The Makuuchi Premier League

Brighton loses another. Photo by Nicola, crude photoshop work by the author.

In the holiday lull and with no sumo, let’s have some fun.

It’s always fun to compare sumo to other sports. Giant of sumo punditry John Gunning regularly invokes references to the only NFL team worth a damn in his Japan Times columns (as well as numerous other sporting easter eggs), and sumo comparisons to other sports are doubly fun given that much of the world struggles to recognise rikishi as proper athletes until they are giving of their time to actually watch the sport.

By most measures, the goliath of the sports industry is the Premier League, watched in every corner of the planet, consistently breaking revenue records and whose clubs are the not just the cornerstone of their communities but also often the object of sugar daddy billionaires or countries looking to sportswash their reputation. But like many rikishi, while some of them have similar styles they often have their own unique tactics, approaches to the game, or places within the sport’s cultural framework.

If you are a football fan you will disagree with some of my choices (this is what the comments section is for). If you are a sumo fan who doesn’t care about other sports you will say “I don’t care about this content, tell me more about sumo.” That’s ok too. But I don’t have any more news for you, it’s December. So – and with apologies to the highest placed omission Meisei –  let’s have a go at determining who’s who:

Terunofuji – Manchester City

In terms of pure ability, Terunofuji is the class of makuuchi. Now that he has got to grips with his body, he has a fairly defined style of sumo which is very pleasing on the eye, and is often able to simply overpower his opponents. Like the Citizens, Terunofuji had to wait for the decline of other historic champions to begin his championship run, but is rapidly growing his trophy cabinet.

Mitakeumi  – Chelsea

Hailing from one of the most prestigious stables, the Dewanoumi man has every tool in his locker for success, and with multiple yusho and all manner of special prizes has certainly grown his trophy cabinet. But like the billionaire-owned sack-happy London club, he is prone to moments of self-destruction and turbulence often snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Chelsea have achieved great success in the last two decades but like Mitakeumi, who would be an Ozeki or better but for some consistency, you get the feeling the legacy could be greater.

Takakeisho – Liverpool

It’s a weird one for me as a Liverpool supporter myself to write this, as I don’t really have any kind of emotional attachment to Takakeisho or his sumo. But the full-throttle nature of his sumo is very much in tune with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Much like Liverpool has emerged from the shadow of past legacies, Takakeisho was trained initially by a dai-yokozuna from whose shadow he emerged following Takanohana-beya’s closure. Like the Liverpool of recent years, his relentless attacking style was prone to counter-attacks and his ability to rack up wins in his peak has been disrupted by injury. But as he has matured, controlling the chaos has made him a much more potent force, resulting in multiple championships and coasting to huge numbers of wins when he’s on it.

Takayasu – Manchester United

You might think this is a bit of a weird one given that Man Utd have won 20 league championships and Takayasu has won nothing, but hear me out. This is about the league of today, and Takayasu has possibly the best raw ability of any rikishi in the top division not named Terunofuji. But like the star studded Red Devils, it’s a lack of organisation, fitness, potentially mental issues, and an inability to escape the shadow of a (generational, if not all-time) great that has left Takayasu on the outside of an era where he should very much be in play for major honours when you look at what he brings to the table relative to his competition.

Ichinojo – Everton

“The People’s Club.” Ichinojo is a fascinating figure in sumo. But also, he’s just kind of, you know, there. Not unlike Everton, disliked by very few, ever present in the Premier League since its inception but never really in danger of challenging at the top or bottom end of the table. Like Everton, the competent Ichinojo will have his basho where he’ll elevate himself into the top 6 positions of the banzuke, or very bad tournaments where he performs clearly below his level. And like the Toffees, it’s hard to escape that with the tools at his disposal he could be capable of greater success.

Asanoyama – Tottenham Hotspur 

Again, perhaps this feels a bit odd considering Asanoyama has actually won a yusho and Spurs very famously never win anything, but here’s another club which presses the self-destruct button when it seems easier to win. Perhaps Asanoyama actually should be thankful he hadn’t become the 73rd Yokozuna when his scandal broke, otherwise he certainly wouldn’t be in the sport now. Spurs possess perhaps the sport’s best all-around striker, and you’ll do better to find a better yotsu-zumo technician in the top division (probably just Terunofuji). On his day, he can beat anyone. Like Spurs, he has made some seriously questionable off-dohyo decisions in recent years which have set back his progress on it.

