win behind Hakuho.

Abi defeats Sadanoumi – Abi finally gets another win, and does it with Abi-zumo. It looks like Sadanoumi did not get the memo…

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Kotoshogiku is kachi-koshi, and Onosho is still struggling for balance nearly every day. Kotoshogiku’s 8th win, coupled with the obliteration in the top Maegashira ranks, signal a possible big move higher for May.

Shodai defeats Nishikigi – Shodai got his first win, and actually used good sumo to get there. The look of relief on his face at the end of the match gave everyone a happy feeling inside. Go ahead and watch that part… It’s like when they rescue a puppy who fell down a well.

Myogiryu defeats Kaisei – Its hard to know if Kaisei is injured or completely demoralized, but his sumo has gone sour, and the speed and power of Myogiryu made quick work of him today.

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Mitakeumi is only at about 80% right now, but he managed to piece together a win against Endo. Endo’s opening move, a left arm bar pull, was premature, and opened him to Mitakeumi’s attack. When you watch this match, note how Mitakeumi holds ground at the center of the dohyo, and it’s Endo who is moving around. This is a solid strategy for someone with a bad knee.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are flailing franticly, and the whole mess is going nowhere. But as is his custom, Hokutofuji obliges by sloppy footwork and poor balance, and Daieisho seizes his chance to slap down the Komusubi.

Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Excellent yotsu-zumo from Goeido today, and he takes the risk of going chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and wins. Did anyone else wince as Goeido rolled Tochinoshin left, forcing him to pivot on that bad knee during the throw? Goeido gets his 8th win for a kachi-koshi in Osaka.

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Takayasu brought the shoulder blast back for his day 10 match with the Boulder, and he paid for it. It was worth a try, but Ichinojo in his Boulder form is too solid, too massive and too strong to be pushed around by Takayasu. The two go chest to chest, and Takayasu has an excellent grip. But he miscalculates in trying to raise Ichinojo, and instead brings his center of gravity too high. Ichinojo expertly reads the situation, and swings the Ozeki around and thrusts him down. Quality sumo, excellent execution and a well deserved with for Ichinojo, who persists in the 1 loss group.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Once again, Hakuho gets his body into a losing position, just to turn it to his advantage in the blink of an eye through sumo that would be tough to believe if it were not recorded to video. I had to watch it a few times just to sort it out myself. Tamawashi manages to get The Boss turned to his side, and is applying force from behind the Yokozuna. But Hakuho’s super-human agility and ring sense kick in, and he pivots as Tamawashi pushes forward, ending up behind Tamawashi. Hakuho faces Takakeisho tomorrow. What kind of unthinkable sumo will come from that?

Takakeisho defeats Kakuryu – This win puts a big bold line under Takakeisho’s bid to become Ozeki. This was a “quality” win. Kakuryu went toe to toe in a oshi-battle with the Tadpole, and finds himself overpowered. Takakeisho gets his 8th win, and will be seeking out at least 2 more to once again claim the credential for promotion.