Hatsu Day 4


Hakuho-Down

It wouldn’t be much* of an exaggeration to say that today’s Makuuchi matches consisted entirely of highlights.

Daiamami – Myogiryu. In the initial clash, Daiamami secures a good, strong, overhand left grip, and although the uwatenage attempt doesn’t send Myogiryu over, it does turn him around so Daiamami can easily show him out.

Ishiura – Nishikigi. Ishiura’s tachiai is quite low – not a proper submarine, but enough to get his head planted into Nishikigi’s chest. But Nishikigi gets an arm hooked under Ishiura’s chin to lever him upright, and soon has the smaller rikishi on the bales. Ishiura realizes he can’t win the test of strength, grabs the left arm with both hands and pulls hard (from the position, I’d almost say he was trying for something like an Ipponzeoi shoulder throw). But he can’t manage it – Daiamami’s footing is just too good, and Ishiura tumbles out of the ring.

Abi – Ryuden. This could be the bout of the day! Abi’s go-big-or-go-home tsuppari versus Ryuden’s beltwork. Abi has to give a lot of ground to keep Ryuden off the belt, trying for slap-downs which get Ryuden stumbling but not down. Just as it looks like he’s in real trouble at the bales, he manages to hook the back of Ryuden’s neck and pull him down and forward while sidestepping. That’s enough to get a good overarm mawashi grip and roll him down with an uwatenage.

Asanoyama – Yutakayama. Asanoyama might be Mr Happy, but he’s taking his sumo seriously, battling through some face-rearranging pushes to get a very deep left underarm grip. Yutakayama fights back with a credible attempt at gaburi-yori, but it leaves him off-balance, allowing Asanoyama to swing him around and out. Tomorrow, Asanoyama’s opponent is J1w Kyokutaisei, against whom he has two wins and no losses, so I would not be at all surprised to see him undefeated a third of the way in and competing for the yusho from Maegashira 16. Again.

Takekaze – Daiesho. Daiesho looks eager to start! He opens with a powerful oshi attack, but once he’s chest-to-chest with Takekaze, he doesn’t relent for a moment. This bout is all Daiesho, and he looks great.

Sokokurai – Kagayaki. A short one. Right after the tachi-ai, Sokokurai finds himself unbalanced by a double-handed shove, and the match is over a split second later. Sokokurai may be a victim of over-promotion; the competition in Makuuchi is much stronger than the guys that he minced for the Juryo yusho recently.

Kotoyuki – Daishomaru. From the tachiai, you might be expecting a repeat of Daiesho’s bout. Daishomaru has his hands down well in advance, and launches straight into a thrusting attack – but apparently Kotoyuki had been watching that one too. He turns to the left, putting a hand just below Daishomaru’s left shoulder to help him along, and Daishomaru’s enthusiastic tsuppari just results in him staggering past his opponent. Kotoyuki gives him a finishing shove a moment later.

Shohozan – Aminishiki. I really thought Uncle Sumo had this one for a moment! His slap-down doesn’t work, but he goes straight into a throw attempt, assisting his kotenage by lifting Shohozan’s leg with his foot. Unfortunately for the old man of sumo, Shohozan’s balance is just a bit too good. He gets his leg back down and it’s Aminishiki who goes over. Excellent throw counter from Shohozan.

Chiyomaru – Kaisei. Slow-motion replay not required as two rikishi who really need to lose some weight shove each other glacially around the dohyo. Chiyomaru’s “hikiotoshi” win is really more of a sidestep, Kaisei toppling like a column with very little help.

Chiyoshoma – Tochiozan. Chiyoshoma seems to be going for the rarely-seen kubinage (headlock throw), but he just can’t do anything about Tochiozan’s incredibly deep inside right grip, and is powered out. Their fifth honbasho meeting, and Tochiozan has now won all five.

Chiyonokuni – Ikioi. Ikioi finally picks up a win, surviving first a kotenage and then an uwatenage attempt on the way to forcing Chiyonokuni out.

Okinoumi – Takarafuji. Takarafuji’s seventh straight win against Okinoumi. He quickly gets a good, deep Hidari-yotsu (left hand under, right hand over) grip, and Okinoumi can’t break it, can’t establish a good grip of his own, and can’t keep himself low enough to resist being shoved out.

Endo – Arawashi. Endo does a fantastic job of preventing Arawashi from getting a good mawashi grip while forcing him back. Arawashi’s foot slides wildly on the clay, and his desperation hatakikomi attempt doesn’t work. It seems he realizes he’s done, and steps out.