Wakatakakage – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves are a bit of an odd club. Located in the West Midlands but very much with a Portuguese backbone and Chinese ownership, they’ve exhibited slow and steady progress over the past few years to leave themselves just on the fringes outside the truly top teams. Wakatakakage similarly has moved gradually and deliberately up the banzuke, occasionally running into a tough tournament but impressively bouncing back and staying true to his style of sumo, working under the tutelage of sumo’s only Chinese oyakata.

Shodai – Arsenal

A proud old club and a proud 30-year old rikishi, a little bit set in their way of doing things despite furious critical analysis from the outside world, with a passionate fanbase and no few accolades. Arsenal’s ownership situation has been scrutinised endlessly, not unlike that of the legendary Tokitsukaze-beya. He’s a powerful rikishi, one that if he can recapture title winning form would be a force to be reckoned with. But, as with the recent basho where he wasn’t even paired up with the Yokozuna, like Arsenal he has a lot of work to do to show he belongs at the top table again. And like Arsenal, he has inbuilt advantages as an Ozeki that should keep him elevated among the division’s elite for a long time.

Takanosho – West Ham United

Takanosho has much in common with David Moyes’ impressively developing side. They’ll get pumped every now and again, but as with Takanosho, they have shown the ability to upset opponents of much higher pedigree, even if you wish the overall product were a little more attractive. One to watch over the next couple of years. Can he do more?

Daieisho – Leicester City

A high tempo rikishi with one surprise championship, Daieisho seems like a good fit for the Foxes. And like them, everyone expected him to push on and really challenge for further honours after the surprise yusho, but results have been a little more hit and miss with the Oitekaze beya man bobbing in and out of san’yaku at a time when Leicester are struggling to impose themselves among the historical big clubs.

Kotonowaka – Newcastle United

A big shout, this. Newcastle are now the richest club in the premier league, as Sadogatake are one of sumo’s deepest and most storied stables. Both arguably had some of their best years of recent decades in the late 90s to early 00s, but the past decade has been a bit barren in terms of talent. Both have had serious questions raised over off-field issues (although granted, there’s no obviously comparing the Kotokantetsu situation or past scandals to Khashoggi!). And putting aside the stable’s reputation in latter years as tsukebito farm, it’s hard to get away from the fact that the perennially relegation-endangered club has much in common with Kotonowaka, a rikishi of enormous talent, bloodline and promise who upon establishing himself in the top division has found himself far too often at the wrong end of the table. All of the tools and infrastructure for his success are there, and like Newcastle, we could see a rapid rise in the coming years.

Endo – Brighton & Hove Albion

Pretty straightforward comparison this – both practise lovely versions of their sport that draw wide praise from the purists, and both are hugely profligate when it comes to putting matches away. As a result, both regularly turn in worse winning records than they can otherwise be expected to do, in spite of admiration from most neutrals.

Ura – Brentford

It feels like Ura’s been around for ages but the recent basho was only his 8th in the top division, which makes him a good fit for these unique newcomers. Like Ura, they are run pretty differently to many top flight clubs off the pitch and tend to conjure up some pretty wacky action on it. And also like Ura, when the new banzuke comes out this week, Brentford have tended to find themselves further up the table this season than fans might be accustomed to seeing a club of their stature.

Kiribayama – Aston Villa

I went back and forth for this one with Hoshoryu, but I find Kiribayama a better fit for the famous old club. Like Villa, who have recently installed a Premier League legend as their manager, Kiribayama has been operating under the personal tutelage of the Yokozuna Kakuryu (a less storied but more direct influence as a coach than his aforementioned compatriot), and appears to have the promise and infrastructure for a measured rise up the banzuke once that coaching is properly instilled and more bite is added to his already considerable technique.

