Hatsu Day 15 – Senshuraku Preview

Emperor's Cup
All of this can and a macaron can be yours…

Alas, the final day of a historic basho is upon us. We have seen the retirement of a yokozuna, the retirement of a long time fan favorite, some injuries, some more injuries, some further injuries, and also some more injuries. And some injuries as well.

However, we’ve also seen a potentially successful conclusion to an Ozeki run, the potential start of a new Ozeki run, and either another new champion or another yusho portrait on the way for one of sumo’s young stars. Will the Emperor’s Cup return to Chiganoura-beya, or will the Massive Macaron go to a man who probably could make one himself?

What We Are Watching on Day 15

We’ll cover all of the top division matches today – with no competitive sumo for six weeks, there’s no point leaving anyone out:

Takagenji (Juryo) vs Daishomaru – Takagenji had a glorious opportunity to snatch one of the four or five places that will be up for grabs in Makuuchi for the Haru basho in Osaka, yet has, not for the first time, been unable to get over the finish line. You have to be ruthless in these situations and he had a very favorable set of promotion circumstances, with a pair of intai and a pair of M16 make-koshi. Daishomaru (3-11) has looked better in the last few days, and will want to try and grab a final day win to pad his fall into the second division.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – a pair of make-koshi guys fighting for pride and against banzuke-gravity on the final day. Kagayaki has probably done about enough to keep himself safe, but both of these guys would want to sign off with a win in otherwise disappointing circumstances.

Yago vs Abi – it’s a party all around, as fan favorite Abi has grabbed 10 wins despite not looking spectacular for most of the tournament, and top division debutant from Hokkaido Yago has grabbed his kachi-koshi after sagging in the second week. Abi probably has more to gain from a win in this (a spot in the joi), whereas Yago needs time and experience to consolidate his top division place, so I’m tipping Abi.

Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama is 7-7 and so faces a make or break matchup against a rikishi who, in spite of all of the injuries referenced above, has managed to stay on the dohyo for all 15 days while looking like a toddler’s stuffed toy that’s been mauled by a dog and then patched up haphazardly in a desperate attempt to stem a temper-tantrum. Ikioi is in the better form despite only a slightly better record at 9-5 but Asanoyama will be desperate to grab his 8th after a great second week, and it’s kind of tough to make Ikioi the favorite in his current shape. This will be their fourth match, with Ikioi having won 2.

Sadanoumi vs Daieisho – another party between two, perhaps unlikely, kachi-koshi rikishi. Sadanoumi has displayed some surprisingly good sumo in January in spite of – like Ikioi – a glaring head wound. These two have split their eight previous matches evenly and it’s probably a coin flip on current form.

Ryuden vs Kotoeko – One thing that Ryuden has reminded me of in this basho is that regardless of the outcome, his topknot is always an absolute shambles after a match. According to Wikipedia, Takadagawa-beya’s tokoyama has reached first class status, so this makes it all the more confounding. He does also have a notoriously wobbly head, so it’s possible that that factors into the equation. One day I will figure out whose fault it is, but I am committed to lead the inquisition. We’re talking about this basically because there has been not much good to say about his sumo this tournament. Kotoeko is looking for his first winning record in the top division and, while Ryuden does usually put up a very spirited fight, if Kotoeko can’t win here against an opponent who’s already down, he probably doesn’t deserve a promotion anyway.

Meisei vs Onosho – Meisei is 7-7 and facing a make or break match against an opponent who’s clearly still getting back to his best shape and has just about scraped across the line. Onosho is holding an 8-6 record and will be trying to keep Meisei off the mawashi, although Meisei is more than capable of a thrusting battle himself. Both of these guys finishing 8-7 in this tournament sounds about right given their form, and Meisei has won their previous two encounters, so I’m tipping Meisei.

Chiyotairyu vs Takarafuji – This will be the 14th matchup between these two, with Little Uncle Sumo Takarafuji having a slight edge 7-6. However, Chiyotairyu has won the last three, and despite both men being 8-6 in this basho, I think his sumo has been a little better than Takarafuji’s this tournament so I’m tipping Sumo Elvis to deploy the cannonball tachiai and get the better of the Isegahama man.

