Day 3 Undercard Matches to Watch


After a great Day 1, it seemed like some of the early basho rust began to show on the second day of the 2018 Hatsu Basho. We may see a bit more rust tomorrow as Rikishi get back into the swing of things. That being said, so far I’ve been very impressed with many of the young rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke. Here are a few Day 3 undercard matches that should be entertaining, including several first time encounters.

Ryuden vs. Asanoyama

The day starts off with what should be an excellent matchup between Asanoyama and Ryuden. Asanoyama looked dialed in on Day 2 and easily took care of Nishikigi. His more serious demeanor seems to be doing wonders for his sumo. Ryuden was not so lucky on Monday, and he will be looking to get back into the win column on Day 3. This bout has the potential to become an uwatenage competition, as both men are known for their skillful throwing techniques. They have met once before in Juryo at the 2017 Natsu Basho in a match Asanoyama won.

Ishiura vs. Daiamami

Ishiura and Daiamami will face off for the first time in their careers on Day 3. Ishiura is no stranger to fighting much larger rikishi and has beaten behemoths like Ichinojo, Chiyotairyu, and Chiyomaru with his patented submarine attack. The only difference now is that pretty much everyone and their okasan knows how to deal with Ishiura’s favorite move. Given that Daiamami has never taken on Ishiura, we may see the smaller man try the submarine once more. Daiamami will have to be quick on his feet if he wants to pick up his second win.

Takekaze vs. Abi

While watching Takekaze this morning, I realized that if he were fifteen years younger he’d fit in quite well with the rest of the tadpole brigade. Therefore, from now on I’ll be dubbing the veteran rikishi Grampa Bullfrog. On Day 3, Grampa Bullfrog will square off against newcomer Abi, who again over-committed in his match with Ishiura yesterday and paid the price. This is another first-time matchup, and both men will be looking to secure their first win this basho.

Daieisho vs. Kagayaki

It may be too early to tell, but Kagayaki might finally be coming into his own this Basho. He looks far more focused and comfortable on the dohyo and has dominated his opponents so far. Tomorrow he takes on Daieisho, another member of the tadpoles. These two have a very long rivalry going, and have met eleven times previously. Kagayaki has won 6 of their bouts. Will Daieisho even their series, or will Kagayaki keep chugging along?

Sokokurai vs. Aminishiki

Aminishiki surprised me with his straightforward win against Chiyomaru today, and I was even more surprised that his knees survived pushing around Chiyo’s bulk! On Day 3 he meets another wily veteran in Sokokurai, who has a history of using all the tricks of the trade to outmaneuver his opponent. Wouldn’t it be something if Sokokurai pulled a henka only for Aminishiki to side step him at the bales? This should prove to be a very interesting match.

Terunofuji vs. Daishomaru

Despite Terunofuji having the size advantage, my money is on Daishomaru to win when these two meet for the first time on Day 3. Time and time again we at Tachiai have stated that Terunofuji is not well, and at this point, it’s depressing to watch the man everyone pegged as the next Yokozuna barely able to hold his own on the dohyo. At Maegashira 10, were Terunofuji to pull out he would very likely drop out of the Makuuchi division. But if he soldiers on he risks cutting his career short before he reaches his full potential. Unless he follows in Ura’s footsteps and goes down the route of medical intervention, I fear we will continue to see the mighty Kaiju get his mawashi handed to him for some time to come.

This Basho has just started and already things are heating up! Here’s hoping Day 3 is just as good, if not better!

 

Day 2 Undercard Matches to Watch


Day 1 has come to a close, and what a day of sumo it was! While the first few days of any basho tend to be plagued by rusty rikishi and sloppy sumo, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of competition today! With Leonid doing such a great job bringing readers coverage of the top matches to keep an eye on for each day, I thought I’d focus on the opposite end of the Makuuchi Banzuke and highlight a few bouts that may not make it on to the NHK highlights, but should still be quite good! So here are some undercard matches to keep an eye on for Day 2.

Ryuden vs. Daiamami

Jerking the curtain on Day 2 will be Makuuchi newcomer Ryuden and big Daiamami. Fan favorite Ryuden looked good in his first match against Nishikigi and showed no signs of top division jitters. Hoepfully he carries this confidence into his bout with foe Daiamami, who at Maegashira 17 sits all alone at the bottom of the banzuke. These two have had quite the rivalry, with Daiamami holding a 5-2 edge over Ryuden.