Hoshoryu – Leeds United

This was not easy. I waffled on Hoshoryu for Villa (for the above reasons), for Newcastle (a newly combative attitude towards the rest of the league), and even Watford (general overall contradictions), but Leeds seemed to be the best fit. It’s a club with enormous potential that just hasn’t quite seemed to put it all together since their return to the top division, and I think it’s a good analogy for Hoshoryu’s sumo. Many fans were expecting him to storm the sanyaku ranks given the drop-off in top division quality in recent years. Like Leeds in recent years, Hoshoryu’s ascendance has come under the guidance of a mercurial guru (albeit unofficially in his case), with scrutiny far outpacing his position in the division. And like Leeds, whether you like Hoshoryu or not, sumo would be better for his success.

Abi – Burnley

Pretty straightforward here, although there’s an argument to be made for Takarafuji when discussing a team commonly known for “parking the bus.” It’s not totally accurate, but the overwhelming reputation of Burnley is of a team with solidly one way to play, a “route one” forward and backward style, very physical, and a club that seems like it might have a higher ceiling if only it had the nous to just add one or two more abilities. Does this sound like any rikishi we know?

Chiyomaru – Norwich City

Often seen with accented by the colour green, regularly yo-yos up and down between the first and second division, and is famously well fed (Norwich by way of celebrity chef owner, Chiyomaru by way of… most things).

Hokutofuji – Crystal Palace

You might think you know what Hokutofuji is, but as Bruce has detailed, he has been subtly and impressively evolving his style and tactics over the last couple of years to become a much more well rounded rikishi, under the tutelage of one of the sport’s icons. Not unlike a team from south London, who have followed a similar path in 2021, even if the early results are a bit up and down.

Aoiyama – Watford

Are they a well run club or is it just their constant sense of chaos that makes Watford a top division club? In any case, just like the Bulgarian, they don’t seem to do things quite like anyone else, they don’t look quite like anyone else, and their team is often populated by signings that seem to come from far flung places. And like Aoiyama, Watford are not always great to watch, win, lose, or draw.

Kagayaki – Southampton

A rikishi of solid fundamentals and immense promise, who’s been in the top division for a long time, and who seems to somehow rescue himself most times when careering towards the top division trap door… Kagayaki has quite a bit in common with the Saints. He’s still young and well regarded, but without all of the requisite pieces to really put it all together. Will it take a reset in the second division to come good? I have a feeling both Kagayaki and Southampton would rather not find out, but the former’s fate will be aired soon enough…

Kyushu Day 15 Highlights

Congratulations to Yokozuna Terunofuji for taking his first perfect yusho, a 15-0 masterpiece that saw him overwhelm every other competitor from across the banzuke. It has been since the 1960s that a Yokozuna won both his debut tournament and the one that follows. A fine and rarefied roster that Terunofuji has now joined. What gives me a smile is that not even Hakuho, the greatest Yokozuna in sumo’s long history, was able to do that one.

Some solid questions coming out of Kyushu:

  • There is a massive log-jam of promotable rikishi at the top end of the banzuke. How they are going to sort this one out will be a puzzle for people like lksumo to consider.
  • Mitakeumi is back attempting an Ozeki campaign again. One of these times he is actually going to make it. I kind of feel bad for he guy, as every time he puts on one of these surges, he comes up just a hair short.
  • I am warming up to the idea of a “big churn” going into Hatsu, where the banzuke group just decide to send all the damaged rikishi with gimpy records down to Juryo, and bring up the maximum number of fresh athletes. This would somewhat defy convention, but would probably do wonders for sumo.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochinoshin – Terutsuyoshi went deep inside at the tachiai. Tochinoshin tried to wrap him up, but kept leaning over farther to keep him contained. Terutsuyoshi kept shifting in and a bit more to the side, and unleashed an under-arm shitatehineri that swung Tochinoshin to the clay. Terutsuyoshi finishes Kyushu with 7-8.

Kagayaki defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka chose defense by the 3rd step, as Kagayaki was connecting well against center-mass. Kotonowaka’s was able to hold Kagayaki in check until Kagayaki got a body hold, and was able to drive forward for a yorikiri. Kagayaki ends with a dismal 5-10 score, but may have passed the “most losses in 2021” title to Kotoeko.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu was strong out of the tachiai, connected well and started moving forward. Sadanoumi was ready for this, and as Chiyotairyu lunged forward to finish him, Sadanoumi stepped aside, grabbed an arm and boosted Chiyotairyu forward. Sadanoumi improves to a final 9-6 for November.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni took this one by never letting Hidenoumi set his feet. Without a moment to establish his balance, Hidenoumi never generated much offense, and was picked off a piece at a time by Chiyonokuni’s hit and move sumo. Chiyonokuni picks up a final win to end 9-6.