Daiamami vs Yoshikaze – If you were being told a Maegashira 16 was getting called up to face a Maegashira 5, you’d probably think, “wow, he must have having a great tournament.” In fact, this may be the last Maegashira 5 that Daiamami faces for a while as he already has posted double-digit losses and will stare into the Juryo abyss in March. And it may be the last time that Yoshikaze is at this rank for a while as well, having had a shockingly poor tournament that has only yielded two wins so far and has been tough to watch. They’ve only met once before, with Yoshikaze the winner, but with neither man displaying good sumo it’s a tough one to call. Against most logic, I’d probably say Daiamami has the slight edge here if he can arrive even a little bit genki.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyoshoma – Kotoshogiku (5-9) has had a much tougher fixture list than Chiyoshoma (6-8) and his losses have mostly, as usual, come as a result of an inability to get his feet planted and put power to ground in order to drive forward. He will be susceptible to a flying henka which makes this a little tougher to predict than it should be. If it’s a straightforward battle, the former Ozeki should have the edge, but if Chiyoshoma reaches into his bag of black magic, then a ten loss Kotoshogiku could be on his way to a reunion with potentially Makuuchi-bound old pal Toyonoshima sooner than later.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a surprising 5-1 edge in this rivalry and is already kachi-koshi, while the buxom Bulgarian will be desperate to avoid defeat at 7-7. Aoiyama started this tournament strongly but his twin cylinder piston attack hasn’t been working at the top level. Hokutofuji finds himself between the calibre of opponents where Aoiyama’s attack has been effective and ineffective, and he’s a tricky customer to call: despite having 8 wins and 3 against Ozeki in the first three days, two of his wins have come via fusen-sho and he was otherwise on a miserable run until a really nice throw against Nishikigi on Day 14. I think Aoiyama might do this, but I also think it could be ugly.

Shodai vs Ichinojo – It’s a pair of 6-8 guys who never seem to live up to their billing. Ichinojo in particular has been dreadfully disappointing after a 4-1 start that saw him knock out two Yokozuna and two Ozeki. He simply should not be in this position, but has more or less been walking backwards and over the tawara for the past week, and was pushed out in 2 seconds by a one-legged Mitakeumi. He was even thrown by extreme slapper Shohozan. Shodai has looked a little bit better in week two, though this match has the danger of never ending in the event both guys just stand up and stare at each other from the tachiai. Ichinojo leads the series 7-2 but you wouldn’t back him against a brick wall at the moment so I’m going with Shodai to finish 7-8.

Tochiozan vs Shohozan – This battle of two mountain men couldn’t be more even: both are 5-9 heading into the final day, with their career series even at 11 apiece. Shohozan displayed incredible intensity in Fukuoka, but it’s been missing from a lot of his bouts in this tournament. Tochiozan, meanwhile, has been displaying a reliable brand of sumo that works really well at M12-M4 but not much higher. I don’t know if this will be a classic, but with Shohozan winning the last four of their matches I think it might be Tochiozan’s time, especially if he can get an early belt grip.

Nishikigi vs Mitakeumi – These guys more or less have mirror records with Nishikigi putting up 8 losses to Mitakeumi’s 8 wins. Mitakeumi clearly should not be on the dohyo right now as evidenced by the nature of his Day 14 loss to Takayasu. He’s proven his point by solidifying his rank but the only thing he potentially has to gain by fighting another day is that if his 9th win at Komusubi starts a run similar to the one Takekeisho is currently displaying, having also started his Ozeki run off 9 wins. However, Mitakeumi is causing serious harm to an already seriously injured knee with every day he mounts the dohyo at the moment. We keep talking about how Nishikigi has overachieved, given that we all thought he would end up with one of those humiliating 2-13 or 3-12 tournaments when he made his joi debut. But, after grabbing an 8-7 last time, and with the pressure off Mitakeumi this time, a 7-8 at M2 with a kinboshi would be extremely creditable and I’m backing him to pull it off.

