Kyushu Day 7 Preview

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A short preview tonight, as I am flying back to Texas from the snow encrusted tundra of New Jersey where I have spent this week. A reminder the fans that Saturday night into Sunday AM, NHK World will once again be live streaming the final hour of Makuuchi. So if you are the kind of person who would stay up late to watch the most compelling individual sport on the planet, get ready for some intense action on the middle day of this completely unpredictable Kyushu basho.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Onosho vs Arawashi – This is just cruel, Arawashi has one working leg, and some kind of wooden simulation for the other. I think Onosho will find an easy 6th win here.

Chiyoshoma vs Endo – This will be a good test for Endo, he and Chiyoshoma have a 5-4 career split, and come in with matching 3-3 records. Endo is not looking especially genki right now, but then again neither is Chiyoshoma. Might we get a mighty, flying henka?

Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – Another matching pair of records, this time with 4-2. Both are quite mobile, but Aoiyama has an amazing reach. Sadanoumi will probably try to use his mobility to get Aoiyama off balance and overcommitted. Otherwise I see Aoiyama’s superior ranged attack likely carrying the match.

Abi vs Daieisho – Both come into this match 5-1 (spotting a theme here?). Daieisho does not have much of a reach, so I am going to guess we get to see day #7 of Abi-zumo work its magic.

Ikioi vs Kagayaki – Both big, strong and mobile. This should be a match worth watching, though Kagayaki has never won a match from Ikioi in 5 attempts.

Shohozan vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama needs to bounce back after 4 straight losses, but Shohozan is no easy mark. His day 6 win over Kotoshogiku is the most intense and entertaining of the basho thus far.

Nishikigi vs Tamawashi – You think, “sure – Tamawashi in a walk over win”. But then again think of what Goeido thought, or what Tochiozan assumed. Nishikigi, like Shodai, may actually have been replaced not long ago by a doodle from Toon Town, and now operate via the laws of cartoon physics. As such he is quite dangerous and somebody will have to deal with him.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Both rikishi lost on day 6, and today might be more about who’s rhythm was more disrupted by that loss. Hokutofuji has the size and intensity, and Tochiozan the moves and technique.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – I think Kaisei is too hurt right now for quality sumo, and Myogiryu has been executing some of his best sumo in years. I would expect the Brazilian in the orange mawashi will rack up loss #6.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – I am starting to feel sorry for Ichinojo, because I am assuming he is not physically up to par. Chiyotairyu on the other hand seems to have hit his stride with his brand of “smash and grab” sumo. He’s gotten 5 wins so far, and I fear number 6 will happen today.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – Hey, Mitakeumi. You know that Sekiwake slot you have enjoyed? This guy says it’s time for you to turn it over to him. You know that Ozeki run? He says he’s going to show you how it’s done. Stand and deliver.

Yoshikaze vs Tochinoshin – A pair of 3-3 records, and a lot of unpredictability. Yoshikaze and and frequently does defeat anyone of any rank on any given day. This basho he has looked a shade less aggressive than September, but then again so has Tochinoshin.

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Ryuden won their only prior match, but Ryuden is looking highly disorganized this basho. I would think that Takayasu will get the job done without too much fuss today.

Goeido vs Shodai – Goeido needs to take this one quite seriously. Picking up a 4th loss on day 7 puts him in genuine mathematical risk of going kadoban again. Shodai on the other hand has all of toon town cheering him on, and a whole bag full of cartoon sumo tricks.

Kyushu Day 6 Highlights

Kyushu Day 6

We kicked off Kyushu Act 2 in fine style, and with just the Ozeki holding down the big end of the torkiumi, it’s makes for a really quick final division. While whoever wins this basho will always have an asterisk next to it (due to Nokozuna), its still an official tournament, and everything that happens does indeed count.

Somewhere in the stands today, our own “man in exotic lands” Josh was enjoying the matches. If I could guess, we may see some of his thoughts on this blog before the end of the day.

