Takanoiwa Withdraws From Natsu


Takanoiwa

Delivers Harumafuji A Default Win

At the start of day 12 in Tokyo, it was announced via the sumo press that Maegashira 5 East Takanoiwa had withdrawn from Natsu due to injury. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

As a result, Yokozuna Harumafuji improves to 11-1 via the default win, and loses out on a fat stack of kensho that was likely coming his way.

Natsu Day 12 Preview


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Potential To Be The Pivotal Day

Yokozuna Harumafuji’s inadvertent step-out on day 11 appears to have set the stage for a number of resolutions to all the story threads, and we anticipate the resolutions may come day 12. With Harumafuji having a single loss, the yuchi is for Hakuho to lose. Hakuho certainly appears to be on a run towards a perfect score, but now with Kisenosato wisely focusing on recovery, the final match of the final day will be Hakuho vs Harumafuji.

That brings us to all of the stories that now hinge on day 12 bouts. This includes (there are probably more):

  • Goeido’s Kadoban Doom – He faces Aoiyama on day 12, whom he has beaten 17 of their 20 career matches. But Aoiyama gave Terunofuji (a tougher opponent this tournament) one hell of a fight on day 11. If Goeido loses this match, his chances of ending up with 8 wins becomes very small.
  • Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s Fade – We have talked about how it’s still quite plausible for Kotoshogiku to end up kochi-koshi and remain at Sekiwake for Nagoya. Obviously the NSK wants to continue to challenge Kotoshogiku, so he faces Mitakeumi on day 12. In one match we will have the bright future challenge the glorious past. Mitakeumi could end it for Kotoshogiku today.
  • Takayasu’s Ozeki Bid – One more win for the magic 33 for Takayasu, which is the minimum number of wins across 3 basho to be considered for Ozeki promotion. The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan must love Takayasu, as they have scheduled him to fight Takarafuji (who is already make-koshi, and obviously hurt) on day 12.

Add to that, many more rikishi are still battling to get their kochi-koshi and stave off demotion. We can count on the last 4 days being intense and competitive.

Natsu Leader board

Leader Hakuho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ura

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

*If there is one day to supplant your NHK Digest with the great works of Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama’s daily summary, it’s probably day 12. Too many crazy matches to let NHK pare it down.

Tokushoryu vs Onosho – The winner is kachi-koshi. There has only been 2 prior matches between these rikishi, and Tokushoryu has won them both. But it would be unwise to count out Onosho.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to fly below the radar for now, but he is starting to get his sumo together at the Makuuchi level. He has a slight 2-1 career advantage over Chiyotairyu, who is heavier and more compact. This should be a pretty good match if nobody blows the tachiai.

Hokutofuji vs Ura – It’s clear the schedulers are setting up fun and interesting matches for the fans. Both of these sumotori have secured winning records, but now let’s see how two up-and-coming wrestlers battle. We have to wonder what trick Ura is going to deploy next, possibly linking the multiverse together and putting several dozen Ura’s on the same dohyo for a split second.

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – Another in the “Let’s see what happens” series of day 12, Takakeisho is more or less a bowling ball with legs. What happens when you get a tall, super strong Tochinoshin to battle against him? Hey, let’s find out!

Chiyonokuni vs Yoshikaze – Time for Yoshikaze to get his kachi-koshi bid back on track. Chiyonokuni seems dispirited and maybe a bit injured, so perhaps the Berserker can rack up a win.

Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu is looking for win #10 and his bone fide for promotion to Ozeki. Takarafuji is looking hurt and disorganzied, so let’s see if Takayasu can seal the deal.

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – Kotoshogiku is one loss from further demotion, and Mitakeumi has been nominated to test his mettle. The concern I have on this match is that Mitakeumi will likely try to lock up Ojisan, and that plays directly into the infamous hug-n-chug. So it’s time to see if Mitakeumi can revert back to his pusher ways, or if he really has the strength to defeat Kotoshogiku chest to chest.

Terunofuji vs Shodai – Third in our series of “Let’s see what happens” bouts, let’s take two big, strong rikishi. Both are kind of sloppy in their techique, preferring to use brute force above technical prowess. My money is on Terunofuji, but this one is weird enough that you can’t discount Shodai doing something unexpected and scamming up Terunofuji’s sumo.

Aoiyama vs Goeido – Believe it or not, this one is probably the decider for Goeido. It would seem on paper to be a straightforward win for the Ozeki, but Goeido has struggled to be consistent this basho.

Tochiozan vs Hakuho – One directive now for Hakuho: don’t get injured prior to the day 15 showdown.