Akua defeats Aoiyama – Check out Akua’s thrusting variation. That was neat over / under pattern he set up against Aoiyama, and it really broke Aoiyama’s thrusting attack. Big Dan found himself unable to hold territory, and Akua sent him over the East side to finalize on a 9-6 score for Kyushu.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoeko – Even though Kotoeko finished the basho with a horrific 3-12 score, its not the worst record this November. But man, is it terrible. Yutakayama started strong, focused center mass, and gave Kotoeko no chance to try any sumo at all. Yutakayama finishes 7-8. I know there are some conditions in play that may limit demotions, but really we should see Kotoeko and Kagayaki in Juryo next time to give them a break and let the regroup.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Hokutofuji completely overpowered Chiyoshoma, and my hoped for yotsu mega-battle never had a chance to take place. Chiyoshoma looked like he thought something was not quite right with that match, but that’s how sumo goes, it seems. Hokutofuji ends with a powerful 11-4 score for Kyushu.

Chiyomaru defeats Ura – Chiyomaru enormous round defensive screen proved a significant geometry problem for Ura, who had to work around it to try and get inside and get his offense started. Chiyomaru knows this, and its why he built that protuberance, and as Ura dove in, he drove Ura down. Chiyomaru picks up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for the day. Ura gets the well deserved technique prize and everyone wins something in this match.

Shohozan defeats Shimanoumi – In what might be Shohozan’s final match during honbasho, Shohozan breaks his nose and bleeds all over Shimanoumi in the process of taking him out with a yorikiri. Shohozan finishes Kyushu with 4-11, and will be ranked in Juryo on Christmas Eve unless he chooses to assume his kabu and retire.

Endo defeats Kaisei – The first of the true Darwin matches goes to Endo. Kaisei had a strong early advantage, but a throw attempt fell apart, leaving Endo behind him. A quick run out and a win by okuridashi, Endo finds his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi.

Hoshoryu defeats Takarafuji – Sort of a mini-henka from Hoshoryu at the start put him in control of the match. Surprisingly, Takarafuji seemed to be in a bit of a hurry today, and rather than grind Hoshoryu one second at a time, he went quickly to attack. This supplied the power needed for Hoshoryu win, as he opened up an uwatenage, that nearly fell apart. Hoshoryu improves to 7-8 for his final mark.

Okinoumi defeats Myogiryu – Dear readers, I present the worst record of Kyushu, Myogiryu with a 2-13. He was 11-4 and had the jun-yusho last month, and now this. He had almost nothing against Okinoumi today, who improved to 7-8 on the final day.

Takanosho defeats Abi – Takanosho managed to find a gap in Abi’s attack plane, and wastes no time getting him back on his heels, removing his thrusting power. A second volley gets him traveling out, and its a fast path to win number 11, and the fighting spirit prize. The banzuke team have quite a log jam at the top to untangle for January.

Takayasu defeats Onosho – As could be expected with these two fighting, it was a mess. Onosho had Takayasu moving out, but managed to crash down to the clay a moment before Takayasu’s foot landed. There was a mono-ii, and the gumbai went to Takayasu. Both of you two, go back to Tokyo and get your sumo together. Takayasu improves to 6-9.

Wakatakakage defeats Tobizaru – Second Darwin match, it was a fine and even fight that was evenly balanced until Tobizaru decided to try and pull against Wakatakakage, opening the door for the oshidashi that followed. We have not seen Tobizaru take a tour of the zabuton for fan service in a few days, so out he goes to say hello to the locals. No word on if he eventually said hello to sumo media great Jason Harris who was in the crowd today. Wakatakakage kachi-koshi at 8-7, Tobizaru make-koshi at 7-8.

Daieisho defeats Ishiura – The final Darwin match, and there was only one way this was going to end, with a Daieisho kachi-koshi. He made fast work of Ishiura, putting him face down on the clay by the third step, improving to 8-7, and sending Ishiura to a 7-8 make-koshi.

