Mock Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Our contestants shook off some of their ring rust, and brought a solid set of matches to day 2. Today featured a tadpole battle (Takakeisho vs Onosho) and a freshman battle (Yutakayama vs Asanoyama). Both of these rivalries are ones that I think are going to be driving factors for the next stage of sumo, and it was great to seem them on full display today. On to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki (2-0) defeats Nishikigi (1-1) Oshitaoshi – Not sure what kind of chanko they are feeding Kotoyuki, but today was another great example of the “Genki” form of the Penguin. He blasted forward at the tachiai, using his taped hands to plant a painful looking nodowa on Nishikigi, who tried to counter and break Kotoyuki’s grip. While Nishikigi was distracted, Kotoyuki’s left hand found the back of Nishikigi’s mawashi, and a solid tug dropped Nishikigi to the clay. Wow.

Kotoeko (1-1) defeats Terunofuji (0-2) Hatakikomi – It’s disappointing to see Terunofuji struggle. Everyone wants him to do well, have a solid recovery and at least inhabit the lower reaches of the top division for a while. But today’s match was a great example of how his damaged knees have robbed him of some of the technique needed to be effective in Makuuchi. His weight was too far forward at the tachiai, and it was trivial for Kotoeko to just help him fall forward. The most painful thing? The look on Terunofuji’s face as the bowed at the end of the match. I think he’s worried too.

Kotoshogiku (2-0) defeats Chiyomaru (1-1) Yorikiri – Kotoshogiku steps onto the dohyo with so much tape each day – knees, shoulder, lower back, you have to wonder if that’s the only think holding him together. But for the second day in a row he showed he still has Ozeki skill. Chiyomaru opened strong, and got the inside position to begin his preferred thrusting attack. But Kotoshogiku kept up forward pressure and reduced the gap between them to limit how much Chiyomaru could push. Unable to reach around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly to land enough grip to use his gaburi-yori attack, Kotoshogiku focused on a hazu/armpit attack, and got Chiyomaru off balance. Chiyomaru took a small hop to try and re-center himself, and Kotoshogiku charged belly first and took him out.

Wakatakakage (1-1) defeats Kotoshoho (0-2) Oshidashi – Wakatakakage rallied to get his first win of the tournament. He came off the shikiri-sen like a wild man, throwing his body and hands into Kotoshoho’s chest and face, constantly pushing forward and up. Wakatakakage dropped his hips and charged forward while maintaining pressure, dumping Kotoshoho out of the ring in a heap. Solid, textbook sumo today from Wakatakakage.

Takayasu (2-0) defeats Sadanoumi (1-1) Oshidashi – Second time in 2 days we see Takayasu come out strong. I dare say that if he’s even somewhat healthy, this far down the banzuke, he is going to unleash complete hell. Again he led with a shoulder blast, today into Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai. Sadanoumi tried to keep his elbow tight to his body, but the shoulder blast opened a route for Takayasu’s left hand to come inside and push, standing Sadanoumi up. Switched to defensive, Sadanoumi found it tough to counter volley after volley as the former Ozeki completely dominated this match.

Shohozan (1-1) defeats Kotonowaka (0-2) Yorikiri – Shohozan fans can rest easy, “Big Guns” is back. We saw a soft tachiai go directly into a face slap that rang out in the empty Kokugikan. This seemed to daze Kotonowaka, and once emboldened, Shohozan gave him two more. Rather than respond in kind, Kotonowaka dove for Shohozan’s mawashi, getting a right hand inside grip. But Shohozan was not unprepared, and lowered his hips, landed a grip and drove Kotonowaka out.

Shimanoumi (2-0) defeats Kaisei (1-1) Okuridashi – Kaisei came out strong at the tachiai, and met only token resistance from Shimanoumi who executed a very Hamumafuji style hit and shift mini-henka. With that much Kaisei in forward motion, it takes several city blocks for him to slow and stop, and it was trivial for Shimanoumi to circle behind and push the big man out to start the tournament 2-0.

Myogiryu (1-1) defeats Tochinoshin (0-2) Yorikiri – Nice shoulder blast from Tochinoshin at the tachiai shut down Myogiryu’s attempt at a left hand mawashi grip. Instead Tochinoshin’s left hand went deep and found Myogiryu’s blue silk. I was waiting for the sky-crane to kick in, but it seems Tochinoshin’s knees just could not get ready. After a moment’s pause where Myogiryu seemed to be waiting for the lift, Myogiryu unleashed a brilliant makikae, changing his grip and advancing. Tochinoshin could not return the forward pressure, and found himself forced out.

