We continue with another double header, covering the lower division action of days 6 and 7, and cleaning the slate for Nakabi, Day 8. Note that in the lower divisions, rikishi can achieve kachi-koshi or make-koshi even before day 8. Let’s see who has, and who still needs to wait.Continue reading
Welcome to the middle day of the Kyuhsu basho! At the midpoint, we take our first look at the yusho race, and it’s about half of the Makuuchi banzuke. This goes to underscore just how mediocre and non-differentiated the sumo has been this basho. The 1 loss rikishi is Hakuho, but only a single san’yaku rikishi follows at 2 losses. In my opinion, unless something unexpected happens to Hakuho in week 2, there are not many rikishi that are genki enough to present much if any challenge to his path toward yusho 43.
I also expect that with the strong sumo from the 2 surviving Ozeki on day 7, that we may see the start of their rally into week 2, and push for securing their 8. While you might expect an Ozeki with this level of competition to go 10+, I am going to expect 8 given their physical condition.
Day 8 leaderboards are typically crazy, but this one is doubly so. While Hakuho shows no sign of slowing down, the number of rikishi who are mathematically in contention right now is staggering.
Chasers: Asanoyama, Sadanoumi, Shodai, Chiyomaru, Kagay
Hunt Group: Takakeisho, Abi, Hokutofuji, Daieisho, Meisei, Tamawashi, Aoiyama, Onosho, Enho, Tsurugisho, Shohozan, Yutakayama, Chiyotairyu
8 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 8
Chiyomaru vs Daishoho – I don’t expect Daishoho will be able to knock Chiyomaru from his position 1 behind Hakuho. Right now Chiyomaru seems to be genki.
Daishomaru vs Takanosho – This may be an easy pickup for Daishomaru, who holds a 3-0 career record over challenger Takanosho. Daishomaru may go for an early slap down following the tachiai.
Ishiura vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s poor eyesight leave him unusually vulnerable to a henka, but I honestly hope Ishiura does not resort to that gambit for a 3rd consecutive day.
Shimanoumi vs Chiyotairyu – I hope we can see another Chiyotairyu gaburi-yori match today. While his cannon ball tachiai is the stuff of legends, a solid chest to chest mode would do him a great deal of good.
Terutsuyoshi vs Shodai – Shodai is ranked low enough, he is likely to dominate most of his matches. I think that this first time meeting with Terutsuyoshi is his to lose unless we see another successful submarine attack from Terutsuyoshi.
Kotoshogiku vs Kagayaki – Kotoshogiku needs to start putting together wins if he wants to make his 8. I am happy to see him fight Kagayaki, as I think Kagayaki may need to learn how to beat the former Ozeki (2-0 career favoring Kotoshogiku).
Tsurugisho vs Sadanoumi – Tsurugisho has his work cut out for him, in spite of his larger size on day 8. Sadanoumi is in his best form in years, and he seems to have put all of his elements together for effective sumo. Should be a good match, with Sadanoumi focusing on containing and constraining Tsurugisho.
Onosho vs Kotoeko – Career record these two are evenly matched. Onosho is on a 3 match winning streak, and I would like to see him make it 4. Kotoeko has had a rough time putting together anything resembling effective sumo on two consecutive days this November.
Yutakayama vs Enho – This is probably the highlight match of the first half. You have rising power Freshman Yutakayama against power pixie Enho. Both of them were handed disappointments day 7, and both of them are 4-3. Yutakayama won their only prior match, but that won’t really matter on day 8 when these two face off.
Shohozan vs Ryuden – Shohozan tends to struggle with Ryuden, and I think that will continue today. After several consecutive days of bashing every opponents face around, Shohozan seems to have settled down a bit. Ryuden heeds to bounce back after that loss to Endo.
Myogiryu vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has had 3 straight losses, and I am hoping he can return to winning form today. He holds a 3-19 career advantage over Myogiryu.
Daieisho vs Okinoumi – I love the fact that Okinoumi shows up every tournament, and puts in his 15 days in a solid, workman like fashion. I am sure some tournaments he’s in pain or suffering some unreported injury, but he’s always there, plugging away. He’s most comfortable in the mid-Maegashira ranks, so at Maegashira 1, we may see him continue to head towards make-koshi land.
Hokutofuji vs Endo – And now the good stuff starts. In a pair of Komusubi fights, we get the Endo / Hokutofuji clash of speed and power vs tactics and precision. Its probably going to come down to Endo getting his desired shallow grip at the tachiai, or Hokutofuji getting his armpit or neck attack in first.