Myogiryu vs Okinoumi – Both of these guys are make-koshi and Myogiryu is headed out of san’yaku after the longtime sekiwake had a lovely run of form in 2018 which propelled him all the way up from Juryo to Komusubi. The lifetime series here favors Okinoumi 9 to 8. They’ve had some very watchable matches in the past as well, with Okinoumi’s kotenage win from two years ago being a particularly highlight for me. With not much on the line, let’s hope we see more of the same this time.

Endo vs Tamawashi – The third final bout on Senshuraku is for all the arrows and it might be for all the marbles as well. M9 Endo gets drafted up into possibly one of the most consequential matches of his career to date, with the Yusho on the line – for Tamawashi. I do want to take this moment to remind everyone that on a previous Tachiai podcast (like and subscribe!), Andy predicted a Tamawashi Yusho. Unfortunately, he only predicted it a couple tournaments too early!!!

At the age of 34, Tamawashi is on the verge of completing his ultimate career goal, needing just a win to grab the Emperor’s Cup and start his own Ozeki run. Endo has 10 wins and has been in fairly good form, but can he play spoiler? Tamawashi leads the lifetime series 9-6.

Takayasu vs Kaisei – Takayasu fended off the kadoban threat on Day 14 with an easy win over disabled Mitakeumi, and with Hakuho now out of the picture, we’ll see the Ozeki taking on M8 Kaisei in the penultimate bout of Senshuraku. Their lifetime series is 11-6 favoring Takayasu, and I think this one is very slightly in his favor. The Ozeki deserves great credit for overcoming illness and poor form in Week 1 to have now posted 4 wins from 5. Kaisei has had a wonderful tournament of positive, forward moving sumo, and I don’t think anyone would begrudge him a win here, however unlikely.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – Takakeisho can likely make his Ozeki promotion certain with a 34th win in three tournaments. The rivalry favors Goeido 5-3, but while the Ozeki has got himself out of jail with 5 wins in a row (including a fusen-sho gift from Hakuho), Takekeisho may have a Yusho to fight for if Endo can upset Tamawashi in the earlier match. If that’s the case, a win here would then prompt a playoff. Goeido of course can play the role of spoiler, but he’s only beaten one opponent above M1 in this tournament, and that was against a clearly troubled Takayasu. Whether or not the Yusho is decided by the time these two men mount the dohyo, this match still may signal quite a bit about the future of top level sumo and the Ozeki ranks.

Hatsu Day 14 Highlights

Photo from the Sumo Association twitter feed

The big story of day 14 is the Hakuho kyujo. The reason cited was a hematoma in the right knee and problems with the left foot. Hakuho also mentioned that problems began following his day 4 match with Hokutofuji, that featured some gymnastics on the tawara, and that the trouble has been steadily increasing. It is reported that the pain and discomfort had increased to where he could no longer sleep at night, and it was decided that he would withdraw from competition. All of that and he still had 10 wins.

Both yusho contenders won their day 14 matches, so it’s Tamawashi’s cup to take if he can win his final day match. Of course the sumo world wants to see an oshi-mega-match between Takakeisho and Tamawashi (Takakeisho beat him day 3) for the Emperor’s Cup, but the chances of that happening are not high.

Speaking of the Tadpole, with his 11th win day 14, he has a valid application to become Ozeki. We will find out next week if it will be accepted, or if the NSK will suggest that he do well in one more basho.

Highlight Matches (abbreviated)

Takarafuji defeats Daiamami – First kachi-koshi in a year, and the struggling Daiamami made him work for it. But after some truly pitiful performances in 2018, it’s good to see him back on the winning side.

Kaisei defeats Yago – Kaisei hits double digits, and will face Ozeki Takaysu on day 15.

Daieisho defeats Yutakayama – Daieisho picks up his 3rd consecutive kachi-koshi while dealing Yutakayama his 3rd consecutive make-koshi. The symmetry is lovely, unless you are Yutakayama.

Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi hits double digits, and he’s still working the same formula. Maybe that’s all we get from Abi.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji locks in his kachi-koshi in this match that featured a good start, but Nishikigi lost traction, and fell for his 8th loss.

Endo defeats Tochiozan – Endo hits double digits, and will be the rikishi who has the task of trying to throw the yusho into an elimination match when he takes on Tamawashi on day 15.