Chiyotairyu – Shodai. This was the big let-down of the day. Chiyotairyu’s knee buckles less than a second into the bout, without Shodai doing a thing, and he hits the clay. Tsukihiza; take a drink.

Mitakeumi – Takakeisho. Mitakeumi grabs a handful of mawashi on the tachi-ai but can’t keep it, and a strong back-and-forth oshi-zumo battle breaks out. It ends with a perfectly-timed backstep from Mitakeumi, sending Takakeisho pitching forwards to the clay.

Onosho – Tamawashi. Onosho seems to cotton on to what he’s doing wrong, and despite several slap-down attempts from Tamawashi, doesn’t lose his footing. After some vigorous oshi-zumo, it’s Onosho who gets the hatakikomi win!

Goeido – Hokutofuji. The first half of this bout was cringe-worthy as Goeido retreated, looking for hatakikomi and hikiotoshi opportunities, letting Hokutofuji control the pace of the bout and looking like he was heading for an inglorious defeat. Thankfully for him and for all of us who enjoy his sumo, he apparently managed to reboot in the middle of the bout and started moving forward again. He secured an ottsuke to keep Hokutofuji’s right arm off the mawashi, drove him back, and pitched him out.

Tochinoshin – Takayasu. Two of the biggest, strongest rikishi collide with earthquake-like force. Takayasu had to retreat to keep Tochinoshin off the mawashi – including a nail-biting toes-on-the-tawara moment – but the big Georgian resisted the slap-down attempts and eventually caught up to him and got a strong belt grip. Takayasu, of course, is big and strong enough that he can fight Tochinoshin in a yotsu battle (although apparently he’d rather not). Tochinoshin pulls, Takayasu pushes, and the Ozeki runs out of balance a split-second before his opponent runs out of dohyo. A very, very close fourth win for Tochinoshin, and a very impressive bout from both of them.

Kakuryu – Ichinojo. Kakuryu looks awesome so far. And, full credit to Ichinojo, he battled on the tawara for a lot longer than he usually does! He even got the Yokozuna back to the bales early in the match, but he couldn’t finish it, and Kakuryu was able to force him out. No reactive sumo or tricks here, just straightforward yorikiri against the biggest man in the division.

Kotoshogiku – Kisenosato. Oh dear. Kotoshogiku locks up quickly with little resistance from Kisenosato and gets the gaburi-yori rolling. The Yokozuna isn’t so easy to move, though, and even away from the tawara, Kotoshogiku is bouncing away to little visible effect. He changes tactics and goes for a throw – and, amazingly, it works. Kisenosato hits the clay. While I’m happy to see Kotoshogiku earn a win (and a kinboshi), I’m rather worried that this may be Kisenosato’s last basho.

Hakuho – Yoshikaze. Are we sure this is Hakuho? He can’t muster sufficient force to drive Yoshikaze back, and when he goes for the retreating slap-down, it’s Yoshikaze who slaps him down. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a loss like that from the dai-yokozuna.

*Goddamnit Chiyotairyu.

Hatsu Day 2 Highlights


Kisenosato Sigh of Relief

Top line result – Kisenosato won today. He won in a tough battle against a strong, healthy youngster in Hokutofuji. Meanwhile, Hakuho looks uncharacteristically tentative, Kakuryu dismantles Takakeisho’s wave action attack, Takayasu goes the distance with a persistent Kotoshogiku, and I worry there is something amiss in Yoshikaze-land.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Ryuden – A pair of loose mawashi leads to a rather challenging battle, where Daiamami was able to muscle Ryuden out at the edge.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – I am starting to hope that Asanoyama has gotten his sumo back under control. Asanoyama was double-inside at the tachiai, and Nishikigi offered very little resistance.

Ishiura defeats Abi – Ishiura seems to have gotten his sumo together. He is looking focused, tight and he is using his size and strength to his advantage. Abi, in spite of his sunny disposition and outstanding shiko, is still looking for the recipe to get a Makuuchi win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This version of Kagayaki is quite different from the disorganized mess of the last three basho. It’s probably the case that Kagayaki is not yet ready to succeed at upper Maegashira level, but here at the bottom, he is doing great.

Aminishiki defeats Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo locked up Chiyomaru and went chest to chest with the big man, and won! Not a great or glorious battle, but good to see Aminishiki going straight out into battle.

Kaisei defeats Chiyonokuni – Two false starts put both contestants in a hesitant mode, and Kaisei took control of the smaller but more aggressive Chiyonokuni. I am really concerned about Kaisei’s bulk. At that size, one bad fall and it’s all downhill.