Harumafuji vs Takanoiwa – This could be really ugly for Takanoiwa, as I am sure Harumafuji is frustrated after his day 11 loss. Still hoping for the death spin this basho.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights


Takayasu

The Hard Chargers Already Achieve Kachi-Koshi.

Day 10, we saw a number of hard charging rikishi achieve their tournament winning records, known as kachi-koshi. This includes

  • Takayasu (actually secured day 9)
  • Terunofuji
  • Shodai
  • Tochinoshin
  • Ura

Kisenosato is in a tough spot – he is too injured to be competitive against the other Yokozuna and probably Terunofuji. There is a real chance he could end up with a make-koshi. Does he go kyujo? I think everyone would understand, but his pride would prevent him from sitting out the rest of the tournament. I am sure the NSK is worrying about what to do next.

The mess in Juryo continues to decay into radioactive slag. The chances of anyone being really worth to promote to Makuuchi is quite slime, as everyone in the top half of Juryo (and could be considered for promotion) has a record no better than 6-4. While there are several rikishi in Makuuchi worthy of return to Juryo, it’s going to be a real wild guess how the July banzuke is going to end up.

Takayasu’s Ozeki run has some problems, though he is likely to overcome. It’s the same issue that Kisenosato and Goeido face. With either Harumafuji or Hakuho healthy, it’s really tough towards impossible to be too dominant. With both of them healthy, you have to be thankful for every win in the upper ranks you can score. Fans will recall that this was the status quo for many years, and it’s one of the primary reasons Kisenosato stayed an Ozeki.

Selected Matches

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – This was a bit of a strange match. It quickly went to Yutakayama holding Ishiura by the armpits, with Ishura bent over at the waist with a firm grip on Yutakayama’s mawashi. They stayed like this for quite a while until Yutakayama broke the stalemate, and tossed Ishura like a pizza crust into the Shimpan.

Tochinoshin defeats Daishomaru – Another weird one, there were two mattas, each time Daishomaru attempted a very poor henka without putting his hands on the dohyo at the tachiai. The third try? Henka again, but Tochinoshin was having none of it, and Daishomaru was done. Congratulations to Tochinoshin for a fairly early kachi-koshi

Ura defeats Kaisei – Kaisei seemed to struggle to figure out what to do with Ura, who once again was very low at the tachiai. Ura established a firm double hand flab-hold and began to lead Kaisei around like some kind of farm animal. Ura finished Kaisei off with a rather clever leg trip, and had his 8th win. Congratulations to Ura for his kachi-koshi, too.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Very good bout right from the tachiai. Both rikishi struggled for control back and forth several times, and it seemed that Takanoiwa finally got the upper hand. Ichinojo was able to halt Takanoiwa’s charge at the tawara, and applied a rather well executed tsukiotoshi for the win.

Shodai defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai had early control of this match, and looked to be in charge. But he could not put Shodai away. Shodai allowed Sokokurai to do all the work, and as Sokokurai tired, Shodai battled him back to the center of the dohyo. Sokokurai rallied and moved Shodai to the edge, but once again could not finish him. With his heels on the tawara, Shodai applied a somewhat clumsy tsukiotoshi to win the match. Shodaim also picks up his kachi-koshi

Terunofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze started out with an attack plan, and engaged with vigor. However, he was up against a kaiju, who had no interest in playing with the berserker. Terunofuji picked him up like a puppy and set him outside the tawara. Yoshikaze to his credit knew the match was lost and went along with it. Terunofuji also hits 8 wins and claims his kachi-koshi.

Goeido defeats Chiyoshoma – Looked like Goeido 2.0. Keep in mind Goeido is kadoban this tournament, and is still 2 wins from reaffirming his rank. He has some tough matches coming up during the rest of this week.

Harumafuji defeats Tochiozan – Showing that he was not as injured as we feared yesterday, Harumafuji launched off the line and pushed Tochiozan directly out. It was no contest.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kisenosato – The sad tale of Kisenosato’s injuries continues. In his loss, the Japanese Yokozuna prolonged the inevitable for Kotoshogiku by another day.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu put everything he had into this match, but he was completely out-classed by Hakuho. Hakuho secured a solid mawashi grip early, and Takayasu struggled to get any traction. As Takayasu struggled to set up a throw, Hakuho decided he was done playing, lowered his head and his hips and drove them both off the dohyo, landing in the first row of zabuton. Some really good sumo. But it’s clear that the last 2 wins Takayasu needs to secure a bit to be promoted to Ozei will not be an easy run.