Onosho defeats Ichinojo – Onosho still looks kind of shaky, and I am hoping he will continue to heal and strengthen heading into March. Onosho kachi koshi / Ichinojo make koshi.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – The human cannonball racks up his 8th win for his first kachi koshi in 3 tournaments. Komusubi Myogiryu headed back to the rank and file for Osaka.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – The magic 11th win, and our tadpole qualifies to be considered for Ozeki. But the right conditions on day 15 could also see him contest for the Hatsu yusho. A win day 15 would underscore his Ozeki bid, and he needs to win against Goeido to do it. Goeido has physical issues right now, but he had day 14 to rest with the fusen win over Hakuho, and he’s been looking strong and fast in week 2.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu knew exactly what to do, and I can’t compliment him enough for quickly, efficiently and with minimal pressure getting Mitakeumi moving backward and over the bales. With any luck this will convinces Mitakeumi to not risk further damage to his knee.

Onward to senshuraku! Let’s see the Sekiwake fight for the cup!

Hatsu Day 13 Highlights

Takakeisho Preps For His Ozeki Final Exam

There was a time, in the earlier days of sumo, when we were blessed with a dai-Yokozuna, named Chiyonofuji. He had been dominant for a long time, and people wondered how he could ever be bested. But as time marched on (and time is the great equalizer), the demands of sumo, and the damage it accumulates in the body, wore him down to the point where he become quite a bit more beatable. He still dominated, and still took most yusho, but being able to beat Chiyonofuji became the litmus test for passage to the top ranks.

Its tough to know what is ailing Hakuho right now, there are a number of options ranging from the surgery he had just a few weeks ago, to the influenza virus that seems to be touring Japan. But it’s clear that in the past few days that the Yokozuna is not at his best. Does this mean he is done for? I should think not. He already has a Yokozuna’s kachi-koshi, and he is disappointing nobody but himself right now. But his string of 3 straight losses has turned this Hatsu basho into the much desired brawl that sumo fans will enjoy.

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama provided most of the offensive power for this match, but Sadanoumi had the experience to stalemate his opponent until he was off balance, and applied a tidy uwatenage for the win. Yutakayama is dangerously close to make-koshi now, and this far down the banzuke it might cause him quite a bit of trouble.

Abi defeats Kotoeko – Abi adds some garnish to his kachi-koshi, while at the same time I am sure Kotoeko is wondering about which division he will compete in come March.

Daishomaru defeats Takarafuji – I admit that I am puzzled in that it seems that Daishomaru is starting to get some of his sumo back. It’s far too late to save him from Juryo, but I am interested to see him get inside of a surprisingly docile Takarafuji.

Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A somewhat heroic tale for Ikioi, who is pushing through quite a few injuries and problems to prevail no matter what and get his 8th win. The “thud” from the tachiai was probably felt out on the street.

Daieisho defeats Chiyoshoma – Another member of the walking wounded, Chiyoshoma, gets his make-koshi. There are a good number of rikishi in the bottom quartile of the Makuuchi banzuke who are make-koshi, and its going to make the promotion / demotion race a bit interesting this time.

Daiamami defeats Ryuden – The accidental head-butt at the tachiai seems to have briefly stunned or disoriented Ryuden, and he goes down for his 8th loss. His over-promotion at Kyushu seems to have impacted him, and we hope that the extended break (with no jungyo) following Hatsu will allow him and others to get their bodies and their sumo back in order.

Yago defeats Onosho – Yago finally finds his 8th win after 4 consecutive losses. Onosho seems to be struggling quite a bit after a fierce start to Hatsu. Again, given his recovery, he will be doing well if he can get his 8th win, which is likely in the final 2 days. There were a number of rikishi who seem to find traction problems with the dohyo today, and Onosho was a good example.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – A weird set of matches. The first one saw Yoshikaze more or less demanding that a matta be called, leading to embarrassing confusion among pretty much everyone. But the judges called for a do-over, and Yoshikaze lost a second time. Given how poorly he is doing, todays match just compounds the pain for his fans.

