Natsu Day 9 Preview

As lksumo has pointed out, the day 8 results have thrown what had been a fairly orderly basho into chaos. I love it. In addition to defeats of both yusho race leaders, we seem to have a possible re-kyujo of shin-ozeki Takakeisho. I can almost guarantee that the YDC is going to complain about it should he re-kyujo. To some extent, they have a point. Stay off the dohyo unless you are fit to compete. I give Takakeisho a lot of latitude myself, as he is young and has a foreshortened sense of the long road that could be / should be ahead of him. Should he decide he is out for good, Tochinoshin would get the fusen-sho white star, and his kachi-koshi by default win.

There are 3 leaders now in the Makuuchi yusho arasoi, each one of them is far from invincible, and everyone knows that. This makes the week 2 matches against the Ozeki and Yokozuna that much more meaningful, as any of them, or all of them, could be taken down again. For Goeido and Takayasu, they are still walking a narrow path to their 8, but each needs just 3 more wins to avoid kadoban. For Takayasu, I forsee trouble on day 9.

Natsu Leaderboard

Are you ready for this? Because this is how nuts it became.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chaser: Abi, Ryuden, Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Daishoho

7 Matches Remain

The first reader who dares to comment “Shodai Yusho!” Is going to be fined 1000 Genki points.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Toyonoshima vs Enho – Sumo fans can’t get enough Enho, myself included. Veteran Toyonoshima has yet to beat him, so we may see more pixie magic on Monday.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Enho’s day 8 match makes a good template for a small guy to tie someone like Chiyomaru in knots, so let’s see if Terutsuyoshi can enact a similar battle plan. Just don’t slow down, don’t stand still and never be in any one spot for more than 1 second.

Ishiura vs Yago – Ishiura is trying to copy some of Enho’s fire, but he’s still a work in progress. Yago is a giant who packs a lot of power but is not capable of rapid lateral motion. He’s leagues better than Chiyomaru, but it should be possible to keep Yago from getting too stable on his feet, and use that to divert his own energy into Ishiura’s offensive moves.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – I am really looking forward to this match, as they are basically the same guy (much like Ikioi and Ryuden) about 5 years apart. That 5 year gap leaves Kotoeko employing a lot of frantic energy, and Tochiozan employing a lot of guile and cunning. Kotoeko won their only prior meeting.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Whatever is plaguing Kagayaki is not easing up, and if Shodai can continue to put that much energy into his post-tachiai sumo, it’s going to be a fun match. I am sure Kagayaki will consult his mental catalog of great sumo, and then Shodai will unleash some sort of strong random stuff and leave Mr Fundamentals stumped. Shodai leads their career series 3-1.

Onosho vs Yoshikaze – I can only imagine that Onosho re-watched that match with Meisei in slow motion a few dozen times, each time wondering what he could have done differently to prevent that whole attack from blowing up in his face. Shake it off Jr Tadpole! You have to face a faltering Yoshikaze on day 9. This match makes me sad on many levels.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Let me guess, Nishikigi lets Takarafuji get morozashi, then pins his arms and uses that to push Takarafuji around like a hand truck.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Yusho co-leader Asanoyama faces shin-Ikioi in the first match of the second half. Asanoyama has lost the last 5 consecutive matches to Ryuden. But I don’t think I have seen Asanoyama in better form, ever. These guys are going to be joi-jin mainstays next year, I would guess. So let’s hope this turns into a great sumo rivalry.

Tamawashi vs Daieisho – After putting dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna, it’s time for Tamawashi to patrol the upper Maegashira ranks. He holds a 5-2 advantage over Daieisho, so I am starting to wonder if we might see Tamawashi kachi-koshi and possibly a candidate for san’yaku yet again.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is in a pretty deep hole, and I want him to rally starting day 9 and press hard. Endo can execute amazing technical sumo as we saw on day 8, but sometimes there is no remedy for 400 pounds of high-energy rikishi on a collision course.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – In spite of what you may assume, they are fairly evenly matched with a 5-4 career advantage for Mitakeumi. Hokutofuji is still a bit hit-or-miss with his sumo, so I am going to assume that if the gyoji can keep out of the way, we will see Mitakeumi inch closer to his 8th.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these men are in a deep hole in terms of win/loss, but frankly I would rather see Kotoshogiku make it to kachi-koshi right now. Give the old guy one more run at the top as a way to say thank you for being one of the best in a generation.

