People adore Ura because of the kind of thing that happened in his match with Takakeisho today. A moment where things like physics and the natural world take a break and you gets a raw moment of “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” sumo. It does not happen every day, or even every basho, but if you look for it, there are Ura highlight reels on YouTube that just got another segment from today’s fight.
The yusho race is largely unchanged, with the schedulers waiting to gets Takanosho in the final three days. I expect that he will get at least one loss, and there will be a chance for both Terunofuji, and maybe Ura too, to try for the cup in the last two days. While I love the fact that speed demon Sadanoumi is in that same 9-3 bunch, I think they are going to brush him off shortly to bring the race down to 2 or 3 people.
Ryuden defeats Oho – Ryuden gets an immediate hazu-oshi from the tachiai. It only lasts a moment, but it’s enough to raise Oho up, and even though Ryuden breaks content, Oho never resets lower. From there its Ryuden on the attack until Oho steps out on the west side. That’s win number 8 for Ryuden, he is kachi-koshi for Natsu, and we may get to see him in the top division again in July if he can manage another win in Juryo.
Kagayaki defeats Chiyotairyu – You know its an odd day when bulky locomotive Chiyotairyu attempts a henka. It works about as well as you might expect, and gives Kagayaki a bit of an offensive advantage. Kagayaki looked to be dialed into his sumo, which I think comes with being at 7 losses as the last man on the banzuke. He delivered a couple of combos center-mass, and sent Chiyotairyu tumbling out. Kagayaki improves to 5-7.
Aoiyama defeats Azumaryu – Solid, simple and fundamentals based sumo from Aoiyama. He got his hands inside and delivered a sequence of pushes to Azumaryu’s chest. The first one broke his balance, the following ones send him back and out. That’s win number 8 for Aoiyama, and he is kachi-koshi for May at 8=4.
Meisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Meisei had a bit of an early launch, but the gyoji did not call it, so the match proceeded. The two grappled at the center of the ring, and it was immediately apparent that Meisei had come equipped with a very loose mawashi today. As Chiyoshoma was working hard toward some kind of belt throw, the mawashi proved to distract him from his sumo, and Meisei moved him back and out as Chiyoshoma was struggling to improve his grip. Meisei finishes the day 6-6.
Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – For the opening moments of the fight, it was a very evenly balanced pushing match. But For some reason Yutakayama attempted to break contact, and dropped his defense. Okinoumi charged ahead, pushing Yutakayama back and out, improving to 6-6.
Kotoshoho defeats Midorifuji – Impressive speed from Kotoshoho today. He quickly grabs Midorifuji at the tachiai, runs him back and crushes him out at the tawara. Midorifuji tried a rescue throw at the bales, but it was going nowhere. Both end the day in the middle of the funnel at 6-6.
Tochinoshin defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu starts strong, but he can’t keep Tochinoshin moving. Paused chest to chest near the middle of the ring, Tochinoshin finds his left hand outside grip, and from there it’s three quick steps to the bales, and Tochinoshin’s 8th win to end the day 8-4 and kachi-koshi for Natsu.
Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Sadanoumi continues his dominance over Shimanoumi, getting low and inside, then proceeding to drive him immediately out. Sadanoumi improves to 9-3.
Kotokuzan defeats Terutsuyoshi – Kotokuzan finally picks up his second win of the basho. He did it by keeping Terutsuyoshi off of his mawashi, and then chasing him around the ring. The last in a series of blows sent Terutsuyoshi out, improving Kotokuzan to 2-10, and delivering Terutsuyoshi his 8th loss. He is make-koshi for Natsu.
Nishikigi defeats Kotoeko – For the first time in their sumo careers, Nishikigi has been able to beat Kotoeko. The secret to Nishikigi’s sumo today was patience, and working towards a left hand outside grip. Once he was able to get that grip, it was quick work to finish Kotoeko with an uwatenage. Nishikigi finishes the day at 6-6.
