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 4 Preview


kokugikan

Abbreviated preview for day 4 fans, but hey, let’s make it count!

What We Are Watching Day 4

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – Ishiura is really on a roll, and I am going to guess that struggling Nishikigi won’t be able to offer much resistance. Ishiura is back with renewed vigor, a lot of speed, and no shortage of strength. I am interested to see how high up the banzuke his challengers will be if he continues to win.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Battle of the yamas! My guess is that Asanoyama is going to prevail on this one, even though he only holds a 2-1 advantage in the career series.

Sokokurai vs Kagayaki – Both are 2-1 at the start of day 4, and Kagayaki seems to best Sokokurai to the tune of 3-1. Kagayaki will need to pick up a win here to ensure that he finishes the first 5 days with a majority of wins.

Chiyoshoma vs Tochiozan – Chiyoshoma starts day 4 undefeated, and he’s going to be facing Tochiozan, who has been fighting well this tournament (again). Thus far Chiyoshoma has never beaten Tochiozan (0-4), so a win tomorrow would be a very important development. Word from Herouth is that some are remarking that Chiyoshoma is working to replicate dear departed Harumafuji’s tactics. This is a great test.

Endo vs Arawashi – Endo needs to recover from his day 3 loss to Chiyoshoma, who dismantled him in a fraction of a second. He holds a 5-1 career advantage over Arawashi, whose only win against Endo came from a pull-down in 2014.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – Battle of the tadpoles comes day 4! This battle slightly favors Takakeisho, but with Mitakeumi pushing hard for double digit wins, he needs to put the doom on Takakeisho. Takakeisho’s day 3 match was an odd, bouncy affair, and I am quite sure Mitakeumi will keep him bottled up.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s only win of the basho is against the somewhat off-tempo Hakuho, and there is little chance that he will get much advantage over this version of Goeido. I expect Goeido will dispatch him quickly.

Tochinoshin vs Takayasu – Strong man battle deluxe! When these two battle, its usually a test of endurance, as each of them is strong enough to toss the other one about. Takayasu holds a 8-6 advantage in the series, but this is likely to be a big match for day 4.

Kakuryu vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has shown some great sumo during the first 3 days, but his match against Kakuryu is probably going to be fairly short and end with him flat on the clay. Keep pushing Ichinojo, you are doing great!

Kotoshogiku vs Kisenosato – Bellwether bout. Kotoshogiku is fading hard and fast, and comes in winless. Should Kisenosato fail to dispatch the broken Kyushu-bulldozer, we know for a fact that he’s in serious trouble. They have had 66(!) prior matches, and Kotoshogiku leads 35-31

Hakuho vs Yoshikaze – I am going to guess Yoshikaze has some kind of horrific sumo-flu, and will be in poor shape for several days to come at least. Even though Hakuho seems unsettled by his mandated tachiai changes, he is incredibly adaptable, and should settle down soon.

Hatsu Day 3 Preview


Kotoshogiku-Flying Lesson
Kotoshogiku Gets A Flying Lesson

The first two days of Hatsu have exceeded my expectations, producing some exciting and enjoyable sumo. One of the Tachiai team, Josh, is in Tokyo this time, and I am incredibly envious.

Meanwhile, we seem to have all three surviving Yokozuna in workable condition, and turning in solid performances. Add to that that both Ozeki also seem to be on top of their sumo, and we are anticipating final day scores to see a dramatic departure from recent history. Over the past year we saw multiple upper Maegashira and San’yaku rikishi turning in double digit scores. Over the history of sumo, this is an unusual occurrence. Normally the named ranks completely wreck everyone from Sekiwake down into the joi. So don’t be shocked or disappointed if your favorite tadpole gets sent packing down the banzuke this time.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama comes into day 3 with 2 wins, and I am quite sure Ryuden will give him a good test. These two have only had one prior match, in Juryo, and Asanoyama was the winner. Both rikishi are looking sharp and aggressive early in this tournament.

Ishiura vs Daiamami – I am starting to hope that Ishiura has gotten back on top of his sumo. His tachiai looks greatly improved, and he’s not submarining into an inevitable hatakikomi so far. Can he make it 3-0 to start the new year? This is their first career match.

Daieisho vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is also looking to establish his credibility as a solid Maegashira rikishi, and his next stop is long term opponent Daieisho. Kagayaki will work to try and land a grip and use his superior strength, and Daieisho will try to stay mobile and work towards a throw / thrust out. Their career record of 5-6 indicates they are evenly matched.

Tochiozan vs Kaisei – Greatly inflated Panda-kun Kaisei faces Tochiozan day 3, and Tochiozan may have his hands full trying to maneuver that much churrasqueiro. As I have stated many times, being enormous is not a long term sumo strategy. But in some cases, it can be decisive. Tochiozan is a skilled technician, and may show us how its done.

