Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of the basho. A reminder to fans around the world: NHK World Japan will be carrying the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live on their global streaming service. With Abema now a fading memory for many sumo fans, this is your ticket to live sumo action. So stay up, stay engaged and watch sumo!

The big news is that Ozeki Takakeisho is going to attempt to return to competition today. He went kyujo earlier in the tournament after day 4, when he strained his knee in a surprising yotsu match against Mitakeumi. Also on the hurt list is Kaisei, who seems to have suffered at least minor damage to his right arm in his loss to Ryuden. Word is he may go has gone kyujo from day 8 to give his arm a chance to recover.

Natsu Leaderboard

Time to dig into the yusho race for the Natsu basho. With only two undefeated rikishi on day 8, it may seem quite clear. But I am going to guess that someone gets dirt on both Kakuryu and Tochinoshin before Wednesday, and this one may come down to a closer race than it looks today.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser: Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Tochiozan, Enho, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyoshoma vs Daiamami – With Takakeisho returning, the imbalance in the torikumi returns, and we are once against having a daily Juryo visitor to the top division. Today it’s former Maku-man Daiamami, who does not seem to be on track to win back his top division slot this tournament. Chiyoshoma has never lost to him, either.

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi seemed to wake up in his day 7 match against Enho, and we do hope he can stay awake and fighting well. The two are fairly evenly matched, and I would expect that we may see Terutsuyoshi attempt more “stunt sumo” like that leg sweep he used day 7 that delighted everyone.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – The NHK announcers keep pointing out how Kotoeko has not had a kachi-koshi in the top division yet, which was interesting but is now a bit stale. He is moving well, fighting well now, and dominating many of his matches. With 5 wins, we are likely to see him break that run of make-koshi, and find his place in the top division. Tokushoryu on the other hand seems to not really have a handle on his sumo right now, which is a shame.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – The ultimate big vs small battle—Chiyomaru is 2x Enho’s mass. Think about that – it would take 2 Enho units to make 1 Chiyomaru unit. But that being said, we are all really interested to see what kind of pixie magic Enho unleashes to send Chiyomaru tumbling.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – There are plenty of comments that Ishura’s sumo has morphed closer to Enho’s – to which I say “Good!”. The fact that Ishiura has returned to actual aggressive sumo is nothing but a plus all around, and I hope it’s here to stay. Shimanoumi fans are starting to hope that he’s got his sumo back in shape, and can at least make a fair try at a winning record.

Shohozan vs Yago – Both of these men have oversized heads. It’s as simple as that. I think Yago’s head is larger, and it’s certainly more conical than most. Shohozan’s is large and blocky, and seems to be permanently configured to scowl. Maybe we should call it “Resting Shohozan Face”. I think Yago wants revenge for that Osaka Oshidashi, so he will need to be more mobile than he typically is, as Shohozan refuses to stand still most days.

Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – If Sadanoumi can get control in the first 5 seconds, he can limit Tochiozan’s sumo, which he must do in order to win. Tochiozan will, as always, play to stalemate and wait for an advantage to appear. The longer the match lasts, the better for Tochiozan.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – First time match between these two, and it’s got a lot of interest. The aspect is that both of them are very mobile, and tend to have good lateral motion. Tomokaze tends to employ it at the center of the dohyo, Shodai at the tawara.

Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has yet to defeat Meisei in their 3 prior matches. The good news is that Meisei tends to win by grabbing Onosho and pushing him around for a loss, rather than by taking advantage of Onosho’s natural forward 10% list. Perhaps he should consult a naval architect after the basho and see if they can adjust his ballast tanks.

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Fans worried that Asanoyama’s day 6 loss would put him off his focus can rest easy—he returned to excellent form, and that brings us to a great pairing against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is also in the habit of exercising excellent form, coupled with excellent combination moves. I predict they go chest to chest early, and it’s a medley of move and counter move until Asanoyama wins.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – The battle of the broken toys. We see Mr. Fundamentals struggling with just one win, and Yoshikaze looking like his better days are past. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that Kagayaki will take his second win today.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – Kaisei is kyujo to heal up his right arm, Myogiryu gets the fusen win.