Ishiura (2-0) defeats Tamawashi (1-1) Sukuinage – In the “what’s in this guy’s chanko?” department comes that ass-kicking throw Ishiura produced today to send Tamawashi to the clay. The match shifted from run-and-gun to Ishiura having a grip, loading the throw and pivoting in a blink of an eye.

Chiyotairyu (1-1) defeats Ikioi (0-2) Hikiotoshi – Sumo’s thunder god found an opponent that would not side step him in Ikioi. But Ikioi had a bandage on that right elbow that Tamawashi’s kotenage took a piece of day 1. Ikioi drove that damaged right arm inside, and endured Chiyotairyu clamping his arm to his chest, squeezing that injured joint. Ikioi seemed oblivious to the pain, and drove forward, but too strongly as Chiyotairyu opened a gap, and using a hand behind Ikioi’s neck, pushed him to the clay.

Terutsuyoshi (1-1) defeats Enho (0-2) Yorikiri – In this all pixie battle, they had a bit of trouble getting started, with a stare down and reset before we saw Enho try to go underneath diminutive Terutsuyoshi. He did manage to get inside, but could not find a grip with his right hand as Terutsuyoshi’s ottsuke shut him down. Enho tried no less than three times to load a throw, but Terutsuyoshi kept his feet and stayed in the match. The final pivot from Enho left him off balance, and Terutsuyoshi squared his shoulders and advanced for a win. Nice sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Tokushoryu (2-0) defeats Ryuden (1-1) Yoritaoshi – Tokushoryu made ample use of that huge belly of his to keep Ryuden struggling for grip. Twice Tokushoryu moved to advance, and twice Ryuden was able to shut him down by lowering his hips and returning pressure. But the third time apply some Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug attack, but Ryuden’s heels locked in against the tawara and held firm. Reaching around his belly, Tokushoryu lifted Ryuden and fell on forward, crushing him against the bales. Nice 2-0 start for the Hatsu yusho winner.

Kagayaki (2-0) defeats Abi (1-1) Oshidashi – Abi-zumo started strong and help a punishing rain of thrusts going into Kagayaki, who seemed to absorb it all. Most importantly he maintained his balance and his footing. This guy keeps reminding me of Kisenosato, I swear. Abi seemed to get frustrated, and put a bit too much power into his right hand, which Kagayaki used to brush aside the double arm thrust and grab Abi by the chest and lift him. With most of his weight no longer on his feet, Abi offered little resistance to Kagayaki’s finishing move.

Hokutofuji (1-1) defeats Aoiyama (0-2) Tsukiotoshi – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai found its mark, but Aoiyama had the V-Twin throttled up from the start, and one meaty blow to the face sent Hokutofuji reeling back. Again we saw Hokutofuji’s upper body take punishment, but his lower body seems to have its own command and control system. Forward went the hips and up went the right hand, gripping Aoiyama. Another blow from Aoiyama’s left unbalanced Hokutofuji, but did not break his grip, and his lower body was on the march. A follow up left left Big Dan off balance, and Hokutofuji swung him to the clay. Aoiyama starts the tournament with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Kiribayama (1-1) defeats Okinoumi (0-2) Yorikiri – Kiribayama went chest to chest with veteran yotsu-zumo practitioner Okinoumi and came up with a white star. While some may say, well it was just Okinoumi – it’s an important milestone for the young up and coming Mongolian rikishi. He got his preferred right hand outside grip at the tachiai, and controlled the flow of the match from the start. Okinoumi did manage to pivot and load a throw, but Kiribayama rapidly shut it down and prevailed for his first win of the basho.

Takarafuji (1-1) defeats Shodai (1-1) Yorikiri – Textbook Takarafuji defend and extend sumo today against a rikishi who can pull together random movements to constitute surprising sumo, or what I call “Shodai’s Cartoon Sumo”. Shodai got left hand inside but Takarafuji kept Shodai’s right hand tied up. Shodai was so focused on freeing his right hand, he seemed to not notice that Takarafuji was slowly dancing him to the bales. Then it seems Shodai’s heel touched straw, and he realized what had happen. As Shodai shifted to focus on forward pressure, Takarafuji rallied and pushed him out. Lesson here Takarafuji will try to give you a puzzle to solve while he is robbing you of a win. Stay focused.