Abi vs Asanoyama – Brilliant clash of styles for Komusubi fight 2. Abi’s frantic thrusting attack vs the grappling power of Asanoyama. If Asanoyama can land a grip, will we see the seldom used Abi-zumo 2.0? Fans can only hope. I would give a slight edge to Abi this time, as these two are evenly matched, and right now Asanoyama leads the career series 5-3.
Mitakeumi vs Aoiyama – I fear that whatever damage that blow to the head did to Mitakeumi might keep him on a make-koshi path for November. He steps up against Big Dan Aoiyama and the V-Twin power attack on day 8. Mitakeumi did manage to rally on day 7 against Kotoyuki, but Aoiyama is a different class of opponent.
Takakeisho vs Meisei – Career record of 2-0, with a less than genki Takakeisho needing 4 more wins for kachi-koshi and safety. Meisei lost his last 2, but if he can keep mobile and just out of reach of Takakeisho’s short arms, he could surprise the Ozeki.
Takarafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu is in a bigger score hole than Takakeisho, and he is nursing that injured left arm as well. Takarafuji has the strength and stamina to wear down the injured Ozeki, so Takayasu is going to need to do something fast and brutal at the tachiai. Such gambits are risking with a master tactician like Takarafuji, but at this point the Ozeki needs to be willing to gamble.
Tamawashi vs Hakuho – Well, career record of 15-1 favors the boss. I know Hakuho wants someone to give him a good challenge, and maybe Tamawashi will oblige.
I would almost dare to say that day 7 represented a return to normal for a moment, as the Ozeki corps rallied with great effect. Across the top division, the quality of sumo on day 7 was a noticeable improvement from the worrisome action of day 6. The match between Takayasu and Tamawashi was of great interest to Team Tachiai, and it did not disappoint.
Come back later today for our first look at the leaderboard, as we start to discuss the yusho race in the top division, and who if anyone can actually challenge Hakuho for the cup. Lower down the banzuke, Ikioi took his first loss of the tournament, but looks to be on track to storm his way back into the top division for January, to the cheers of his many fans. The man clearly has an iron will, and in spite of painful injuries he never stopped pushing to improve and return. Simply put, the man is an inspiration.
Kagayaki defeats Nishikigi – Again we see Kagayaki willing to grapple with his opponent, and again it works. The two trade advantage back and forth twice, but Kagayaki proves out the stronger. Maybe a positive change for “Mr Fundamentals”? At 5-2, Kagayaki is now officially having a good tournament.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Takanosho – Terutsuyoshi engages submarine mode with great effect, preventing Takanosho from generating any actual offense.
Chiyotairyu defeats Daishoho – Ok, Chiyotairyu battle hugs Daishoho and engages in gaburi-yori? Ok! I like it! It served Kotoshogiku well for a long time.
Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – Energetic henka! Frankly, I liked it, but I think Ishiura has used up his henka good will for Kyushu unless it’s really funny next time.
Chiyomaru defeats Kotoshogiku – As predicted, the mechanical and logistics problems of this match manifested themselves early, as Kotoshogiku attempted to go chest to chest with Chiyomaru, just to find his immense girth stopping his primary form of attack. Chiyomaru, who is always belly-forward, runs Kotoshogiku back to the bales, reverses and pulls for the win.
Shodai defeats Shohozan – Shohozan enthusiastically goes for Shodai’s face, leaving his chest wide open. After absorbing a good measure of Shohozan’s pugilistic offerings to his face, Shodai responds with force to Shohozan’s exposed chest. I know I struggle to find positives around Shodai, but he can take a lot of damage and keep fighting. A trait he shares with Hokutofuji.
Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – I am delighted that we are finally seeing strong sumo from Kotoeko. The tachiai ended in stalemate, but with Kotoeki a bit lower and with better body position. He found workable armpit grips on Shimanoumi, then lifted and pushed.
Tsurugisho defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama looked uncharacteristically off balance and disorganized today, and Tsurugisho masterfully exploited every mistake that Yutakayama made. The match ended with Yutakayama losing traction and falling face down into the clay. Hopefully he was not hurt, though he was slow to get up following the match.
Sadanoumi defeats Enho – Sadanoumi defeats power-pixie Enho by keeping him boxed in, and keeping his weight centered over his feet. If you want to see some really great sumo defense, watch Sadanoumi’s feet and hips during this match. He has an offensive plan, but his lower body is constantly on defense against whatever rapid, high torque / impulse move Enho might delivery. Enho tries to finish with a throw, but Sadanoumi masterfully contains it, and moves with Enho while containing him. Great work.