Nishikigi vs Ryuden – Nishikigi has been breaking out that armlock and double armlock a lot this basho, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ryuden when he has to break free. Ryuden is on pace to bid for a nice banzuke slot for Nagoya.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Time for Chiyotairyu to rehabilitate his record, and where better to start than with Daieisho, against whom he holds a 9-1 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Abi – The brotherhood of the flailing arms is in attendance; let the ceremony begin! The only prior match it was all Abi, but I think we may see more from Hokutofuji this time.

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – The enigma that is Ichinojo continues to befuddle. He’s hot, he’s cold, he fights, he loses. His fans want him to get it together, but something prevents it.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Cue sky crane in 3… 2… 1…

Takakeisho vs Aoiyama – Why you crazy Ozeki? I get it, hold up the tradition of Ozeki, the whole gaman thing, but Japan needs you to not wreck your body just yet. Okay, well, Aoiyama only looks to be operating on one reactor right now. You might be okay. Just no more yotsu until you are healed up.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs to rack a few more wins before the “tough” part of his schedule, and we hope his 12-3 career edge over Okinoumi counts as an advantage in this match.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Probably the big match of the second half, although the returning Takakeisho will get the hype. These two are actually fairly evenly matched, and I am less sure today that Goeido is fighting hurt. I know Mitakeumi can smell a return to Sekiwake, and it would be great for him to go into his Nagoya with double-digit wins at Natsu.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Tamawashi’s run-and-gun sumo is not overly effective against Kakuryu’s reactive style. I think this one goes to Big-K and he stays unbeaten.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Natsu Basho Banner

Ladies, gentlemen, and rikishi, it’s time for Day 2 highlights! With the stateside team hobbled from accessing live sumo, I’m here in Tokyo and will make a good fist – nay, Aoiyama roundhouse slap – of the commentary today.

Day 2 Highlights

Dohyo-iri & broadcast notes: It’s interesting to see Japanese Nishikigi and Shodai rocking kesho-mawashi with a Mongolian flag on it, since they have to wear Kakuryu’s kesho-mawashi ahead of the Yokozuna’s dohyo-iri. Man of culture Ishiura, free from the burden of similar responsibilities owing to Hakuho being kyujo in this tournament, has a fresh and striking new “Carpe Diem” kesho-mawashi, provided by his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu friends. Kakuryu’s dohyo-iri is executed very nicely.

During the break, Takakeisho appears on TV for an interview in a Takanohana yukata – perhaps someone can make a Takamisugi yukata for him. The Japanese feed today featured someone called “Araiso oyakata” on co-commentary. Must be some new guy they’re testing out. Ross Mihara also points out that hiragana text of the rikishi names is now included in the NHK broadcast, which makes it easier for those learning Japanese to read.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishoho – Chiyoshoma lands a slap but it’s otherwise an even tachiai, which is deceptive, due to Chiyoshoma’s (lack of) size relative to Daishoho. Chiyoshoma gets a decent grip on his compatriot with both arms inside, Daishoho can’t definitively break his grip and gets shuffled out. Workmanlike win, and one Chiyoshoma needed down at M17.

Ishiura defeats Ikioi – Ikioi in Juryo is just something I don’t want to talk about, but this is some high octane sumo and he appears at least a little more fit at the moment. Ikioi gives it a massive blast at the tachiai and Ishiura, as usual, tries a shift to the side. Ikioi really had the bearing of the smaller man, but Ishiura’s mobility is just too much and he’s able to pull out a yoritaoshi manoeuvre at the edge as both men go out. It’s a beautiful move. Ikioi seems pained by the decision and goes straight to the replay screen to see exactly how it lost it.

Tokushoryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Bulbous Tokushoryu just dominates the smaller Terutsuyoshi. The best the wee man can do here is just give Tokushoryu a big hug. He tries to get in low, but Tokushoryu absorbs him, and uses his leg power to march forward with the Isegahama man locked up. Both men are now at 1-1.

Kotoeko defeats Enho – Enho gets in low and shifts to the right, and seems to initially try to set his legs for a tripping manoeuvre. Kotoeko has him sideways with a grip on the front and back of his mawashi and there’s just nowhere he can go, and Kotoeko marshalls him back – the winning move is oshidashi. Kotoeko worked out if you suffocate Enho’s mobility, he can be dominated. Both of these guys are 1-1 as well.