Takanosho (2-0) defeats Mitakeumi (1-1) Okuridashi – Takanosho takes another high profile match to start the basho 2-0. At the tachiai, Mitakeumi got superior position and what seemed to be a working grip, but Takanosho was able to shift / slide to his left, and Mitakeumi found himself misaligned with his opponent. Rather than moving forward, Mitakeumi put all of his force and focus on trying to square himself with Takanosho, who turned Mitakeumi and pushed him out with less dignity than a bouncer might apply to an irate, drunken salaryman.

Takakeisho (1-1) defeats Onosho (0-2) Tsukidashi – As much as I hate to see my two favorite tadpoles fight it out, this match is all about why I was hoping that Onosho could bounce back and become a mainstay of the joi-jin. Onosho got the inside position at the tachiai, but focused on Takakeisho’s face, which I think he long ago has written off. The answer? Yes, the long awaited return of the wave-action tsuppari attack. Much as I love the wave-action, I would rather it not be used on Onosho. But use it he did, and it was only 3 blasts before Onosho’s arms and legs were moving in different directions and he left the ring in a chaotic jumble.

Asanoyama (1-1) defeats Yutakayama (1-1) Yorikiri – Sure, next have my two favorite Freshmen fight. Asanoyama was taking no chances at starting the basho 2-0, and he evaded Yutakayama’s opening gambit and went straight for the belt. You know what I saw? Remarkable improvement on the part of Yutakayama on his belt sumo. He dug in and gave Asanoyama a real fight for about 30 seconds, before Asanoyama’s ozeki grade sumo kicked in and pushed Yutakayama over the bales. Glad Asanoyama got his first win, but I am absolutely giddy to see Yutakayama reach into the yotsu-zumo bag and pull out some candy.

Hakuho (2-0) defeats Endo (0-2) Uwatenage – Hopefully Endo has fond memories of that Hatsu 2020 win fixed firmly in his mind, because the boss is going to work hard to own him utterly every time they meet from here on out. Hakuho’s face slap hit home, but Endo got that shallow left hand grip he loves. Pivoting, Hakuho unleashed that right elbow to Endo’s face, breaking his grip. With Endo now fully exposed, in went Hakuho’s right hand, but only for an instant as he rolled his shoulders and put Endo in the air. Brutal and humiliating. I am curious to see what Endo does in their next match.

Kakuryu (2-0) defeats Daieisho (1-1) Yorikiri – Daieisho came out strong from the tachiai, and Kakuryu let him think he was doing well, draining his energy. But the master of reactive sumo gave him no opportunity to take control of the match. Daieisho would thrust and move ahead, Kakuryu would deflect and shift, waiting Daieisho out. The Yokozuna found the smallest loss of balance in his opponent, and drove in for the kill, with both men falling over the tawara locked together. The gyoji gave the match to Kakuryu, but the Shimpan wanted to review it, and confirmed the win.

Osaka Day 14 Preview

The evolution of sumo demands Darwin matches. Lots and lots of Darwin matches…

It’s the final weekend of the Haru Basho, and as odd as it has been to have nobody in the stands, I must say, as the world has gone progressively more crazy, shutting down everything, how glad I am to still have sumo to watch. The weekend promises to be sort of spectacular, with a possibly multi-way challenge for the cup on the final day, and a really disturbing number of Darwin matches. If you have not read lksumo’s write ups of the story lines or the yusho race, go check them out now.

I am going to be very interested to see what the ratings are (in Japan) for this basho. Much as in the US and the EU, all sports have been shut down as the world holds its breath and hopes they don’t start to cough. With nothing else to follow, I suspect that sumo’s numbers will be up dramatically, and just maybe that will help some people re-connect with Japan’s national sport. For fans who have been urging the NSK to throttle back on the intensity and duration of the jungyo regional tour, the jungyo following the Haru Basho has been called off or at least delayed until next year. Following senshuraku (and no senshuraku parties, I am told), the stables will return to Tokyo. For the top men of sumo, that’s 6 weeks of sequestered training, rather than a grueling tour of Japan. We don’t know what will happen for the May / Natsu basho, but given that Osaka seems to have worked, they may conduct the next tournament in the same way. If so, most of the world will be 10 weeks into societal disruption of some level, and it will be wonderful to see the ranks of the top division come together for a brutal 15 days of sumo, fresh from 6 weeks of non-stop training.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Kotonowaka vs Nishikigi – After opening strong, Kotonowaka has lost his last 4, and just can’t seem to cross the kachi-koshi line. He had better win today, or it’s Darwin time for him. He won the only prior match with already make-koshi Nishikigi.

