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.

Osaka Day 10 Highlights

Some sumo fans were skeptical of my interest in Onosho. Today maybe there is more to think about, as the “Red Tadpole” took a chunk out of Yokozuna Hakuho, scoring his second kinboshi (the fist was Aki 2017 against Harumafuji). Since they first began to breach the sekitori ranks, Onosho was always, to my eye, the most capable of the crew. True, he has had balance issues that were compounded by an injury during Hatsu 2018. It has been a real struggle for him to fight back to this level of competition, including a misguided attempt to stop wearing that red mawashi.

With Hakuho’s loss, the yusho race opens up considerably, bringing none other than “Big Dan” Aoiyama into a tie with Hakuho for the cup. Do I think the Bulgarian is a match for Hakuho – probably not, but Aoiyama likely could care less. I am sure that should they ever go head to head, he will give him a full volley and let the sumo decide. Hot on their heels, just 1 loss behind, are three proven yusho winners who are eager for a chance to step in and claim the title: Kakuryu, Asanoyama and Mitakeumi. Frankly, if Mitakeumi takes his 3rd Emperor’s cup, the fans in Nagoya are going to be incorrigible.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Daiamami – Well, that injury in January does not seem to have quenched Kotoyuki’s sumo. He looked strong and motivated to drive Daiamami from the dohyo. At Juryo 1E, all he needs is a kachi-koshi to return to the top division.

Azumaryu defeats Kotoshogiku – That probably should have been a matta, but the gyoji let them fight it out. Kotoshogiku struggled for a reasonable grip, and each moment that passed drained some of the power he could transmit through those damaged knees. Azumaryu took his time, set up the throw and took the match with an uwatenage. Both men end the day 5-5.

Aoiyama defeats Shimanoumi – “Big Dan” Aoiyama remains at the front of the makuuchi race for the cup with a solid win over Shimanoumi. Shimanoumi came in low and fast, but Big Dan unleashed the V-Twin, and there was no escape for Shimanoumi. Aoiyama improves to 9-1.

Kaisei defeats Ishiura – Ishiura used a lot of great high-agility sumo today, and Kaisei played with him for a bit. But once Ishiura went full Enho and started grabbing any body part and tugging, it seems Kaisei reached out to his spirit guide, Sir Issac Newton, and unleashed a might shove that broke the dohyo. Kaisei improves to 6-4.

Meisei defeats Ikioi – Ikioi certainly gave it a full measure, but a well timed side step by Meisei in the face of an Ikioi charge sent Ikioi to the clay. Meisei really needed that win to maintain any hope of a kachi-koshi for March.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotonowaka – A duck and side step at the tachiai left shin-maku rikishi Kotonowaka momentarily distracted. In a blink of an eye, Terutsuyoshi had a hold of the left knee and lifted, sending Kotonowaka to the clay. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today, wow!

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – Is there anything sadder that Tochiozan’s sumo right now? I don’t think so, at least not inside the Edion area. Day 10, and still more tape on veteran Tochiozan as Nishikigi gets his favorite kimedashi arm bars early, and just advances for the win. Tochiozan is now an eye watering 0-10.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Two more injured veterans, facing each other and trying to stay away from make-koshi. Sadly Shohozan succumbed to this 8th loss fever in a chaotic bout against Tochinoshin when he lost traction, and his legs splayed out, straddling the tawara. Hopefully no groin pull there. Shohozan now make-koshi.

Chiyotairyu defeats Kiribayama – Not quite sure what happened here. There was a strong tachiai from Chiyotairyu, and as he reached for a right hand grip, Kiribayama collapsed to the clay. Kimarite is listed as hatakikomi, so let’s go with that. Chiyotairyu improves to 7-3.

Takarafuji defeats Takanosho – Takanosho decided to try his usual tachiai, which Takarafuji deftly absorbed. As Takarafuji attempted to deflect the follow up charge, it was evident that Takanosho was too far forward, and Takarafuji helped him to continue forward to land face first in the clay. Takarafuji improves to 7-3, one win from a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Tamawashi defeats Sadanoumi – This match was a non-stop slug fest from the tachiai. If you wanted to see two rikishi unleash flurry after flurry of thrusts and blows, this is your bout. Tamawashi eventually found himself on Sadanoumi’s flank, he grabbed his mawashi and chucked him down like a bag of cement. Both men leave the day a 3-7.