Asanoyama vs. Nishikigi

Are my eyes mistaken or did anyone else think Mr. Happy Asanoyama looked… angry today? Fresh off his first make koshi and finally sporting his  oicho-mage topknot, Asanoyama took control right from the tachiai and finished Daiamami off with a nice overarm throw. On Day 2 he will take on Nishikigi, and we will see if this attitude adjustment is permanent. If I’m Nishikigi, I’m hoping to see Mr. Happy on the dohyo tomorrow, because a focused, angry Asanoyama could be a fearsome opponent. These two have met three times prior, with Asanoyama leading their series 2-1.

Abi vs. Ishiura

After delighting fans with his superb shiko and nearly bending Daieisho in half on Day 1, Makuuchi newcomer Abi will try and secure his first win when he meets Ishiura on Monday. With his stocky torso and long limbs, Abi reminds me of a young Takanohana. If he can learn to use his proportions as effectively as the former Yokozuna, he has a very bright future ahead of him. However, he first needs to work on not over-committing to his thrusts, as doing so was the primary cause of his Day 1 loss. Should he overcommit tomorrow, the crafty Ishiura will make him pay for it. Ishiura holds a 4-3 lead over Abi.

Sokokurai vs. Takekaze

Sokokurai received a hearty welcome back to Makuuchi from the Tadpole committee courtesy of Daishomaru today. On Day 2 he will meet a fellow member of the old guard, Takekaze, who is also looking for his first win following a quick loss to Kagayaki. After a terrible 2017 where he recorded only two kachi koshi, one has to wonder just how much longer the 38-year-old Takekaze will go on before calling it a career. Hatsu very well could be his final Basho.

Kagayaki vs. Daishomaru

Despite a poor start, Kagayaki finished strong and looked calm and in control as he escorted Takekaze off the Dohyo. He meets fellow young gun and old foe Daishomaru on Day 2. While both of these men are talented pusher thrusters, the much larger Kagayaki has a big reach advantage, which he has used to take a 5-2 lead in their series

Terunofuji vs. Kotoyuki

Oh Terunofuji, it makes me sad to see you like this. The once mighty Ozeki, crippled by knee issues, was unable to do much against the bulky Chiyomaru. Things don’t get much easier for the Kaiju on Day 2 when he takes on Kotoyuki, who picked up his first win over Fuji’s stablemate Aminishiki Sunday. Expect Kotoyuki to go right for the jugular with his thrusting flippers, and if he can get Terunofuji to the bales his chances of winning are pretty good.

Sumo is off to a good start this year, in what may prove to be an awesome Basho!

 

Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


image

My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights


Takayasu-Harumafuji

It has been a rough morning in Castle Bermondsey, so I do beg forgiveness in being tardy with the update. Many of you will have seen the NHK highlight reel by now. For whatever reasons there seems to be a desire to keep Hakuho from claiming the yusho outright by now. I say this because Aoiyama has had a ridiculously easy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, he still won all of those matches fair and square. But compare this to some prior basho where anyone outside of san’yaku who was close to the leader group was given increasingly difficult matches until they fell away.

For example, you have a Maegashira 8 (Aoiyama) who is on a hot streak. So who does he get for day 14? A Komusubi? An Ozeki? Nah, lets pit him against a Maegashra 12. So there remains an outside tiny chance that Hakuho will lose to Harumafuji on day 15, and we will see The Boss square off against Aoiyama. Followed by several minutes of slow motion replay of Aoiyama’s pendulous man-mammaries swinging wildly as Hakuho batters his up and down the dohyo for sport.

In other news, Ura is now make-koshi, and it is for the best. He has many fans, and they seem to love their little wizard – he is lovable. But he was always going to go make-koshi the first time he faced the san’yaku battle fleet. In the grand scheme of things that would have been Aki, but due to injuries it was at Nagoya. He will come to rest down the banzuke, and with any luck be dominant down there and have a chance to not do further damage to that banged up knee. Trust me when I say, Ura will be back.

Selected Matches Day 14

Chiyonokuni defeats Sokokurai – Chiyonokuni’s rally is a great story coming out of Nagoya. After his turn in the meat grinder as Maegashira 1 during Natsu, he seemed to have started Nagoya down and unfocused. He was able to get his sumo together and return as strong as in the past, and lock down a winning record. Chiyonokuni is another rikishi we will likely see more good things from in the future.