Endo defeats Ikioi – In the battle of the Japanese virtues, it was Endo all the way. There was some question on who touched down first, but Endo prevailed. I am starting to be cautiously optimistic that Endo has put his health problems behind him.

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – It was not even close, and frankly it was startling to see how small Arawashi (who is not small in person) looked as Tochinoshin lifted him over the tawara. I am eager to see how Tochinoshin does when he starts facing the San’yaku in a few days.

Tamawashi defeats Yoshikaze – Alright, that’s two weak days from Yoshikaze in a row. As a fan I am starting to worry that something is wrong with the berserker.

Goeido defeats Onosho – Goeido has started Hatsu strong, and he’s completely dialed in on the 2.0 software. The ankle repair appears to have been a complete success, and I think he’s fighting as well right now as I have seen in the past two years.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – For recent joiners of the sumo fan world, this was a classic Takayasu match. Enormous strength and almost inhuman endurance. It’s also a huge measure of respect for Kotoshogiku as he was able to match the Ozeki during that lengthy battle, and never gave up one inch without a fight. Classic match.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – That’s two days in a row where the boss has struggled. Yes, Ichinojo is the Obelix of sumo, but in prior engagements, Hakuho has been able to eliminate Ichinojo’s size as a factor. One can assume that the change up in his tachiai has significantly disrupted his sumo.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Amazing bout from Big K! I refer to Takakeisho’s big weapon as a “Wave Action Tsuppari”: he tends to do a double arm thrust 3 times then move. Kakuryu knows this, stops the first wave at the tachiai and moves inside with a shallow grip. Takakeisho moves to escape and Kakuryu does not let him re-set. Takakeisho’s out in the blink of an eye.

Kisenosato defeats Hokutofuji – And all of Japan breathes a sigh of relief. This was actually a very good match, and my compliments to Hokutofuji, who put up one hell of a fight. From the tachiai, Hokutofuji works hard to block Kisenosato’s left hand grip. He then makes the mistake of grabbing Kisenosato’s left forearm and pulling. This seems to really fire Kisenosato up, and he unleashes a hell of a storm on his opponent. After a few very strong blows, Kisenosato lands his deep left hand grip, at which point it’s all over. Great match, if a bit sloppy.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview


kisenosato-down

Day 1 got off to a very solid start, better than either of the last two basho, and I am cautiously enthusiastic about what we are in store for. With so many excellent matches on day 1, I encourage everyone to at least try out Kintamayama’s review on YouTube. While I love the NHK highlights show, and days when there are a large amount of quality bouts in a rather lengthy torikumi, it’s worth it to pick up the matches you missed.

I finally got to see the NHK highlight show at 2:30 Pacific today. Yes, I am in San Diego for a bit instead of the mighty bastion of Texas. Counter programming to it was a show on PBS about black holes, and super-massive black holes. I thought nothing of it…

But then here’s Murray Johnson remarking that Kaisei has packed on over 20 kg since November. Dear readers, that’s the size of a small Panda Bear, whose form Kaisei seems determined to emulate. It appears something similar has taken place within orbit of the gas giant Chiyomaru, who may have swallowed a nearby moon. Both of these two balloons will find their added mass a terrible strain on their bodies, and I fear for their longevity.

Say, you know what has me really delighted so far? Great matches at the bottom of Makuuchi! These guys are on fire. The Tadpoles had best consolidate their position in a hurry, as it seems there is yet another cohort advancing on their positions.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ryuden vs Daiamami – Ryuden looked very poised on day 1, I am going to be watching to see if he can repeat that with his match against Daiamami, who holds a 5-2 career advantage of him.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – I am calling for Asanoyama to try to set up a throw early on. If Nishikigi can block the outside grip, he will probably have a chance to get inside and dismantle Asanoyama.

Abi vs Ishiura – An early match with a lot of interest. Both guys are on the lighter side of the scales, and both of them like to move around and mix it up. If Ishiura gets stuck, will he resort to his submarine attack that gets him in such trouble?

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – See, this time I spelled it correctly. Yutakayama has won both their prior matches. I expect a flurry of thrusting and a lot of mobility. Yutakayama seems to choke when he gets into Makuuchi, and I think everyone is hoping that this time he can settle down and show us some great sumo.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – When I said keep an eye on Kagayaki, people laughed. I get it, he has ridiculous man-boobs. He seems to have come to terms with it, and possibly uses it to distract his opponents. They say life in the heya can be lonely, and perhaps these poor guys find the display captivating. But hell no! Kagayaki takes his sumo with all of the earnest concentration you might expect from a rikishi who wants to be somebody. Like Kiesnosato, this guy is willing to train himself to death to get there. Never count that out.