Yutakayama defeats Kagayaki – Well, this is starting to get serious. “Big Unit” Yutakayama, seems to have bounced back from his 2-5 start, and has now rallied to an even 5-5. If you wanted to see Kagayaki really work a match, this is a fantastic example, as Yutakayama threw everything at Mr Fundamentals, but Kagayaki stayed stable, stance wide and pressing forward. He had Yutakayama pinned at the bales, but the Big Unit found a handle, turned and thrust Kagayaki down. Two stars from the near future in action, showing some great sumo.

Okinoumi defeats Tokushoryu – Okinoumi made fast work of the Hatsu yusho winner, handing him the inevitable make-koshi we knew was coming for a week or so now. I look forward to seeing how Tokushoryu does in the mid-Maegashira ranks, as it is clear that M2 is well outside of his ability this March.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Daieisho has learned well the mechanics of disrupting Abi-zumo, and applied them with gusto. For those of you wondering, thrust upward at the elbows and shut down his rhythm early. His foot placement is always set to allow maximum forward pressure, and if you remove that double-arm attack from the equation, he is inherently unstable. Daieisho improves to 7-3, and could reach kachi-koshi tomorrow against Endo.

Myogiryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji once again racks up “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In Sumo”, as Myogiryu completely disrupts his attack, then steps aside when Hokutofuji rallies to move ahead.

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Endo staked everything on that predicable left hand mawashi grip at the tachiai. Mitakeumi went for a quick left hand nodowa. Did anyone else see that ottsuke? Mitakeumi presses forward with his massive body, and just overruns Endo’s defenses. Mitakeumi picks up his 8th win, and his kachi-koshi. So far the Mitakeumi second week fade is nowhere in sight.

Asanoyama defeats Enho – Asanoyama stays on the trail of his Ozeki bid by bashing the genki out of Enho, sending him one loss away from make-koshi. Asanoyama was in oshi-mode today, and Enho was grabbing arms, hands, wrists – anything really, to try to unbalance Asanoyama. The Ozeki hopefully was having none of it, and just kept moving forward with power. Asanoyama now kachi-koshi.

Shodai defeats Takakeisho – The lone surviving Ozeki is in trouble now, as he opens strong against Shodai, who quite impressively stayed calm and showed some nice “Defend and Extend” sumo today. He kept urging Takakeisho to move forward, and lean forward until he could slap him down. Both men end the day at 5-5.

Onosho defeats Hakuho – Hakuho’s enormous ego and overflowing skill channel him to try and fight his lower ranked opponents by copying their style. Clearly he decided he was going to take Onosho on in a thrusting match, but he found that this tadpole has the power of Takakeisho, with the reach of Ryuden. You can’t just take a step back and remove his primary offense. Points to Onosho for pressing the attack, and offering the Yokozuna no escape. “The Boss” take his first loss, and Onosho improves to 6-4. The kami that lives in his red mawashi grew in power today, watch out. I am hoping against hope we get Onosho vs Takakeisho.

Kakuryu defeats Ryuden – Kakuryu was in no mood to play today, and just grabbed a hold and drove forward with power. That’s win #8 for Big K, and he’s kachi-koshi for March.

Osaka Day 4 Preview

Welcome to day 4, we are fast approaching the end of act 1 of the Haru basho. Act 1 is where we see who is hot, and who is not. The rikishi get to try to break free of their ring rust, and get into their competition sumo. It’s clear that there are a cadre of rikishi who are going to be doing well through the first week (8 with a 3-0 record to start day 4), and 7 who have yet to find their first win. It’s very early in the basho, so you can’t really take much away from these figures, but for fans who watched through the past two basho, there are some notable performances to point out.

First off is Mitakeumi, he is looking very solid, and this is the kind of sumo his fans expect from him. If he could fight consistently at this level, he would have made Ozeki last year. More so than most, I think he has more than a couple of injuries that bother him at times, and keep him from showing his full potential.

Asanoyama – He is on an Ozeki run right now, and I think he is fighting well. Given that there are just 2 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki, he is going to need to beat at least one of them in order to make the case that he should join Takakeisho at sumo’s second highest rank. Good luck to him, he has massive potential, and I think he has a solid chance of making the grade at some point this. year.

Takayasu – Watching the former Ozeki continue to struggle is a real heartbreak for his fans. I am sure that much of the problem is motivation and confidence at this point. That damaged left elbow seems to be working well enough now, but he has still to score his first win of the basho.

Tokushoryu – It should not be a surprise to anyone that dear Tokushoryu is really having trouble fighting at this rank. His posting to the top division in January was a bit of a gift, and his yusho was a marvel of being able to bring some of the best sumo of his career to the dohyo every day. No one can ever take that away from him or sumo fans. But it looks like he has reverted to average, and is struggling.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Azumaryu vs Meisei – In general, these two are evenly matched. But in reality Meisei is still struggling to recover from an injury, and his sumo is all over the place. That gives a clear advantage to Azumaryu to go along with a considerable advantage in height and weight.