In other news, an off-hand remark I made in the day 6 preview seems to have severely impacted my weekend chanko recipe. This shall be painful, smelly and foul tasting. But it must be done.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Daiamami – It’s one thing to have Uncle Sumo visit the top division for a day, and it’s another thing (a special, wonderful thing) to have him unleash sumo magic. I am certain Daiamami was looking for a henka, instead Aminishiki drove inside and set up a rare kimarite: Amiuchi (aka The Fisherman’s Throw).

Arawashi defeats Daishomaru – Notable because for the injured Arawashi, this is his first win of the basho. As you can see post-match, he can put very little pressure on that injured leg. Ranked at Maegashira 16, a make-koshi is a return trip to Juryo.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – There seems to be almost no hope for “Love Chunks” Chiyomaru, as Onosho puts him up for adoption with the nearest Oyakata.

Aoiyama defeats Takanosho – Aoiyama appears to have reconnected with his sumo, and improves to 4-2, meanwhile Takanosho looks to be in trouble.

Chiyonokuni defeats Endo – After Endo’s day 5 match, people began to think he had his body and his sumo re-connected. However, Endo ceded control of the match to Chiyonokuni at the tachiai, and Chiyonokuni never let him do anything more that try to react to his sumo.

Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – This is Ikioi’s first win over Yutakayama, and it underscores the impact of Yutakayama’s injuries. Ikioi made fast work of him, and we saw no defensive pressure from Yutakayama.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – THE match of the basho thus far! These two went at it with gusto, and neither one let an offensive move go unanswered. As the battle raged across the dohyo, the two swapped roles, techniques and advantages. In the end I think it was all down to Shohozan outlasting the former Ozeki. The crowd went wild for these two hometown favorites. I loved the bow that Kotoshogiku gave at the end of that match, pure respect for a worthy opponent, and a match that might be the highlight of his year.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa did not survive Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai with his balance intact, and the burly Kokenoe rikishi advanced and pushed the still-recovering Takanoiwa clear of the tawara.

Abi defeats Asanoyama – Two happy rikishi enter, one rikishi leaves happy. Again the double arm tsuppari of Abi-zumo left his opponent unable to do anything other than get pounded into defeat.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – As thought, the overwhelming intensity of Yoshikaze’s berserker attacks proved more than Kagayaki’s strong low stance and solid fundamentals could absorb. Kagayaki opened strong, but Yoshikaze rallied at the tawara. I will say that Kagayaki is getting better at enduring that style of attack, which is good news for his future sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – No really, undefeated Tochiozan went down to the tragically over-promoted Nishikigi for his second win in a row. I am not sure what they did to him, but Nishikigi has decided to win. Wow…

Takakeisho defeats Kaisei – Stand him up, slap him down. Takakeisho is now the only unbeaten Makuuchi rikishi at Kyushu. Without any Yokozuna or credible Ozeki to contain him, Takakeisho is really racking up the wins.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Mitakeumi decided to bring his sumo today, and while Hokutofuji started strong, it was clearly a grade below Mitakeumi’s “A Sumo”.

Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – I am starting to feel quite sad for Ichinojo, as he continues to fade. Myogiryu, however, is bringing fire and energy to each match, something that is sorely missing in many other rikishi at the top end of the banzuke right now.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi allowed the match to go chest to chest at the tachiai, and gave up his primary advantage: mobility. At that point it was Takayasu’s fight, and it ended as could be expected with the big man applying a straightforward but powerful yorikiri.

Goeido defeats Ryuden – The Goeido techs were able to wipe the “Bouncy Castle” zero day exploit from his battle control systems, and the Goeido 2.1 stack functioned normally today.

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Once again Tochinoshin allows his opponent to dictate the terms of the match. Unable to land any sort of grip, Tochinoshin was helpless to stop Shodai’s cartoon physics from completely disrupting his sumo. He drops to 3-3.

