Nagoya Day 14 Preview

We enter the final weekend of the Nagoya basho, and all eyes are on that final match on day 15 between the two yusho leaders, and what might happened on day 14 to set the stage for the conclusion to this tournament. As lksumo has pointed out so well, there are a handful of possible outcomes now, and they all revolve around how the two top men in sumo acquit themselves today.

Lower down the banzuke, the nature of sumo is showing its teeth. A good number of rikishi are still in the narrowing middle ground between a losing and winning record, and where possible they face each other to ensure that only the best rikishi will advance. This is true up and down the banzuke, where in the lower ranks an army of young men have 3-3 records going into their final match, and face another equally determined sumotori, who will throw everything they can muster into that final match in an effort to gain a winning record. Watching these “Darwin” matches on day 13, the action on day 14 will be fast, brutal and unforgiving.

Some fans have expressed disappointment in the torikumi for the final weekend, and with good cause. Sumo fans want to see the top men of the sport battling it out for all the hardware, and for the best there is to emerge triumphant. But with all of the Ozeki out with injuries now, the schedulers have had to make do with what they can, reaching far down the banzuke over the past few days to find opponents for the remaining Yokozuna. We all hope for a better lineup for Aki in September.

Key Day 14 Matches

Toyonoshima vs Nishikigi – Somehow, Toyonoshima is still in the hunt for a winning record. He’s only faced Nishikigi once before (for a loss), in May of 2016! Toyonoshima will have to win both of his remaining matches in order to get his 8 wins, but it could just happen.

Onosho vs Kagayaki – Both of them come in 6-7, so someone is getting loss #8, and someone gets to go into day 15 at 7-7. This is going to strongly favor Kagayaki in my book, given Onosho’s suspension and alignment issues, but their career record has them tied at 4-4. Pop the popcorn and open a fresh bottle of sake, this one might be good.

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is also still in the running to get to his 8th win, and he has to overcome his fellow veteran, the deeply make-koshi Tochiozan. Their career record is 13-13, but Tochiozan is looking really dismal this tournament.

Myogiryu vs Enho – Enho has hit a wall, and just can’t seem to find that final win to get to the safety of 8. He will find no relief today when he faces the much higher ranked and already kachi-koshi Myogiryu. Enho has been hurt since before the basho, but he’s out there fighting every single day. I think we all want to see him pull it off.

Aoiyama vs Shimanoumi – One of these two, both coming in with 7-6 scores, will get their kachi-koshi, and the other will have to try again on day 15. This is their first ever match, so no history to go from. I think Shimanoumi will struggle with Aoiyama’s long reach and powerful oshi-attacks.

Asanoyama vs Shodai – Shodai can still make it to 8, but he has to win both of his final matches. Asanoyama has had a rough ride (typical for first time ranked this high), but has fought well. He’s a force for the future, and he’s capable of putting Shodai away, if he thinks he can win.

Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – These two are surprisingly similar in some ways; you could almost think of Terutsuyoshi as a ¾ scale model of Hokutofuji, but just as fast, just as powerful and just as determined. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is just to run up the score for Hokutofuji, or to stay 1 behind the yusho leaders for Terutsuyoshi.

Abi vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has never lost to Abi, who needs 2 more wins to reach the safety of 8. How is Abi-zumo going to deal with what someone once called the “Mongolith”?

Daieisho vs Ryuden – Ryuden is make-koshi, but can still play spoiler to Daieisho’s bid to rank higher on the banzuke for September. They are evenly matched, but Daieisho has been fighting better this tournament.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – Chiyotairyu needs one more win, and he might find it today against the wreck of Tamawashi. Tamawashi has a dismal 3-10 record at the moment, I think one of the worst of his career. Clearly he is hurt, and not able to really be very effective on the dohyo.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – I expect a lot of caution on Kakuryu’s part today. He’s going to play to his strengths, and use a collapsing / retreating defense against Mitakeumi’s opening gambit. I will watch for him to protect the inside and try to deflect / re-direct Mitakeumi, who is likely going to power in strong. Kakuryu will stalemate and wait for an opening to put Mitakeumi away.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Man with damaged knees takes on man with damaged elbows. Don’t tell me the scheduling committee does not have a sense of humor; there have been too many “ha ha” moments this tournament to convince me otherwise. Hakuho has no problem dispatching a genki Kotoshogiku, let along the damaged relic who will mount the dohyo for the final match of day 14.