Chiyomaru defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is heavily bandaged and you wouldn’t have thought he’s just come off two consecutive yusho in the lower level. Chiyomaru tries his usual mix of pushes followed by pulldown attempts, but it’s not really working for him. Eventually the two men come to a grappling position, but Chiyomaru still wants absolutely no part of his opponent’s mawashi. He levers Shimanoumi up high by getting one arm in under his arm and uses his left to push up on his chest, and with Shimanoumi off balance, he finishes him off. It’s not especially elegant to watch, but that’s Chiyomaru.

Sadanoumi defeats Yago – Sadanoumi bounces off Yago at the tachiai like one of those rubber balls they used to make for bored kids. Yago is doing everything he can to keep Sadanoumi away from him – except he’s doing it moving backwards, and that’s a mistake. Eventually Sadanoumi’s tenacity pays off and Yago has nowhere to go. Sadanoumi gets in under his arms and one thrust is really all it takes at that point to finish the job.

Shohozan defeats Kagayaki – “Tactics” Kagayaki’s game plan seemed to be to match Shohozan, but they don’t teach what Shohozan does in textbooks. With Kagayaki focused on playing Shohozan’s furious slapping game, Shohozan uses both arms to fully lock up Kagayaki and completely blunt his attack. Kagayaki prolongs the inevitable at the tawara as long as possible, but he’s got nothing but homework to do. Big Guns Shohozan is now up to 2-0.

Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Onosho seems to cheat a bit over the shikiri-sen at the tachiai. Despite this, Tochiozan initially has the stronger forward movement, but after absorbing his hit at the tachiai Onosho turns on the thrusters and has this over in 2 or 3 shoves. Anticlimactic. Onosho is also now up to 2-0.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – This is a match that looked like it happened at about 15 frames per second. It’s an even, ponderous tachiai. Credit to Kaisei for trying to move forward, but Nishikigi takes a step back and tosses him aside in one smooth motion with a kotenage.

Asanoyama defeats Tomokaze – Beautiful, beautiful throw. Asanoyama pursues his left hand grip as if his name was Tochinoshin. As soon as he gets it, he immediately pulls the throw. Technically, this is a level of sumo Tomokaze won’t have experienced very much at the lower levels. 2-0 start for Asanoyama.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Which Shodai do we get today? Shodai stands up at the tachiai and doesn’t really move for about 10 or 15 seconds as he works instead on his arm placement. Eventually he moves forward and Takarafuji, off balance, gets flushed like a porcelain Takara Standard. Takarafuji is usually pretty decent defensively in these exact situations, as he’s better skilled than most at turning a match around from defensive positions with reactive sumo, but his left foot slips and it ends up fairly easy for Shodai.

Yoshikaze defeats Meisei – Meisei takes a running start at the tachiai, but he comes in with his head down. All that the wily veteran Yoshikaze needs to do is take the hit, pivot and let his younger opponent continue his forward movement straight onward into the first few rows of seats. Easy.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – While there’s been a lot of grappling action today, few of the grapplers seem to want much to do with the mawashi. Okinoumi takes Myogiryu head on, neither man gets a belt grip, but Myogiryu is a little more adept in this more traditional wrestling stance and it’s one way traffic. Okinoumi is better on the belt, and Myogiryu keeping him away made this a much more straightforward matchup.

Ryuden defeats Abi – Ryuden gets a much better tachiai but after that it’s all Abi. If you’ve ever seen Abi, I probably don’t have to describe what happens: it’s the classic double straight arm attack. Abi will be upset with himself for coughing this up. He has Ryuden on the ropes and has a couple chances to put him away, but Ryuden often is at his best when he has his back to the tawara. He finds another lever to push forward back into the middle of the ring and Abi’s long legs simply collapse from under him. Ryuden got away with one there but his hair, as usual, is an absolute mess. This was probably the best bout of a straightforward day to this point, until…