Kiribayama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi put a bit too much stock in that pull down attempt on the third step, and gave Kiribayama a double inside grip. That was all he needed to overpower the veteran and earn his final win to complete Kyushu with a 6-9 make-koshi.

Meisei defeats Ichinojo – Lawd, what happened to Ichinojo? He finishes Kyushu with 5-10 after showing some strong sumo in week 1. Meisei struggled to find a way to move Ichinojo at first, and the Boulder’s pulling attempt more or less threw the match away. Meisei improves to 7-8.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Mitakeumi gets to 11, and can make the case that he is yet again going to try to put together 33 wins to earn his way to Ozeki. Mitakeumi opened strong, and had Shodai moving, but Shodai went for a makke-kai without the territory needed to absorb the move. He was easy for Mitakeumi to finish at that point, giving him an 11-4 final score.

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – Well, Takakeisho proved he can move the Yokozuna if he connects, but he could not keep the wave train running, and the whole match devolved into some odd attack / pause thing that reminded me of the first time Takakeisho fought Hakuho. Terunofuji finishes him after a time to run his score up to a perfect 15-0, his first ever zensho.

With that, Tachiai concludes our daily coverage of Kyushu 2021. Thank you, dear readers, for joining us for what has been an immensely satisfying tournament. We have greatly enjoyed bringing you the stories, action and commentary of the final sumo tournament of the year. Join us on Christmas Eve for the Hatsu banzuke, and the start of a new sumo year.

Kyushu Day 15 Preview

We come at last to the final day of this final tournament of 2021. What a year it has been, and what a satisfying end to this tournament. Terunofuji has 4 of the 6 yusho for this year, with Hakuho taking his final cup in July in the heat of Nagoya, and Daieisho winning in January. He has completely dominated sumo this year and looks to continue into 2022. The last question we have around the yusho is – can Terunofuji have his first perfect yusho? A win today against Takakeisho and he will reach that goal. He has already won his first two tournaments since promotion, a very rarefied roster.

We have three Darwin matches today, with a total of 7 rikishi finishing the first 14 days at 7-7. Chiyomaru escapes the Darwin fight and instead will face Ura to meet his doom. On the times I was fortunate enough to attend senshuraku in person in Tokyo, there is a very celebratory and relaxed feeling. The fans are generally upbeat, the rikishi are usually looking forward to the end of the tournament, and in the days before COVID, its on to the stable and fan group parties following the last match. Hopefully one day soon, that tradition will return. The rikishi and the stables really need the engagement and donations from the fans.

The last thing to be decided is who is falling out of the top division, and why from Juryo might take their places. lksumo has been doing a great job of looking into that murky future, and I am eager for the banzuke on Christmas eve.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tochinoshin vs Terutsuyoshi – A pair of 6-8 rikishi face off, to see who can get that 7th win. I am surprised and delighted that Tochinoshin was able to have this good of a record going into the final day. There was a time a week ago when I was thinking he was going to be headed to Juryo, possibly never to be seen in the top division again. Instead, he should be around for a bit longer, and if he can get his body a bit more healthy, may even have a big score given he will be fighting at the bottom of the banzuke in January.

Kotonowaka vs Kagayaki – This match will likely gauge how far down the banzuke Kagayaki will drop, and to conclude the derby for the most losses in 2021 between Kotoeko and Kagayaki. Ugly stuff.

Chiyotairyu vs Sadanoumi – One of the many “Hey, why not” matches on day 15 where the rikishi need to fight someone, and the make/kachi koshi are already decided. I like Sadanoumi in this one, just because he has been fast and effective this November.

Chiyonokuni vs Hidenoumi – Matching 8-6 records, I think one may be to help gauge how far up the banzuke Chiyonokuni will rise. A 9th win will see him a bit above the midpoint, which I worry might be a tough rank for him.

Aoiyama vs Akua – Can Aoiyama find one more win before the curtain closes on Kyushu? He has really been struggling in spite of being able to use “his brand of sumo” frequently this tournament. Akua is already kachi-koshi, and has been fighting well, so I don’t expect Aoiyama to be successful today.

Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – Kotoeko is going to turn in at least 11 losses this basho, and I think he really needs to recover in Juryo. He’s Maegashira 8, so he’s not likely to drop all the way out of the top division, but he’s had two double digit make-koshi tournaments this year. Clearly he’s hurt.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyoshoma – I have a lot of interest in this match. Hokutofuji lost the last 2 out of 3, and he will face a much more genki Chiyoshoma that I can ever recall seeing. This guy always had a fair amount of potential, but has only recently decided to put it work. Hokutofuji is a tough competitor, and can attack using multiple forms. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is all about rank.

Ura vs Chiyomaru – Well, someone had to go up against Ura today. May as well be the 7-7 Chiyomaru, who is large and round, and rolls very well. I am hoping for another ashitori today to close out the cornucopia of kimarite from Ura this tournament.

Shimanoumi vs Shohozan – I would love to see Shohozan finish with a win, but given that Shimanoumi has a 5-1 career advantage, I just don’t see it happening. Its an open question on if he will go back to Juryo, or pull the lever on retirement and take up a position as an elder in the association.

Kaisei vs Endo – First Darwin match, and its likely to be “The Endo Show” today. Endo is fighting much better this November than Kaisei is, and I would expect him to land a grip early, and roll Kaisei out or down before the 4th step.

Takarafuji vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu has struggled this tournament. He came in with more mass, and as we have seen young rikishi bulk up, it usually takes them a tournament or two to get adjusted to their new size, so this is likely an evolutionary period for him, and we may see a much more effective Hoshoryu in January. Takarafuji seems to be lacking his ability to hold ground right now, and that’s likely due to some injury.

Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – Wow, Myogiryu at 2-12, that’s a brutal score that could be 2-13 by the end of today. He and Okinoumi have a 30 match career record, and under normal conditions it might be a big fight. But clearly Myogiryu is not up to par, and it’s likely going to be win #7 for Okinoumi.

Abi vs Takanosho – This one bay be about deciding ordering and position in the ranks for January. I will be surprised if they don’t give Abi a special prize, or even two, this basho. He really over-performed. Takanosho has likewise hit double digits. Takanosho has never taken a match from Abi, and I hope he has a plan to shut down Abi-zumo before he loses any offensive position he might claim.

Onosho vs Takayasu – Two rikishi I really like, both with miserable 5-9 scores. One of them is going to hit double digit losses, and I am worried it will be Takayasu. I am not sure what is damaged in that big hairy body, but I hope he can get it mended in time for January.

Tobizaru vs Wakatakakage – Second Darwin match, its a pair of high mobility fighters looking to rip kachi-koshi from the other man’s hide. They have an even 4-4 record, so I expect this one to be fast, fierce and brutal.

Daieisho vs Ishiura – This one is a bit of a puzzler, M1 Daieisho vs M12 Ishiura in the final Darwin match. I don’t give Ishiura much of a chance in this one, as Daieisho is out of his normal range of opponent. Winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.

Tamawashi vs Kiribayama – It seems that Tamawashi has not been able to win against Kiribayama in any of his previous 3 tries. I like his chances today, as Kiribayama comes in with 5-9 score to mirror Tamawashi’s 9-5.

Ichinojo vs Meisei – Folks had a lot of hope for Ichinojo this basho, he was in the named ranks, he had some early matches that showed real fire, and everyone was looking for him to hold rank. But in reality he found himself on the losing end of a few too many matches, and is starting at the possibility of a double digit make-koshi if he loses his match with Meisei today.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – These two wide-bodies have 25 previous matches, and they balance out 12-13. Thankfully Shodai is not in the Darwin group, but could reach double digits if he can best Mitakeumi today. Of course Mitakeumi is looking for an 11th win to give his Ozeki run a solid push.

Terunofuji vs Takakeisho – This will decide if Terunofuji can finish with a perfect 15-0 yusho for the first time in his career. He has an even record against Takakeisho, who can give the Yokozuna a good fight as long as he does not get too eager and try to pull Terunofuji down.

