Yokozuna Kakuryu Withdraws From Nagoya

Kakuryu

Announced this morning – Yokozuna Kakuryu has withdrawn from the Nagoya basho. As we had surmised, his poor sumo form over the past two days has been the result of a (as of present) unspecified injury. This is the first time in 19 years that all Yokozuna have been absent from a honboasho. As mentioned earlier, the “Nokazuna” status is nothing to worry too much about, but it does signal the next phase in the slow decline of the long serving members of sumo’s top echelon.

Update: the doctor’s certificate is for arthritis of the right elbow, requires immediate two-week rest. The Yokozuna was checked at a local hospital, and now plans to leave Nagoya and get re-examined at a hospital in Tokyo. (Source: Nikkan Sports – Herouth)

As with Hakuho’s withdrawal, the biggest beneficiary is kadoban Ozeki Goeido.

NHK News Article

Nagoya Day 3 Highlights

Nagoya Day 3 Highlight

With the ring rust now falling away, we are starting go see some good sumo from the men in the top division. Today’s big result is of course Chiyonokuni vs Takayasu. I don’t know if Takayasu is injured, distracted or simply not quite up to fighting form yet. Takayasu of 18 months ago would likely find his current sumo almost comical to watch, and fans of his (as I am) have to wonder if there is some way he will return to the sumo fundamentals that took him this far.

In the meantime, there were some fantastic matches today, and act 1 is doing it’s job of dividing the “Hot” from the “Not”.

Highlight Matches

Ryuden defeats Daiamami – Ryuden seems to have broken free of his off-season rust, and showed some great, strong, high-stamina sumo against Daiamami, who I hope will make it back to Makuuchi soon.

Ishiura defeats Hokutofuji – Ishiura starts with a mini-henka, but follows up with some great high mobility sumo. Hokutofuji is already a move or two behind as Ishiura gets to his side, and applies the pressure. It’s all over for Hokutofuji, who has no way to face Ishiura, or plant his feet. Nice work Ishiura!

Kotoeko defeats Tochiozan – Kotoeko gets his first win ranked in the top division. He tried a henka and multiple pull downs before finally using a nodowa to force Tochiozan out. Sloppy sumo, but a win is a win.

Asanoyama defeats Arawashi – Arawashi had the better tachiai, but Asanoyama dug in fast, lowered his hips and advanced with purpose. With a 0-3 start, I worry Arawashi is out of gas.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama also seems to have shaken off his ring rust, and he was back in form, blasting away at Sadanoumi straight from the tachiai. Sadanoumi stood up to the blows, and fought to go chest to chest, which he eventually achieved. With a the man-mountain’s mawashi firmly in hand, Sadanoumi advanced and won. Great effort from Sadanoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Onosho – The first “what did I just watch?” moment of the day. Most sumo fans think of Nishikigi as this guy at the bottom of Makuuchi who is always just scraping by. Then he comes up against a real up and coming power like Onosho, and swiftly puts him away.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyomaru – The crowd certainly thought that Chiyomaru prevailed, but the gyoji’s gumbai pointed east, and the judges concurred. Myogiryu starts Nagoya 3-0.

Yutakayama defeats Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei can’t seem to buy a win so far. After a rather sloppy tachiai, Yutakayama advanced, but could not finish Kyokutaisei, who rallied. They battled back and forth, finding themselves at the tawara, and both went to throw, with Kyokutaisei stepping out first.

Takarafuji defeats Daieisho – Daieisho put a huge effort into trying to land a nodawa against Takarafuji’s nonexistent neck. That being said, Takarafuji gets his first win of the basho and needs to regroup.

Endo defeats Chiyoshoma – Fantastic sumo from Endo today. Chiyoshoma tries the flying henka, but Endo reads it like a boss. Endo hooks the left arm around Chiyoshoma, and latches his right hand at the front of Chiyoshoma’s mawashi. With his opponent laterally tethered, Endo backs Chiyoshoma over a waiting kneed for a really well executed kirikaeshi. The crowd goes wild. Endo with a 3-0 start.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – As a Yoshikaze fan, these matches are tough to watch. Clearly the Berserker is injured in some way, and just cannot maintain forward pressure. Kagayaki employs his excellent fundamentals and keeps moving forward. A clean and straightforward win.