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Epic win for Mitakeumi. Tamawashi looks like he’s maybe lost a bit of thrust from his push and thrust game, but he gave it a lot here. The two men start with a bit of a tussle that has Mitakeumi penning Tamawashi back, and both men keeping each other at long-arms’ length. But when the two men separate, this match is always going to favor Tamawashi. And they do separate about 3 or 4 times, Tamawashi landing a slap and taking a charge at the komusubi. He charges about 4 or 5 times, but Mitakeumi uses his momentum against him and hits the pull down as he’s moving backward. Tamawashi will win this match 9 times out of 10 against a weaker opponent, but Mitakeumi is seasoned, skilled and composed enough to deal with it impressively.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – This match initially looks like a bit of a wet blanket after the last one. But actually, they give it a good go. Chiyotairyu’s tachiai just doesn’t really work against the massive Ichinojo, he bounced straight back and ran out of ideas. There’s a bit of handbags, then Ichinojo gets a belt grip he decides he doesn’t really need and just moves forward and shoves the Kokonoe man straight out.

Tochinoshin defeats Daieisho – This one’s a quickie. Daieisho is a bit of an awkward customer for Tochinoshin because his particular style is the kind of sumo that Tochinoshin is vulnerable to generally. Daieisho desperately tries to keep Tochinoshin’s left hand from reaching its intended target, but Tochinoshin homes in on it and once he lands the grip, Daieisho is completely helpless. Tochinoshin has this match won, but picks up the little man at the tawara just for good measure and some good, clean, cheeky fun. 2 down, 8 to go in the Ozeki Challenge.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Great match. Aoiyama actually decides to go chest to chest with the ozeki in lieu of his usual twin piston pushing attack. I think this was a good game plan, because with his enormous frame, he’s able to blunt Goeido’s almost unmatched speed and offense from the tachiai. Goeido in worse form (physically or mentally) would have coughed this up, but he’s able to use the big man’s momentum against him and ends up pulling a beltless arm throw. It’s another really lovely throw, in the same bracket as Asanoyama’s from earlier. Goeido 2-0 and looking good.

Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – Takakeisho’s tsukebito gives his back a vigourous scrub before he makes his way into the arena. Here are two guys with two of the most opposing styles you could wish to see. But really, are any of us that different? Kotoshogiku gives Takakeisho the eyes at the tachiai, and survives an early pull down attempt. This is the opposite of the Meisei situation from earlier, as this could have been over much sooner had Kotoshogiku not been watching his opponent. As it happens, however, the shin-ozeki stays centered, making sure his missed pull-down doesn’t create a vulnerable opening for Kotoshogiku to land any kind of grip. He takes control of the match against the former ozeki, landing a couple significant thrusts to the Sadogatake man’s chest and takes the win… and the head to head advantage 3-2.

Takayasu defeats Endo – Something looked not right to me about Takayasu as he prepared for the tachiai. But he got an opponent that was less prepared than he was, and decides to level a tsuki-oshi attack against the most popular Maegashira in the land. Endo would have had some chances to get back into this match given his superior mobility, but could never get his feet set. After Takayasu’s third wave of forward moving attacks it was inevitable that Endo’s fans 6 or 7 rows back were able to get some much desired face time. A dominant win in the end. Kind of like Bowser against someone playing Super Mario for the first time.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – Kakuryu just absolutely destroys Hokutofuji and there will be no sixth kinboshi today for the Saitama man. It’s possible this match lasted less than two seconds. Hokutofuji launches in from the tachiai, but Kakuryu turns all that energy back on him and returns it forward, getting one hand under his armpit and another one around his neck and winning with one shove. Hokutofuji keeps moving about 15 rows back before he has to turn around and come back and bow to complete the day’s action. Not much shame in that though, the Yokozuna looks in good form, and advances to 2-0.

Hatsu Day 7 Highlights

Some of our readers, and many sumo fans in general, have complained that recent basho have ended up being “Sumo light”, due to the lack of Yokozuna and Ozeki participation. As we near the half way point of this basho, we are down to 1 Yokozuna and 1.5 Ozeki, and the focus really has shifted to the lower ranks. With so many titans of sumo off the dohyo, the focus has shifted to the lower ranks.