Goeido vs Abi – I am going to state that this match is going to be over quickly. If Goeido can get a proper launch off, it’s going to be unlikely for Abi to stop his forward pressure. This is why I think we will see at least one matta, to help dither Goeido’s timing.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am going to assume this one won’t happen. The story is all over the Japanese press that Takakeisho will return to kyujo status, but no official word from the NHK as of right now. But if it does happen, I think we are going to see Tochinoshin struggle to land a grip, and Takakeisho possibly blow out his knee, joining Ura on the “could have been” list of sumo. Update: NHK has announced the withdrawal. -lksumo https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20190520/k10011922041000.html

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – You might think “Maegashira 5 vs Ozeki, this is a gimme”. Well, Takayasu has a 7-11 Myogiryu deficit. Granted, all of their recent meetings have been all Takayasu, but we know for certain that Myogiryu knows how to beat him. Takayasu needs 3 more to pick up his kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu’s day 8 loss has punctured the illusion of superior invincibility that tends to surround sumo’s Yokozuna. With that mental barrier broken (both in Kakuryu’s mind and the mind of the rest of his opponents), the chances of his tasting clay again have gone up. Okinoumi is only in fair condition this basho, so I am not looking for him to produce an upset on day 9.

Natsu Day 8 Highlights

Endo – The Golden

What better time to really shake up the basho than the middle day? The first week was nothing but warm up, a prelude if you will to the real contest that starts now. And change was afoot in the Kokugikan, with losses dealt to fan-favorites up and down the banzuke. Some of that will be covered in today’s “Ones to Watch” post, some of it… Now.

Day 8 Highlights

Daishoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tries to be as low as possible, and leaves himself wide open for Daishoho to apply lateral and downward force. The result is a nicely executed katasukashi, with Daishoho rendering a look of both satisfaction and amusement that Terutsuyoshi thought that what he was doing was going to work.

Kotoeko vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu suffers again from his “cab forward design”, as Kotoeko expertly uses Tokushoryu’s propensity to fall forward to great effect.

Enho defeats Chiyomaru – Everyone was hyped for this match, and it did not disappoint. Enho does a masterful job of not staying still long enough for Chiyomaru to do anything rather than get frustrated. Enho grabs a leg and helps Chiyomaru out. As I love to say, being enormous is not necessarily a sumo tactic. Especially if you fight Enho.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a hit-grab-shift, but Shimanoumi stays focused on Ishiura’s center-mass and rolls with him, never allowing Ishiura to generate any real offense.

Shohozan defeats Yago – In the battle of the giant heads, it’s great to note that you have Yago expending a lot of energy flailing away, and you have Shohozan who stays compact and low. He keeps Yago in front of him, and is very efficient with his sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Sadanoumi gets the job done by repeatedly overwhelming all attempts by Tochiozan to change the pace and form of the match to his terms. Sadanoumi works quickly, and keeps changing the attack profile, and always moving forward.

Shodai defeats Tomokaze – There are days when (as readers note) I think Shodai is a complete chump who stumbled into the top division, but he’s so nice and so polite no one wants to ask him to leave. Then there are days when this form of Shodai shows up and you go “daayyymm”. True to form, Shodai’s tachiai is terrible, but after that it’s ka-boom!

Meisei defeats Onosho – Watch this match in slow-motion. Now watch it again. It’s over in a blink of an eye, but you can see Meisei instinctively react and execute with perfection after Onosho lands a forceful tachiai, and looks ready to bowl Meisei over.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – It was not flashy, it was not amazing, but Asanoyama got the job done. He is looking really sharp this basho, and his fans hope that he’s made a step change to his sumo.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – again we don’t see much offense from Yoshikaze, but sadly we did not see much offense from Kagayaki either. This was a kind of pointless match where they both could have taken a kuroboshi and gone to the pub instead.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi still showing up, but whatever kami had a hold of him earlier this year is back in whatever massive tree it normally inhabits. Ryuden keeps plugging away, and we will see him near the top of the rank and file in July, I would guess.

Daieisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has nothing to bring to this match, no canon-ball tachiai, no blistering tsuppari, he’s just not brining his best sumo. Daieisho does his part by driving hard and focusing on Chiyotairyu’s expansive upper body.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Matta, Matta, ker-blam! Hokutofuji shuts down Abi-zumo for a moment, but then Hokutofuji decides to try a pull / slap down, and reaches high. This opens up his chest and here comes the double arm shove from Abi. Hokutofuji needs a formula to win against this guy.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – Fans know Endo is a master technician who many times can’t quite execute his brilliant sumo plans. But then you have today where he sacrifices a chance at Tochinoshin landing his lethal left in order to latch a mae-mitsu with the right hand. He mixes that with a pivot and a bit of luck (Tochinoshin loses traction) and its uwatedashinage magic at the shikiri-sen. Tochinoshin picks up his first loss.

Aoiyama defeats Takakeisho – On one hand, I could complain that Man-mountain Aoiyama executed a henka like a chump. Or I could look at this as the easiest way to defeat Takakeisho without taking much of a chance at further injuring him. One thing is clear, the path to kachi-koshi just got a lot more risky for Takakeisho.

Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi made this harder than it should have been, but I liked it because it was an excellent showcase for Takayasu’s really outstanding yotsu abilities. I am sticking with the theory that Takayasu is low-function now due to injury.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Goeido gets a lucky break when the tata-gyoji scampers to a bad position on the dohyo and arrests Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, allowing Goeido to rally and carry the match. Truth be told, Goeido looked sharp this match, putting in doubt my theory that his ankle is back in poor shape.

Tamawashi defeats Kakuryu – Tamawashi focuses, pushes and drives. He is rewarded with his 3rd kinboshi and a storm of zabuton flying at the dohyo. Kakuryu takes his first trip to the clay, and suddenly the chase for the Emperor’s Cup is blown wide open.

With no rikishi now undefeated, the stage is set for a brutal brawl to the finish, it’s anyone’s guess who will take the yusho.

Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of the basho. A reminder to fans around the world: NHK World Japan will be carrying the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live on their global streaming service. With Abema now a fading memory for many sumo fans, this is your ticket to live sumo action. So stay up, stay engaged and watch sumo!

The big news is that Ozeki Takakeisho is going to attempt to return to competition today. He went kyujo earlier in the tournament after day 4, when he strained his knee in a surprising yotsu match against Mitakeumi. Also on the hurt list is Kaisei, who seems to have suffered at least minor damage to his right arm in his loss to Ryuden. Word is he may go has gone kyujo from day 8 to give his arm a chance to recover.

Natsu Leaderboard

Time to dig into the yusho race for the Natsu basho. With only two undefeated rikishi on day 8, it may seem quite clear. But I am going to guess that someone gets dirt on both Kakuryu and Tochinoshin before Wednesday, and this one may come down to a closer race than it looks today.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser: Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Tochiozan, Enho, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyoshoma vs Daiamami – With Takakeisho returning, the imbalance in the torikumi returns, and we are once against having a daily Juryo visitor to the top division. Today it’s former Maku-man Daiamami, who does not seem to be on track to win back his top division slot this tournament. Chiyoshoma has never lost to him, either.

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi seemed to wake up in his day 7 match against Enho, and we do hope he can stay awake and fighting well. The two are fairly evenly matched, and I would expect that we may see Terutsuyoshi attempt more “stunt sumo” like that leg sweep he used day 7 that delighted everyone.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – The NHK announcers keep pointing out how Kotoeko has not had a kachi-koshi in the top division yet, which was interesting but is now a bit stale. He is moving well, fighting well now, and dominating many of his matches. With 5 wins, we are likely to see him break that run of make-koshi, and find his place in the top division. Tokushoryu on the other hand seems to not really have a handle on his sumo right now, which is a shame.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – The ultimate big vs small battle—Chiyomaru is 2x Enho’s mass. Think about that – it would take 2 Enho units to make 1 Chiyomaru unit. But that being said, we are all really interested to see what kind of pixie magic Enho unleashes to send Chiyomaru tumbling.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – There are plenty of comments that Ishura’s sumo has morphed closer to Enho’s – to which I say “Good!”. The fact that Ishiura has returned to actual aggressive sumo is nothing but a plus all around, and I hope it’s here to stay. Shimanoumi fans are starting to hope that he’s got his sumo back in shape, and can at least make a fair try at a winning record.