Ishiura vs Meisei – What a position. If Meisei loses today, it’s make-koshi time, and likely a trip on the Juryo demotion barge. If he wins, it’s into the hell of a day 15 Darwin match. He holds a 3-1 career lead over Ishiura.

Shimanoumi vs Ikioi – The converse for this match—if Shimanoumi wins, he reaches the safety of kachi-koshi, and if he loses, it’s Darwin for him as well. Though he won the only prior match with Ikioi, the Osaka native is looking fairly genki, so hold on tight, this one could get rough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh and the brutality continues! Winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi, loser goes into the Darwin pool for day 15. Now Kotoshogiku holds a 16-2 advantage over Chiyotairyu, and he seems to have found some magic knee grease to keep what’s left of his patellas moving. Chiyotairyu has about 3 seconds at the tachiai to take care of business, and after that I am sure the Kyushu Bulldozer will lower the blade.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Can you sense a theme here? Winner: kachi-koshi, Loser: DARWIN! As a bonus it’s the spherical Chiyomaru vs the Isegahama mobile attack platform, Terutsuyoshi. Whose sumo will reign supreme? (Oh, sorry – this is not kitchen stadium…)

Azumaryu vs Tochiozan – They had to slide the battle of the damned in here somewhere, so let’s take a look at a couple of sad cases of violent, explosive demotion. Tochiozan could very well end up being the skipper of the Juryo barge. And I don’t see how he can prevent Azumaryu throwing him overboard to try to save his own Maegashira 16 self. [Note: this is Azumaryu’s 7th basho ranked in the top division. He sat out one, and finished make-koshi in each of the other 6, including the current one. Twice, he dodged demotion with a 7-8 record, most recently in January. -lksumo]

Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – It’s another game of “Blow the man down” as fellow grizzled veteran Shohozan takes on water. He holds a 10-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi and his speed sumo. But right now Shohozan is lacking quite a bit, probably due to injuries, and I worry he is gone from the top division after the next tournament.

Daiamami vs Tamawashi – In still more demotion follies, it’s Daiamami on the bubble for Juryo in this match, as already make-koshi Tamawashi works to muster enough genki to send the Oitekaze man into exile in the junior division. This is a first-time match between the two, so who knows what kind of fight they will choose.

Enho vs Myogiryu – Have you had enough brutality yet? No, you have not! Because here comes another. Myogiryu is already in the double-digit-loss column, and he’s headed south in a big way. No, not onto the Juryo barge, but he’s going to be able to see Juryo from where he ends up. Enho will probably use his high-mobility sumo this time, and may end the tournament 7-8. I have to wonder if he has some injury.

Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – A Yutakayama win today, and he’s kachi-koshi. A loss and he joins the ranks of the Darwin meat grinder. Tochinoshin is already make-koshi, and clearly in a bunch of pain along with having mobility and power problems. So I am going to guess that the “Big Unit” is going to get his first win over the former Ozeki today.

Takanosho vs Mitakeumi – Yes! It’s the first of our big matches! Both are 10-3, both are fighting very well, and only one of them can exit with their 11th win. If its Mitakeumi, the Ozeki talk may start up again. He certainly has shown better sumo than injured Takakeisho, and sumo really needs like 3 more Ozeki. But then there is Takanosho. This guy really has over-performed this March, and I hope it’s the shape of things to come.

Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – And yet again – Winner is kachi-koshi, loser joins the Darwin crew for day 15. It’s going to be a blood bath of epic proportions Sunday, yes indeed. This is a first-time match, so some guesswork will be required by both rikishi as far as tactics to use. I expect Okinoumi to dive inside and try to get his favorite grip, and Kiribayama to try and stay mobile.

Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Will kachi-koshi Kaisei take pity on the Hatsu yusho winner? I am not suggesting match fixing, but Tokushoryu is already at double digit losses, and these two have some history together (9-3 advantage Kaisei).

Daieisho vs Ryuden – Daieisho needs a win to avoid joining the Darwin crew on day 15. He’s up against make-koshi Ryuden, who has lost 5 out of the last 6 matches. Ouch!

Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – Hokutofuji, who is also suspected of nursing some form of injury, is already at double-digit losses, and will be trebuchet’d down the banzuke with a resounding, fleshy thud. But if he drops into the double-digits of Maegashira land, and can recover his health, he is going to be an absolute terror in the next tournament. If Kagayaki wins – a nice kachi-koshi for March. If he loses to Cap’n Stompy – that’s right, MOAR DARWIN!