Natsu Day 9 Highlights


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Daieisho Finally Wins One

The injured Kisenosato gave up his second kinboshi today, this time to a resurgent Tochiozan. It’s been amazing to watch Kisenosato stay competitive in spite of his almost useless left upper body, but perhaps there is now a working formula to defeat him in his weakened state.

Goeido went down to Terunofuji, even though it looks like Goeido 2.0 showed up. With Terunofuji in Kaiju mode, there is not much that can slow him down. On day 8 when he picked up a bulky and squirming Mitakeumi by the shoulders and lifted him past the tawara, it was clear that everyone was in danger.

The other big news is that Kotoshogiku avoided make-koshi today by winning against Endo. Somehow Endo allowed himself to be wrapped up for a hug-n-chug, which Kotoshogiku was all to happy to apply. While it is a reprieve, the chances that Kotoshogiku won’t end up with a strong losing record are incredibly small. Will he endure a demotion back to Maegashira? Or will he take his kabu and retire to a new role helping to run and build the world of sumo?

Selected Highlights

Kyokushuho defeats Chiyotairyu – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho did in fact beat Chiyotairyu, but rather than expected slapping match, it was a straight mawashi test of strength bout.

Tokushoryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama picks up his make-koshi, and will probably be headed back to Juryo, that is if there is anyone in Juryo worth of promotion. This was another really fine mawashi battle that saw both rikishi put forth a strong effort.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – Ishiura pulls a henka after a possibly deliberate false start. Normally I would not support henka, but Ishiura is really up against the wall in terms of a winning vs losing record.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Another battle of the mawashi (it seems to have been the day for it) that saw Kagayaki’s winning streak stopped. Fantastic effort by Onosho to first stop and then reverse Kagayaki relentless forward motion. Once he got Kagayaki moving backwards, it was all over.

Ura defeats Shohozan – Plasticman again stays ridiculously low, and baffles his opponent. The formula seems to be for him to get his opponent wrapped up on his shoulders then push them rapidly backwards and out. Hey, it’s working! Maybe it’s the chonmage-toshi?

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – It was 100% Shodai from the start, as Hokutofuji never got his feet steady. In spite of Shodai’s sloppy tachiai, he was able to get Hokutofuji high and off balance due to Hokutofuji’s even sloppier tachiai today.

Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Very quick kotenage from Ikioi. The two grappled briefly at the tachiai, but Ikioi deftly rolled Takanoiwa into the rolling throw and the match was done.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – YES, that’s right, winless Daieisho finally scores his first win this basho, and did it in pretty good style. Watch this one if they show it on the highlights.

Yoshikaze defeats Mitakeumi – A strong start saw Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi locked up at the center of the dohyo, each trying to push the other backwards. Well, it seems to have been a strategy for Yoshikaze, because after a few moments of egging Mitakeumi on, he backed off and slapped him down. A veteran exploiting the rookies bravado and enthusiasm. We still love you Mitakeumi, you are going to be a big deal soon.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Takayasu has his kachi-koshi, but his real goal of 10 wins is still 2 away. Chiyonokuni initiated a vigorous thrusting match at first, but as we have seen this basho, Takayasu stood up to it like a man made of stone. He waited for his opportunity, and grabbed Chiyonokuni’s mawashi and took control. Moments later the uwatenage was applied and Chiyonokuni was on the clay.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – This was all Tochiozan from the tachiai, Kisenosato was high and off balance at once. Tochiozan walks away with his very own kensho Mt. Fuji diorama.

Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – Big Aoiyama had nothing, it was another example of The Boss having his way with any rikishi he faces. May be somewhat unstoppable until he faces Harumafuji.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi actually presented a reasonable challenge for a few seconds, and that just seemed to really fire up Harumafuji, who just poured on the forward pressure. Both rikishi ended up launching into the first row of zabuton. It did look as if maybe Harumafuji had some pain in his knee after their crash landing, we hope he is ok.

 

Natsu Day 6 Highlghts


Hakuho

It Feels Like An Old Fashioned Basho.

Remember last year when every tournament was a contest between Hakuho and Harumafuji to see which one could go without losing a single bout? Those were heady days when to two Mongolian super-sumotori ruled the dohyo, and nobody could really do much to them.

Then there were injuries, hospitalization, recuperation, and problems galore. For fans of these two great Yokozuna, it’s quite enjoyable to see them dominant once more. Each has a powerful and distinctive style of sumo that will be sorely missed once they retire (which is coming sooner than any of us want).

Items of note

Takayasu lost his first match today to fellow Sekiwake Tamawashi. This match was lost at the tachiai, which was sloppy for Takayasu. He slipped to 5-1

Goeido seems to be running the 2.0 software again, which I really like. I have had fears over the stability of his injured ankle, but it would seem that he is back to something close to his Aki form, which is excellent Ozeki class sumo.