Shohozan vs Yago – Both of these men have oversized heads. It’s as simple as that. I think Yago’s head is larger, and it’s certainly more conical than most. Shohozan’s is large and blocky, and seems to be permanently configured to scowl. Maybe we should call it “Resting Shohozan Face”. I think Yago wants revenge for that Osaka Oshidashi, so he will need to be more mobile than he typically is, as Shohozan refuses to stand still most days.

Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – If Sadanoumi can get control in the first 5 seconds, he can limit Tochiozan’s sumo, which he must do in order to win. Tochiozan will, as always, play to stalemate and wait for an advantage to appear. The longer the match lasts, the better for Tochiozan.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – First time match between these two, and it’s got a lot of interest. The aspect is that both of them are very mobile, and tend to have good lateral motion. Tomokaze tends to employ it at the center of the dohyo, Shodai at the tawara.

Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has yet to defeat Meisei in their 3 prior matches. The good news is that Meisei tends to win by grabbing Onosho and pushing him around for a loss, rather than by taking advantage of Onosho’s natural forward 10% list. Perhaps he should consult a naval architect after the basho and see if they can adjust his ballast tanks.

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Fans worried that Asanoyama’s day 6 loss would put him off his focus can rest easy—he returned to excellent form, and that brings us to a great pairing against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is also in the habit of exercising excellent form, coupled with excellent combination moves. I predict they go chest to chest early, and it’s a medley of move and counter move until Asanoyama wins.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – The battle of the broken toys. We see Mr. Fundamentals struggling with just one win, and Yoshikaze looking like his better days are past. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that Kagayaki will take his second win today.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – Kaisei is kyujo to heal up his right arm, Myogiryu gets the fusen win.

Nishikigi vs Ryuden – Nishikigi has been breaking out that armlock and double armlock a lot this basho, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ryuden when he has to break free. Ryuden is on pace to bid for a nice banzuke slot for Nagoya.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Time for Chiyotairyu to rehabilitate his record, and where better to start than with Daieisho, against whom he holds a 9-1 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Abi – The brotherhood of the flailing arms is in attendance; let the ceremony begin! The only prior match it was all Abi, but I think we may see more from Hokutofuji this time.

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – The enigma that is Ichinojo continues to befuddle. He’s hot, he’s cold, he fights, he loses. His fans want him to get it together, but something prevents it.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Cue sky crane in 3… 2… 1…

Takakeisho vs Aoiyama – Why you crazy Ozeki? I get it, hold up the tradition of Ozeki, the whole gaman thing, but Japan needs you to not wreck your body just yet. Okay, well, Aoiyama only looks to be operating on one reactor right now. You might be okay. Just no more yotsu until you are healed up.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs to rack a few more wins before the “tough” part of his schedule, and we hope his 12-3 career edge over Okinoumi counts as an advantage in this match.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Probably the big match of the second half, although the returning Takakeisho will get the hype. These two are actually fairly evenly matched, and I am less sure today that Goeido is fighting hurt. I know Mitakeumi can smell a return to Sekiwake, and it would be great for him to go into his Nagoya with double-digit wins at Natsu.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Tamawashi’s run-and-gun sumo is not overly effective against Kakuryu’s reactive style. I think this one goes to Big-K and he stays unbeaten.

Ozeki Takakeisho To Return Day 8

Courtesy of Sponichi news in Japan – Ozeki Takakeisho expects to return to the basho on day 8, to resume competition. He has stated that after using oxygen therapy on his knee, he feels ready to return to the doyho, prior to the 3 weeks recuperation directed by the doctor.

While it will be exciting to see Takakeisho unleash his trademark wave-action sumo, we hope he is recovered enough to ensure he does not compound any problems to that injured knee.

Good luck, tadpole!

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.