I am impressed that Goeido is soldiering on, and finding ways to win in spite of the problems with his right arm. I expect him to go kyujo after he can manage an 8th win. Thankfully Hakuho looks genki enough, and Takayasu seems to be over his flu.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – Any match with Chiyonokuni has the potential to be a mad-cap barn burner, and today Yutakayama put everything he could towards a win. The result was a wild tsuki-oshi fest that see-sawed back and forth. A great way to start the top division today.

Kotoyuki defeats Daiamami – A second spirited bout to start the day, Daiamami held advanage several times, but The Penguin battled back each time. At attempted slap down reversed the opponents, and Kotoyuki put Daiamami’s back to the tawara, and pushed with purpose.

Yago defeats Daishomaru – Hapless, winless Daishomaru has nothing serious to offer the surging youngster Yago, and goes down to defeat. We did, however, get to see Yago engage in a oshi-zumo match, and win.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s attempt at a face slap embedded in his tachiai (ala Hakuho) results in Ikioi getting poked in the eye. In spite of (or fueled by) this, Ikioi surges into battle with yet another injury and finds a way to overpower his opponent. Word is he was complaining of vision problems following the match.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – There seems to be some magic in Abi-zumo, as he effectively landed a nodowa against a many with no neck. Takarafuji found hims sumo disrupted, and battled to clear Abi’s attacks, but ran out of dohyo to maneuver.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Both men threw the kitchen sink at each other, with Endo calling the tune. At one point their early oshi fest went chest to chest and the competitors actually did look like they were dancing. Post match, Endo was holding his forehead – another oversized bandage for a Kagayaki competitor? Maybe he needs to modify that tachiai.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – Member of the Kagayaki head wound club Sadanoumi cannot endure Asanoyama’s spin attack, and eats clay. Asanoyama picks up a much needed win.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – The only rank and file undefeated rikishi takes a loss at the hands of a surprisingly genki Kaisei. With this loss, Hakuho has sole possession of the lead.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to have completely run out of energy to compete at the Makuuchi level. It’s painful to watch.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – The hatakikomi came quickly, and made me gasp. Few rikishi are big enough and fast enough to roll someone the size of Aoiyama, but Chiyotairyu certainly can.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have lost his fighting spirit, and each day seems to be going through the motions. Kind of tough to watch, but when injuries happen, this is the result.

Hokutofuji fusensho Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi damaged his knee day 6, and is missing an excellent chance to run up the score against a reduced Ozeki and Yokozuna force. Hokutofuji picks up back to back default wins, something that has not happened in decades.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s magical adventure in the joi-jin looks like it has run out of gas. Can he refuel and return to surprising his opponents? I do hope so. Myogiryu gets a much needed win.

Tamawashi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan was on defense the entire match, and Tamawashi batted him about before deciding to finish him.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has reverted to the docile form of whatever species he is, and failed to deactivate Takakeisho’s wave action attack by grabbing his opponent’s mawashi until it was too late and he was already struggling for balance.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Takayasu’s recovery from the flu continues, and he delivers the hug-n-chug to counter Kotoshogiku’s favorite attack strategy. With advantage in size, youth and joint health, Takayasu carried the match.

Goeido defeats Shodai – Impressive that Goeido is finding ways to win, now up to 3 wins out of a needed 8. He was helped by Shodai’s trademark crappy tachiai. Shodai was able to back to Ozeki to the bales, but did not lower his hips to thrust out Goeido, and instead Shodai launched his own body higher. Goeido capitalized on this blunder and won.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Hakuho is the lone undefeated rikishi, and is the man to beat for the Emperor’s cup. Shohozan could not generate much offense, and Hakuho waited for his moment and pulled “Big Guns” Shohozan down.

Kyushu Day 12 Highlights

shohozan

Day 12 was a solid day of sumo, but it did bring a couple of questions to the front. The first for me is that with a number of lower ranked rikishi approaching double digits, and fighting very well this basho, will the NSK once again decide that “nobody deserved a special prize”? Many fans were shocked by that declaration at Aki, as several rikishi put together successful campaigns in the face of a resurgent Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.