Kyushu Day 6 Preview

Aki Day 8 Toys

Welcome to act 2 of the Kyushu basho! This is where we sort who is hot from who is not, and begin to shape the yusho race. At the start of act 2, we are in a Nokozuna status, and none of the Ozeki or Sekiwake are undefeated. The basho is possibly being conducted in “toon town” of Roger Rabbit fame, where the rules of the normal world do not seem to apply.

That said, it’s still an official basho, and the results are all too real. While many are thrilling to both Takakeisho and Tochiozan, the mechanics of act 2 are quite a bit different than act 1. Endurance, experience and a number of factors will govern the race for the cup, and we won’t have even an idea what the yusho race will be until the middle day of the tournament on Sunday. Until then, cheer your favorite rikishi, and try not to worry too much – it’s going to be a great tournament.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Daiamami vs Aminishiki – With the Yokozuna out, the imbalance in the torikumi is made up by a random Juryo guy of the day. As fortune would have it, today’s guest rikishi is none other than Uncle Sumo!

Onosho vs Chiyomaru – You can either be sad that Chiyomaru is likely going to earn defeat number 5, or happy that Onosho continues to strengthen following his surgery over the summer. Or both.

Chiyonokuni vs Endo – The time has come for Endo to throw Chiyonokuni the grumpy badger aside and strive for a strong (more than 8 win) kachi-koshi. Chiyonokuni continues to underperform even at this lowered level of the banzuke. Maybe there is something amiss with the chanko at Kokenoe?

Ikioi vs Yutakayama – Two from the scratch-and-dent bin, but I would likely nod to Ikioi to be less damaged. Yutakayama needs to find a way to heal up, we need him strong and ready in the future.

Chiyotairyu vs Takanoiwa – The key to beating Chiyotairyu is to survive the first few seconds on your feet and with your balance intact. Takanoiwa is highly mobile, but still nursing an injury.

Abi vs Asanoyama – Abi-zumo seems to be on a roll, where Asanoyama is working to just tread water, so I am going to concede a slight advantage to Abi, in spite of Asanoyama’s tendency to disrupt Abi and toss him around like a dachshund with an old sock.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – I like both rikishi, and I have no idea if deliberate and strong is going to carry the day over fast and agile. I would tend to think that Yoshikaze wants it a bit more.

Tochiozan vs Nishikigi – If Nishikigi wins this, I am prepared to eat both my own buttocks. But I am going to assume my seated posture is safe for today.

Takakeisho vs Kaisei – I am fond of saying that being enormous is not necessarily a strategy for top division sumo, but there is the consideration of Newtonian mechanics to consider in this match: 500+ lbs of Brazilian rikishi who does have some skill. Takakeisho with his powerful “wave action” attack, but his tiny short little T-Rex arms may not allow him to scratch his head and his lower back at the same time, let alone reach Kaisei’s body. Advice to Kaisei, do your best impersonation of a teppo pole and just let him wear himself out. You don’t have to move, or even acknowledge him. Just let kindly Isaac Newton take care of business.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – Hey, Mr “I could have been a contender”, Hokutofuji is on a bit of a hot streak. You can redeem yourself with a win here. Your fans are legion, but even they have to be noticing that you are a half-step slow at every tachiai.

Myogiryu vs Ichinojo – Does Ichinojo have any drive to win, this tournament? We never get know much about the health of rikishi except for the Yokozuna, but it’s tough to explain a 1-4 start from this guy. Nobody should assume they can beat Myogiryu this basho, he’s in the right place at the right time and he’s trained to peak performance.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Evenly matched with a 10-10 career record, these two were San’yaku fixtures for a good number of consecutive tournaments, and each know how to attack and defeat the other. I am looking for Takayasu to bounce back from his day 5 loss. In spite of my frustration, he is still very much a contender to finish this tournament on top.