Hokutofuji defeats Ishiura – Hokutofuji picks up kachi-koshi and will be a rank or two higher in Tokyo come September.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Special prize for Onosho, I will predict. That would be two in a row for his first two Makuuchi basho. Yoshikaze looked like he was not quite fully spun up, and Onosho executed well.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – The big Georgain consigns Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku rank to the past. Really nice execution by Tochinoshin in this match. His return to good form is a welcome development.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – No Ozeki run starting for Mitakeumi, there is always next time, but he will get to keep his Sekiwake rank. Tochiozan once again looked calm and worked his attack plan expertly.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido must beat Takayasu on day 15 to avoid the probationary kadoban status.

Harumafuji defeats Takayasu – Harumafuji once again deploys a tottari. Takayasu ends up looking even more hurt. This basho has really knocked him around, and I hope he gets a chance to heal up.

Nagoya Day 9 Preview


Asanoyama
Juryo 5 Asanoyama (朝乃山)

Another Day Of Rising Stars.

Within the next couple of days, we are likely to start the part of the schedule that focuses on matches between the remaining Ozeki and Yokozuna. But before that, we get a nice opportunity for more of these crazy “what if” matches to take place. I don’t expect either Ura or Kagayaki to really change the score for the yusho race, but it’s amazing to see these two young rikishi go flat out in a bid to make their mark.

Thus far, the Nagoya basho has been extremely entertaining, and packed with some great sumo. Readers will recall that I had my worries about Juryo by this time last basho. Sadly most folks in the west don’t get much exposure to Juryo, as it is not shown as part of the NHK highlight shows. But there is an entire additional division below Makuuchi, which you can think of as a farm team for Makuuchi. Juryo is actually quite exciting right now, as rikishi Asanoyama (朝乃山) is undefeated and already has his kachi-koshi. He joined sumo from Kinki University, and has only been in sumo for 9 basho. He took the Makushita at new years, and is tearing up Juryo this tournament, after tying for the Juryo yusho in Osaka. He stands a decent chance to contend for the Juryo again this basho, and we may see him Makuuchi soon. Below is a video of his day 8 match against Kyokushuho

 

In the Makuuchi yusho race, it seems only the Ozeki and Harmuafuji face any chance of throwing a loss to Hakuho, and both a Hakuho yusho and zensho are quite possible now. So we wait to see when the Hakuho – Takayasu match turns up, representing the best chance to make the yusho completive.

Nagoya Leader board

Leader – Hakuho
Chasers – Takayasu, Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takarafuji

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Takarafuji has not made many of the highlight shows broadcast in the west, but the rikishi with no neck has been really turning in the wins, and deserves some closer coverage. Currently at 6-2, he goes up against a resurgent Nishikigi. I am expecting both of these rikishi to have solid kachi-koshi records and be mid level Maegashira for Aki. This will only be their second match up, with their first going to Takarafuji.

Arawashi vs Sokokurai – I am very happy to see Arawashi apparently over his injuries that kept him from top form during Natsu, and back with some excellent sumo. Sadly Sokokurai is struggling, and may continue to beg for wins.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki is headed back to Juryo, and was talking to himself today. Never a good sign. Chiyotairyu is quite solid this basho, and is looking for a strong finish. Much like Natsu, I expect a handful of lower Maegashira to approach or achieve 10 win records, and be nominated for a beat down in the joi in September.

Aoiyama vs Chiyonokuni – Speaking of the Aki bruise and ache club, Aoiyama is one shy of kachi-koshi now, and may be able to lock up his majority wins against Chiyonokuni. There are significant logistical and mechanical problems to fighting someone the size and geometry of Aoiyama. If you don’t get inside of him fast and apply torsion to his upper torso (aka a Tokyo Twister), he tends to pummel you senseless with those giant fleshy arms, all the while hypnotizing you with his pendulous man-boobs. Whatever you do, Chiyonokuni – don’t look.

Okinoumi vs Onosho – Okinoumi seems to have gotten in his grove and is at least putting up a good contest, but at the moment Onosho refuses to lose. So I am guessing this may go fast. This is their first meeting, and I am sure that Onosho is going to open hard and fast. Hopefully he keeps his eyes on Okinoumi, as the veteran might be wise to consider a full or mini-henka.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Shodai’s closing move on his day 8 match may have escaped fans, but it was very careful and quite precise. I tend to give Shodai a hard time because of his tachiai, but he is a solid sumotori in so many other areas. A chest-to-chest battle with Tochinoshin won’t be to Shodai’s advantage, so I will be curious to see what strategy he employs.

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – These two have split their 6 prior matches, and it’s bound to be a good fight this time. Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to have found some energy, and is actually putting up some decent sumo now. Mitakeumi is likely smarting from his day 8 loss (he even landed hard). I expect Mitakeumi to be fired up and for the Kyushu Bulldozer to move fast to control the match and keep Mitakeumi from a run-and-gun strategy, which favors him.