Tsurugisho vs Kotonowaka – As with most of Kotonowaka’s bouts in Osaka, another first time match. Tsurugisho is fighting poorly and clearly still working to overcome the rather worrisome injuries sustained in the first week of Hatsu, so I expect him to limp through this basho.

Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – Speed vs size today, with a healthy dose of genki-gravy, as it seems Chiyomaru has a belly full of high-energy fighting spirit right now. They are tied 3-3 in their career record, so I am looking for a good struggle today.

Kaisei vs Daiamami – Kaisei is still looking for his first win in Osaka, and the only bright spot is that Daiamami seems to really be out of sorts with his sumo right now. I suspect he finds the empty stadium a distraction, and it’s impacting his matches.

Nishikigi vs Aoiyama – Given how wells Aoiyama is fighting right now, I think this could be a brutal match. We have winless Nishikigi going up against lossless Aoiyama. Will we get to see the V-Twin attack from the man-mountain again today? He holds a narrow 5-4 career record over Nishikigi.

Chiyotairyu vs Ishiura – Another Kokonoe rikishi oozing genki (at least I hope that’s genki…), Chiyotairyu is going to face 3-0 Ishiura in a big man / small man match. I know folks get worked up about henka, but seriously, he should deploy a flying henka against Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai today. I would applaud.

Kotoshogiku vs Terutsuyoshi – Kotoshogiku is struggling due to his deteriorating body, and I think Terutsuyoshi is struggling because the setting for the matches is an empty arena, and its distracting him. The guy clearly loves the roar of the crowd, and the lack of any noise in the hall may keep him from getting into “fight mode”. The two have split their 2 prior matches, so it will come down to if Kotoshogiku can get a grip on the highly maneuverable salt master.

Ikioi vs Tochiozan – Two long serving veterans facing off on day 4, and surprisingly we have seen zero good sumo from Tochiozan this march, and his record shows it (0-4). Ikioi is on the short side of their 7-11 career record, but I favor him to take day 4 and leave Tochiozan in quarantine mode with zero wins.

Takanosho vs Tochinoshin – We saw some quality sumo from Tochinoshin on day 3, and everyone is hoping that he’s gotten the start of a recipe to actually compete in spite of that damaged knee. He goes up against 3-0 Takanosho on day 4, and Takanosho won their only prior match.

Sadanoumi vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama won their only prior match, and in spite of bringing his normal rapid attack and lighting fast reflexes to each match, Sadanoumi comes into day 4 with a disappointing 1-2 record.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – These two are evenly matched over their careers (11-10), and they come in with matching 1-2 records. It will be a contest between Takarafuji’s “defend and extend” sumo, and Tamawashi’s flat out offense.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s fundamentals based sumo tends to shut down Shohozan’s energetic mobiltiy attacks, and as a result Kagayaki has a 9-5 career advantage over “Big Guns” Shohozan. I did really like that lunge at the tachiai Shohozan mixed into his day 3 win. Maybe we will se more of that!

Ryuden vs Onosho – These two are evenly matched, and the outcome seems to be driving by Ryuden attempting a hatakikomi. Thus if Onosho is off balance and forward, we can count on Ryuden to read it instantly and put him on the clay. Both rikishi come into day 4 with matching 2-1 records.

Myogiryu vs Abi – Myogiryu is looking to break out of 0-3 quarantine club, and this may represent his best chance to turn things around. He has split the prior 6 matches with Abi, but Abi’s sumo is even more disorganized and frantic than normal.

Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – Oh yes indeed! The “Big Unit” against the “Original Tadpole”, they have only met twice before, and the split the pair. Mitakeumi has a spotless 3-0 heading into day 4 vs Yutakayama at 2-1. I expect this to be a big oshi battle with a lot of movement, and a lot of bruises.

Tokushoryu vs Endo – Tokushoryu brutal circuit of the joi-jin continues, and today Endo is going to grab the front of his mawashi and send him tumbling. Tokushoryu has not won a single match from Endo in 7 attempts. Sorry, Hatsu yusho winner, it’s more quarantine for you.

Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – You can think of Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi as the appetizer with Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji being the main course. Asanoyama holds a 4-2 career advantage, and comes in at 3-0. But this is a new day, and Hokutofuji is a man on a mission. That mission – to lay the doom on everyone. Should be an excellent match.

