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 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 15 Highlights


Kensho-Pile

It’s going to be light for the commentary today, as I am traveling to faraway lands on business. There was some fantastic action today, including a great yusho speech from Hakuho. Scandal hounds are, however, locked to the pounce position waiting for the post-basho fireworks.

As I am sure lksumo will describe in due time, there is another San’yaku log-jam, with a crowd of high-performing rikishi all clamoring for a pair of vacated slots. While it’s great to see so many press for higher rank, this is a function of the devastated Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Had the full roster been present and healthy, many of these men would be lucky to eke out an 8-7 kachi-koshi. Instead, we have, once again, significant score inflation due to a lack of top predators culling the herd. When there is Hakuho with his overwhelming sumo, and a crowd of everyone else, you have a rotating list of who gets to lose to Hakuho, and then everyone else slugging it out on more or less even footing. This makes the yusho race predictable, but it makes for exciting times lower down the banzuke.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Chiyoshoma – Uncle Sumo defeats the increasingly annoying Chiyoshoma to secure a storied kachi-koshi on the final day. Aminishiki was visibly emotional, and the Fukuoka Kokusai Center erupted in joy to see the veteran succeed in his quest. With his victory, he picks up the kanto-sho special prize.

Chiyonokuni defeats Takekaze – Takekaze delivered a brutal tachiai, but Chiyonokuni seems to fear no pain and blasts Takekaze over the edge. Sadly Chiyonokuni appeared genuinely injured after the match. The loss leaves Takekaze make-koshi.

Aoiyama defeats Shohozan – Shohozan has fought well this basho, but he achieved an absolutely miserable 3-12 record. The win by Aoiyama in the final match may slightly cushion the man-mountain’s fall down the banzuke.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – The match itself was quite straightforward, as there was really nothing left for Okinoumi to push for. Takakeisho’s oshi-zumo is quite impressive, and the team at Tachiai are waiting to see if he broadens his sumo to include more mawashi attacks as he strives for higher rank.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi made short work of Hokutofuji, and both men finish the basho with impressive 11-4 records. As with the prior bout, neither rikishi was going to push too hard and risk an injury, as both had achieved much and secured healthy promotions for Hatsu.

Onosho defeats Takarafuji – The red mawashi once again activated in a moment of need, powering Onosho over Takarafuji to place the mighty tadpole in competition for Yoshikaze’s vacated Sekiwake slot. Onosho had this match at the tachiai and easily picked up his kachi-koshi win. Takarafuji battled well this tournament but leaves with a 7-8 make-koshi. Scoff at the red mawashi superstition, but after starting the basho 1-6, Onosho reverted to his red mawashi and racked up 7 wins over the final 8 matches. It may have been as simple as a physical change to allow Onosho to emotionally re-focus his sumo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – In spite of a matta and re-start, the tachiai was mistimed and sloppy. Fans of local rikishi Kotoshogiku were thrilled to see the “Kyushu-bulldozer” lower the blade and push the Mongolian giant around the dohyo and into the abyss. Ichinojo finishes 10-5 and is at long last looking to be a serious competitor once more.

Mitakeumi defeats Yoshikaze – The all-Sekiwake bout was all Mitakeumi. With Yoshikaze injured, he picked up his 9th loss, and will likely be out of San’yaku for Hatsu. Mitakeumi improved to 9-6 after struggling with injuries to his foot at the start, but is still under-performing to launch an Ozeki campaign.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido put a strong effort into his sumo today, but Hakuho has been unstoppable this tournament, and after going chest to chest, the Yokozuna dispatched Goeido with his preferred uwatenage.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights


onosho

Day 14 saw a conclusion to the battle for the Emperor’s Cup, with Yokozuna Hakuho winning his 40th career yusho among a decimated field of upper ranked rikishi.

Some fans are already complaining that the Kyushu basho was somehow boring or anti-climatic. True, there were few legitimate challengers to Hakuho, but then again that would likely be true no matter what. Out of the 8 rikishi in sumo’s two highest ranks, only two men are able to mount the dohyo on the final day of this tournament. Some readers took exception to Tachiai’s early forecast that the relentless Jungyo-Honbasho schedule currently in force was crushing sumo as a marketable televised sport, but now with a string of basho piling up where the top men are not present, that prediction may be worthy of examination.