Abi vs Endo – Abi beat the stuffing out of Shodai on day 13, only to find that he was mostly made of sawdust and burlap moments before the golem of Shodai hurled him down. That would be enough to shake any man to his soul, but he’s going to try to give Endo the business today. Yeah, Endo has a one track mind of that right hand frontal mawashi grip. But if Abi can breath some life into the embers of his sumo, its… MOAR DARWIN FOR ENDO! Abi holds a 7-2 career advantage.

Takarafuji vs Shodai – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and he’s really done a solid job of earning it this tournament. But how far does he want to run up the score? At Maegashira 7, he’s already a candidate for the joi-jin. If he beats Shodai, he’s going to be in the thick of it next time. If Shodai wins today, he’s going home with a well deserved 8th win, and a retention of his Sekiwake rank. If not, well… its… DARWIN TIME!

Takakeisho vs Onosho – Readers know I have been looking forward to this match for over a year. Yes, I had to wait to the penultimate day to get my tadpole battle Royale, but here it is. I just wish that Takakeisho were in better condition. They are tied 2-2 across their career, but I am going to guess that Takakeisho takes Onosho apart, which means the Ozeki gets to play with the Darwin troopers. A loss and he is kadoban.

Hakuho vs Aoiyama – A word to Big Dan Aoiyama. Fire up the V-Twin and open the throttle. Yes, the boss is probably going to put you on the clay, but ride this one out hard and fast. Give him everything in your powerful, moving forward style. It’s what the fans want to see, and you just might get the job done.

Asanoyama vs Kakuryu – High-stakes match. A win here and I am going to guess that Asanoyama becomes worthy of consideration for Ozeki. Even though the discussed number is 12 (and it should be), the NSK may look at the banzuke and decide they need another Ozeki, stat. He has beaten Kakuryu before, so it’s possible. But Kakuryu of Haru 2020 is a focused, forceful Yokozuna who has ample skill and power to deal with this upstart from Toyama.

Osaka Day 13 Preview

We go screaming into the final weekend of this tournament with the very real possibility of a double-digit Maegashira taking the cup on day 15. As has been said by sumo luminaries much more accomplished than myself, in this day—everyone is a contender. As lksumo has assured me many times, the schedule mostly goes by a well-understood formula, and that means that a lower-ranked rikishi can catch fire and run up a score high enough to take the cup, having never really been tested against the top-ranked men. This is also a function of the top-ranked men being too evenly matched to produce a score high enough to ensure that the cup remains in the named ranks.

As we set up for the last 3 days of this basho, it’s time to start trying to wonder who will suffer through the 7-7 matches on the final day. I call these “Darwin matches”, because only one survives with a winning record. Quite a few rikishi are on the perilous path that leads to a Darwin battle, so let’s see who can evade that outcome.

Haru Leaderboard

Aoiyama has sole possession of the lead in the race for the cup. He faces Takanosho on day 13.

Leader: Aoiyama
Chasers: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi ,Takanosho

3 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Kotonowaka vs Ikioi – The winner here picks up kachi-koshi today. Both have fought well, and both deserve it. I think whoever loses today is possibly going to find themselves in a Darwin match on day 15. Please, don’t let it be you, Ikioi.

Ishiura vs Shimanoumi – I am sure that Ishiura is quite happy to be going into the final weekend with 8 wins locked up. The question is, at Maegashira 12, does he really want to push for a big boost up the banzuke? He seems to do well around this rank, and running up the score enough to get him at the bottom of the joi-jin might not be a wise idea. Luckily, Shimanoumi has never lost to Ishiura, so maybe he can end up in a Darwin match on day 15.

Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – Chiyotairyu needs just one more win to get his 8. He has faded into week 2, losing 4 of his last 5. He has only fought Meisei once before, and he took the match. Good luck, Chiyotairyu!

Chiyomaru vs Tochiozan – Chiyomaru is very much on the Darwin path, but he has a chance to add a white start to his tally when he faces the miserable wreckage of Tochiozan. Normally, Tochiozan gives Chiyomaru the business (6-1), but he’s too beat up and injured now to pose much of a threat.

Sadanoumi vs Daiamami – Sadanoumi can dispense some sumo doom today if he can hand Daiamami his 8th loss and a make-koshi for Haru. He won their only prior match, and still seems to have some fighting spirit left.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – Battle of the battered and broken former Ozeki. It’s like if your two favorite stuffed animals as a child got mangled in a horrific laundry accident, but hung around your bedroom anyhow because you were too sentimental to toss them out. A Tochinoshin loss today is make-koshi for him.