Terunofuji vs Kotoyuki – Did you read Herouth’s discussion of Terunofuji? It’s toward the bottom of her typically awesome post. If you have not read it, go read it. It seems that in addition to Kaisei and Chiyomaru, Terunofuji may have spent time at the Gagamaru body sculpting clinic. If he can’t toss Kotoyuki around like a rotten bag of miso on day 2, it’s very dim indeed for our once mighty Kaiju. (shout out to Joshua who is in Tokyo… Lucky bastard)

Aminishiki vs Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo vs the Gas Giant. Not good as Chiyomaru’s intense gravity well may crush Aminishiki’s space age metal support structure. Seriously, Aminishiki is in lower mid-Maegashira territory now. I hope he’s able to keep himself from getting injured.

Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Panda-kun vs Grumpy Badger. Chiyonokuni came out blazing day 1, but in typical fashion could not close the deal. He’s got strength, speed and energy, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to put together a consistent approach to get a win.

Ikioi vs Endo – Looking forward to this fight, as I am keeping my eye on Endo, who I would not be surprised to see hit 10 wins this tournament. A genki Endo may come as a bit of a shock to the tadpoles, as he brings a surgical precision and some depth of experience to the dohyo. I am looking for him to contain Ikioi’s superior strength and reach, and work inside and backwards.

Shodai vs Okinoumi – Shodai looked better on day 1 than he has in a while, and I am going to guess that for now Okinoumi is in good health. So this is probably a fairly good match, if Shodai does not blow the tachiai. Both of them will go for a mawashi grip from the start, and it will come down to strength and tactics.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi needs a 10 win basho to be taken seriously as an Ozeki contender. So it’s time for him to produce before he faces the upper San’yaku next week. Chiyotairyu is bigger, strong and looks a lot more like Elvis. So Mitakeumi is going to have to gamberize.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in day 1’s outcome. His shot at recovery is with the tough as nails Tamawashi on day 2. Tamawashi is back at Sekiwake after a stumble at Aki and Nagoya, and he wants his back in line for an Ozeki run.

Goeido vs Onosho – Battle of the manic over-committing rikishi, where both of them tend to charge forward with everything they have. Although I tend to be against the use of henka, this is the correct case where it’s of most use. Free tacos if they do simultaneous henka and orbit each other for the first few seconds.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – All the fans want Kotoshogiku to do the big back bend. We know its the source of his magic powers, and he needs every ounce of power against an especially genki looking Takayasu.

Hakuho vs Ichinojo – Hakuho looked a bit lost without his slap-n-grab power combo. Against Ichinojo he needs some clarity, as once that much Mongolian gets moving, he’s headed somewhere. I am expecting the Boss to try another tachiai variation, hopefully with improved effect.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s post match interview had me rolling. When asked about the sumo he used against Kisenosato, he more or less said, “I can’t really remember, I was just trying to win”. Damn straight! He was all over the map throwing everything including the kitchen sink at The Great Pumpkin, and he prevailed. Now of course comes Kakuryu, whose whole sumo approach is to let his opponent get rolling, then use their motion and attacks against them. I can’t wait to see how this one goes. This is the first time these two have fought.

Hokutofuji vs Kisenosato – The final match of the day, it it carries a lot of weight. Kisenosato needs wins on the board. But in their only prior match, Hokutofuji won convincingly. On day 1, Kisenosato let Takakeisho dictate the match. I am hoping to see him control the bout like his 2016 self would do with such calm and effortless power.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights


battle formation

Top headline of the day: Kisenosato drops his match against Takakeisho. There are two things to learn from this: First and foremost, Takakeisho is gunning hard for Sekiwake and above. I slight him for his oshi-only approach, but he is making it work for him. He looked strong, fast and relentless today against the struggling Kisenosato.  The second thing of note is that Kisenosato looked much better than I had feared. He moved well, he attacked with strength, and kept moving forward. Fans who fear the Great Pumpkin being on the ropes should keep in mind he has not really had matches in a while, and will be rusty for a few days. If he walks out with 10 wins, he’s good.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Decent throw that took some time to set up. Moving much better than he was in Kyushu. The happy rikishi has a long path ahead of him, and to reach his potential, he must stay healthy.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden looked strong in his first Makuuchi bout, easily dominating Nishikigi. Ryuden kept his eblows tight, and prevented Nishikigi from establishing a grip, while Ryuden set up for a well executed throw to end the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – A flurry of activity in which Ishiura was everywhere at once and overwhelmed Yutakayama. He was able to get his head against Yutakayama’s chest a couple of times, which helped him keep the larger rikishi’s center of gravity high.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Massive oshi fest as Abi took the initiative and was landing tsuppari with purpose. But he over committed, got too far forward and Daieisho brought him forward and down.