Abi defeats Kaisei – Bizarre tachiai, it starts in slow motion, with Kaisei rising slowly, and Abi pulling a delayed action henka. From there it’s a fairly simple okuridashi / rear push out. Glad Abi got a win, but that is one strange match.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – My most anticipated match of the day, a battle of two tadpoles on the rise. Both of them stayed incredibly low, with the entire battle being fought well below the average person’s knee height. Mitakeumi succeeded in tying up Takakeisho and preventing him from getting any offense started. Takakeisho is fun, and potent, but if he gets his yotsu together he is headed much higher.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo once again goes soft after Tamawashi slaps him around a couple of times.

Chiyonokuni defeats Takayasu – Readers of the site know I take exception to the changes Takayasu has made to his sumo in the past year. Much of it is due to no longer training with Kisenosato, I suspect. But today he took an oshi battle against Chiyonokuni. Chiyonokuni is smaller, lighter and built for a run-and-gun sumo style. Takayasu, who has been looking iffy so far this basho, struggled with Chiyonokuni from the start. Surprisingly, Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi first, and now Takayasu is completely unbalanced, and in trouble. After a failed throw at the edge, Chiyonokuni continues to attack, and Takayasu seems completely off tempo, and disoriented. After his second trip to the tawara, Takayasu reaches out and gets a left hand inside grip, and the two go chest to chest, but its clear that Chiyonokuni is still on offense, and in control of the match. Takayasu shrugs and turns, believing he has thrown Chiyonokuni, who maintains his right hand grip, and somehow stays on his feet. Meanwhile Takayasu has stopped trying to win, and is standing upright watching in disbelief. Chiyonokuni recovers and puts the big Ozeki down. Outstanding effort from Chiyonokuni, and Takayasu – get your sumo together man!

Goeido defeats Ikioi – Ikioi really taking a beating to start Nagoya, and today Goeido seemed to be more in form than prior matches: fast, tight, low inside and driving for the win. That was good to see. 6 more like that to clear kadoban, please!

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Shohozan goes in with gusto, but Tochinoshin quickly goes chest to chest, and implements the sky-crane-tsuridashi / lift and shift sumo. With Shohozan supplying the obligatory desperate kicking in mid-air, it was all over.

Hakuho defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku tried to get inside and start the hug-n-chug, but Hakuho contained him, and had him rolling to the clay in the blink of an eye.

Kakuryu defeat Shodai – Shodai was little more than a plaything for Kakuryu, who kept Shodai rocking back and forth, and unable to establish either offense or defense. Once the imbalance was great enough, Kakuryu walked him to the north side an sent him diving for the cushions.

Nagoya Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho Dohyo Iri Day 2

The fans were out in force today in Nagoya, and I mean everyone was far too warm and fanning themselves with vigor. Parts of Japan are facing a very moist and hot summer this year, which is natural for that part of the world. While it may be uncomfortable for the fans sitting near the dohyo, it’s brutal on the clay, under the hot lights and struggling to out muscle a 400 pound opponent. Worse still is the lot of the gyoji. Not only do they have to stay up there for a series of matches, as the day wears on (and the temperatures rise), the regalia the gyojis wear increases in layers, accessories and complexities. One has to assume that during the Makuuchi matches, the poor gyoji is drenched in his own broth.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Akiseyama – Hokutofuji looking decidedly less awesome today in his win over Juryo visitor Akiseyama.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – Ishiura delivers some decent sumo today, stays mobile and keeps Kotoeko off balance. As a result he is able to stick the uwatedashinage for a respectable win.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – The only thing more impressive than the way that Okinoumi was able to keep Asanoyama away form his belt was the moment Asanoyama says, “To hell with it”, and just rolls Okinoumi over and thrusts him down.

Onosho defeats Arawashi – Nice tachiai from Arawashi, who worked to get a right hand on the mawashi from the start, but Onosho overpowered every attempt and controlled the match. The end features a classic Arawashi cartwheel / tumble.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji never really was able to generate much offense against Endo, who absorbed the tachiai and turned the Isegahama man, then stepped out of the way when Takarafuji pressed forward.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – Big Chiyotairyu unleashes denshamichi-sumo (railroad sumo) on Yoshikaze and derails any hope the berserker might have had for a day 2 win.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – Its hard to describe a giant, lumbering rikishi as genki, but so far Kaisei is really looking dialed into his sumo. He made quick work of Daishomaru.