Takanosho vs Aoiyama – It’s a lot of weight to put on Takanosho—shutting down the yusho juggernaut that is Aoiyama. But that’s exactly who has gotten the nod to try his mettle on day 13. He and Aoiyama have a 3 match history that favors Takanosho 2-1. But right now, Big Dan’s V-Twin seems to be set to take him far, and I am not sure who might stop him from lifting the cup on Sunday with those enormous, pale, meaty arms.

Kaisei vs Kiribayama – The last time that Kaisei beat Kiribayama was in the multi-way playoff for the Juryo yusho during November of 2019. Ah, the good old days, when there was no plague loose in the world, and people got to go to the venue to watch sumo. But it may come down to Kaisei having his 8, and not wanting to run up the score, or risk injury. A win today would keep Kiribayama on track for a Darwin match on Sunday.

Azumaryu vs Tamawashi – Can Tamawashi muster enough genki energy to hand fellow Mongolian Azumaryu his make-koshi? Maybe…but an Azumaryu win today sets him on the path for inclusion in the round of Darwin matches we eagerly await on Sunday.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – These two miserable sots just need to hug it out. Luckily, Nishikigi’s sumo seems tailor-made for such a format, even if Myogiryu may find it distasteful. Both are already make-koshi, both need to just get past this basho, and for Nishikigi, he’s likely once again captain or at least boatswain of the Juryo barge of the dammed.

Terutsuyoshi vs Onosho – After a long and withering stretch of depressing matches, we get this lovely gem. One of these fine rikishi will exit the dohyo with a freshly minted kachi-koshi, and both of them deserve it. The loser is probably headed for Darwin with the rest of the condemned souls that are slated for the day 15 bloodletting. I expect a lot of intense action that will favor Terutsuyoshi early, and Onosho the longer it goes.

Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Both are kachi-koshi, but frankly, I really want to see Mitakeumi run up the score. At least 1 san’yaku slot will be open, and I would love to see the original tadpole return to the named ranks, and perhaps restart a bid to ascend to Ozeki this year.

Shohozan vs Tokushoryu – Another dry husk of a match between two grizzled veterans sporting deep losing records before the final weekend. Sure, Shohozan has a 6-3 career lead, but this one is just more misery.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has never beaten Okinoumi in 3 attempts, and a win today would be yet another marker that the early leader of the Freshman cohort is back in business. He shares Maegashira 3 with Mitakeumi, so if there ends up being only 1 San’yaku slot, he may have to settle for a modest bump up the Maegashira ranks.

Daieisho vs Enho – Daieisho need just 1 more win to get his 8th, and Enho is looking hurt and dispirited now. Clearly he is headed back down the banzuke to calmer waters, but how far will he drop? They have split their prior 2, and with the abundance of rikishi now shutting down Enho’s pixie magic, there is ample footage of Enho losses for Daieisho to review.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Both of these mainstays are dangerously close to the Darwin path, with Endo serving as vanguard of the Darwin sacrifices marching toward day 15. They share a 5-5 career record, so this one is going to come down to Endo getting his frontal grip at the tachiai, and Kagayaki’s sometimes impressive footwork.

Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – Another match of disappointment: both of them are solid fighters, both are make-koshi, and both just need to finish the tournament without additional injuries. I am sure Hokutofuji will show up with more fighting spirit (he always does), but it’s a mystery if it will do him any good.

Abi vs Shodai – In spite of beating Hakuho on day 12, Shodai has to pick up 2 more wins for a kachi-koshi at his highest-ever rank. More likely, he too is on the Darwin path, and we may see him face off on day 15 in a 7-7 battle to survive. A loss today would be make-koshi for Abi, and a further slide down the banzuke.

Takakeisho vs Kakuryu – Takakeisho starts his tour through hell. Needing 2 wins to escape kadoban, he comes up against Yokozuna Kakuryu, who honestly is fighting better than Hakuho right now. He has beaten the Yokozuna once in their 4 career matches, but Takakeisho’s injuries may mean that Kakuryu makes fast work of the Grand Tadpole today.

Hakuho vs Asanoyama – I can’t even tell you how eager I am for this match. To make the score for Ozeki promotion, Asanoyama needs to beat a Yokozuna. Given the baloney sumo from Hakuho on day 12, I expect him to be brash, hasty and probably careless on day 13. That gives Asanoyama a sliver of an opening. We know Hakuho loves to fight high skill yotsu-zumo rikishi, and Asanoyama is that in spades. But if he gives Asanoyama his chance, he may find himself surprised. Good luck, Asanoyama!