The good news is that a large, vigorous crop of young men are ready to fill the gap, but first, the Kyokai will need to nudge several long-suffering athletes into retirement. Thus far it has not happened, but we may see that change in the next few months.

Sumo has enjoyed a rather welcome revival in its home country of Japan. First and foremost, Grand Sumo is a business, and we can trust the Sumo Kyokai to do what it thinks is best to keep sumo’s revival healthy and growing.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Asanoyama – Kotoyuki went straight for a nodowa and marched the struggling Asanoyama backward off the dohyo. After a terrible start in Kyushu, Kotoyuki rallied and is now kachi-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A power sumo battle dominated by Kaisei who landed a left-hand outside grip early. Ikioi was able to pivot at the tawara and land the Brazilian out and down to pick up his 8th win.

Chiyomaru defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo’s bum legs have a tough time generating too much force, especially when he is facing a hefty rikishi like Chiyomaru. For the 4th straight day, Aminishiki failed to pick up his 8th win.

Tochinoshin defeats Kagayaki – After a somewhat shaky tachiai, both men battled to get an inside grip. Tochinoshin landed his right hand inside and took control of the match. His win gives him a kachi-koshi, while at the same time Kagayaki’s defeat secures his make-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – With Tochiozan seeming to suffer problems with his lower body, this mobile battle of tsuppari favored Chiyonokuni from the start. Both men are suffering painfully disappointing records this basho, and desperately need to regroup.

Tamawashi defeats Okinoumi – Tamawashi has employed the push-then-pull tactic before in this basho, and Okinoumi was on the defensive straight out of the tachiai. Where Okinoumi prefers to get some kind of grip established, Tamawashi was not going to let that happen. Tamawashi is looking like a strong contender to return to San’yaku for January.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyoshoma – From the tachiai, Chiyoshoma started aiming to land blows on Takakeisho’s damaged face and lip. Sadly for Chiyoshoma, this really seems to have gotten Takakeisho very motivated. While Chiyoshoma was focusing on Takakeisho’s face, Takakeisho landed his left-hand grip and quickly proceeded to give Chiyoshoma a vigorous exit from the dohyo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Both men have deep make-koshi records, both are local favorites, and both decided to turn it up to 11. The highlight of the match, and possibly the day: Shohozan uses Kotoshogiku’s solid grip on his body, to lift and swing the former Ozeki around, with his feet flying off the ground. But Kotoshogiku landed both feet back on solid earth and began his hug-and-chug attack. When he can set it up, there are few ways to counter the Kyushu Bulldozer, and it was seconds later that Shohozan was out.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – “The power of the red mawashi could not be undone” –  After a matta appetizer, the main event saw Hokutofuji quickly drive Onosho to the edge. But that was all that was needed for the red mawashi to activate, and Onosho basted back, driving Hokutofuji backward and out. After losing 6 of his first 7 matches, Onosho reverted to the red mawashi and has now won 6 of the last 7. A win tomorrow would lock in a great come from behind kachi-koshi. With Hokutofuji’s loss, the door was now open of Hakuho to clinch the yusho.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze clearly is having a lot of problem with the foot he injured earlier this week and has very little defensive or offensive push available. Thus Ichinojo only needed to use his massive size and strength to push Yoshikaze out. Yoshikaze is now make-koshi, and will possibly be out of San’yaku for January.

Mitakeumi defeats Arawashi – Mitakeumi locks in his kachi-koshi, overcoming a set of lower body injuries as well. While not yet performing at a level that could indicate a chance at campaigning for an Ozeki rank, his ability to hang onto San’yaku has been worthy of note. Mitakeumi’s 6th winning tournament this year.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji put up great resistance to Goeido’s offense, but the Ozeki carried that day. Goeido was in control of the match from the tachiai, and for a moment both men struggled for grip. Goeido landed a right hand inside early, and proceeded to use that leverage to progressively contain Takarafuji, and force him out.