Nagoya Day 13 Highlights

Photo courtesy of the NSK Twitter feed

A short highlights today, as my work has the bulk of my time. The big news is that the yusho race took a dramatic change as upstart Tomokaze surprised Yokozuna Kakuryu with a rapid hatakikomi immediately following the tachiai. I think that Kakuryu may have been looking to blast the newcomer clear of the dohyo, and over-committed.

Yokozuna Hakuho also won his match against Myogiryu in a bout that was both chaotic and a bit cautious. That right arm (heck, the left too) is still a concern. This means that both Yokozuna have 1 loss each, and the stakes for the final match on day 15 have been raised. With Hakuho in damaged condition, it’s not clear cut that he can be expected to dominate that final match.

Terutsuyoshi also won, and remains 1 behind the leaders. His bout against Onosho featured Onosho’s all to common balance and stance issues, stemming from his knee injury and apparently not completely successful reconstruction. After turning in 6-9 in Osaka, then 6-9 for Natsu, Terutsuyoshi’s turn around is almost miraculous. He has shown fantastic sumo in Juryo to get him to this point, but this is in fact his best run since his Makushita yusho in Kyushu 2016.

Other Matches Of Note

Sadanoumi defeats Takagenji – Sadanoumi reaches kachi-koshi, in his best tournament since January.

Kotoeko defeats Enho – Enho just can’t seem to get win #8, as Kotoeko deftly uses his maneuverability to keep Enho out of any meaningful attack position. Great planning and execution by Kotoeko.

Toyonoshima defeats Shohozan – Toyonoshima’s back is against the wall, and he once again rallies to victory. Shohozan gave him a decent fight, but ends up make-koshi after Toyonoshima’s relentless sumo.

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Once again Okinoumi wanted to set up a stalemate and wait strategy, but this Kotoyuki from a parallel dimension seems to be some sort of sumo ass-kicker, and just took charge.

Meisei defeats Chiyomaru – Meisei finally finds some sumo, and flattens Chiyomaru, who lands with a satisfying bounce similar to a round, inflatable child’s bouncy-toy.

Endo defeats Shimanoumi – Endo kachi-koshi as he dispenses with the “thinking man’s sumo” and just overruns Shimanoumi.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – This was a great match, as expected, and I have to hand it to Ichinojo for putting up a strong fight. Hokutofuji kept his cool and his composure in the face of an enormous, blue-mawashi’d obstacle.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Where has this Tamawashi been? This is the guy who should have been fighting all tournament. Sadly this pushed Takarafuji to make-koshi.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi get his 8, and will retain his Sekiwake 1 East rank for September. He has Kakuryu for day 14, who he has managed to beat about ⅓ of the time they fight.

Nagoya Day 13 Preview

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji has my attention as the likely match of the day. Can Hokutofuji move the boulder?

The basho is running screaming into the final weekend, and it looks like it will probably come down to Hakuho vs Kakuryu for the hardware in the final match of the final day. This is a fairly decent way to end a basho, and I think most fans would be satisfied, in spite of the fact that we had the entirety of the Ozeki corps kyujo, and one Yokozuna banged up.

On the way to day 15, there are some rikishi who were doing well in the first few days that seem to have stalled out, and I am sure their fans are worried. This would include Hokutofuji, Abi, and Enho. This underscores my belief that we are going to have an exceptionally brutal final two days.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Tomokaze drops out, and it’s almost down exclusively to the two Yokozuna. If Terutsuyoshi wins day 13, I would guess they will put him against someone in San’yaku to make sure that the chances of a Maegashira 16w taking the yusho go closer to zero.

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Terutsuyoshi

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Tochiozan vs Nishikigi – Both are make-koshi, and will avoid the Darwin death match syndrome that seems to be in the wings for so many of our upper division rikishi. This is to figure out who is going to get dropped how far down the banzuke. If the bulk of the top division finish 7-8 or 8-7, it’s going to make for a very interesting banzuke.

Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Because I think that a bloody final weekend is what is in store, I am going to guess that Takagenji, how having secured his 8th loss, is going to rally and hand Sadanoumi a black star for day 13, bringing him close to the perilous 7-7 final day score.

Kotoeko vs Enho – Enho looks like he may have injured himself on day 12. He’s dropped the last 2 in a row, and I know he wants to hit 8 today and avoid the Darwin matches on day 15. Kotoeko has his 8, but he may want to run up the score.