Osaka Day 12 Highlights

Photo once again shamelessly stolen from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed, to whom we sincerely apologize.

In the topsy-turvy world of the Osaka basho, it seems nearly anything can and probably does happen. Today’s action left a single man atop the leader board, and the scheduling committee’s efforts to keep another double digits ranked Makuuchi rikishi from taking the cup may have problems. Sure, once you set up a tournament like we have done in Osaka, you are just asking for the unusual. But is it now a valid career move to try and reduce your rank as low as possible, softening your schedule, to roar back the next tournament and take the cup? That is not to say that Aoiyama did any such thing, he is clearly having one of his better tournaments in a while, and has been in contention for the cup in tournaments past. But we now run the risk of a “two track” tournament, given how equally beat up the joi-jin has become, that it makes more sense to campaign for the yusho from the bottom half of the banzuke?

In the other big story thread, Ozeki hopeful Asanoyama continues to win, now at 10-2, but about to enter the hardest part of his schedule. He has to beat 2 out of Hakuho, Kakuryu and Takakeisho. This is a tall order, and I don’t want fans or even Asanoyama himself to become discouraged should he not be up to the task. There is already a weakness in his March bid – one of his current 10 wins is by fusensho over Takayasu. For the scoreboard, that still counts as a win, but it the team that decide his promotion may not see it that way. Prepare yourself to hear that he has done well, but needs at least one more basho of good performance to qualify.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Kotoshogiku – I am sure that Nishikigi is happy for the win, but simply put, Kotoshogiku fell down following a strong push-off against Nishikigi. Shame really, as Kotoshogiku could have used a win here. He is headed perilously close toward a Darwin match on day 15.

Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka looks like he wanted to keep his options open at the tachiai, not knowing what Ishiura was going to open with. Kotonowaka worked hard to keep Ishiura away from any kind of grip, and in response Ishiura decided to grab and tug any body part he could latch onto. The two grappled briefly, and then it seems that Kotonowaka may have lost his footing and hit the clay. Ishiura picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for March.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Meisei – Terutsuyoshi executes a great Harumafuji mini-henka, getting a grip on Meisei’s purple mawashi with Terutsuyoshi right hand all the way back on the knot. There was no way to defend that position, so Terutsuyoshi just rushes ahead, and bucks Meisei over the bales to improve to 7-5.

Sadanoumi defeats Azumaryu – Sadanoumi sacrificed a bit of power at the tachiai in order to get inside, and set up shop with a right hand inside position. I think Sadanoumi’s speed caught Azumaryu by surprise, and as they grappled, Azumaryu had no space to lower his hips. Low on options, Azumaryu tried an arm-bar throw that Sadanoumi completely shut down, and rushed Azumaryu out for a much needed win.

Daiamami defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan drops his 11th match to Daiamami, who staves off make-koshi for another day. Tochiozan has no ability to transmit power to ground right now, due to multiple injuries, and is really just going through the motions.

Chiyomaru defeats Tochinoshin – Chiyomaru improves to 6-6 following a 3 day fever kyujo with his win over hapless former Ozeki Tochinoshin. Chiyomaru was invited to use his preferred form of sumo – to lift up at the tachiai, pull back to unbalance his opponent, and then slap him down. I am sure Tochinoshin was well aware of this, but simply did not have the lower body health to prevent it. This marks the first time that Chiyomaru has ever beaten Tochinoshin, and it’s indicative of how hurt the former Ozeki is.

Kaisei defeats Shohozan – Newtonian sumo expert Kaisei picks up his 8th win, for a well deserved kachi-koshi in Osaka. As with Tochiozan, Shohozan seems to be so banged up that his sumo no longer has any real power or force to move ahead. We hope he can recover before the next tournament.

Kiribayama defeats Shimanoumi – Kiribayama took control of this match at the tachiai, coming in lower and stronger, and quickly moving around the right side of Shimanoumi. While Shimanoumi shut down any pivot for a throw, he was also completely unable to generate any offense, or escape the awkward posture Kiribayama had stuffed him into. Both men end the day 6-6.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Great example of how clam and patient Takarafuji is during most matches. Chiyotairyu brings a lot of power early, but Takarafuji maintains control and gives up position. The winning move is a brilliant shove from the left to bias Chiyotairyu onto his right foot, then Takarafuji shifting to his right to release pressure that Chiyotairyu was using to keep himself upright. Down goes Chiyotairyu, and its kachi-koshi for Takarafuji. Technically brilliant.