Chiyoshoma vs Endo – Excellent pairing from the schedulers, we take two experienced, skilled rikishi with no losses thus far facing off. Endo holds a 4-2 career advantage, and tends to win by throwing Chiyoshoma.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – I am going to make a guess that Okinoumi is in reasonably good health for now. He faces off against Tochinoshin, and his incredible strength. These two will go chest to chest from the start, and it will come down to who gets the best grip. If this goes long, it favors Tochinoshin, so look for Okinoumi to end it in the first 30 seconds. Their 5-6 career record shows how evenly these two are matched.

Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – Another great match from scheduling. Two tsuppari / oshi masters going head to head is a formula for an explosive bout. Even thought Takakeisho holds a slight 2-1 career advantage, Tamawashi is pressing hard for double digits.

Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Mitakeumi is looking genki, and Onosho has yet to settle down and get his sumo running well. So this may be all Mitakeumi. But this could also be the day that Onosho clears the cobwebs and brings his blistering offense to the dohyo.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – Match of the burly-men, I am quite sure this is all Takayasu, and it’s going to be over in short order, I expect.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – A long term rivalry that goes back years, this match strongly favors Goeido. The first two days have seen Kotoshogiku hit the clay twice. He seems to be cold and disorganized, which is a huge shame.

Ichinojo vs Kisenosato – Ichinojo presents a significant challenge to Kisenosato. Given his performance in the past two days, it seems that he is still not nearly as strong as he was prior to his injury last March. At 215 kg, Ichinojo represents a huge mass to overcome, and Ichinojo has been fighting well.

Hakuho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has never been able to present a reasonable challenge to Hakuho, and much as I love Hokutofuji, I don’t expect his day 3 match to be appreciably different.

Kakuryu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really seems to be lacking any kind of spark in his first two matches, and frankly fans have to wonder if he is injured. On the other hand, Kakuryu seems quite genki, and he has been calling the shots in his first two matches.

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 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.”

Kyushu Day 10 Highlights


Fukuoka

Many fans were eager to see the Hakuho-Ichinojo match from day 10. I can tell you now that it was, in fact, a fantastic bout that saw each man give everything they could to win. The look on Hakuho’s face at the end speaks volumes. For people at the top of their profession, be it sports, technology, art or medicine, there is a sad fact that many tasks that some might marvel at can become rote and boring. Many top performers yearn for a proper challenge, a way for them to grow and excel. When a situation brings you an enormous challenge, skillfully overcome, it is quite rewarding. I think we saw a glimpse of that on Hakuho’s face today.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Aoiyama – Uncle Sumo wins one by not pulling and against the massive (but injured) Aoiyama. Clearly, the big Bulgarian is having traction problems due to the injury to his right ankle in his bout against Okinoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – Nishikigi teeters on the edge of demotion with a make-koshi, and rallies to force out Kaisei. Kaisei is no light fellow, but Nishikigi is clearly motivated in this match.

Okinoumi defeats Daishomaru – The chronically injured Okinoumi picks up his kachi-koshi on day 10, with a convincing win against Daishomaru. Should his performance in Kyushu signal that Okinoumi has overcome his chronic injuries, he makes a very convincing upper Maegashira.

Shodai defeats Ikioi – This match is tough to watch, because everyone wants Shodai to do better, and knows that Ikioi has a bad back. The match is very sloppy, as you might expect with these two, with Ikioi mounting a haphazard and uncoordinated pushing attack, which is countered at the tawara by Shodai.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daieisho – After yesterday’s slap to Hokutofuji, Chiyoshoma has seen his popularity plummet with the crowd in Kokusai Center. Today’s match against Daieisho started with thrusting, but both men went chest to chest early and struggled for grip. Daieisho touted a solid defense and had a strong left hand inside grip. Several times Chiyoshoma rallied, but Daieisho strongly countered. The win came when Chiyoshoma was able to lift Daieisho over the tawara, and the crowd reaction told the story of what they think of this fellow. Hey, Chiyoshoma – don’t feed the “Mongolians are jerks” meme in Japan, please. It’s bad for sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Takekaze – Takekaze tried a hit and shift at the tachiai, but veteran Tochinoshin was expecting the move, and countered strongly, using his massive strength to slap away Takekaze’s “emergency thrusters”. Tochinoshin continued to swat Takekaze to the edge and then picked him up and shoved Takakaze over the tawara. Takakaze one loss from make-koshi and a likely demotion to Juryo.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Takarafuji seems to have been emboldened by his win over Kisenosato. His bout with Chiyomaru was a solid oshi match, and while Chiyomaru was landing the majority of blows, including a lot of nodowa, Takarafuji kept moving forward. Excellent effort from one of the surviving Isegahama rikishi.