Also working hard to ensure we never get to No-Zeki is Terunofuji. Today he looked like a cat toying with a grasshopper. Even the gyoji caught a piece of the action.

Select Matches

Onosho defeats Kotoyuki – Onosho continues to impress. Today he exploded into the tachiai and the momentum just carried Kotoyuki out.

Ura defeats Ichinojo – Simple, Ichinojo let Ura dictate the form of the match. Ura went low, stayed low, Ichinojo tried to follow and Ura was in control. Done.

Kagayaki defeats Takakeisho – A festival of pushing, shoving, slapping and bashing until Takakeisho lost his balance and fell. The pushme-pullyous seems to be running sumo now. Did everyone forget the rest of the kimarate list?

Takanoiwa defeats Shodai – Shodai is still too high at the tachiai, and never got his footing.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – Tamawashi won this one on the line. Takayasu was off balance from the start, and Tamawashi made him pay for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Kotoshogiku – Good bye Kotoshogiku, you were one of the good ones, and you will be sorely missed, as you are a real character. But you have nothing left, please take your kabu and become a great leader of young rikishi. Also, Yoshikaze is really running well this basho.

Terunofuji defeats Chiyonokuni – Like a ping pong match with 300 pound plus big men. And to be honest, it was all Terunofuji. Sadly the Gyoji got in the way at some point and got hit with Chiyonokuni being tossed around like a hacky-sack. It’s strange to say, but it looks like both Ozeki are running well this basho, and its so very very welcome.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Aggressive, adaptive, committed. Goeido 2.0 was on the dohyo today, and he provided Mitakeumi with a valuable lesson. No plan survives first contact, and Goeido got inside his decision loop and shut him down.

Kisenosato defeats Daieisho – Kisenosato got the easy match today. Poor Daieisho is far out of his element. He will be back, but we hope he is not damaged by this tournament ranked much higher than he should be right now.

Hakuho defeats Endo – Hakuho could have won this match in the first three seconds, but he was not going to let Endo off easily. He kept slapping and pushing, pushing and slapping. Demonstrating the match was going to last until he got tired. well, Endo decided he had enough and exiting the dohyo after a solid push to give him cover.

Harumafuji defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is known for landing hay-makers, so what did Harumafuji do? Grabbed two handfuls of flabby breast meat and started shoving. Aoiyama was really unable to move his arms, or land any blows. Kind of disgusting, but effective.

Natsu Day 6 Preview


Takayasu-Endo

Start Of The Middle Act.

The middle part of any basho is where we find out who is going to have a shot at the yusho, and who is going to struggle to stay above 500. Right now its clear that both Hakuho and Harumafuji are fit, strong and in their groove. We also have a very solid performance from Takayasu thus far, and he seems to be well on his way towards hitting the 10 wins needed for consideration for promotion to Ozeki.

Indeed, Takayasu has stated in recent interviews that he is pressing for the yusho, and believes he sumo is up to the task. His tests against Hakuho and Harumafuji are yet to happen, but they are likely to decide if Takayasu’s goal might be within reach. We could reasonably expect those matches this weekend, though the scheduling team may hold them for later next week, as they are certain to be a big draw for fans. Takayasu is a bona fide hit with fans in the Kokugikan, and you can safely assume that carries out to fans watching at home. Right now, most of Japan wants to see Takayasu succeed.

Day 6 is next, though, and while there will likely be some great sumo today, there are no huge earth shattering bouts on the torikumi.

Matches We Are Following

Tokushoryu vs Chiyotairyu – Both rikishi have be fighting well this tournament, and their prior 8 matches are evenly split. I expect Chiyotairyu to try an early hatakikomi, and Tokushoryu working hard to lock up the mawashi.

Onosho vs Kotoyuki – This is their first meeting. Kotoyuki has been looking lack-luster for the past year or so, and may have finally sunk down the banzuke far enough that he is competitive. He certainly has been brining very good sumo this tournament, and was surprisingly fast to react in the first 5 days. Both are pushers so, lots of flailing arms here.

Ichinojo vs Ura – The fans love a big man – little man match, and this is one of the ultimates. I hope that Ura keeps his eyes on Ichinojo, and can stay mobile.

Hokutofuji vs Sokokurai – Sokokurai won both their prior match ups, but don’t assume Hokutofuji is going to lose this one. Hokutofuji is still working to become comfortable in Makuuchi, but from watching the first 5 days, he is starting to get his sumo together at this level.