Onosho defeats Meisei – Second day in a row, Onosho goes chest to chest and employs his massive core strength to overpower his opponent. Oh my, welcome back. This was his first ever win over Meisei in 6 attempts, and frankly it looked quite solid. I am hopeful Onosho can get his 8 and we might see him compete in the joi-jin again for the first time in 2 years.
Endo defeats Ryuden – Blink and you will miss it! Ryuden is too far forward, and Endo rotates to his right and guides the charging Ryuden to the clay. Maybe not the plan Endo came to the match intending to use, but he took the opportunity and won.
Abi defeats Aoiyama – Battle of the mad-mashers, Abi forced Aoiyama to give ground almost immediately. As he was dropping back, it looks like Aoiyama decided he was in trouble, and tried a pull against Abi’s left arm, releasing forward pressure against Abi’s attack. That was all that it took to force Aoiyama from the dohyo, and for Abi to score his 4th win.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama’s sumo keeps looking better almost daily. It really does give me hope for the future, but provides a stark contrast to the struggling veterans and long-time favorites. In a yotsu-zumo match, Okinoumi is no easy mark, but Asanoyama out-brawns him at every turn, while executing sumo in near text-book form.
Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – This one was lost at the tachiai, as Hokutofuji was unable to get either a grip on Daieisho’s upper body, or an inside position to attack his chest. Daieisho was fast, strong and inside from the start, and Hokutofuji did not have room to plant his feet and defend. Great sumo today from Daieisho.
Mitakeumi defeats Kotoyuki – It makes me happy to see Mitakeumi rally today. He’s still not even close to 100%, but he attacked with force, but looked disorganized and off balance. With Mitakeumi’s sumo in shambles following that day 3 blow to the head, its a genuine concern that he might not make his 8.
Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Speaking of rally, I have watched this match several times now, and you can see the moment that Takayasu catches fire, and suddenly that overwhelming power that has been absent for months roars into his body, and he attacks with fighting spirit. Yes, Tamawashi is the guy who damaged his elbow and left him struggling. Maybe he just got angry over that fact, and the anger powered him to “beast mode”, but the match closed with a hearty Takayasu tea-bagging that I must admit made me laugh. Happy birthday Tamawashi, here’s something for your celebration.
Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Speaking of reverting to form, check out the wave-action today from the Grand Tadpole! I had hoped it was still possible, and Myogiryu gets a full blast of it straight out of the tachiai. One, Two, you are through!
Hakuho defeats Takarafuji – Was it just me, or did Hakuho struggle in this match? He yielded a nearly perfect position to Takarafuji, who lives to stalemate his opponents until they do something clumsy, and then he makes them pay. Hakuho seems to realize this, and he clearly changes plans mid-fight. You can see the frustration on Hakuho’s face following the match, and it’s a bit troubling. Like so many athletes at the top of their game, he sees the signs most clearly that he is losing his edge.
Here we are, heading into the middle weekend of the Kyushu Basho. Typically this is the point were we start reporting a leader board, but right now I just scratch my head and wonder. So many rikishi who should be fighting for slot to try for the cup seem to simply be trying to make it through the next 8 days in one piece.
But the schedulers have given us a few really fun matches for Saturday, and if even one of them pan out, it can bring some interest to a basho that has stood out for its negatives rather than its positives.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Nishikigi vs Kagayaki – I want to see if Kagayaki engages Nishikigi in a mawashi battle. Although Kagayaki is fighting less well than he was last year, I still think his sound fundamentals mean he has the potential to be an upper-Maegashira rikishi. A competent yotsu-zumo toolkit might really change his fortunes.
Terutsuyoshi vs Takanosho – Terutsuyoshi looked terrible day 6, and I hope I don’t see him running around the dohyo in circles again this tournament. Takanosho is doing some decent straight-head sumo, nothing fancy, but he’s getting the job done. With any luck we might see Terutsuyoshi go low and and employ some small-man sumo technique. We can only hope.
Daishoho vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has looked, well, tired the past couple of days. I am sure its a struggle and burden to haul that much rikishi up the dohyo to start the match, but maybe there is some way to restore his vigor. Like so many big men in the top division, Chiyotairyu looks lethargic and unengaged right now, and its not even the endurance challenge of the second week!
Ishiura vs Daishomaru – I like the new dark green mawashi, and I hope it marks a point where Ishiura can return to winning form. He holds a 10-6 career advantage over Daishomaru, so maybe he can rack win #3 today.