Enho vs Shodai – Any why not indulge in a little pudding after your mains? Enho vs Shodai should be just the ticket. I am curious to see if Shodai has become discouraged after his day 3 loss to Mitakeumi. In the past, he would take his first loss, and it would shake his confidence, and he would struggle to return to genki. Don’t let Enho smell indecision or worry, or he will sacrifice you to the elves and sell your bones to the gnomes who live under the chikara-mizu bucket.

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Takakeisho had a moment of worry when he went to the clay day 2 in an ill-conceived yotsu match with Okinoumi. He faces off against Daieisho, who is a member in goods standing of the 0-3 quarantine club. Takakeisho holds a 5-3 career advantage.

Hakuho vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi has beaten Hakuho precisely once. It was Aki day 1 in 2015, and he surprised The Boss with a surprisingly strong yotsu match. Hakuho of today seems to be a bit more vulnerable, but I would be utterly surprised if he gave Okinoumi a kinboshi today.

Takayasu vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu holds a narrow 12-10 career record over Takayasu, and his fans would dearly love to see him rally and start winning matches. A win today would in fact be a kinboshi, as the former Ozeki is now ranked at Maegashira 1. But Takayasu’s sumo seems to lack power, and I am going to look for Kakuryu to give him just enough space to make a mistake.

Osaka Day 3 Highlights

After some humdrum sumo to start the basho, today featured some hard, brutal matches. Some rikishi continued their winning runs, and few that had not seen their first wins, took a white star with great suno. Fast, brutal and aggressive sumo was on tap today, and it was great to see the rikishi bring their better sumo to the dohyo today. What did we get to see? Big Dan unleashed the V-Twin, Asanoyama reverts to Oshi-zuno, Shohozan unleashed a murderous lunge at the tachiai, Kotoshogiku snuck in a back bend, and the wave-action tsuppari machine washed Endo into the zabuton zone. Oh, and Enho and Yutakayama conducted what I can only assume is some sort of fertility dance.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Meisei – Daiamami picks up his first win of Haru. He tried to get a left hand frontal hold at the tachiai, but Meisei did a masterful job of disrupting Daiamami first few attacks. The match was quite even until Meisei attempted to pull Diamami forward from his forearm. His hold on that arm failed and left him off balance and Daiamami pushed him out. Maybe Daiamami is getting used to the empty hall.

Kotonowaka defeats Shimanoumi – Kotonowaka started with a surprisingly lethargic tachiai, and immediately tried to land a right hand inside. Because this is Kotonowaka’s trademark opening gambit, Shimanoumi shut it down. Kotonowaka kept working for grip, and executed a solid sukuinage at the tawara to seal the win. Did anyone else catch Kotoshogiku doing a back bend in in the tunnel in the background of that video? Brought a smile to my face.

Chiyomaru defeats Tsurugisho – Chiyomaru has a strong start to Haru, clearly the atmospherics don’t bother him one bit. He was fast and aggressive out of the tachiai, and once again stood his opponent up, and slapped him down. Chiyomaru improves to 3-0.

Azumaryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi still cant find his first win without his glasses. Nishikigi came off of the shikiri-sen hard and fast, got a grip, but was too far forward. Azumaryu read it perfectly and exploited Nishikigi’s mistake to send him to the clay.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – “Big Dan” Aoiyama improves to 3-0 in thunderous style. He blasted off the line and went straight into a V-Twin attack. When Aoiyama attacks with both arms thrusting, and he connects center-mass, there is little anyone or anything can do. I had to watch it twice, it was just so massive.

Ikioi defeats Kaisei – Wow, a strength battle that features Ikioi out powering Kaisei! That’s some serious chanko power, indeed. Both of them fought well, but Ikioi somehow managed to keep his stamina. Sadly Kaisei is still looking for his first win.

Chiyotairyu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Chiyotairyu also starts 3-0, today he took a straight ahead tachiai from Terutsuyoshi, grabbed the back of Terutsuyoshi’s neck and chucked him forward like a bale of rice. Wow.

Ishiura defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan self-isolates into the 0-3 club as Ishiura picks up his 3rd straight win to start Haru. Tochiozan did manage to get some offense running, but Ishiura stayed mobile, and Mr Efficiency was unable to really do much other than chase him around for the first part of the match. Tochiozan eventually captured him and they went chest to chest. Bad mistake for Tochiozan, as Ishiura channels Enho and unleashed a brilliant shitatehineri. Suddenly one moment Tochiozan has Ishiura clamped down, the next he is on his back in the clay. Nice sumo Ishiura!