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Kagayaki was very high at the tachiai, but managed to get Takekaze off balance and moving backwards. His excellent sumo instincts took over and he kept moving strongly forward. Good, solid win.

Kotoyuki defeats Aminishiki – Not quite the battle I was looking for, it was over in a blink of an eye as Aminishiki slipped trying to find his footing. Kotoyuki recognized this quickly, and finished what gravity had started.

Chiyomaru defeats Terunofuji – In spite of Chiyomaru’s enormous belly, Terunofuji was able to land a mawashi grip. But without abilty to transmit power through his legs, he was unable to halt Chiyomaru’s counter attack.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Massive tachiai, with Ikioi taking the early initiative, but Chiyoshoma pulled out a win at the edge thanks to excellent ring sense and a great deal of balance.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Keep your eyes on Endo! He wants back in the upper ranks, and he seems to finally have his body in order. This fight saw both rikishi try to establish an offense only to be countered quite effectively, but Endo kept working forward. Fantastic effort from both.

Arawashi defeats Okinoumi – In spite of Okinoumi showing some solid sumo moves, he let Arawashi land a deep left hand grip right away, and from there Arawashi kept working Okinoumi towards being thrown. 800th bout for Arawashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai, for once, had a solid tachiai, but he immediately went chest to chest with Tochinoshin, which had to delight the big Georgian. In spite of Shodai’s right hand mawashi grip, Tochinoshin out-matched him in strength and power.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi has a very sloppy start, he was high and immediately off balance. Kotoshogiku was able to set up a solid defense, and as Mitakeumi was struggling (more than he should) to finish him, Kotoshogiku apparently stepped out. The match was stopped by the shimpan.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Takayasu still working that forearm blast into the tachiai, but it seems to leave him high and forward. Yoshikaze could not exploit it, and was moving backwards in a hurry. Both men re-engaged, and kept the battle running, with Yoshikaze pushing to land a mawashi grip. Takayasu prevailed and Yoshikaze took a slow motion roll to the clay. Hopefully he was ok.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – As predicted, Goeido came in fast and low, but Inchinojo’s mass and forward momentum was too much for Goeido to simply power out. Goeido 2.0 is all about keeping up the pressure, and he did eventually get Ichinojo to step out, but Goeido was on the verge of falling down as it happened.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – This was classic Kakuryu, letting his opponent open the offense, then making him pay. I am thankful that Kakuryu was able to open strong today.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Wow, what a battle! Twice, Kisenosato let Takakeisho set up his “wave action tsuppari”, with devastating effect. But twice the Yokozuna was able to escape. The match ended when Takakeisho grabbed a hold of Kisenosato’s right arm and twisted, bringing the Yokozuna down. Kisenosato looks worried, but it may take a few bouts for him to hit his stride.

Hakuho defeats Onosho – The boss made short work of Onosho, who once again over-committed and was too far forward.

Hatsu Day 1 Preview


Sumo-Manga

It’s finally here, sumo fans! Day one is upon us, and the Tachiai crew are eager for action. Everyone keep in mind, the first 3 days of any basho include quite a bit of rikishi in the top division trying to get themselves into tournament mode so we may see some rusty moves, some strange outcomes, and some favorites looking a little off-tempo. Interestingly enough, even though there is a good crop of new faces in Makuuchi, day one does not include any first-time match-ups. Maybe that will mean some careful strategy straight off the line.

With Makuuchi going down to Maegashira 17e, we are going to see a lot more action at the lower end of the torikumi, and as such it’s going to be tough for the NHK crew to decide how to fit it all into 20 minutes. Several of the shin-Makuuchi rikishi have a decent fan base already, and there may be a lot of good content to pare down to each day’s 20-minute​ show. For the hardcore​, find Kintamayama’s channel on Youtube and enjoy the whole thing!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Daiamami vs Asanoyama – Let’s start it off right! After having a disappointing basho in Kyushu, Asanoyama the happy rikishi faces off against Daiamami in the first Makuuchi match of 2018. These two tend to grab a hold of each other’s mawashi, so maybe we will get a yotsu-zumo contest right off the bat. Career record 3-2 in Daiamami’s favor.