Takakeisho defeats Kagayaki – This was always going to be an odd match. Takakeisho got the better of the tachiai, but Kagayaki set up the oshi attack first, and best by getting inside. There were a couple of kinetic slaps that really rang out during the match, at one point the crowd gasps, as these two held nothing back. Then Kagayaki decided to go for a haymaker aimed at Takakeisho’s face, and lost focus. Sad mistake, Mr Fundamentals, as Takakeisho dropped his hips and gave him one blast of the “wave action tsuppari” and that was all it took to send Kagayaki clear of the tawara. This was the first time that Takakeisho was able to beat Kagayaki.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – As we previewed, Abi’s reach advantage is meaningless against Ichinojo. But Abi’s extreme maneuverability nearly carried the day, as he circled to his left and got behind the Mongolian, and nearly shoved him out. To his credit, Ichinojo recovered rapidly. The near loss clearly energized him and he attacked with purpose, getting a mawashi grip and finishing Abi in seconds. I do like Abi, but I pray he expands his sumo before everyone figures out how to shut down his only effective attack.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Great effort from both men, a solid tachiai followed by decision to go for the belt. Sadly it looks like Ikioi went too far forward reaching down to Mitakeumi’s hips, and Mitakeumi deftly encouraged him to follow through and hit the clay. Will Mitakeumi finally hit double digits?

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – They had a tough time getting this one started, but the actual match featured a Goeido hit and shift, so lksumo was nearly correct (he was expecting a Goeido henka). Tamawashi sailed past Goeido and into Shohozan’s ringside lap.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyonokuni – Tochinoshin likely knew going into this one that he would never get a hand on Chiyonokuni’s mawashi, and might very well injure himself if he tried too hard. So he chose to meet Chiyonokuni with his own brand of flailing oshi-zumo that included a couple of half hearted attempts at the mawashi. Just to be clear, when you have someone that strong putting his elbow into your face, that’s going to be a big deal. He overwhelmed the faster, more mobile Chiyonokuni and it was over in a hurry.

Takayasu wins against Shohozan – Takayasu gets a freebee as Shohozan absorbs a pride-obliterating slipiotoshi and falls down on the dohyo after he clearly established the upper hand in the match. Officially recorded as a tsukihiza (knee touch down), it’s one of the non-winning moves (more or less, a losing move). Takayasu looks quite iffy right now. At least he can bank 2 wins in 2 days, but his fans all need to hope he’s not too hurt, and can get his sumo together.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Wow, Kakuryu is looking very solid right now. He accepted Kotoshogiku’s invitation to go chest to chest, and Kotoshogiku engaged in as much hug-n-chug as he could muster. But in true Kakuryu form, he kept shifting his weight from foot to foot, preventing Kotoshogiku from pumping with both legs. As his rocking motion increased, he danced Kotoshogiku to the tawara and followed through with a classic uwatenage. Excellent form by Kakuryu today.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today. No anvils, Acme brand giant magnets or pianos dropping from the sky. The first time through, Hakuho launches for the kill straight off the line, with the gyoji screaming matta and chasing him down. Hakuho follows through and puts Shodai out (that’s how you do it), but they are going to try again. What was fun about the second match was it was more or less identical to the first. Hakuho wins, and looked quite solid doing it.

Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.

Nagoya Yokozuna Report

Kakuryu

It’s banzuke Sunday in the western world, and while the sumo fans eagerly await to see who came out on top, or how their guess the banzuke entry scored, let’s take a look at the top end of the Nagoya ranks. The Yokozuna have had their problems this year, and Nagoya may continue to underscore the tremendous change at work in sumo’s upper ranks.

First up is sumo’s top man for Nagoya, the unexpectedly genki Yokozuna Kakuryu. A year ago, if you had told me that Kakuryu would take back-to-back yusho and supplant Harumafuji as sumo’s anchor Yokozuna, I would have considered it unlikely. But he has somehow managed to get his body healthy and his fighting spirit aligned. His sumo looks quite good, and as long as he keeps from going for pulls, he tends to prevail. Kakuryu’s sumo is highly reactive. In most matches his approach is not to conquer his opponent at the tachiai, but rather to put up a strong defence and keep his opponent stalemated, waiting for a mistake. These mistakes almost always appear and Kakuryu is without peer in detecting and exploiting even the smallest error in his opponents. After his Natsu yusho, he suggested that he would like to see if he could achieve 3 consecutive titles, which would be remarkable for a man who many (myself included) suggested a year ago hang up his rope due to lack of competition. Prospect – Surprisingly Positive.