The yusho race narrowed considerably, and that was clearly intended given the day 12 schedule. The matches involving the chasers were all solid sumo that saw each candidate produce a fierce effort.

For those readers who are keeping up with Juryo (and who wouldn’t with Herouth doing a masterful job covering it), Oguruma rising star and certified sumo battle-cruiser Yago secured his kachi-koshi at Juryo 1 East, meaning short of some kind of bizarre incident, we will see this sumo phenomenon in the top division in January. He has been in Juryo for the past 5 tournaments – 7 total over his short 10 basho career. His sumo looks strong, low and heavy.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – A notable match because Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi and engages in a solid yotzu match against Daiamami. Is it just me, or is Daiamami looking surprised there? Even though he is make-koshi, it’s great to see Chiyonokuni rack up a much-needed win.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Okinoumi continues to rack up wins, and it’s wonderful. Meisei denied a kachi-koshi today, and he seems a bit frustrated. Okinoumi could hit double-digits this tournament, and might end up with a substantial re-ranking upward for January. While his fans might cheer this, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic medical condition that sometimes impacts his sumo, and I would hate to see it worsen.

Yutakayama defeats Endo – Yutakayama very effectively kept Endo from going for his mawashi, and instead set the tone and format for the match, which took the form of a windmill thrusting contest. Endo’s last minute attempt at a pull down failed, and Yutakayama got a much needed win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Aoiyama – As much as I admire and respect Kotoshogiku, I was really pulling for Aoiyama to prevail. Aoiyama opened strong, and began with his expected thrusting attack, but could not stop Kotoshogiku going chest to chest with him. At that point, I think Aoiyama began to worry, and that may have been the start of trouble. The Kyushu Bulldozer’s knees are not what they once were, but he contained and pushed with enough force to move Aoiyama out. With this loss, Aoiyama falls out of the group 1 loss behind Takakeisho.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Yusho leader Takakeisho’s friend Onosho does him a solid favor and quenches the higher ranked Daieisho’s aspirations for a day 15 parade. From the match you can see just how much Daieisho was putting into this match, he met Onosho thrust for thrust, but left himself open for the hatakikomi at just the wrong moment.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – I bring this match up because it’s clear just how hurt Ikioi is, watching him gather his strength just to stand following his defeat. The man is a true competitor, and its amazing to see true determination and courage on display.

Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Bit by bit we see Takanoiwa get his sumo back. I would assume by the middle of 2019 he is back to being a serious full time contender for the upper Maegashira / lower San’yaku. Chiyshoma is now one step closer to make-koshi, and he is perilously far down the banzuke for end November with a losing record.

Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Both men are make-koshi, but this is a match to watch. Firstly, Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day. Second, is I have started to take note of Takanosho, this guy, much like Asanoyama, seems to have a very positive attitude about competition, even on days when he loses.

Shohozan defeats Chiyotairyu – If any wonder why I call Shohozan “Big Guns” or refer to him as a “Street Fighter”. Behold exhibit A. His match with Chiyotairyu featured a few loud and forceful blows the the face that probably left a mark, and certainly got the crowd’s attention.  Chiyotairyu goes chest to chest, removing the immediate threat for more blows to the face. Sadly for Chiyotairyu, he’s somewhat stuck at this point, as his yotzu card is not strong, and his stamina tends to be expended in the first few seconds. Shohozan correctly waits him out, injecting a few harassing moves moment to moment, and bides his time. Shohozan wins his kachi-koshi, and the home town fans are delighted.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – The happy rikishi staves off make-koshi for another day, but its sadly at the expense of long suffering Takarafuji.

Yoshikaze defeats Abi – As expected, Yoshikaze learned well from Ikioi, Endo and Okinoumi. You can see him apply upward pressure at Abi’s elbows, disrupting his preferred double arm thrust attack. Time and again Yoshikaze drives inside, just to be awarded a hand to the face. His persistence is rewarded by control of the inside, and he pushes Abi back, back and out. Although it’s at a bit slower speed and lower energy than a few years ago, Yoshikaze still has the goods when he can rouse his fighting spirit.

Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – I have to wonder if Myogiryu has run low on stamina, his brilliant opening week seems to have turned into a bit of a rout. Tochiozan succeeds in getting him turned sideways, and off balance for the win.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Shodai was on his sumo today. Hokutofuji put a fair amount of genki into the tachiai, but Shodai absorbed it masterfully, and kept Hokutofuji from executing any successful offense. Shodai instead stalemated Hokutofuji, and waited for his opening, which he found and exploited with exquisite timing.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Takakeisho seems close to unstoppable at this point. Tamawashi always has strength and balance, but in reaction to the “Wave Action” attack, it seems that few can maintain their footing for long. After the second wave, Tamawashi is too far forward, working to bring maximum force to bear on Takakeisho, who senses the imbalance and deftly steps aside.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – As stated in the preview, Nishikigi surprises every couple of days, and today he was somehow able to use an off balance position to load up enough energy to push Kaisei out. Dare I say it? Nishikigi could still end this basho with a winning record at Maegashira 3. A new day in sumo indeed.

Ichinojo defeats Ryuden – In hitting his make-koshi, Ryuden gave Ichinojo a solid fight. But it seems the Mongolian giant is working through whatever pain or injuries are blunting his sumo. Twice Ryuden had Ichinojo’s heels on the tawara, twice he rallied. Ichinojo closes the match with a hearty lift and drop. Well fought both.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – I am worried about Tochinoshin, and I think Goeido’s kyujo may rescue him from a make-koshi and a kadoban status for New Years. Takayasu seems to be focused and driven to bring himself to his eventual showdown with Takakeisho as a fierce contender who is ready to claim the Emperor’s cup by eliminating the upstart contender.

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakeisho

Hello dear readers, and welcome to the final basho of 2018 (also the final Kyushu basho of the Heisei era)! Where the Aki basho was a brutal pounding applied by the Yokozuna and Ozeki, this basho features two Yokozuna sidelined prior to day 1. Where the upper Maegashira bore the brunt of that pounding during Aki, Kyushu may be a bit more survivable for rikishi who have been ranked in the upper slots.

I must also apologize for the absence of news and commentary in the run up to the opening day. My personal and professional life kept me from writing, and as a result there were many interesting topics left undiscussed. With luck they will get raised on their own during the basho, and will make fine fodder for our excellent readership.

At the head of that list is the re-assignment of several top division rikishi from the now closed Takonohana-beya to Chiganoura. The chaos and distraction of this move may impact Takakeisho, Takanoiwa and other former Takanohana rikishi down the banzuke. Takakeisho turned in a solid 9-6 performance at Aki, and is back at his highest ever Komusubi 1e rank. Takanoiwa was kyujo for the fall jungyo tour, and may be in difficult shape.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Yago vs Chiyomaru – Due to Kaisei’s kyujo, the banzuke is unbalanced from day 1. As a result, Yago gets his chance to visit Makuuchi. With any luck NHK will show this match, as Yago is an impressive young man with a likely debut in Makuuchi in 2019. Chiyomaru managed to stay in Makuuchi through some excellent banzuke luck and ranking chaos as a result of the bloodbath that was Aki. This is only Yago’s tenth basho, seven of which he has been ranked in Juryo. He’s no small fellow, but with the enormous Chiyomaru, I am looking for a great deal of huffing and puffing before it’s all done.

Meisei vs Daishomaru – The first ever match between these two. With Meisei freshly back from his one basho return to Juryo, he’s probably the favourite, as he was looking quite genki during Aki while Daishomaru is looking to recover from an ugly 5-10 Aki basho record.

Chiyoshoma vs Takanosho – Both rikishi came away from Aki with 8-7 kachi-koshi, but it was clear that Chiyoshoma was still nursing injuries on the final day. He has beaten Takanosho twice in their three-match history, but I would give Takanosho the edge on day 1.

Onosho vs Endo – What are these two doing down here? Never mind, both are solid rikishi who have had problems this year. Onosho with a knee injury followed by surgery, and Endo undergoing more extensive repair on his undercarriage. Onosho has yet to beat Endo, and I would guess most of that is mental. Both are looking to bounce back from make-koshi in September.