Ryuden vs Nishikigi – Hopefully the NHK guys will include some of the crowd reaction to Ryuden stepping onto the Dohyo. The fans really like this guy, and they are not afraid to show it. Even better is that these two have a tendency to try to throw each other, and that is seldom dull. Career record 2-1 in Nishikigi’s favor.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – From sumo’s scratch and dent bin comes this battle of rikishi we wish were doing better. Ishiura started Makuuchi strong last year, and then everyone figured out his “one weird trick”, and he faded. Yukatayama seems to have confidence or focus problems as soon as he’s listed on the Makuuchi side of the banzuke. Both of them have the potential for explosive sumo, so there is hope. These two have split their prior 2 matches.

Abi vs Daieisho – Can Abi give Asanoyama a run for his money as the “Happy Rikishi”? Sumo fans finally get to see. With any luck, we will get to see Abi bring some magic shiko to the hatsu dohyo. Their only prior meeting was back in 2015 when Abi was fighting under Horikiri, and was in Makushita.

Kotoyuki vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo vs The Penguin! Aminishiki (Uncle Sumo) started strong in Kyushu, but I think his knees suffered terribly over the course of 15 days of top division matches. Now ranked Maegashira 10, he has a difficult path to climb. Kotoyuki seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and typically ends the match in the second row of zabuton. Career record 4-2 in Aminishiki’s favor.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – Former Ozeki Terunofuji will face down surprisingly-super-sized Chiyomaru, who is still operating in sumo-Elvis mode. Due to a lack of knees, the yobidashi will likely pre-position the over-sized wheelchair on the east side hanamichi.

Takarafuji vs Endo – Heads up sumo fans, Endo is possibly the big sleeper this basho. He has been nothing special for more than a year and then sought surgery to repair some of his most serious problems. After dropping down to the bottom of Makuuchi, he has turned in two excellent tournaments. Takarafuji is a steady rikishi, who can be expected to calmly employ a fairly defensive bout strategy. This could be an excellent match. Career record of 6-2 favors Takarafuji.

Okinoumi vs Arawashi – Okinoumi’s sumo is very much a function of his chronic injury. When he has it under control, he is a solid upper Maegashira. When it’s bothering him, he is in trouble. With Okinoumi, it’s always hit or miss, and day one against Arawashi should show us how Okinoumi is doing. Watch for Arawashi to leave a small amount of salt on top of his mawashi.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – The Tachiai team give Shodai a hard time because he tends to lose matches on the first step. His tachiai is usually a half step slow, and fairly high. Everyone knows this now, and they use it to dismantle him. Today he may compound his mistake by giving Tochinoshin a mawashi hold. Simply put, Tochinoshin has the strength of a bear that has the strength of two bears. Career record of 4-2 favors Tochinoshin, unless he has just woken from his hibernation, in which case Tochinoshin eats Shodai and Shikimori Inosuke while the NHK cameras pan away.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – The San’yaku battle fleet is especially charged up and ready for action this tournament. Though he managed to land a kachi-koshi for every 2017 tournament, Mitakeumi can rightfully be cited for loitering. Hey, double digits Mitakeumi! Kotoshogiku is no pushover, so I guess Mitakeumi stays mobile to avoid the hug-n-chug from the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Yoshikaze vs Takayasu – Yoshikaze wants back in San’yaku. And everyone should note this guy can really dish it out. Takayasu is finally back to practicing with Kisenosato, so I am expecting him to revert to his former excellent sumo that focuses on strength and endurance. I am hoping NOT to see a forearm blast at the tachiai (hat tip to Murray Johnson of NHK).

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Wow! What a match. Goeido 2.0 is a speed demon who will have you backward and out before you can blink. Ichinojo is a large object suspected to be laid down over centuries during the Carboniferous era. Look for Goeido to launch low and inside hoping to catch Ichinojo not quite out of his tachiai crouch, and slap the big boulder down. The 6-5 career record slightly favors the mighty Ichinojo.

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Can we take this to 11? Yes, yes we can! Hokutofuji’s careful offense vs Kakuryu’s reactive sumo. Can Big K keep Hokutofuji off his belt long enough for Kaio Jr to make his first and only mistake? My money is on the Yokozuna to keep Hokutofuji from going chest to chest and throw in a lateral move or two. Probably one for slow-motion replays.

Takakeisho vs Kisenosato – Please Japan, remember to breathe during this showdown. The schedulers give Kisenosato no easy start. Takakeisho is going to go hard left and attack without quarter. I am looking for Kisenosato to try to land a right-hand grip, not his favorite, and use that to try and remove Takakeisho’s “wave action” tsuppari from the match. These two have split their only 2 matches.