Yokozuna Hakuho is the Michael Jordan of sumo. There has never been any rikishi as dominant as he has been, and in all likelihood, none of us will live to see a day when some future sumotori surpasses his records. But his cumulative injuries are starting to impact his ability to compete. Specifically, repeated injuries to his big toes have robbed him of some speed, agility and power. Furthermore, the YDC has admonished him to change up his tachiai, which frequently features a slap to his opponents face. Hakuho has struggled with that guidance, and the lack of that first disorienting blow seems to have thrown his sumo off at least a half step. His performance during Natsu was a respectable 11-4, but his supporters wonder how much longer “The Boss” can keep going. His biggest issue in May was mental. His father had just died a few weeks before, and it clearly impacted the dai-yokozuna’s mental state. Hakuho’s father was his own larger than life figure, and was likely a driving force in his son’s life. Anyone who has lost a parent can attest to the mental impact it can have. But I suspect he took ample time during the summer break to come to terms with the loss, and his mental state will be nothing short of amazing for Nagoya. Prospect – Grim Determination To Win.

In 2017 the world welcomed the first Japanese-born Yokozuna in a generation. Many had their doubts about him, as he was promoted on his first yusho. He silenced all doubters with his outstanding performance the following tournament, winning his second yusho, and finishing in spite of a grievous injury that haunts him to this day. Sadly, since Osaka 2017, Kisenosato has failed to complete a single tournament. Fans have been rightfully depressed that a rikishi who would refuse to even miss a single day of practice would be sidelined indefinitely. As his kyujo tally mounted, he eventually reached a 7th excused tournament, matching Takanohana’s longest absence. For such a proud man, the strain of making the record books in such a inglorious manner must eat at him hourly. Fans have noticed in the past few weeks that he has been taking practice matches with his old training partner, Ozeki Takayasu. They have done this in the past, and it seems to have been mostly for show. But a rumor has been running around sumo fandom that Kisenosato has come to terms with the scope of his injury, and will retire shortly. But rather than fade out a defeated man, he will instead don the rope once more, and go out guns blazing in competition. Personally, reflecting on that outcome and the career of Kisenosato it would make perfect sense. It may not be Nagoya, but it will be before Kyushu. Prospect – Unlikely – or- Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

As we pointed in our Ozeki report, with two Ozeki pushing for 8 wins to relieve kadoban status, the pressure from the top of the banzuke on the rest of the san’yaku and the upper Maegashira will be enormous. Two or possibly three active Yokozuna all hunting wins could spell unrivaled carnage at the top of the banzuke. For fans of sumo, this means some of the most thrilling competition possibly in several months.

Genki Report – Yokozuna & Ozeki

tsuna

With the Nagoya basho behind us, we welcome a new Ozeki into the top two ranks of sumo, and reinforcements could not come at a more important moment. In a continuation of a trend Tachiai has been following for some time, the continued weakness within the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks is causing significant distortions in sumo. Thus it is time for another of our periodic genki reports, looking exclusively at the world of the top two ranks.

Yokozuna - Ozeki Participation

From the chart above, we can see that since this time in 2016, the participation rate of the total Yokozuna and Ozeki corps has been on a steady downward trend. This is computed as a percentage of the number Yokozuna & Ozeki that could participate compared to the number who did participate on day 15. Clearly the men in sumo’s top two ranks are finding it difficult to show up and participate in tournaments on a regular basis.

Sumo is a combat sport, and people who reach the top two ranks have had to battle for every promotion, and every kachi-kochi they have ever achieved. Along the way they have accumulated injuries that range from annoying to severe, but still attempt to find some way to show up and compete.

Let’s take a look at the rikishi:

Yokozuna Kakuryu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: After taking almost a year to recover from a suite of injuries, Kakuryu may in fact be the genkiest of the Yokozuna. He exited Natsu with the Emperor’s Cup, and his first back to back yusho in his career. The injuries sustained during Hatsu have either been mitigated, healed or he is just ignoring them. Clearly he is the man to beat for Nagoya, but odds of him taking 3 in a row are rather thin.