Hakuho defeats Endo – This was always an odd match, with Endo not in a rank range that would typically face a Yokozuna, especially this late in the tournament schedule. But with so many Ozeki and Yokozuna out with injuries, it was pretty much “anything goes”. The match was over in a flash, with Hakuho’s tachiai blasting Endo completely off balance, and on his way off the dohyo. Hakuho then finished the job but sadly applied one of his dame-oshi at the close.

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 11 Highlights


WTF

For readers who don’t want to know the details of today’s bouts, including some oddities around Hakuho: stop reading now, and wait to see the NHK highlights later today. There will likely be a significant amount of discussion here and in other forums to examine that match, and we will cover it below. Yes, we are flying the rare but useful “What the hell was that?” tag on this post.

In order to give readers a bit of visual buffer on the page, let’s start from the lower Makuuchi matches of note…

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – After multiple basho of middling or weak performance, Okinoumi seems to be cleaning up in lower Makuuchi. After a brief oshi contest following the tachiai, Okinoumi established a solid right-hand grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi and marched Kagayaki backward and out for an easy win.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain Aoiyama has no strength in his injured legs, and in sumo, defense starts with the lower body. Asanoyama, who appeared to be headed towards make-koshi, is rallying and may finish with a respectable record.

Kotoyuki defeats Daieisho – Kotoyuki goes for the face straight out of the tachiai and puts Daieisho in a reactive mode. From there Kotoyuki keeps up the pressure and the oshi attack until Daieisho loses balance, handing Kotoyuki a much-needed victory.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – I would say that maybe, just maybe, Endo is back to workable health. At the tachiai, Endo tries to land a grip but is repelled by a solid thrusting attack by Nishikigi, forcing Endo back and to the bales, where he finally does land his right hand. From here Endo takes control and gets them chest to chest. Points to Nishikigi who rallies and moves to throw Endo, but can’t finish it. Instead, Endo improves his grip steadily and wins by yorikiri. Endo is now kachi-koshi and looking genki for the first time in what seems like ages.

Daiamami defeats Chiyomaru – A surprisingly solid match between two oshi-zumo men. The battle raged across the dohyo, with these two behemoths each testing their strength, and discovering that weighty men are difficult to push around. After tiring of this, the two go chest to chest and lean on each other for a time, breathing heavily. Daiamami returns to the attack first and neatly shoves Chiyomaru out.

Shodai defeats Aminishiki – A great effort from Uncle Sumo trying to prevent Shodai’s win. As always, Shodai comes in high in the tachiai, and Aminishiki begins to try and pull him forward and down. Clearly, Shodai is expecting this (and at this point, who isn’t) and manages to land a right-hand grip during all of the tugging. From there he takes control of Aminishiki, who knows that he has a problem. Both men work to throw the other, but it’s Shodai who seals the deal by reversing and pulling Aminishiki down. For a second day, Aminishiki misses out on his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi in a long time.

Kaisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Kaisei wins the tachiai, landing inside Chiyoshoma and putting a solid grip under both arms, and pressing forward with his enormous mass. Chiyoshoma counters well, landing his left hand on Kaisei’s mawashi, and loading up for a throw. But the giant Brazilian won’t go over. Chiyoshoma adds juice to the throw by trying to trip Kaisei, but even that is not enough, as Kaisei maintains excellent balance on his left leg alone. Time and again Chiyoshoma works to throw Kaisei, each time Kaisei counters until at the edge he manages to get him over, but sadly lands before Kaisei does, losing the match. Remember sumo fans, if you know you are going to fall, make sure you fall last.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – It seems that maybe Shohozan skipped anatomy class, as he repeatedly attempts to apply a strong nodowa against a man with no neck. This provides ample time for Takarafuji to patiently, methodically work his sumo while Shohozan blazes away against a nonexistent body part. Suddenly distracted by the absurdity of the situation (how does he breathe, speak or even swallow without the organs located in the neck?), Takarafuji slaps the medically stupefied Shohozan to the clay.