Hakuho vs Onosho – By thunder, Onosho, wear that red mawashi or stay home. This one will be all Hakuho, but I really think Onosho will make him work for it if he does not over-commit out of the tachiai. Of course “the Boss” knows this and will possibly give ground on the first step to draw Onosho forward.

 

Kyushu Day 13 Highlights


Hakuho

Hakuho’s Chasers Keep Up The Pressure.

An impressive number of rikishi are still sitting one win away from kachi-koshi, and it looks like the final weekend will be what I call a “Darwin Torikumi”, with the schedulers pairing up the folks that need just one more win to (as much as possible) put make/kachi koshi on the line. Several of these “Darwin” rikishi had been on losing streaks, rallied and are now pressing to secure a winning record – examples of this are Ikioi and Shodai. Still others waltzed up to the 7 win mark, but can’t seem to make it across into the happy valley of kachi-koshi – an example of this is Uncle Sumo, Aminishiki.

Takayasu re-injured his right thigh on day 12 and is kyujo, which gave a fusen-sho to Goeido, securing his kachi-koshi. I am very happy Goeido won’t, yet again, be kadoban. He has been fighting well this basho but seems to be missing something. Reminder to readers that he recently had his ankle surgically rebuilt, and it’s impossible to know how much that limits his sumo. With Takayasu’s kyujo, that makes 3 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki out for Kyushu. Clearly, sumo continues to have difficulty fielding its top-line talent. We are only a few months from a probable house-cleaning, in my opinion.

Highlight Matches

Ikioi defeats Aminishiki – Not even a tough bout. Aminishiki has bad knees and tends to win through misdirection and guile. When he faces rikishi who know his tricks, defeating him is a matter of simple sumo mechanics. Both men are one win away from kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei picks up his kachi-koshi against sumo’s happiest rikishi, who picked up his make-koshi via the same bout. Kaisei has looked better this basho than he has in about a year, and we are happy to see him back in fighting form. Asanoyama has faded from his stellar performance at Aki, but we think he will be a force in the future.

Shodai defeats Kotoyuki – Shodai blows the tachiai (naturally), and Kotoyuki makes him pay. But before Kotoyuki can take him out, Shodai rallies and turns it into a real match. Kotoyuki again advances, but Shodai pulls a Kotenage at the edge. Sloppy, but still a win. Shodai was on a losing streak but has remembered some of his sumo, and is now one win away from kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Tochinoshin – Okinoumi defeats the big Georgian to remain one win behind Hakuho. For fans of the man from Shimane-ken, it’s been tough to watch him struggle to overcome a chronic, painful injury. Somehow he has it all wired together this basho and is fighting well. At the tachiai, Okinoumi established a right-hand inside grip early, which he improved to a moro-zashi as Tochinoshin advanced. With the Georgian pushing him to the tawara, Okinoumi used his grip to throw Tochinoshin. Nice win, and Okinoumi goes to 11 wins.

Takakeisho defeats Tochiozan – Traditional Takakeisho yo-yo sumo again today. Tochiozan’s multiple pain points keep him from being a credible threat anywhere in the torikumi, and we hope that he can recover by New Years. Takakeisho keeps up the pressure to take a san’yaku slot for the next basho.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – This was a great test match for Endo: just how recovered are you? The answer is, “Not quite enough to defeat Tamawashi”. We are likely to see Endo in the joi for Hatsu, so this match may have been to help decide if he is ready. The tachiai was a bit mistimed, but the fight continued (see how it’s done Hakuho?). Tamawashi stays even with Takakeisho in the “Make me San’yaku” derby.

Onosho defeats Shohozan – After dropping the majority of his bouts at the start of Kyushu, Onosho reverted to the holy red mawashi of the ancients and began kicking ass. Now up to 6 wins, he is two away from kachi-koshi. Home-town boy Shohozan has not been able to produce wins this basho, but he shows up every day and fights like a madman.

Ichinojo defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is solidly in the “can’t get to 8” club, and today he was completely outmatched by Ichinojo. Mitakeumi is competing with a painful foot injury, and it limits how much defensive pressure he can apply to anyone’s attack. When your attacker is 400 pounds of Mongolian rikishi, you try to make your dohyo exit safe.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Also squarely in the busted foot club, Yoshikaze took his turn with the surprisingly genki Hokutofuji, who remains 1 behind Hakuho. As is always the case, there are no easy wins over Yoshikaze, but it was clear the Berserker was only at about 80% today. Chances of Yoshikaze going make-koshi are up quite a bit post foot injury, and that would open a coveted Sekiwake slot for all of the team pressing to launch into San’yaku.