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights

Day 14 of the Kyushu tournament was a day when many questions were answered, it was a fine day of sumo indeed. I have to call out the “showcase” match between Hoshoryu and Kiribayama. These guys are, we hope, going to be core figures i a future generation of sumo. They are hard core fighters with deep skills, and overflowing tenacity. They went chest to chest for nearly a minute, throwing the kitchen sink at each other in a masterful display of sumo skill and athletic prowess. Even though both are make-koshi for November, that was some top rate sumo.

After taking quite a bit of damage on day 12, the shards of Darwin’s funnel finished their grim work today, landing 7 rikishi on 7-7 records at the end of today. We will have 3 Darwin matches on the final day. Not the largest amount this year, but enough to keep things spicy.

Lastly, in order to give folks a chance who did not want to know just yet to bail out, Terunofuji won his sixth yusho today with a huge, powerful oshitaoshi against Abi. Terunofuji has a chance to make it a 15-0 zensho by taking down Takakeisho on day 15. We congratulate Terunofuji for really dominating every last match he competed in this November. He was in amazing form on his run up to Yokozuna, but he has somehow gotten even better since then, and is fairly unstoppable right now. We hope his health remains excellent, and he continues to shred all competitors for years to come.

Highlight Matches

Kaisei defeats Chiyonokuni – A grand demonstration of why Chiyonokuni struggles to win matches against Kaisei. Chiyonokuni is mobile, he is fierce, and’s hitting where he wants, and is moving well. But Kaisei is not moving. The big Brazilian understands his own mass, and he plants himself in the center of the dohyo and holds it. Eventually he finds Chiyonokuni open, and shifts to attack. It only takes a moment more than that, and Kaisei completes Darwin’s funnel to end at 7-7.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotonowaka – Tochinoshin was moving better today than I have seen him move this entire basho. At this point he may be back to what passes for “full health” given the condition of his knee. That makikae gave him a way to put in something akin to his old sky-crane, and Kotonowaka had zero chance at that point. Tochinoshin hands Kotonowaka his make-koshi via makikae (I love it) and improves to 6-8.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Akua – Akua seems to have read the ashitori attempt, and pivoted out of the way of Terutsuyoshi’s leg grab, but Terutsuyoshi connected and got his opponent rotating. The two went down together, with the gumbai going to Terutsuyoshi.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – Chiyotairyu shuts down Shohozan’s attempt to establish an inside attack, and stalemates the flagging veteran in the center of the dohyo. Chiyotairyu rallies, with a solid volley of thrusting, and kept the pressure on all the way out of the ring. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-8.

Chiyomaru defeats Aoiyama – Big Dan brings the double arm, V-Twin sumo today. He gets Chiyomaru moving, then increases the pressure. Chiyomaru rallies at the bales, catches Aoiyama off balance, and swats him down. Chiyomaru completes Darwin’s funnel to reach 7-7.

Tobizaru defeats Sadanoumi – I love that flurry of upward tsuppari from Sadanoumi as he works to keep Tobizaru from closing in and getting any kind of body or mawashi grip, just great combo from him. Sadanoumi gets a clear road to drive Tobizaru out, and presses forward. Tobizaru ducks to the side, and Sadanoumi exits a moment before the flyin monkey. A mono-ii confirms the gyoji’s call, and Tobizaru improves to 7-7.

Chiyoshoma defeats Yutakayama – Chiyoshoma escapes the funnel in glorious fashion, with some high quality sumo. Even Abema commentator, the great Wakanohana expected a henka today, but Chiyoshoma decided to whip it on instead. He spends about 10 second consolidating his attack, then heaves Yutakayama down with a blistering uwatenage. Chiyoshoma 8-6, and kachi-koshi. Yutakayama 6-8 and make-koshi. Well played, sir.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – Some fair to good sumo from Kagayaki, he managed to get inside on Shimanoumi, and tried for a body hold, but settled for a thrusting attack center mass. Shimanoumi could not hold his ground, and exited directly. Kagayaki improves to 4-10, possibly handing the banner for most losses in 2021 to Kotoeko.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – Takarafuji tried to set up his calm, solid defense. But Kotoeko was struggling like a toddler with a saggy diaper jacked up on too much apple sauce. Unable to settle Kotoeko down, Takarafuji sends him to the corner to think again, improving to 5-9.