Takanosho defeats Ichiyamamoto – Tehre was a small chance that Ichiyamamoto could have scrambled the leaderboard for us, but given their huge rank difference, there was never much chance. Points to Ichiyamamoto for a pull attempt at the tachiai that got Takanosho off balance, but the yusho race leader was able to keep his feet enough to drive Ichiyamamoto out first. Takanosho improves to 10-2 and remains in sole possession of the lead.
Endo defeats Hokutofuji – No grip attempt from Endo today to start the match, he takes Hokutofuji on in a thrusting battle. The two exchange pulling attacks, with Endo’s having some effect. He gets behind Hokutofuji and runs him out from behind to improve to 5-7.
Wakamotoharu defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama attempted some kind of flying pull down henka at the tachiai. It failed spectacularly. Kiribayama did manage to get a left hand inside grip, and was able to stay in the match and fighting. This unfolded into a protracted yotsu battle, with neither man able to gain enough advantage to do much more that struggle for a better grip. It was Kiribayama who tired first, and Wakamotoharu took his opening, driving Kiribayama out to improve to 8-4, and complete his kachi-koshi for Natsu.
Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – Takayasu nearly lost this match by making the critical mistake of focusing his attacks on Takarafuji’s non-existent neck. Takarafuji made him pay, driving him back and nearly over the tawara (a healthy Takarafuji would have dispatched Takayasu at this point). But Takayasu was able to arrest his slide, and tossed Takarafuji to the clay, improving to 4-8.
Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Hoshoryu got the inside route and attacked Kotonowaka center-mass. Showing excellent foot placement, and good body position, Hoshoryu attacked from underneath, and there was nothing Kotonowaka could do but move back, and eventually out. Hoshoryu improves to 7-5.
Daieisho defeats Tamawashi – Sadly Tamawashi has faded from being part of the leader group to now being the middle of the funnel. Daieisho gets a solid hit at the tachiai, and steps to the side for Tamawashi’s counter strike. That’s win number 8 for Daieisho, and he improves to 8-4 and is kachi-koshi for Natsu.
Shodai defeats Tobizaru – An oblique attack by Tobizaru at the tachiai was well executed, and got Shodai to the edge of the ring in a hurry. But Tobizaru’s finishing move was partially deflected by Shodai, and they stepped out together. It was monoii time. The replay showed Shodai touching first, but the shimpan called for a redo. Second match, its all Shodai, who pushes Tobizaru out to improve to 5-7.
Abi defeats Mitakeumi – Abi-zumo made fast work of Mitakeumi today, landing his initial strike against Mitakeumi’s neck. From there Abi powered forward, and Mitakeumi could not break away. Abi improves to 6-6.
Ura defeats Takakeisho – Ura used his forearm as a defensive shield against Takakeisho’s opening thrust, and it worked. But Takakeisho was on the attack, and Ura could only try to keep his feet and stay in the ring. As Takakeisho pushed him over the bales, one of those strange Ura moments took place. Suddenly gravity eased up, momentum took a break, and Ura executed a circular fall in mid-air, getting just enough purchase to push Takakeisho out from behind. Of course there was a monoii, as everyone within a 100 mile radius wondered what the hell just happened. No, it really did happen that way, and Ura takes the win to advance to 9-3, and Takakeisho heads to the tunnel to watch the replay and figure out “how”.
Terunofuji defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage gave the Yokozuna a strong fight, but eventually Terunofuji got his double arm lock set up. Sure Wakatakakage had morozashi, but could not do anything about it. Terunofuji took his time and eventually lifted Wakatakakage for another kimedashi win. Terunofuji stays one win behind Takanosho at 9-3.
And just like that, we’re down to one. Kazekeno won his bout against Hitoshi in impressive fashion. Both men understood the stakes at the outset. The tension before the tachiai is palpable. Kazekeno made sure to slide back a few feet from the shikirisen (white lines). Then, he bunny-hopped back six inches farther, which raised Hitoshi’s eyebrows. Hitoshi adjusted his own position while Kazekeno bounced around, settling in for the charge.
When the two men launch out at each other, Kazekeno’s extra distance required him to take two full steps forward. That running start was significant. When he met Hitoshi, his pushed strongly upward, and that extra momentum forced his opponent backward. Hitoshi’s right foot met the tawara but he seemed to miss with his left foot, and stepped out. Kazekeno is undefeated heading into the final match day.