Yokozuna Hakuho
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: There were a number of red flags for Hakuho going into Natsu. His father, who was a driving force in his life, had just recently died. He had sat out Osaka due to re-injured big toes. While it may seem a trivial complaint, the big toe of each foot is massively important to both offense and defense. Hakuho’s sumo depends greatly on his mobility and speed, and injured feet rob him of a significant advantage. I think that going to Nagoya we are going to see a greatly improved Hakuho, as long as he can keep those feet healthy.

Yokozuna Kisenosato
Genki: ✭-
Notes: Tachiai has written extensively about the nature and severity of Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral. While we were controversial in our early call that it was surgery or the scissors, the rest of the sumo world seems to have come around to our point of view. The guy’s Yokozuna career is a tragedy worthy of a new Kabuki story. Our opinion is that there is no road back for him, and the only question now is does he just admit defeat, or does he enter one more basho and go out guns blazing?

Ozeki Goeido
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Where to start with this guy. First off, we complain a lot about Goeido and his flaky sumo. We have likened him to a faulty consumer gadget in dire need of software fixes. In truth, he has been hurt quite a bit in the past two years. None of those injuries are necessarily healed properly, and each time he re-injures himself in a basho, his sumo goes into the toilet. It’s actually quite easy to detect. When his ankles are working and not hurting, he is a fast, aggressive Ozeki who will take you down or out before you can finish your tachiai. You never give him an opening or you are on your face in the clay, and the fat stack of kensho is headed towards his bank account. When he’s hurt he’s vague, he pulls, he moves backward, he loses a bit over half the time. Given that a proper repair job would require about a year of healing, it’s unlikely he will take that step while he is still active.

Ozeki Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: This guy is a favorite of mine. But once Kisenosato got hurt, and he earned Ozeki, his sumo took an unfortunate turn. He came to rely on an increasingly chaotic style that places a big bet up front on a massive, brutal forearm or shoulder hit at the tachiai. Now it comes as no surprises he is having upper body problems, especially with his leading shoulder. This man is a powerhouse of sumo, and an excellent rival for Tochinoshin if he is healthy. I wish he could take after his senpai a bit more now. Kisenosato’s Ozeki sumo was frequently low, powerful and relentless. I fear until he fixes his sumo, he will continue to suffer.

Ozeki Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Though I have my concerns about this guy, thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that he has shown up. Though his injuries may come to ruin him at any time, he’s clearly strong, enthusiastic and competing flat out 15 matches each basho. I hope he throttles back on his “lift and shift” kimarite, as it’s rolling the dice on that bandaged knee each time. As mentioned above, a solid Tochinoshin / Takayasu Ozeki rivalry would electrify the sumo world, and might be a catalyst to drive either or both to higher rank. But it requires both of them to find a way to avoid further injuries. No easy task in the current sumo world.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins The Natsu Yusho

Kakuryu Yusho Parade

In the final bout of the basho, Yokozuna Kakuryu defeated Yokozuna Hakuho, to outright win the Emperor’s Cup. There was, for a time, a possibility of a Tochinoshin-Kakuryu playoff to decide the yusho, but the presumptive shin-Ozeki’s loss on day 14 proved to be the deciding element for the cup.

Tachiai congratulates Yokozuna Kakuryu, who has claimed his 5th yusho, and his first back-to-back titles ever. For the victory parade, Kakuryu chose Shodai for his flag-bearer. An amusing choice, as Shodai’s surprise win over Tochinoshin did much to set up the yusho win for Kakuryu.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

The-Boulder

Great day of sumo… Our operatives inside the Kokugikan report that the Great Cat himself was well pleased with today’s activities, and blessed sumo fans with some fantastic matches. Find a way to watch all of day 14.

Nagoya has enormous potential, given today’s results. I will discuss more in the day 15 preview. The Natsu yusho is for Kakuryu to lose now, and his sumo was absolutely amazing today. Many sumo fans had dismissed Kakuryu in the prior year, perhaps thinking he was lazy, or would rather not compete. His style of sumo is rather unique, and it’s quite difficult to watch at times. Many fans want to see an all out, guns blazing battle. Where the best attack wins. Sometimes, the best attack is not to try and overpower your opponent, but rather to keep your opponent from winning. It’s somewhat alien in western sports, but it’s amazing to see Kakuryu use it with such great effect.