Aoiyama defeats Endo – Strong opening attack by Aoiyama, but as with Onosho, Endo looks like he loses traction and goes down.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – This was all Asanoyama, and Okinoumi seemed to been completely out-matched. Asanoyama’s recovery from a horrible start to the basho is both dramatic and welcome.

Nishikigi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan’s matta / early launch did not seem to rattle Nishikigi, who delta Shohozan his make-koshi with good forward motion, and efficient application of force.

Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan also picks up his 8th loss. Shodai was able to get the inside position against Tochiozan, and wasted no time in standing him up and pushing him back. Shodai’s tachiai actually looked pretty good today.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – The injured Mitakeumi keeps the pressure on against the much larger Ichinojo, and once again Ichinojo goes soft at the tawara. This marks his 8th win, and given that he took several days off, and is fighting more or less on one leg, this performance is somewhat miraculous. With Myogiryu already make-koshi, Mitakeumi will at least be moving over to the East Komusubi lost for March.

Kotoshogiku defeats Myogiryu – This see-saw match had Kotoshogiku throw everything he could at the Komusubi, and eventually wore Myogiryu down. Multiple times, Kotoshogiku applied his hug-n-chug attack, but Myogiryu was able to escape. The end came with both men spent, but Kotoshogiku having just enough left to advance and heave Myogiryu out at the edge.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi keeps the pressure on with todays win. Another case where a rikishi (Hokutofuji) seems to have lost traction and hit the clay. To be clear, Tamawashi had the pressure on high, but Hokutofuji lost as much as Tamawashi won.

Goeido defeats Takayasu – Very impressive Goeido. He came from a miserable start, nursing arm damage, and has battled back to the brink of his 8th win, and he beat Takayasu to do it. Goeido used his trademark speed to get the inside position and prevented Takayasu from generating much offense.

Takakeisho defeats Hakuho – How many fans remember the first match between these two? That odd affair in Nagoya in 2017 that devolved into something akin to butsugari, where Takakeisho was attempting to use his nascent “Wave Action” attack, and Hakuho more or less said “Isn’t that cutie”. Day after day, hour after hour, Takakeisho’s attack modes have been refined, honed and improved. Each time he has tested against Hakuho, it was clear he was getting stronger, better. Today, on his 4th attempt, he prevailed. Takakeisho is now just one win away from a bid to be promoted to Ozeki, and to some extent this was his final exam. Hakuho’s loss gives Tamawashi the sole lead for the Hatsu yusho, with Hakuho and Takakeisho one win behind. Fantastic way to hit the final weekend of a basho.

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

Heading into the final weekend, it's a brawl to the end. Stock the fridge and call in sick to work, you won't want to miss any of this.
Heading into the final weekend, it’s a brawl to the end. Stock the fridge and call in sick to work, you won’t want to miss any of this.

A brief reminder that Tachiai is not spoiler free.

Tamawashi succeeded in his task, and took Hakuho to the clay for a second day in a row, dropping him to 10-2, and blowing the yusho race wide open. There are 5 rikishi who have a shot at the Emperor’s cup, and that number grows to 7 should either of the co-leaders lose again. Though, in reality, the race is between Hakuho and Tamawashi, with an outside chance of Takakeisho – should he also prevail against Hakuho in their day 13 match.

It should be noted that Takakeisho defeated Tamawashi on day 3, and at 9 wins he needs 2 more over the next 3 days to stamp his bid to become Ozeki. Takakeisho’s final 2 wins are not a certanty, and many Ozeki candidates fail their first attempts. Should he finish Hatsu with 10 wins, his goal in Osaka is a mere 10 wins, thanks to his 13-2 yusho in November.

More than any prior basho in recent memory, the winds of change a blowing with purpose.

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Sadanoumi locks in his kachi-koshi, This lightning fast match saw the competitors switch from oshi to yotsu and then, in tandem, attempt a throw.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama is getting painfully close to a make-koshi, but Ikioi is some kind of battle-bot now, a mass of wounds and maladies that mounts the dohyo and defeats you. With his pain.

Takarafuji defeats Yago – Yago drops his 4th in a row, and is suddenly looking a lot less genki. A Takarafuji kachi-koshi would be his first since this time LAST YEAR!