Yago vs Daishoho – Yago has likely been condemned to ride the slow, smelly barge back to Juryo with our dear Yoshikaze and beloved Kaisei. But he can still help give Daishoho his 8th loss.

Shohozan vs Toyonoshima – Two tired, hurt veterans with 5-7 records going head to head. One of them will get a make-koshi today. The match of eternal sadness.

Kotoyuki vs Okinoumi – It could be expected that Kotoyuki will jump around like a mad penguin on a hot plate; I imagine Okinoumi will once again try to grapple with Mr 5×5 and slow the tempo of the match down. If he can put the match into that mode, he will probably pick up a much needed 7th win.

Onosho vs Terutsuyoshi – Somehow Onosho has pulled to 6-6, but he has his first ever match against compact sumo atomic reactor Terutsuyoshi, who is not the kind of fellow who would think 10 wins are enough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – Both are coming in with 6-6 records. They have split the 6 prior matches. They are quite evenly matched, and who can tell right now which one has an advantage here. We will get to see if Chiyotairyu hurt anything other than his pride in the fall to end his match on day 12.

Meisei vs Chiyomaru – Can Meisei rally to extend his 2-0 career record over Chiyomaru today? Meisei really looks like he has nothing left, and each match is increasingly difficult for him. If he can win today, Chiyomaru will be make-koshi.

Shimanoumi vs Endo – Both are 7-5, so someone exits this match with a kachi-koshi. Endo won their only other meeting.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Oh dear, Hokutofuji has been fighting so well, but here he has to clear a boulder from his patch to kachi-koshi. Or will the boulder clear him?

Asanoyama vs Aoiyama – Asanoyama needs to “win out” to get his kachi-koshi, which would be another notable achievement for a young rikishi who has greatly improved his sumo. As we saw on day 12, if you let Aoiyama set up his oshi attack, there is not a whole lot that will stop him.

Shodai vs Ryuden – Shodai holds a 3-0 career advantage over Ryuden, who is already make-koshi. Shodai’s sumo was surprisingly good on day 12; can he make it two in a row?

Abi vs Daieisho – I would imagine that Abi was quite embarrassed to lose on day 12 due to falling down. Given his lanky frame, it’s an occupational hazard! Daieisho is fighting quite well, and has a 4-3 career advantage over Abi, so it should be a fight worth watching.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi is suffering this basho, and Takarafuji has the patience to hold on and win if he can stalemate Tamawashi, which is a big if. A loss today would put Takarafuji at 8, for a make-koshi.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi holds a 10-4 advantage over the Kyushu bulldozer, and he needs one more win for his 8th. I would expect that Kotoshogiku is going to once again struggle for traction, and it will come down to Mitakeumi not giving Kotoshogiku any opening.

Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Given Hakuho’s degraded state, this match is far from a sure thing. Myogiryu has been especially energetic this basho, and Hakuho’s day 12 caution indicates he is saving what he can for day 15 against Kakuryu. The goal here – don’t get any more hurt than you already are, Boss!

Kakuryu vs Tomokaze – Well, Tomokaze, you should take this as recognition of how far you have come. You get to fight a Yokozuna, and if you manage to put dirt on him, you are going to make the final 2 days even more exciting and unpredictable than they already are. But be aware that Kakuryu is showing some of his best sumo in years.

Nagoya Day 12 Highlights

It looks like the day off may have done Yokozuna Hakuho a world of good. He bounced back strongly and did not wince during or after his match with Mitakeumi. If he can gamberize for the next 3 days, it sets up that final match on day 15 to be the decider, and it could not be a better bout to close out this trauma ward of a basho. A dai-Yokozuna who is maybe at 70% against the “understudy” who is showing some of the best sumo of his career.

It also looks like the top division may have an impressive number of “Darwin matches” on the final day. Where both rikishi are 7-7 and only one man exits with a kachi-koshi. This is in keeping with the brutal themes of this tournament, which I am sure many rikishi will look back and say “It can’t be as bad a Nagoya 2019…” when facing future struggles.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Kagayaki – Surprised? Impressed? Not sure how to list this. Kotoyuki has been good fun for a while, but tough to take too seriously because his performance is so unpredictable. But he picks up his first top division kachi-koshi since January of 2017. Well done sir!