Further up the torikumi in Jonidan, Yamato was pitted against Toseiryu. I’ll give you a little more of an introduction to Toseiryu next. In his previous bouts, Yamato dove straight for his opponents’ legs and was able to score quick, acrobatic wins. However, Toseiryu was a challenge too far. Weighing 50kg more than Yamato, and with considerably more speed and power than any of Yamato’s previous opponents, he blasted the poor youngster into the cushions behind the waiting wrestlers.
Toseiryu is a strong lad who made his debut last tournament against Kototebakari. Further losses in Osaka against Sokokurai’s nephew, Daiseizan, and Nishonoseki recruit Hanafusa, meant that his 4-3 record was really nothing to sneeze at. In fact, with this win over Yamato, these four men comprise the Jonidan yusho race. They will pair off on Day 13 and the two winners should meet in a thrilling playoff on senshuraku.
Sumo fans, prepare yourself. The final days of this basho are likely to be chaotic and unpredictable. We may have the largest Darwin cohort in recent memory, a topsy turvy yusho race with rikishi from all over the banzuke having a shot at the cup, and maybe even the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan himself will make an appearance. Stock up the fridge, buy up a large horde of sake, and prepare for the unusual. It just may happen.
If someone can beat Takanosho it will blow the race open. I expect that today or Friday, as it’s the best possible outcome for the schedulers now.
Oho vs Ryuden – Hey, look who it is! I am kind of curious if we will see Ryuden back in the top division in July. Like many others, he was suspended, dropped down the banzuke, and has been battling his way back ever since they let him restart. According to our ace prognosticator lksumo, he needs 2 more wins to punch his ticket back to the top division this basho, maybe he can take one from Oho today.
Chiyotairyu vs Kagayaki – What a fine match this is. We may get Chiyotairyu kachi-koshi and Kagayaki make-koshi at the same time. As the last man on the banzuke, a losing record had better toss him back into the farm league this time. Chiyotairyu has a 8-5 career advantage, and I want to see some thunder-god sumo from him today.
Aoiyama vs Azumaryu – It’s time for “Big Dan” Aoiyama to pick up his 8th win. I really wish it were not likely to be against Azumaryu, who is now just 2 losses away from make-koshi himself. Azumaryu won their only prior match, but Aoiyama is fighting quite well right now, and will likely dominate this match.
Meisei vs Chiyoshoma – Pure funnel match as both are 5-6. In spite of Meisei’s 6-3 career advantage, I like Chiyoshoma’s chances today. Winner centers themselves in the funnel for the last 2 days, loser gets to ride the bottom edge and try to avoid make-koshi.
Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Another match where both rikishi are 5-6. Okinoumi has a 5-0 career record over Yutakayama, and I like his chances today. YUtakayama seems to be fighting hurt, and I would not be surprised to find out later it’s his back or his hips, as he is quite stiff when he is in motion both on the dohyo and off.
Kotoshoho vs Midorifuji – More funnel madness, but this time it’s 5-6 Kotoshoho who needs to take a win from 6-5 Midorifuji to push them both back the the center lane at 6-6. This is aided by Kotoshoho’s 3-0 match record against Midorifuji.
Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – Thirty, yes 30, career matches between these two. They break 17-13 in favor of Myogiryu, who needs a win today to stay centered in the funnel with the 6-6 group, where a win by Tochinoshin will be his 8th and a well earned kachi-koshi. Each basho, we see a creaky and pained looking Tochinoshin start. By the middle day we are impressed he’s still in the hunt for his 8, and by the last day, we remark at his resilience. Much respect to him for never quitting.
Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – A kachi-koshi track match, we have 7-4 Shimanoumi looking for his 8th win and kachi-koshi against already 8-3 Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi’s 5-3 career advantage will matter today, as I think Sadanoumi is fighting some of his best sumo in a long while, and I would not be surprised to see him finish with double digits.