In Juryo, we are indeed going to have a final day barnyard brawl for the yusho. There are 3 Juryo rikishi with 11 wins at the end of day 14: Onosho, Kotoeko and Tsurugisho. I urge you to find and watch Kotoeko’s day 14 match – because he is bringing that kind of sumo to Makuuchi in Nagoya.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – Ishiura wins doing actual sumo. This is noteworthy.

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – A large man oshi-matsuri, with Aoiyama once again focusing on his opponents head. This is not really working for him, and then he decides, “Yeah, let’s put some force center-mass!”, and shifts to Daiamami’s chest. Hey! Look, out goes Daiamami! Aoiyama gets his 8th win and his kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Chiyonokuni takes it to 11, and hands Tochiozan his make-koshi. I would guess we may see Chiyonokuni pick up a special prize, and that would be his first! If he can stay this genki, he is going to be a lot of fun in Nagoya.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu having a great basho, but Takakeisho seems to have snapped back into his sumo finally, and he’s on a mission. I am so eager now for Nagoya, as Takakeisho will be in the top half of the banzuke, Onosho will be back, and it’s going to be tadpole time.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – First match resulted in a monoii, and a re-match. Second match was a clear Yoshikaze win. It’s still possible for him to pick up a kachi-koshi on the final day, when his opponent will be Abi. That, dear readers, could be a wild and chaotic match.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama failed to get his kachi-koshi today, and will have to hope for a win on the final day. Kagayaki continues to execute solid, basic sumo, and has been winning with it. Any hopes Kagayaki has for double digits are going to be tempered by his final day bout against Chiyonokuni. Yikes!

Aminishiki defeats Ryuden – Ryuden (now 2-12) in a world of hurt with the Nagoya banzuke now, as Uncle Sumo uncorks some kind of magic genki sauce and blasts him out of the ring after some preliminary struggle. As always, the crowd in the Kokugikan goes nuts whenever Aminishiki is on the dohyo, and goes double nuts when he wins.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Sadanoumi somehow survives a really powerful osha-battle with Chiyomaru to pick up his kachi-koshi. To me it looks like Chiyomaru had a tough time getting into basho mode, and is struggling with his sumo. Maybe a bit too much mass from the bulbous one? Sadanoumi lands his 8th win and can take comfort in his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Daieisho – This one was another in a series of Shohozan brawls disguised as sumo matches. Both men were going for some kind of painful death grip on the other, and the winning move was a nicely executed watashikomi thigh trip. Shohozan can still finish kachi-koshi if he wins day 15.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Tamawashi switches to freight-train / densha michi mode and runs Ikioi down the tracks, improving to 7-7 going into the final day.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kaisei – Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi!!! The two go chest to chest straight away, and the enormous mass of Kaisei is clearly near the limit for the Kyushu Bulldozer. But he revs up, engages his tracks and lowers his blade.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell Shodai? Again, his mechanics are abysmal, but his instincts are dead on. Big outcome of this match may be the fact that Shodai seems to have crushed Mitakeumi’s right ankle when they both went to cuddle the kita-kata shimpan.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Watch this match, maybe a few times. Tochinoshin really puts a lot into this match, and Kakuryu does some of his best “Big K Sumo” ever. Kakuryu is a reactive sumo expert. His plan is to stalemate Tochinoshin until he makes some kind of mistake, and then use that mistake to finish him. Tochinoshin immediately goes to land his left, and Kakuryu shuts that down, opting for a palm to the face. Tochinoshin tries to go left again, and gets a bit of a grip, but Kakuryu shifts his hips and denies him leverage. Tochinoshin now has a double outside grip on Kakuryu’s loose mawashi, and can’t find a way to keep the Yokozuna from shifting around, robbing Tochinoshin of his ability to lift and shift (his primary weapon). Kakuryu is deep double inside, and leaning in at 45 degrees, stalemate for the Georgian Ozeki hopeful. Tochinoshin tries to pull out a leg trip, but Kakuryu is too far back for the trip, shifting his hips again as Tochinoshin is now dangerously unbalanced. Kakuryu advances, and Tochinoshin tries to pivot for a throw, further impeding his defensive stance, Kakuryu has his opening now, raises his foot and pops a trip against Tochinoshin’s left knee (the good one), and collapses the Georgian at the tawara. Holy smokes! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – Sumo fans could have ended their day with the Kakuryu v Tochinoshin match with satisfaction, but the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had one last treat in store for us. The Boulder squared off against the dai-Yokozuna, but this was not the passive version of Ichinojo today. Huge, powerful and motivated, Hakuho, who is clearly not quite at full power, had his hands full with 500 pounds of pony tossing, ice cream eating behemoth. Hakuho unleashed a pair of his usually disruptive moves at the outset, but Ichinojo must have gone into the match with the intent to endure the Yokozuna’s initial attacks however he could. It seems he wanted to play a longer game. With Hakuho’s initial gambits exhausted, they spent a moment leaning chest to chest in the center of the dohyo. As Ichinojo moved to advance, Hakuho timed a weight shift to load a throw against Ichinojo. Ichinojo sensed the Yokozuna shifting for leverage, and took advantage of it, pivoting into the uwatenage as the Yokozuna went to the clay. Kokugikan erupts, cushions fly and it’s ice cream and ponies for everyone.