Nishikigi defeats Yago – Yago is busted to be certain if Nishikigi and box and ship him out without even stoping by the post office for a stamp. Hopefully Yago is still under warranty, as a lot of fans want to see him healthy and fighting fit as soon as possible.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko’s superior mobility carried this match. He uses double arm thrust to the shoulders and then steps out of the way as Sadanoumi ramps up the forward pressure. Kotoeko picks up #8 and is kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Enho – Anyone else getting flashbacks of Ura blowing out his knee doing acrobatic stunts on the dohyo? This match was a mess, as it looks like Enho’s opening gambit fell apart and he improvised. While it might look like Shohozan had a hand down early, the top of Enho’s foot made contact with the clay well ahead of that. Crazy sumo, try not to get hurt guys.

Toyonoshima defeats Onosho – Experience, power and patience cleaned Onosho out today. I am an Onosho booster as fans know, but he’s still not quite right post injury / post surgery. Somehow, against all odds, Toyonoshima is not make-koshi. Acres of respect for this guy, he’s not going down easy, and not without taking a few other rikishi down first.

Okinoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Okinoumi wore his roundness down to the nub and then threw away the scraps. That was kind of boring to watch, as it was two guys standing around, but it was all about having the patience to make sure Chiyomaru was too worn out to really move his own ponderous bulk, let along execute any sumo.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Boom. Terutsuyoshi gets lower and inside at the tachiai, and never gives up the advantage. Though Myogiryu is landing blows, Terutsuyoshi is calling the tune, and he catches Myogiryu out of position and drives him out. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi, who now has 10 wins. What a turn around from March and May! (6-9 each)

Shimanoumi defeats Takagenji – Takagenji really hit a wall, picked up an injury or something just turned off. He came out strong and now he’s make-koshi. At Maegashira 10, he’s probably going to get a second chance to score 8 in the top division come September, so I hope he can get things buttoned up.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tochiozan – Both men wanted to establish a dominant grip, but neither could really land a hand on the other’s mawashi. Kotoshogiku can still push with a lot of force, and Tochiozan ran out of room to try his pull down.

Takarafuji defeats Daishoho – Again we see Takarafuji get into a stable position and work to wear down and stalemate his opponent. This seems to be working for him, as he now won the last 3 in a row. I will be most impressed if he can avoid make-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Tomokaze – Young Tomokaze gets a lesson in fighting someone very large when he aggressively goes for a eats battle, and finds himself utterly unable to do anything other than hold on. His arms were not long enough to reach around Ichinojo, and he had given the Mongolian behemoth a solid two hand grip on his own belt. Try as he might, he could not move Ichinojo, who played with him a bit before taking him to the curb for collection.

Daieisho defeats Asanoyama – Daieisho executed a well timed side-step as Asanoyama charged towards the edge of the ring to finish him. This is not the first match of this basho that Asanoyama has lost in this manner, so it’s probably something he wants to improve.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – One of the reasons I have a semi-permanent annoyance factor with Shodai is on display in this match. Look at this. He utterly out-classes Hokutofuji and sends him to get a facial from the gyoji in waiting, Konosuke. Where is this other 14 days of the basho, Shodai? Get it together man!

Endo defeats Abi – Endo effectively stalemated Abi-zumo 1.0, and when Abi went to unleash 2.0 on Endo, it fell to bits. I chalk it up to being a brand new gambit, and he needs to get more comfortable with when and how to employ it. His feet were not set properly, the dohyo is slick, and Endo had no problem shutting Abi down. Kimarite listed as tsukihiza, which is a “non-technique” denoting that Abi fell down.

Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – Aoiyama took control at the tachiai, and never gave up the advantage. Ryuden wanted to respond, but was too busy trying to maintain balance against Aoiyama’s thrusting attack.

Tamawashi defeats Meisei – Tamawashi manage to win is second match of the basho. Both of these rikishi need to regroup, because they have had a miserable time in Nagoya.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – After far too long of everyone muttering about why the hell is Kakuryu a Yokozuna? We are seeing some genuine “wow” sumo from Kakuryu. This ankle kick (susoharai) to bring Chiyotairyu down on his rear is quite seldom seen. If he can stay unhurt for 3 more matches, Kakuryu is going to be tough to beat.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Hakuho normally has little problem with Mitakeumi, but today the lead Tadpole robbed him of any leverage for The Boss’s much cherished “nage” throws. So the two expended endurance in a waiting game. What surprised me is that at one point both of them were nearly upright, and neither man went immediately to finish the other. I would say Mitakeumi was too tired, and Hakuho was protecting those elbows.