Abi defeats Daiamami – Abi gets his first kachi-koshi since March of 2018, and proves that his style of sumo can still be effective, if you are far enough down the banzuke.

Asanoyama defeats Chiyoshoma – A rough and tumble match that looked like Chiyoshoma was still battling after he had stepped out. These two threw everything into this match, and it switched styles and forms multiple times, but Asanoyama kept fighting. Great sumo from both.

Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru will be relegated deep into Juryo for March. He seems to have no forward pressure at all, and we can assume some manner of injury is keeping him from his full potential.

Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – A quick, ugly match that suffered from a false start. Both men are struggling, and it will probably come down to final day matches for both of them.

Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Massive, brilliant match from both. Endo gets high marks for absorbing Chiyotairyu’s tachiai and subsequent attacks, and a great effort from Chiyotairyu, who showed his trademark strength, and uncharacteristic stamina.

Kagayaki defeats Onosho – Hapless, make-koshi Kagayaki takes Onosho down. This underscores that Onosho is still not 100%, and is probably low on stamina at this point of the tournament. During the match you can see him favoring his right knee, and his ability to push against Kagayaki’s attack is certainly limited. The time he sat out to address his knee injury is impacting his sumo, at least for a little while longer. Onosho needs one more win for kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Like many Kaisei matches, it as a low speed – high force affair that played to the Brazilian’s massive body size and immense strength.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – Shodai suffered the painful side of a kotenage in his make-koshi loss. Nishikigi has been fading since the middle weekend, and is on the knife edge of make-koshi himself. Can he battle back and win out for his kachi-koshi?

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – High marks for Hokutofuji’s effort in this one. The much larger, much stronger Ichinojo fought him well up until he was backed to the bales, and then once again went soft.

Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Shohozan engages in a surprising mawashi battle, and comes up the winner. Myogiryu resisted well, escaping at least twice from potential Shohozan wins, but “Big Guns” stayed with it, and took the white star.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Now one win away from a kachi-koshi, walking wounded Mitakeumi applies a hit-and-shift tachiai, and follows it up with a strong grapple and forward attack against Tochiozan. I cringe watching him, but he’s getting results.

Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – It was evident that Kotoshogiku was a bit lost on how to attack. Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks blocked him from setting up the gaburi-yori, and all attempts to return Takakeisho’s oshi attacks were blunted by the fact that Takakeisho is so damn short. Kotoshogiku found himself getting a lot of hair, and not much rikishi. Kotoshogiku make-koshi.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – To be fair, this is the depleted relic of Yoshikaze, but I applaud Goeido for battling back from doom to at least a 6-6 score. 2 more wins out of the last 3 and he can escape what seemed to be an almost certain kadoban.

Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – Impressive effort from Aoiyama, he managed to use his superior reach to keep the Ozeki’s offense more or less shut down, but even his mighty strength was not enough to close the deal. Takayasu took his time and waited for the moment he could get inside, and then powered Aoiyama out.

Tamawashi defeats Hakuho – The Boss has done a great job convincing everyone he was genki, but it seems that mask has dropped. Hakuho is an ace competitor, but he made a fatal mistake and broke contact with Tamawashi, resulting in him facing the wrong way. Tamawashi sprang to action and escorted the Yokozuna out in a rush. It’s not often we see Hakuho make a mistake that large, and my compliments to “The Crippler” for seizing the opportunity.

Hatsu Day 11 Highlights

Day 11 featured some of the best sumo action of the basho thus far, as the Ozeki – with their backs against the wall – found the strength to put up a good fight at last. Lower down the torikumi, many fan favorites are starting to reach the safety of their 8th win. But day 11 was marred with kyujo, as both Chiyonokuni and Kotoyuki withdrew with leg and knee injuries.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki is make-koshi yet again (now 4 times in a row), and we have to wonder what kind of chronic problem this lad is battling to overcome. His usually excellent sumo mechanics have been hit or miss this basho, and he seems to have lost confidence in his approach. In a perfect world we could see Araiso oyakata work with Kagayaki for a time, as their approaches are quite similar, but Kagayaki seems to have lost faith in his ability to prevail, something Araiso (Kisenosato) never lost, even in the depths of his injury.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Daishomaru finally wins one, from Japan’s top ICU candidate Ikioi. How this guy keeps going, I will never know.