Takanoiwa vs Shodai – Shodai has been hit or miss, and is night fighting as well this tournament as his 4-1 record would indicate. But he does somehow seem “blessed’ inside and outside the ring. Statistically Takanoiwa has a slight edge.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Sekiwake battle today, with most of Japan rooting for Takayasu. Takayasu has found a way to win every match thus far, but he and Tamawashi are a career 6-6. Probably one of the better matches today.

Terunofuji vs Chiyonokuni – Another match with a lot of potential, Chiyonokuni is losing a lot this tournament, but fighting very well. Terunofuji may have rekindled the spark of his sumo again that was so compelling during Osaka, so I would anticipate a brawl. Interestingly, Terunofuji lost their only prior match up.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – We have seen hints of Goeido 2.0 in the past couple of days, but Mitakeumi is at his career best right now. Mitakeumi did manage to beat Goeido once. It will be down to who shows up, Goeido 1.0 will lose this match, 2.0 will win it with a massive, rapid burst of offense that will overwhelm Mitakeumi.

Endo vs Hakuho – Only interesting because I am curious what kind of maneuver The Boss is going to use to crumple Endo.

Natsu Day 2 Preview


Yoshikaze-Kensho-Pile

Why is this man so happy?

A Test of Strength and Speed

The picture above says it all, Yoshikaze with that enormous stack of kensho that had been intended for Kisenosato (maybe to buy a second dump truck?). As our readers were probably aware, the amount of factual information about the top rikishi in the Japanese press leading up to the Natsu basho was thin and questionable. With so many top men, including the start of sumo Kisenosato, in damaged and possibly underperforming shape, they kept the focus on things other than the athlete’s health.

But when the basho starts, that curtain must lift and the rikishi face off on the dohyo, and those with glaring weakness are revealed. This was the case with Kisenosato, Goeido and Terunofuji at a minimum. Specifically Kisenosato clearly had trouble transmitting power through the left side of his body. Yoshikaze is fast, smart and agressive, and it took a few fractions of a second for him to figure that out and formulate a winning attack plan.

Everyone in Japan wants to see Kisenosato continue to dominate, but given the medical facts, he may need surgery and several months of recovery to get there.

We are several hours and two bowls of Chanko away from the start of Makuuchi, but here are the matches I would highlight for today:

Select Matches

Myogiryu vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama had a great first match on Sunday. This young rikishi has been on a metoric rise through the ranks, and if day 1 was any indication, he has plenty of upward velocity remaining.

Ura vs Kagayaki – Ura looked very good (and very Ura) on day 1, today he faces Kagayaki who has shown occasional flashes of greatness. I am eager to see more “plastic man” moves out of the pink devil, so bring on the action.

Takekaze vs Hokutofuji – Both of these rikishi were physically overwhelmed on day one, and both of them did not like it. Hokutofuji is pressing to bounce back from his first losing tournament in Osaka.

Ikioi vs Shodai – a pair of crowd favorites, Shodai literally startled me with his day one performance. Not having the benefit of the replay, I was left wondering what happened. This is probably going to be a very competitive match.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – I don’t quite feel sorry for Daieisho now in the land of the giants, but on day one against Takayasu, he looked completely out of place. Now he faces the other very strong up and coming rikishi in Mitakeumi. Due to the strangeness of sumo, Mitakeumi is still at Komusubi, while I think he is second in “threat power” to Takayasu, and well ahead of Kotoshogiku and Tamawashi.

Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – It’s crystal clear that Terunofuji’s knee is back on the disabled parts list, and he is possibly cruising towards a troubled tournament. This is very sad, as a healthy Terunofuji is a sumo excellence.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido’s ankle is clearly something he is either worried about, or he has problems. Goeido is very poor when he is fighting defensive sumo, and only really shines when he attacks almost recklessly. Takayasu needs 9 more wins to hit his 33.

Kisenosato vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi looked rather vague on day 1 against Goeido. Maybe he can provide a better warm up for Kisenosato than Yoshikaze did.

Yoshikaze vs Hakuho – I thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that I lived to see this one in person. I expect that Hakuho is going to dominate this bout, but if anyone can surprise The Boss, it’s my man Yoshikaze. If he wins, expect another brick sized pile of kensho and a smiling face at the top of the blog

Harumafuji vs Endo – Endo was surprising on day 1, but I am guessing Harumafuji is in marginally better condition than last basho (at least at the start), and will give him some trouble, and likely win.

Chiyonokuni vs Kakuryu – Chiyonokuni has come a long way in the past year, and is on the cusp of being a real contender. His chance comes today to make the zabuton fly, as Yokozuna Kakuryu can be hit-or-miss.

Next updates live from inside the Kokugikan (if the signal works)