Tamawashi vs Takakeisho – Tamawashi is teetering on the edge of getting into losing territory. He wants to make a strong case to begin Ozeki consideration, and he needs to win from here on out to do that. Takakeisho has been getting pounded daily, and everyone expected that. But Takakeisho mounts the dohyo and gives it all each time, which tells us he will be back, and more prepared next time. His romper room special with Hakuho seems to have not damaged his confidence, which I was fairly sure it would not. Seriously folks, these sumotori are physically and mentally tough people. Heya life is rough, and its a very Darwinistic culture.

Takayasu vs Yoshikaze – Evenly matched by their prior bouts. Sadly this is probably the match where Yoshikaze’s face starts bleeding daily as Takayasu has become very fond of forearm smashes at the tachiai. Yoshikaze seems to be a notch lower in intensity than the first 5 days, and I seriously worry he is hurt.

Ura vs Harumafuji – We all know that Harumafuji is going to win handily, but like his match with Hakuho, I think we are going to see Ura make “The Horse” work for it. Their first match, and it will likely be fast.

Hakuho vs Kagayaki – After standing up manfully to Harumafuji, Kagayaki draws an appointment with “The Boss”. I am certain of a Hakuho win (to tie Chiyonofuji’s all time win score of 1045), but how long can Kagayaki stay in the match? The man in gold is about to find out.

Nagoya Day 4 Highlights


Hakuho-Classroom

Nagoya Crazy Train Still Rolling On.

Many sumo fans assumed that at some point this week, the Nagoya bahso would settle down to a standard sumo grind, but this basho is a run away beer truck rolling down hill. The only hope we have is to climb on board and drink the contents while the ride lasts.

With Yokozuna Kakuryu’s withdrawal from the basho, the noises of his retirement have returned at an elevated volume. I think it would be a great loss for sumo, given that his style is fairly unique. But it’s clear that his body is not up to the challenge of supporting the intense schedule of the modern sumo year.

There was a good amount of concern and confusion in today’s match between Ura and Onosho. To the fans in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnaisum, it must have looked that Onosho was a clear winner. In fact it seems that both rikishi were not quite certain who had won. As the gyoji handed the kensho to Ura, the shimpan rose, and Ura assumed that a monoii had been called. Looking confused, he tried to hand the kensho back to the gyoji. In fact it was simply the half way break, and the Shimpan were changing over.

Lastly, in a bout that I loved, but that many in Japan are criticizing, Hakuho completely and utterly deconstructed fast rising star Takakeisho in the final match of the day. It’s quite understandable that Takakeisho would be in awe of his first ever match against the dai-Yokozuna, and Hakuho played on that. After a series of tsuppari delivered to the young challenger, Takakeisho backed off and waited. This prompted Hakuho to encourage him to attack, and it devolved into butsugari geiko. This may not quite make sense, but in that 30 second bout, Hakuho reduced Takakeisho from challenger, to student. Personally I found it endearing, but it seems that a good amount of the sumo mainstays in the NSK found it quite insulting.

Selected Matches

Nishikigi defeats Sokokurai – Nishikigi continues to look renewed in his return to Makuuchi. He is now 4-0 and half way to his kachi-koshi. Sokokurai put up a good fight, but Nishikigi was not going to lose.

Tokushoryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Tokushoryu completely overpowered Chiyonokuni in this match, which resulted in a monii. I have to wonder if Chiyonokuni is nursing some injury from Natsu, as he continues to turn in dismal results.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Aoiyama the man mountain continues to dominate, and remains unbeaten thus far. I am certain that Maegashira 8 is the perfect rank for Aoiyama, as he seems to be doing very well with this degree of difficulty.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – Ishiura showed up with some really solid sumo today, and the crowd loved it. I am not sure if he has physical or confidence problems, but everyone is hoping to see that same hard-charging sumo machine that first entered Makuuchi in January.

Ura defeats Onosho – In addition to the post-match confusion, this was some really solid sumo from both men. Onosho really pushed hard from the tachiai, but lost momentum moments from victory. His final pulling throw at the edge saw his foot out for just a moment as Ura took flight.

Tochiozan defeats Endo – Something happened at the tachiai, and Endo more or less stopped trying just after the initial charge. All of sumo hopes Endo is not harboring some performance limiting injury.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu’s initial shoulder blast seems to have disoriented Mitakeumi, who was never able to get stable and attack. Takayasu continued to press the attack and move forward, and prevailed. This is two days in a row where it seems Mitakeumi became disoriented after a really solid blow to the head on the tachiai.