Chiyoshoma defeats Takarafuji – Readers know I am not fan of henkas, but when Chiyoshoma unloads his “Flying Henka” the entertainment value is off the charts. Takarafuji rolls out into the zabuton zone, and gets “encouragement” from an enthusiastic fan.

Asanoyama defeats Yago – Yago seems to have stalled 1 win from the kachi-koshi line. Yago also seems to be following the route of going soft at the bales, is it an approach to avoid injury? Asanoyama’s win keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive.

Ryuden defeats Meisei – The two go chest to chest and it quickly evolves into both men trying to finish a throw of the other first. Both go down in tandem but Ryuden touches last. Ryuden stays away from make-koshi for another day.

Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and focuses on a series of nodowa, which Yutakayama seemed able to withstand, and waited for Onosho to release, then took Onosho to his chest. Now outside his comfort zone, Onosho continues to try to thrust, and find some way to break contact. Yutakayama moves to the edge and throws, but the gumbai goes to Onosho.

Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Great example of Kaisei-zumo. Chiyotairyu puts so much power into the tachiai, but Kaisei absorbs it all, and works to land his left hand outside grip. Once hooked, Kaisei advances and escorts Chiyotairyu out. Kaisei is kachi-koshi.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – Rather the ghost of Yoshikaze. Whatever that sad remnant of Yoshikaze has going on, he has my sympathy. But with this rather disappointing match did give Endo his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – Shohozan does a great job of executing a Harumafuji style mini-henka, and Ichinojo’s combination of mass and forward velocity do all of the work.

Tochiozan defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi is fading toward make-koshi, and the surprisingly genki guy from Kyushu and the first half of Hatsu is just a fond memory. I suspect we will see him again, and he will turn up throughout the coming year.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – If Shodai goes make-koshi and stays in the joi-jin I am going to be outraged. This puffball rikishi gets an insane amount of banzuke grace applied to him, and frankly it’s hurting his sumo. Make him grind through the bottom, or take a trip back to Juryo. It’s the only way he’s ever going grow into his potential.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – For an old timer with bum knees, Kotoshogiku shows remarkable agility and persistence. Tamawashi throws the kitchen sink into this match, and responds with skill and strength when Kotoshogiku lands his grip and begins to push. Holding Kotoshogiku’s head down, Kotoshogiku breaks off and rallies, but Tamawashi has him on the run, and knocks him out. Good sumo from both.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – As good as the prior match was, this match took things a notch higher. Both rikishi were blasting away with tsuki and oshi attacks, with advantage shifting every moment. Most opponents succumb to Takakeisho’s wave action attack after a few cycles, but Hokutofuji took them all, and kept fighting. Hokutofuji’s big weakness is his reliance on a nodowa, and Takakeisho defended against that with great skill, and it kept Hokutofuji from getting into a winning position. Meanwhile Takakeisho focused center-mass, and carried the day. Dare I hope for a long running rivalry between these two?

Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Takayasu is back in form, and makes quick work of Okinoumi. Takayasu is now above the .500 line, and I am getting hopeful he can rescue a kachi-koshi out of this basho.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – It was clear that Aoiyama was nervous going into this match, and Goeido knew what to do. Aoiyama has a habit of being very far forward the step after his tachiai, ands Goeido used that problem with Aoiyama’s balance to bring him down. Dare we hope Goeido can avoid going kadoban, even with that manky arm?

Mitakeumi defeats Hakuho – Day 11 had one more gift to offer. Coming back from kyujo, fans noted that injured Mitakeumi was given Hakuho for his first match. Thoughts of body parts being torn asunder and landing in the balcony came to mind. Instead we saw Mitakeumi come in low, hard and fast – he took the fight to the Yokozuna and kept control of the match. Hakuho immediately found himself in trouble, as Mitakeumi stayed Kisenosato low, and advanced. Normally Hakuho would have have an emergency exit move or two he could deploy, but Mitakeumi gave him no room to work with. Damn impressive effort from Mitakeumi, think I will go watch it again…

Nope, it’s even better the 4th time