Takanosho defeats Sadanoumi – A showcase example of Sadanoumi’s tremendous speed, he was inside and attacking Takanosho in a moment at the tachiai. Takanosho worked hard to stop Sadanoumi’s forward rush, and ended with a double inside grip. Realizing he had the advantage, Takanosho dropped his hips and attacked. Three strokes of the gaburi-yori and it was his third solid win, as Takanosho maintains his place in the 3-0 club.

Tochinoshin defeats Kiribayama – I am overjoyed that Tochinoshin found his sumo today, and picked up his first win of Haru. He was fast, hit hard at the tachiai, and his left hand found his outside grip. Was it “skycrane sumo”? No, but it was a solid win and he looked good doing it.

Shohozan defeats Takarafuji – Shohozan also joins the first win club for today. That murderous lunge at the tachiai was a wonder, and I think it surprised Takarafuji who took a moment to set up his defense. But that momentary disorientation may have been enough, as Takarafuji struggled to find a good grip, Shohozan broke free and got behind Takarafuji, pushing him out from behind.

Kagayaki defeats Tamawashi – Great clash of styles in this match. Tamawashi focused on Kagayaki’s head, working to disorient him and disrupt his balance. But Kagayaki’s stance was wide and stable, and he focused pressure center-mass and pushed ahead strongly. Really classic fundamentals based sumo from Kagayaki today, and he left Tamawashi with no route to rally.

Ryuden defeats Myogiryu – Sadly Myogiryu joins the self-isolation group down at 0-3. This match was all about Ryuden’s superior reach, and his ability to wrap Myogiryu up, and shut down any chance he had to attack or defend.

Abi defeats Onosho – Abi picks up his first win of the basho, and he did it with his trademark Abi-zumo. His tachiai was a half step ahead, and he landed both hands against Onosho’s upper body. Onosho worked to respond, but Abi did not release the pressure. As is his custom, Onosho lost his balance and hit the clay.

Yutakayama defeats Enho – Lovely slow motion tachiai, I love when Yutakayama does this (its not his first time in a battle with Enho). This probably shut down plans A,B and G for Enho, and the two circled each other. Enho kept trying to grab an part of Yutakayama’s body, and Yutakayama kept thwarting every grasp. The match wears on, and it just keeps getting strange. Holding hands, dancing around – I am not sure I quite understand this pixie-sumo. Were they trying to summon an enchanted toadstool? Eventually Yutakayama closes in and shoves him to the clay. Huge effort from both.

Hokutofuji defeats Tokushoryu – Nice change-up tachiai from Hokutofuji today, he took Tokushoryu straight to his chest and went to work. Hokutofuji immediately had Tokushoryu on the run, and Tokushoryu attempted his trade mark thrust down at the bales, but could not get the timing worked out and was over the bales too early. Hatsu yusho winner Tokushoryu is still searching for his first win, and joins the quarantine group.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Surprisingly solid sumo from two habitual under-performers. Shodai’s tachiai seems to be improved, but Mitakeumi was really low, and his body position was excellent. Shodai was never able to lower his hips, and Mitakeumi controlled this match from the start. Shodai tried a pull, tried turning, nothing work as Mitakeumi keep him locked down, with his hips and shoulders square to Shodai’s center-mass. Mitakeumi improves to 3-0, and looked very good today.

Asanoyama defeats Daieisho – Asanoyama takes another step closer to his double digit goal while Daieisho still can’t find his first win, and joins the quarantine group at 0-3. Daieisho opened strong and drove Asanoyama back, but Asanoyama rallied and dropped back to his original oshi-zumo form and attacked with power. Glad to see that the future Ozeki still has that toolkit close at hand when its needed.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – Oh so happy to see Takakeisho unleash the wave-action attack. Endo clearly was driving for a mawashi hold, as it seems to be the key to shutting down Takakeisho’s offense (at least for now). After an initial skirmish, Takakeisho set up the wave attacks. When he gets those running, nobody can keep their feet. Made my day….
Kimarite: tsukidashi
Takakeisho: 2-1
Endo: 1-2

Kakuryu defeats Okinoumi – I felt a sense of relief to see Kakuryu back in the groove. He came out fast and hard at the tachiai, and that left hand went straight to Okinoumi’s mawashi. Immediately, Okinoumi knew he was trapped, and Kakuryu dialed up the power. Great Yokozuna style today, and he improves to 2-1.

Hakuho defeats Takayasu – I know that Hakuho as many well deserved defenders, but in all sincerity – what the hell was that? Takayasu is a shade of his former self, and The Boss really struggled with this match. Hakuho is sol versitle that he completely improvised this match from start to finish, but it still worked. Hakuho improves to 3-0, but that was a lot more frantic than what we are used to seeing from him.