Kotokuzan vs Terutsuyoshi – Wow, 1-10 Kotokuzan against 4-7 Terutsuyoshi. Is this some kind of Terutsuyoshi life line? Should he win today, and I would guess that he will, he escapes make-koshi for yet another day. It would be brutal if Terutsuyoshi swims upstream into the funnel and finishes 7-7 on day 14 to face a Darwin match.
Nishikigi vs Kotoeko – Back in the funnel track, both men are 5-6 to start the day, and one of them gets to stay in the middle of by joining the 6-6 group today. Kotoeko has never lost to Nishikigi in their 5 career matches, so I would strongly suggest that Nishikigi is going to be taking a loss today.
Ichiyamamoto vs Takanosho – I wonder if this match was set before Ichiyamamoto took his day 11 loss (I would guess so), and represented a chance for the two leaders to face off and reduce the number to just one. But now, Ichiyamamoto has a narrow chance to pull a fantastic upset, and claw his way back into the yusho race. All he has to do is beat Takanosho today, and the yusho race will be a 6 way barnyard brawl for the final 3 days.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – If make-koshi is a contagion, we can assume that Takayasu gave it to Hokutofuji on day 11, and now maybe Hokutofuji (3-8) can pass it on to 4-7 Endo. Probably through direct contact of Hokutofuji’s right hand into Endo’s generalized face area, with a fair amount of force.
Kiribayama vs Wakamotoharu – This match has a lot of interest for me. We have already kachi-koshi Kiribayama at 8-3 against funnel track rikishi Wakamotoharu at 6-5. Both of them are comfortable fighting yotsu style, and I think that’s how this match is goign to start. They share a 2-2 career record, and I expect this will be a solid fight.
Takayasu vs Takarafuji – At this point, I almost hope that 3-8 Takayasu loses today if for no other reason than to give 2-9 Takarafuji a bit more banzuke cushion. Both of them are going to drop precipitously, but Takarafuji is at Maegashira 7, and will need the wins. They have 29 matches that favor Takayasu 21-8.
Hoshoryu vs Kotonowaka – Another high interest match, both are 6-5, they share a 3-3 record, and are to be considered vanguard of the “up and coming” rikishi cohort. I honestly don’t have a hunch who has the upper hand in this one, they both like to throw, they both have great mobility. Could be quite the fight.
Tamawashi vs Daieisho – I think this one is to give 6-5 Tamawashi pull himself into position to reach for a kachi-koshi tomorrow. he has a 10-8 career advantage over 7-4 Daieisho, who will reach kachi-koshi today should he prevail. Both are powerful thrusters, but for Daieisho to really shine, he needs to get a clear path to his opponent’s face, where Tamawashi is somewhat more versatile.
Tobizaru vs Shodai – Next loss for 4-7 Shodai is kadoban, it could come today at the hands of sumo’s flying monkey, 5-6 Tobizaru. Not that Shodai is incapable of beating Tobizaru, he certainly is. But I can’t decide what it takes for the genki form of Shodai show up and fight. Should the soft, rubbery, booger picking Shodai show up today, it’s kadoban time.
Mitakeumi vs Abi – If I do recall, it was Mitakeumi who decoded the formula for shutting down Abi-zumo first back in the day. His 8-2 match record underscores that Abi’s double arm attack has little effect on now Ozeki Mitakeumi. Both are 5-6, and the winner gets to join the growing crowd in the middle of the funnel at 6-6.
Ura vs Takakeisho – A great match for generating strange outcomes. Normally Takakeisho would toss Ura about like a tennis ball in an industrial clothes dryer. But right now 6-5 Takakeisho is at a fraction of his normal power output, and 8-3 Ura has really dialed in his grab-and-tug sumo. Given that Takakeisho tends to not protect his arms, we could see some fireworks today.
Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Man, I have been waiting for this match since January. Wakatakakage has only beaten Terunofuji once, back in Juryo when he was climbing his way back up the ranks. Its clear that Wakatakakage is ascendant, and one of these matches, he’s going to start winning. Terunofuji is already kachi-koshi at 8-3, and 6-5 Wakatakakage is looking for 2 more wins in the next 4 days to finish his eight.