Ishiura defeats Okinoumi – The mini-Darwin went in favor of Ishiura, who launched into the tachiai with a whole lot of power. Okinoumi did a great job of blunting everything Ishiura tried, but the smaller Ishiura got a leg inside of Okinoumi’s stance, and used that pivot to knock him out of balance. Okinoumi did not find a way to get back to stable footing, and Ishiura put him out a moment later. Ishiura completes the funnel at 7-7, Okinoumi make-koshi at 6-8.

Onosho defeats Myogiryu – Onosho stood Myogiryu up, then knocked him down with a well placed hatakikomi. He improves to 5-9. Myogiryu at 2-12, an epic score.

Takanosho defeats Hidenoumi – Takanosho picks up another white star in the promotion derby, and the race to get into the named ranks. Hidenoumi hit hard at the tachiai, but watch that guy use the ring! He keeps Takanosho at an angle the entire time, and just keeps circling around the dohyo. Hidenoumi, feeling good about his defense, decides to pull Takanosho, and that moment he eased forward pressure. Takanosho read the weight shift, and charged ahead to improve to 10-4.

Daieisho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu could not keep his footing, and gets rolled by Daieisho. At Maegashira 5, Takayasu should have had a pretty good run. But instead he is looking at the possibility of double digit losses. I hope he can get healthy over the new year’s break and come back strong at Hatsu. Daieisho completes the funnel at 7-7.

Wakatakakage defeats Endo – Darwin smiles at this pair, who managed to work it exactly right and both finish at 7-7 today. A perfectly timed move to the side by Wakatakakage put him beside Endo, Endo could not pivot to meet him before Wakatakakage had a hand hold, and was pushing with everything he could deliver. With no option for offense or defense, Endo was quickly dispatched.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo did a brilliant job of shutting down Hokutofuji’s opening gambit, taking the nodowa and collapsing the gap, pinning Hokutofuji to his expansive chest. Hokutofuji is stuck, and he knows it. But that clever fellow ramps up the pressure on his left side while lifting with his right, causing Ichinojo to respond. A lightning fast shift back to the right and a pull down drops Ichinojo to one knee, giving Hokutofuji his 10th win.

Hoshoryu defeats Kiribayama – So guys, that was some great sumo. It a shame both of you are make-koshi, as this is the kind of competition the sport needs in quantity. Loved the intensity and the rotating menu of attacks, responses and escapes. Hoshoryu tried at least six tripping attacks, and Kiribayama survived them and stayed in the fight. Great match, with Hoshoryu improving to 6-8 as he finally drove Kiribayama from the ring.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Congrats to Mitakeumi for reaching double digits, if he can make it 11 tomorrow against Shodai, he will have a solid start to what may be his final Ozeki run. Tamawashi opened big, and had all the power on the second step. Mitakeumi was able to turn and send him forward on his own. Mitakeumi improves to 10-4.

Meisei defeats Ura – Ura was a bit too low, and had to rise up to recover, Meisei caught him at this exact moment, and applied maximum power to that shove. Ura could not hold his balance and went down in a heap. Meisei improves to 6-8.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Wow, this match had more to it than first meets the eye. I saw Takakeisho come in tight, closer than is normally safe for a man who falls to pieces when his opponent gets on his belt. Shodai is high at the tachiai, and was looking to get his stance set, and then the first wave crashed against that broad pasty chest, and Shodai’s balance was broken. He almost recovered when the second volley landed amidships, and the third sent him out for a loss. Takakeisho improves to 12-2.

Terunofuji defeats Abi – We have seen this a number of times this basho. Somebody attacks Terunofuji, and Terunofuji responds, defending well until the moment there is real trouble. Then the Kaiju comes out and it’s all over a moment later. I can wax complementary on Terufnouji’s superior balance, his excellent foot work and his ability to stay in the match after Abi unloads everything. But where does that surge of power come from? Did Abi even know what was happening? The amount of force Abi was generating the moment that Terunofuji threw him down must have been tremendous, and the power must of been equal to that, plus a very large sum to not just take Abi back, but collapse him into a spindly pile of long arms and tangled legs. Terunofuji at 14-0, and wins his 6th yusho. He won back to back yusho from his debut as a Yokozuna… just wow.