Kotoshogiku vs Chiyomaru – I had to check a couple of times, but it seems this is the first time these two have ever fought. The sometime favorite will have the crowd behind him, but the laws of geometry, newtonian and quantum physics mean this one is going to be a logistical puzzle for the ages. Can Kotoshogiku somehow find a grip? If he starts his hip pumping attack, will the standing waves rippling through Chiyomaru’s bulbous midsection damage the dohyo? I love it when sumo can show us things that science can only theorize.
Shohozan vs Shodai – Shodai tends to win against Shohozan, even though Shohozan has demonstrated he is eager to cuff anyone in the face until he gets tired. Shodai, when faced with overwhelming attacks, unleashes what I call “Cartoon Sumo” that quite frequently results in his opponent falling over or flying out of the ring. Another one for the laboratories, as nobody knows what kind of forces might be unleashed.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – Perhaps the best chance for Kotoeko to rally and start a desperately needed winning streak. He has a 6-1 career advantage over Shimanoumi, but Kotoeko’s sumo so far this tournament has been in dire need of offensive power.
Tsurugisho vs Yutakayama – It should be obvious by now that I am counting on Yutakayama to be one of the rikishi standing when the great fade / “intai-wave” hits soon. But I have to admit that this Tsurugisho guy, thought not a young sprout, has potential. I am expecting an early pull / slap down attempt from Yutakayama, and if he fails it’s mawashi time, which favors Tsurugisho.
Sadanoumi vs Enho – Though he is not a headliner, Sadanoumi has really been steadily improving his sumo this year, and I would like to see him score against Enho. Enho, of course, is going to do something energetic and possibly surprising, but if Sadanoumi can keep him from ducking under, it’s his brand of sumo.
Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has never beaten Meisei (0-5), but he surprised me by actually having solid footing and good balance on day 6. If he can repeat that, I am going to think the young fellow has turned a corner and may get back to his pre-injury level of sumo. Fans may not remember, but at one point HE was the leading tadpole, with Takakeisho close behind.
Ryuden vs Endo – Ryuden: the crafty practitioner of deception and surprise vs master tactician Endo. This match is either going to be a complex dance of move, feint and counter strike, or a complete dud punctuated by a henka. To be honest, given how Kyushu is going, I think I would rather see some kind of flamboyant henka from Endo.
Abi vs Aoiyama – The Long Arms fight it out. V-Twin vs Abi-zumo! There are acres of pale white flesh to bash and defeat for Abi, and for Aoiyama the biggest problem might be getting Abi to stay put long enough to bludgeon him into submission. This match has my hopes for reviving a somewhat homogenized sumo basho thus far.
Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – These two are the same person about 10 years apart. Strong, solid core, skilled yotsu rikishi. I am sure Okinoumi looks at Asanoyama with a bit of nostalgia. I am sure Asanoyama looks at Okinoumi and hopes he can get his preferred grip. Thus far its 5-1 advantage for Asanoyama. I know many readers want him to stay 1 off the pace with Hakuho, in hopes the dai-Yokozuna will get bored with winning one day this tournament. (Ha!)
Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – Hokutofuji seems to really be in his comfort zone now. His sumo is working well and he attacks with startling force and effectiveness. But I look at Daieisho, and I see the only rikishi who has beaten Hakuho this month, and think that Hokutofuji will need to be ready with defense at the tachiai.
Mitakeumi vs Kotoyuki – Mitakeumi is not well. Kotoyuki seems to be a backup / time machine copy from 2016 when he was a fairly serious rikishi, and I think that if Mitakeumi pushes this basho too far, he may have to worry about medical treatment for that blow to the head on day 3. He as not won a match since….
Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two have a long history of bashing each other into suffering and pain. It was, in fact, Tamawashi who damaged Takayasu’s left elbow. As if a way to underscore the topics in today’s sumo grump by myself, are we going to be treated to further degradation of this Ozeki?
Takakeisho vs Myogiryu – Takakeisho has never lost to Myogiryu, but I worry that this could be the day. Much like Takayasu, Takakeisho is not really fighting at Ozeki level right now. I know some may be outraged by that statement, but what would you say Takakeisho’s odds are (in current form) against some recent Ozeki in their prime: Kisenosato? Terunofuji? A healthy Kotoshogiku? Yep, I thought so. I can imagine a Takakeisho vs Ozeki Kisenosato match. Kisenosato used to look bored and distracted right up until the tachiai. The suddenly the blazing fire in those odd eyes of his, someone goes flying into the zabuton, and he turns away and looks distracted again. I always used to think he was trying to solve the Hodge conjecture.
Takarafuji vs Hakuho – I know Hakuho is hoping that Takarafuji can bring him some decent sumo. These matches usually involved Takarafuji stalemating the Boss for a while, which can be amusing to dai-Yokozuna if its done with creativity and skill.