Endo defeats Arawashi – Notable in that Endo gave Arawashi no opening at all. Endo charged strongly at the tachiai, put Arawashi on defense and then drove strongly forward. Endo looking very good this basho, and Endo fans hope that he has his body together and working now.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Kaio’s doppelgänger faced off against sumo-Elvis, and took a pounding. Chiyotairyu at one point had a grip on Hokutofuji’s face and jerked it back and forth. Hokutofuji stayed focused, stayed on his feet and kept moving forward. Chiyotairyu realizes he is not going to be able to pull him down and the real tsuppari attack begins. Hokutofuji’s upper body is clearly on defense, and taking some punishment, but his lower body is on offense and after falling back for a moment, resumes marching forward. For a moment both men rest against each other’s shoulders, clearly, this match is close to a stalemate. In the end, Chiyotairyu may have run out of gas, and Hokutofuji pushed him out. Great oshi bout. Hokutofuji kachi-koshi.

Takakeisho defeats Shohozan – another solid battle between two rikishi swatting each other into submission. When they were fully engaged, it was a blur of fury as Shohozan’s well-muscled arms were punishing Takakeisho’s upper body. But Takakeisho did not give ground and launched a powerful shoving attack against Shohozan’s torso. This seems to be Takakeisho’s go to offense, and once again employed it for victory.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – The return of the red mawashi seems to have marked a return of Onosho’s sumo prowess. Tamawashi has been a tough contestant this basho, but Onosho gets him face-down on the clay shortly after the tachiai. Onosho needs to win 4 of the next 5 to get his kachi-koshi, but maybe the magic red mawashi has enough power to get him there.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – So many Yoshikaze fights are freewheeling, running battles, and today was a great example of what happens when rikishi face the Berserker. Tochiozan gave as good as he got for a time, but Yoshikaze seems to think and move faster than nearly anyone else. He can and does spot an opening and then makes his opponent pay. Tochiozan is really not strong this basho, and we hope that his left knee can get healed by Hatsu.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – I am not going to fault Goeido in this bout, he was strongly committed to his offense. As described, Goeido 2.0 mode leaves no room for his own defense, and I applaud Mitakeumi for taking advantage of that to Goeido’s detriment. To be clear, Mitakeumi’s win shows his excellent ring sense and exquisite timing. Had Mitakeumi missed that one even by a moment, it would have gone the other way.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Sadly this marks Kotoshogiku as make-koshi. Kotoshogiku went strongly on offense, and Takayasu gave ground, but Kotoshogiku overcommitted, and Takayasu was able to slap him down at the edge of the ring. By staying airborne for a few moments, Takayasu ensured that Kotoshogiku landed first. Not a strong showing from Takayasu, but a win is a win. He is now one victory from clearing kadoban.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – This one lived up to its billing. Ichinojo came ready for some sumo, and everyone loved it. Although being enormous is not a strategy in upper division sumo, Ichinojo used his incredible size for all he could today, and it gave Hakuho a lot of trouble. Do yourself a favor, watch the replay and only look at Ichinojo’s feet. It was clear that he thought that his first task was not to overpower Hakuho, but to maintain a steady defense to prevent the Yokozuna from winning. Time and again Hakuho could not set up leverage enough to drop Ichinojo, and it was clear that Hakuho was really enjoying the challenge. But Hakuho kept moving a bit at a time, working to improve his position and his grip. At one point Ichinojo almost lands a left hand outside grip, and we see Hakuho make an emergency move. Outstanding effort form both rikishi, and I am really impressed with Ichinojo. Great sumo.

Kyushu Day 9 Highlights


Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri-Kyushu-Day-1

Let’s start with this – what on earth is Kisenosato doing? I do love some “Great Pumpkin” sumo, especially this close to Halloween, but he is fighting at mid-Maegashira level now. He certainly should not be out there as a Yokozuna, and I am sure that the Sumo Kyokai and the YDC are in an uproar that he returned to the dohyo well ahead of his full recovery. Last night prior to my US bed time, I was scanning all of the “usual sources” looking for the expected announcement that Kisenosato had withdrawn from the Kyushu basho with <insert malady here>. None came. I would guess that he is being counseled otherwise tonight.