Goeido vs Ryuden – What is Goeido going to do? Who knows! After his loss to otherwise hapless Nishikigi, I don’t know what is real and what is cartoon any more. I have to assume that Goeido has some injury we are not aware of.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – The newest Ozeki has been struggling with foot injuries, and we have only seen use his trademark “power sumo” sparingly in this basho. While Shodai would seem to be the mayor of cartoon town, he can and sometimes does beat just about anyone. So hopefully Tochinoshin operates with greater care than he showed in his embarrassing loss to Hokutofuji on day 5.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One of the 2018 Kyushu Basho

 

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The 2018 Kyushu Basho is turning into one of the most intriguing, unpredictable tournaments we’ve had this year. We’ve seen some stellar performances from unexpected places, and some abysmal sumo from some of the top stars. As a result, Kyushu has been something of a Bizarro World Basho and it feels like the sumo world has gone topsy-turvy. With Act Two on the horizon, here’s everything you need to know to get up to speed after Act One of Kyushu.

Yusho Race

Without a resident Yokozuna, and the Ozeki corps beginning to crack, the Yusho race is very much up in the air. At the head of the pack are two very surprising characters: Komusubi Takakeisho and Meagashira 2 Tochiozan, who both enter Act Two with perfect 5-0 records. Right behind them is a mob of rikishi including Daiamami, Onosho, Daiesho, Chiyotairyu, Abi, and Takayasu. All of these men have four wins and will be waiting eagerly for Takakeisho and Tochiozan to make a mistake.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

With Act One in the books, we now have a large group of rikishi who are at least halfway to their coveted kachi koshi. This list includes every member of the Yusho race listed above, and each one of them could have a winning record by the end of Act Two should they keep their losses to a minimum. On the flip side, we have a huge crowd who have four or more losses and are heading towards a losing record. At the very bottom of this list is the hapless Arawashi, who is 0-5 and looks too injured to put up a fight. Above him are Chiyomaru, Chiyonokuni, Takanosho. Yutakayama, Takarafuji, Nishikigi (though his only win did come from Ozeki Goeido) Ryuden, Kaisei (technically 1-2-2 after sitting out the first two days, but like the rest he still needs seven more wins to save his rank), and Ichinojo, who all have 1-4 records. These men will need to get their sumo in gear, or else face demotion for the New Year.

Kinboshi

Prior to his departure, Kisenosato gave out three kinboshi to Maegashira wrestlers. These lucky recipients were Hokutofuji, Myogiryu, and Tochiozan. Now that Kise is kyujo, the kinboshi number has been capped at three.

Kyujo

Speaking of Kisenosato, let’s address the elephant in the room. As I’m sure many of you know, Yokozuna Kisenosato went kyujo prior to the beginning of Day 5. It has since been revealed that Kise sprained his right knee during his first-day match with Takakeisho and as a result, pulled out of Kyushu following his fourth straight loss. This decision came after consulting his Oyakata, who told Kisenosato that he could not continue in his condition. According to Kisenosato, he wanted to compete for the fans as the sole Yokozuna but had to put his recovery first, and has been prescribed a month of treatment. The Yokozuna has also stated that he has no intention to retire and wishes to return in time for the winter jungyo. It is yet to be determined what action the NSK will take, and we could very well have witnessed the end of Kisenosato’s career on the dohyo. But for the time being, Kyushu is officially a Nokozuna Basho.

Act One of the 2018 Kyushu Basho has been a very dramatic one. For some, the “play” has been a thriller, for others, it’s been a tragedy. What can be said for sure though, is that this unpredictable Basho is just heating up!

 

Kyushu Basho Day 6: Storylines to Follow

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Very much unlike a Yokozuna, I’m in action at the Kyushu basho over the course of the next two days of festivities, to wrap up the first week of what has been a truly perplexing basho.

The rest of the Tachiai squad will weigh in regarding a more comprehensive list of matches to watch, but based on the San’yaku-destroying carnage that has thus far unfolded, I’d like to update my wishes for the tournament with some new things I would like to see… starting with tomorrow.

Mitakeumi Fan Club to Drive Rally vs Hot Hokutofuji

In sumo, when the going gets tough, much of the time someone ranked lower than you eats your lunch and you get going. First-week flat track bully Mitakeumi is about to find that out the hard way, as in the space of about ten matches he has gone from promotion hopeful to losing his grip on sumo’s third-highest rank. On current form, I wouldn’t bet against him falling out of the san’yaku ranks altogether.