Goeido defeats Ikioi – Example of Goeido 2.0 behavior. Explode into the tachiai, carry that momentum into your opponent’s chest and just run him off the dohyo. Sadly Ikioi is winless.

Hokutofuji defeats Terunofuji – Hokutofuji is holding up very well against sumo’s top ranks. If he can stay healthy, he will join them before long. It’s clear that Terunofuji is struggling daily to compete through the pain.

Kisenosato defeats Shodai – All of the sumo world breaths a sigh of relief. Not only did he win, but he was producing power through his left side. Maybe he can make a go of it after all. Shodai, of course, had a terrible tachiai.

Harumafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Excellent deploy of Harumafuji’s mini-henka, against an opponent who sort of expected it.

Hakuho defeats Takakeisho – In what I can only call “Mole Boss Sumo”, Hakuho is cat to Takakeisho’s mouse. When they made this Yokozuna, they broke the mould. Much respect to Takakeisho for continuing to try to attack in spite of Hakuho batting him around like a piece of twine.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview


Endo-Doomed

With Kakuryu Out, Endo Joins The Meat Grinder.

Blog contributor and reader Iksumo has correctly pointed out that with Yokozuna Kakuryu’s withdrawal from the Nagoya Basho, Maegashira 3w joins the joi. Readers may have seen us use the term “joi” in the past. It is a fairly loose reference to the top echelon of Makuuchi; those that will have to face Yokozuna and Ozeka as fodder for their sport. Luckily Endo has been in the joi several times before, and is more than ready to take his turn in the meat grinder.

Day 3 gave some comfort to long time sumo fans. At long last all 3 Ozeki won, and Yokozuna Harumafuji scored his first win. But Harumafuji looked far from his poised, aggressive self both before the match and after. He is clearly in a good amount of pain in his lower body, and I worry that he too may find it necessary to sit out some part of this basho.

Sadly, Kisenosato is also looking damaged, and we face a real possibility that we could only have one Yokozuna active (Hakuho) during week two.

Matches We Like

Gagamaru vs Kotoyuki – Both of these rikishi have had a terrible start to this tournament. Gagamaru especially has not been doing well, and is clearly in pain. Kotoyuki as well suffers from a host of injuries, and spent a day kyujo during Natsu.

Nishikigi vs Sokokurai – Nishikigi really has found his stride, and is working to show that he belongs in Makuuchi. He has only faced Sokokurai once before, and lost. Given his 3-0 start, he may be ready to even the score.

Aoiyama vs Shohozan – “Big Guns” Shohozan goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama wins in terms of bulk, power and reach. But Shohozan can take a shot and give as good as he gets. If they get started well, this could be a slap fest for the ages. Aoiyama leads the career series 12-6, so advantage to the Bulgarian.

Ura vs Onosho – Ura was off his sumo on day 3, and I wager he will be back in form for Onosho, whom he has faced several times in the past, and defeated 3 times to 1 loss. Onosho is unbeaten so far this basho, and is looking quite strong and confident. This match has a lot of potential.

Tochiozan vs Endo – Both of these rikishi come into today with 2-1 records, and both of them have been looking fairly well thus far. Endo needs to tune up for his rotation through the upper ranks, but Tochiozan tends to beat Endo with a high degree of predictability.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – The shin-Ozeki vs the future-Ozeki. Day 3 Mitakeumi seemed to have stopped prematurely, so he will get a chance today to apply his sumo with gusto. Takayasu leads their series 5-3, but Mitakeumi has a lot to prove.

Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Injured Terunofuji vs the up-and-coming Maegashira who has shown a lot of poise, ingenuity and strength. This is their first meeting, so once again we get to see how both men handle the first encounter.

Kisenosato vs Shodai – Should Kisenosato drop this bout to Shodai, it will be very dark days for the newest Yokozuna indeed. It is clear that he has not recovered, and that thus far he has not been fighting at even Ozeki level. Shodai will (hopefully) get his tachiai together for day 4.

Tochinoshin vs Harumafuji – With Harumafuji sore, Tochinoshin has a real chance for another kinboshi. More recent followers of sumo may not know this, but at one time Tochinoshin (before his injuries) as a serious contender for upper ranks. It is really nice to see him competing at this level once more. Harumafuji leads the career bouts 21-6.

Hakuho vs Takakeisho – Yet another first meeting, this time the hard charging up and comer goes face to face with the dai Yokozuna. I am sure that Takakeisho will be a bundle of nerves, but I just hope he puts up a good struggle.