Ikioi defeats Tamawashi – Ikioi inches a bit closer to kachi-koshi with this win over Tamawashi, like so many other of the 30+ Maegashira club seem to have severe join problems this March. Both of these rikishi can deliver a lot of punishment in a match, and they were out to prove it. Tamawashi now down to 3-9.

Yutakayama defeats Abi – Abi gets the double arm thrust going early against Yutakayama’s chest, and he succeeds in focusing Yutakayama on breaking Abi’s attack. Moving back it looked like Yutakayama was in trouble, but managed a nice combo to Abi’s chest to first unbalance him, then send him to the clay. Yutakayama improves to 7-5, and can hit his highest ranked kachi-koshi ever with a win over Okinoumi on day 13.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Original Tadpole gave Big Dan Aoiyama a solid fight, but the V-Twin attack was more than Mitakeumi could absorb. Aoiyama’s sumo was dead on, and he kept the pressure running hot all the way to the finish. Mitakeumi’s only escape lasted for just a heartbeat before Aoiyama closed the gap and finished him off. Aoiyama takes sole possession of the lead with 11-1.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi was faster at the tachiai, but Kagayaki was lower. Both of them had great body position, and excellent foot placement. Okinoumi too him to his chest, but Kagayaki managed to get a double inside grip, and went to work. If you watch the match in slow motion, or a frame at a time, just look at Kagayaki’s foot work. That guy has some of the heaviest feet in the top division right now, just amazing and quite reminiscent of Kisenosato in some ways.

Tokushoryu defeats Myogiryu – It was nice to see Tokushoryu use his power weapon that took him to the Hatsu yusho, that pivot right and thrust down. It’s like some kind of magical super move when he can set it up. Sadly both he and Myogiryu are 3-9, so this was just for fun today.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho really comes into the tachiai with power, lower and more forceful than Onosho, he plants a right hand under the chin and lifts. By the second step, Daieisho is completely overwhelming Onosho, and he switches to plan 2. Grabbing Daieisho around the chest he uses his natural tendency to overbalance forward as an asset, and lunges. Daieisho near the salt basket and Onosho improves to 7-5. I expect both of these guys to finish kachi-koshi, and try this nice head to head match up at the next tournament.

Hokutofuji defeats Enho – Enho opts for the submarine tachiai, and Hokutofuji wisely slow-rolls his initial charge. Enho can’t quite get low enough to really employ his tool kit, and ends up with Hokutofuji double arm barring him ala Nishikigi. Hokutofuji marches his around the dohoyo, but Enho is too low to the ground to go down. Out of options, big Hokutofuji simply falls over on top of Enho for the win, handing Enho a very painful looking make-koshi.

Asanoyama defeats Takanosho – Takanosho’s tachiai was excellent, and it drove Asanoyama back. Everything about Takanosho’s tachiai was great, foot placement, hand placement, that guy has a strong future if he can stay healthy. He followed that up by shutting down all of Asanoyama’s attempts to set up his preferred yytsu-zumo grip and stance. Clearly Takanosho did his homework, and was ready. Takanosho tried to break contact, and lost his footing, sending him to the clay for an Asanoyama win. I look forward to these two fighting again soon.

Takakeisho defeats Ryuden – Takakeisho has a very narrow, very steep path to avoid kadoban for the next basho. He needs two more wins, and one of those must come from a Yokozuna. But today he was able to take care of business, even winning in spite of going chest to chest with Ryuden. Takakeisho improves to 6-6.

Shodai defeats Hakuho – Well, Hakuho, we had hoped after your match with Onosho that you were done with your occasional jack-assery. But here you brought it out to play again, and look at what happened. While you were busy slapping Shodai’s face, he kept his cool and focused on winning. You showed a fundamental lack of respect for Shodai’s sumo, which once you get past the tachiai, is quite effective. You were hitting his face, he was driving inside. You let him get morozashi, and only then did you figure out that you were completely out of control and not focused on winning. Enjoy the loss, Yokozuna, that one was absolute crap. Big Dan Aoiyama is now sole leader in the yusho race.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Nice iron grip there, Endo! Kakuryu again very serious about his sumo, and showing Yokozuna composure and style. Kakuryu hits 10 wins for a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, and safety for a good time to come.