While there are no shortage of rikishi at the top of the banzuke who could draw sighs of disappointment thus far this tournament, I’m focused on Mitakeumi for a specific reason: he draws monstrous support from the crowd in a way that doesn’t normally transfer on TV and I’m eager to see whether the jitters start to set in amongst the faithful who show up to support him every day, and what the reaction will be if he drops another set on Day 6 to fiery Hokutofuji.

Right now, Hokutofuji just looks like he wants it more. Both men wear their emotions more than the average rikishi, but where Hokutofuji has shown strong performance even in defeat, the manner of Mitakeumi’s Day 5 exit to Kaisei was totally shocking. He had the better of the tachiai, and then he had Kaisei high. Having raised his centre of gravity, he drove the Brazilian to the edge but then suddenly Kaisei found an extra gear, pushed Mitakeumi across the dohyo on one good leg, and ushered him out. A strong start is all very well but you have to finish the job.

Clash of Styles for Returning Veterans

I said I wanted to see what kind of reception would be granted to the local heroes, and the schedulers couldn’t have drawn it up any more kindly for my first day at the Kokusai Center as we get Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan. Both men are natives to the area. Kotoshogiku enters in slightly better form, but as in any local derby, the form table is going to go out the window for this one and I expect the decibels to smash the ceiling.

The two men have very different styles, with Kotoshogiku’s hug and chug up against Shohozan’s run and gun. Shohozan has got to keep Kotoshogiku’s hands off his mawashi, and if he can upset the Bulldozer’s traction he’ll be in business, as Kotoshogiku often suffers when he’s forced to pivot and can’t keep his feet on the ground. The former Ozeki leads the overall series 14-6 but it’s been fairly even lately, with Shohozan taking 3 of the last 7.

Lower Rankers to Pile Pressure on Takayasu

With all of the final five matches on Day 5 ending in upsets, the highest-ranked remaining rikishi are in for real fights to avoid demotions or kadoban status, never mind challenge for the yusho. Takayasu had just about got away with it before day 5, having been (literally) turned around a couple times and almost dropped to defeat by wrestlers he should be beating before Tochiozan sprung yet another of the shocks of the day and tournament.

Having lost his share of the lead, the problems are going to become more difficult on Day 6. Fellow leaders/challengers Takakeisho, Tochiozan, Onosho, Chiyotairyu and Abi all face more winnable matches than does Takayasu. That’s not to say all of the aforementioned challengers will win, but Takayasu is going to come up against a Tamawashi who’s not only well rested after a fusen-sho gift from Kisenosato, but who also finds himself in good position to regain san’yaku status himself, having already knocked off one Ozeki in week 1.

Can Tamawashi take another scalp, or will Takayasu get his sumo back together in time to mount the yusho challenge that both he and the sport realistically need him to piece together?

Atmosphere to Match Impressive Contenders

While burgeoning superstar Abi is already a much cheered-for name, I’d like to hear the crowd really get behind guys like Hokutofuji, Chiyotairyu, Onosho, and especially Tochiozan. While I don’t think all of these guys will be contenders until the final days, they all have a glorious opportunity to raise their profile and it would be great to hear this recognised by the fans in attendance.

Onosho in particular, due to injury, has missed some of the moments in the limelight that have been afforded to his rival Takakeisho. As he looks to be finding his form, hopefully he can be drawn against competitors higher up the banzuke and re-establish himself as the big name he looked to be with those 30 famous wins he notched to start his makuuchi career.

And as for Takakeisho himself, he has a golden opportunity to punch his ticket to star status. If his fan-pleasing “wave action tsuppari” can flummox the one-legged Kaisei on Day 6, he’s going to have a lot to say about the run to the Emperor’s Cup. If the crowd brings as much energy as we know Takakeisho will, it’s going to be an electric day.