Chiyonokuni vs Yutakayama – In today’s demolition derby, two powerful rikishi who could not buy a win at Aki. Yutakayama was kyujo for a few days, and Chiyonokuni seemed unable to finish most of his opponents. They are more or less equal (1-2) in their career matches, but I would give the edge to Yutakayama. I am assuming he has healed up, and needs to get back on his sumo. For Chiyonokuni, the inability to finish his opponents is all about how is mind is working.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Veteran battle ahoy! As part of the Aki Takarafuji cheer squad over on the West side, I say the guy needs to turn his sumo around. Ex-Ozeki Kotoshogiku continues his slow fade into the sunset, but it’s still nice to see him come out on the dohyo and play bulldozer for a few seconds of high-intensity hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku leads the career series 13-8.

Ikioi vs Shohozan – Another pair of fierce competitors who took a beating in September. Ikioi rocketed up the banzuke for Aki based on a well-executed over-performance in Nagoya, and is returning to the middle reaches with equal velocity. Shohozan found his street-brawler technique underperforming against the San’yaku, and is back to battling with the rest of the scrappers. Both men are fast, strong and at times brutal. This is likely a match that will feature some fierce pushing and slapping.

Abi vs Kagayaki – Probably the highlight match of the first half, sadly it will likely happen before the NHK live stream picks up. Rumor has it that Abi-zumo has picked up a few new moves, and we are eager to see them on display. Kagayaki never fights with flair, but rather uses fundamentals to win in fairly unsurprising matches. Can you say stylistic clash?

Takanoiwa vs Asanoyama – Time to see if Takanoiwa actually is hurt, as he faces off against perpetual optimist and steadily improving Maegashira Asanoyama. A healthy Takanoiwa should prevail, but there is that injury question again. This is their first ever match.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai against Yoshikaze’s face and subsequent frantic sumo attacks. Chiyotairyu has about two seconds to get Yoshikaze contained or off balance before The Berserker unleashes doom.

Shodai vs Ryuden – I want to see Shodai employ that improved tachiai he showed us a couple of times in September. Ryuden has continued to improve, but many fans will be looking for some manner of “ugly matta” from this guy who seems prone to them. Shodai has an uncanny knack to survive these kinds of matches, at times looking out of control but always losing last.

Nishikigi vs Ichinojo – Welcome to the joi-jin, Nishikigi! Here, we have a nice boulder for you to play with. For Nishikigi’s sake, I hope Ichinojo is in some kind of Mongolian hibernation mode. [Seems likely. –PinkMawashi]

Mitakeumi vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan has gotten some hype this year that the 31 year old veteran might make one last push for higher rank. He clearly has solid technique, but has a difficult time consistantly putting together a string of winning tournaments. Mitakeumi needs to rebuild his Ozeki bid, and will be looking to expand his 6-1 career lead over Tochiozan day 1.

Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – I am hoping Tochinoshin is healthy and ready to go. If he is back on top of his sumo, we should see him make short work of Tamawashi. Tamawashi, meanwhile, will try to stay mobile and keep the Ozeki away from a mawashi grip.

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Some fans are in favor of a Takayasu yusho bid for Kyushu. He starts against veteran Myogiryu, who has an 11-4 career advantage over the Ozeki. It’s been some time since the two have squared off, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Myogiryu can pick up an early win against the Ozeki. They last fought in September of 2016 when Takayasu was Sekiwake 1e.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – With two of the Yokozuna in dry-dock, Goeido has an excellent shot at his second yusho. Upstart Hokutofuji seems to have gotten his body healed, his sumo together and is pushing for higher rank. Hokutofuji is quite a bit slower than Goeido, who tends to have you defeated before you even know the match has started. This will likely be a good test for Hokutofuji, but I predict Goeido will expand his 3-1 career lead.

Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – The final match of the day is a replay of Aki day 2, when Takakeisho threw the kitchen sink at Kisenosato, and kept the Yokozuna quite busy. In the end Kisenosato was able to restrain, contain and eliminate the bowling ball with legs, after Takakeisho make the mistake of focusing his attacks primarily against Kisenosato’s injured left chest. Hopefully today he will focus his powerful thrusts center-mass, and unleash his “wave action tsuppari” with maximum effect.