In the race to catch Hakuho, all of the rikishi going in today one loss behind each went down to defeat, leaving “The Boss” out in front of everyone, undefeated, and with a 2 win lead starting the second week.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi has been on a winning streak, and it was a bit of a surprise to see Kotoyuki take control of this match and lead Okinoumi to his demise. People with skill in predictions have already been forecasting Kotoyuki’s return to Juryo for Hatsu, but perhaps he can in fact rally and stay in the top division.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – The happy sumotori gave Nishikigi a solid fight right from the tachiai. Both men battled to the tawara where Nishikigi started the throw, but Asanoyama finished it. Asanoyama is not quite as genki as he was at Aki, but he still has some room to recover.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama needs every win he can squeeze from the remainder of the Kyushu basho. Getting off balance around Takekaze is a recipe for a loss, as Takekaze is experienced enough to make you pay.

Myogiryu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi gives up the inside grip in spite of clearly being a step ahead at the tachiai. Myogiryu is looking quite genki this basho – maybe he is back to his old self? Flagging Ikioi needs to pull himself together. I am going to assign this as another casualty of the intense jungyo schedule.

Daieisho defeats Aminishiki – Now that the push-me-pull-you pattern has run its course, Aminishiki is struggling to dominate matches. We all love uncle sumo, but the reality is he has damaged legs and there are limits to what he can do in a power battle with a young rikishi.

Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki clearly owns the start of this match, but Chiyomaru keeps giving ground, and Kagayaki is all too happy to chase him around the dohyo. This, of course, is a mistake as he gets his balance too far forward, and Chiyomaru pulls him down.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Fairly good mawashi battle from these two, Shodai gave it everything he had and established moro-zashi almost right away. However, the massive Brazilian kept his defense solid. The match ended with a throw attempt at the tawara that Kaisei thought he lost, but Shodai touched down a split second earlier.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – It was Endo from the start. I am going to guess that Tochinoshin’s knee is bothering him greatly, and he is unable to push against it with his massive strength.

Daishomaru defeats Ichinojo – The great boulder of Mongolia was not dialed in today, and Daishomaru got him high and out before he could gather his moss and recover. A bit surprising given how solid Ichinojo has been for the first 8 days. Hopefully, Minato Oyakata switches him back to Frosted Flakes, as the Count Chocula makes him seize up and idle rough.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – There was some naughty business just after a matta, with Chiyoshoma putting an extra “post matta” thrust into Hokutofuji’s face. Matta, matta again. On attempt 4 they get a successful launch, and with Hokutofuji now completely pissed off he blasted Chiyoshoma straight back and out.

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Now that he has his make-koshi secure, Tochiozan decides to win one. It’s clear that Tochiozan’s left knee can barely support doing sumo. The first match ended with both men touching down / out together, so a torinaoshi was called.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – “Sumo Elvis” takes down local favorite Shohozan in this mawashi match. Both men prefer to win by bludgeoning their opponents to victory, but for some reason, they decided to go chest to chest. Solid match, and with any luck, we are seeing a shift in Chiyotairyu’s strategy.

Onosho defeats Takakeisho – Onosho’s magic red mawashi is doing its job and seems to have reversed his fortune. For today Takakeisho got gravely off balance, and Onosho swung to the side and put him on the clay. So help me, the kimarite looked like a dog groomer trimming a collie. But it’s a win, and Onosho needs them.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku launches out of the tachiai and applies maximum pressure, but Tamawashi was able to pull out a kotenage at the edge. From the crowd reaction, they thought that local favorite, Kotoshogiku, had prevailed.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – A messy, crazy match. They both opened with tsuppari, but Takayasu tried to go chest to chest. Mitakeumi wanted no part of that (Was it the Rolling Stones that sang “I’m Not Your Teppo Pole?”) and Mitakeumi danced away from Takayasu’s embrace. This unrequited invitation to support his burly bulk seemed to drive Takayasu into a rage and he chased down a now fleeing Mitakeumi and drove him to the clay.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze dominated this match, but kept overcommitting to each attack. Goeido worked to just stay on his feet and stay inside, waiting. His persistence was rewarded with Yoshikaze put himself off balanced and Goeido was able to flick him out with minimal effort. Very sloppy match that Yoshikaze should have won.

Hakuho defeats Chiyonokuni – I am not sure anyone can stop Hakuho if he remains uninjured, and it was certainly not going to be this form of Chiyonokuni. I am surprised to see Hakuho go for the mini-Henka two days in a row. Perhaps he is bored and wants to see how many times he can deploy it before his opponents get wise.

Takarafuji defeats Kisenosato – I am sure they gave Kisenosato a solid but middling Maegashira 5 in order to define just how poorly he is doing. The answer is – quite poorly. I love some Takarafuji in the mornings, yes I do. But Kisenosato should have been able to bag and tag this guy in the blink of an eye. Instead, the match raged on as a mighty yotsu battle that saw Kisenosato take Takarafuji to the edge and run out of gas. Go kyujo, Great Pumpkin. High marks for your enthusiasm to return to competition, but you are not quite ready yet. You and Takayasu need to spend a couple of months hulking out again.