Tamawashi defeats Arawashi – In the Oshi-Washi battle, it’s clear that Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, and with a performance like this, he shall have it. With this win, he picks up his kachi-koshi and makes a strong case for at least a Komusubi slot.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – In spite of the red mawashi of power, Onosho once again over-commits, gets his weight too far forward, and Tochiozan makes him pay. Onosho is a solid, up and coming rikishi, and this is his primary weakness now. Sadly for him, everyone now sees it and exploits it when Onosho makes the mistake.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – The Kyushu Bulldozer denies Takakeisho his kachi-koshi, in a brilliant display of containment and ejection strategy. The crowd loved it, and so did I. Takakeisho tends to win by applying some truly powerful oshi, but he made the mistake of allowing Kotoshogiku grab a piece of him with both hands. This is really all this guy needs to give you a bumpy ride back to the dressing room, and we got to see a very rough and chaotic version of this dance today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – In spite of foot problems, Mitakeumi is gamberizing well. He took a very short time to shove Chiyotairyu out, and inches closer to his kachi-koshi and returning to Sekiwake.

Takayasu defeats Ichinojo – The Ichinojo we saw on day 1 did not make an appearance. Fans were hoping that these two would take a 5-minute lean-to siesta in a show of mass vs force, but it was not to be. I hope that Ichinojo did not re-injure his back during his match with Hakuho.

Hokutofuji defeats Goeido – This match was a thing of beauty, as I think we got a glimpse of a possible future Ozeki Hokutofuji. Goeido was fast and fighting with strength and skill, but Hokutofuji held on and prevailed. Goeido landed a strong right hand inside grip straight out of the tachiai, and in many cases, that’s all he needs to have his way. Hokutofuji moved to counter, and the two separated, just to clash again. In Goeido’s second charge, Hokutofuji sidestepped deftly and got behind the Ozeki. Now Goeido is off balance and in a weakened position. Hokutofuji charges forward strongly, but Goeido deflects and again establishes a mawashi grip. Hokutofuji holds tight, lands his own grip and struggles as Goeido writhes in defense. Somehow Hokutofuji keeps his left hand on Goeido’s mawashi knot, and works the Ozeki sideways, then pushes with everything he has left. Goeido sails backward and out. Excellent match from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Hakuho – This match is one of those sumo moments where you can only throw up your hands in disbelief and perhaps a bit of frustration and move on. Yoshikaze is the kind of rikishi that can, and will, beat anyone on any given day. Both men lined up on the shikiri-sen, and as is typical, Yoshikaze went into his launch position with his hands firmly on the clay early and stayed put. Hakuho took longer and went into a Konishiki-style crouch before accelerating into the tachiai. Like normal, the Yokozuna led with his face slap and was perhaps a bit early. But keep in mind, Yoshikaze had already given consent for the match to begin. Rising late, he landed moro-zashi, as it seemed Hakuho eased up, expecting a matta to be called. Instead, the gyoji kept the match running. Yoshikaze charged forward, under minimal resistance from the matta-expectant Hakuho, who went for a ride into the second row of zabuton. What followed was quite awkward, as Hakuho waited below the dohyo for the shimpan to call a monoii, and decide to run the match “for real”. Sadly for him, Yoshikaze gave consent, Hakuho took it and launched into battle. His opponent accepted the challenge and finished the match victorious. This gives Hakuho his first loss of the basho, which will not deter him from his likely yusho.

More from the Japan Times:

Hakuho got quickly rammed out by sekiwake Yoshikaze in the day’s final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center and in a rare act unfitting of a yokozuna, raised his arm in protest at the referee’s decision.

Hakuho (10-1) took his foot off the pedal after the charge, suggesting he thought Yoshikaze (6-5) had made a matta (false start). He left the ring shaking his head.

“The yokozuna thought it was a matta and eased up but I heard even more clearly than usual the referee say nokotta (you’re still in it),” said Yoshikaze.

“I got the okay so just had to keep charging forward. I will try and wrestle well for the remaining four days.”