Hakuho defeats Takarafuji – What a fantastic effort from Takarafuji! A perfectly timed move to the left as the Yokozuna leaped to put him off the dohyo sent Hakuho sailing perilously close to the tawara, but he arrested his overshoot and re-engaged. Takarafuji pressed the advantage, but he was no match for the Yokozuna, who was able to slap him down. My compliments to Takarafuji. Please note that Hakuho’s normal tachiai face-slap missed, most likely due to computational errors stemming from his intended target’s lack of neck, which places Takarafuji’s face in an unexpected location.

 

Kyushu Day 12 Highlights


Ichinojo-smiles

There are three rikishi that have stood out this basho.  Okinoumi is fighting very well in spite of a chronic injury to his lower pelvic region that most days makes it difficult to walk normally, let alone dominate on the dohyo. Ichinojo, after many tournaments languishing around with never a strong winning or losing record, is somehow healthy enough that he is returning to his 2015 format.  In that era, he was so big and so strong that he was considered somewhat unstoppable. Then back injuries, compounded by his enormous 400-pound bulk, kept him from being much more than a sumo oddity. Hokutofuji continues to impress, he is young enough to be a dominant rikishi for the next several years, as many veterans that we know and love today start thinking of retirement.

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Aminishiki – Okinoumi continues to look strong, and for another day Aminishiki is denied his kachi-koshi.  Given Okinoumi’s chronic injuries, it’s too much to hope that he is “well”, but we can say that for Kyushu, he is doing well. He is now 10-2, one behind Hakuho.

Kotoyuki defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is in miserable shape with his knee, and Kotoyuki (who is on an upswing now) made very quick work of shoving him out of the ring. For a time I considered Kotoyuki likely to return to juryo, but now he is one win away from kachi-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Daiamami – It’s great to see Ikioi fighting well in spite of his back injury. He wrapped up Daiamami immediately out of the tachiai, and manhandled him out directly. Thought it is a long shot, Ikioi could still reach kachi-koshi as he improves to 6-6. Daiamami is make-koshi with this loss.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – Endo is showing no signs of slowing down, clearly wanting to stake a spot higher up the banzuke in January.  Myogiryu put up a good fight in this oshi-zumo struggle, but it was never in doubt. Endo now 9-3.

Shodai defeats Kagayaki – After a pathetic start, Shodai is back to doing some level of sumo. He dominated Kagayaki today, with a nice leg-thrust at the end to push Kagayaki out.

Arawashi defeats Kaisei – Arawashi struggled to throw the big Brazilian, but there is simply too much of him for all but the strongest to toss. After two failed attempts, he simply pushes him over the tawara.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Both men headed higher in the banzuke, and this bout may have decided which one of them gets the better promotion. Another oshi-zumo fest, Tamawashi struggled to deal with Takakeisho’s impressive balance and subterranean center of gravity. With the win, Takakeisho picks up his kachi-koshi. The damage he took to his mouth on day 10 looks terrible!

Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu lands his make-koshi in a fairly straightforward bout against the Red Mawashi (I am convinced it has magical powers). Onosho did a much better job of keeping his mass centered over his rather small feet.

Chiyonokuni defeats Yoshikaze – With two street brawlers like these fighting, there is always a chance for a crazy battle that covers the dohyo. This match delivered, with both men launching into a blistering tsuppari contest, with Yoshikaze eventually sacrificing his face (again) to switch over to a mawashi grip. Much to everyone’s delight, Chiyonokuni rallied in the midst of being thrown and won the match. Fantastic sumo.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – Goeido was again denied his kachi-koshi, this time by an Ichinojo who was dialed in and ready for some mega-sized power sumo. Recent fans may wonder where this Ichinojo has been: he was always there, just a bit too hurt to actually compete this way. Goeido gave it everything he had, but when battling an opponent that appears on most maps, options are limited. Ichinojo picks up a well-earned kachi-koshi, and my gratitude for bringing back landmass-scale sumo.

Hokutofuji defeats Takayasu – First off, Hokutofuji continues to impress. Secondly, I am going to chalk up Takayasu’s sumo this basho to his incomplete recovery from his torn thigh muscle.  He has only made limited use of his primary attack style, which is a very strong yotsu-zumo that exploits his immense strength and almost inhuman stamina. Today he let Hokutofuji dictate the match, and it was all Hokutofuji. Now with 10 wins, he is one behind Hakuho.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Quick and simple affair. The boss chose to move away from yesterday’s misunderstanding by focusing on sumo and leaving little doubt that few can beat him.