Natsu Day 12 Preview

Natsu Day 12

The yusho race is down to Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin, and both Yokozuna. Faced with a lack of San’yaku rikishi, and possibly a desire to have a three way yusho race going into the final weekend of the basho, the planned match between Hakuho and Tochinoshin has been scheduled for day 12. Sure we can talk about other matches of note, but this one is going to be pivotal for several reasons.

Firstly, we can think of it as Tochinoshin’s final exam for his Ozeki bid. Many would successfully argue that he is the only rikishi in this tournament who is performing and Ozeki levels, and they would certainly not be wrong. But beating the dai-Yokozuna would dismiss even the most negative decision maker’s concern.

We can also consider that a loss by Hakuho here would possibly knock him out of the yusho race, and it would be the strongest signal yet that his days are waning. Given how fierce a competitor Hakuho is, and how ruthless he is when the chips are down, I think he will bring everything he has to this day 12 match.

At this point, the topic of a Tochinoshin yusho is front of mind as well. He is looking as least as good as he did in January when he took the Hatsu yusho, and many of the weakness in the upper San’yaku ranks persist today. Simply put, the promotion lanes are wide open. Some rikishi who have been wanting to get in position for some time, Mitakeumi and Tamawashi, appear to be missing their chance as a tougher, stronger, more dedicated man beats them to the prize.

In the rest of the matches, the schedulers are starting to give us huge leaps in the banzuke, with mid-Maegashira taking on men at the bottom of the roster. Many of these are simple “gimme” matches, others are fun examples of testing out the lower ranked men against their possible slots in Nagoya. Others represent the problems in the torikumi due to kyujo, dominant heya and other factors that impinge on rank-appropriate matches.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho

4 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 12

Daishomaru vs Nishikigi – Daishomaru has a legitimate chance to pick up kachi-koshi, as it’s possible that Nishikigi will succumb to the 9-2 career advantage, and huge difference in the banzuke between M9 Daishomaru and M17 Nishikigi.

Takekaze vs Kagayaki – M14 vs M8 with Kagayaki needing 2 more wins for kachi-koshi. Takekaze in converse is 1 loss away from make-koshi. The career records favors Kagayaki 5-2.

Ryuden vs Sadanoumi – M7 vs M14, with Ryuden already make-koshi and Sadanoumi having a legitimate shot at kachi-koshi. They have fought 3 times before, with Ryuden taking 2 of them. Having watched Ryuden the last few days, he seems genuinely dispirited at this point, so the outcome is very much in play.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – A battle of the big’uns, we get M13 Aoiyama vs M7 Chiyomaru, both of whom are within reach of a kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru has shown some glimpses of sharp sumo in the last few days, including his day 11 match with Asanoyama.

Chiyoshoma vs Takakeisho – M10 Takakeisho is a fierce competitor who has displayed overwhelming tenacity thus far. His sumo may appear to some as “run around crazy and get the other guy to fall down”, but his oshi-style sumo is quite distinct, and in some ways more effective than the rest of the army of pusher-thruster rikishi. He holds a 4-2 career advantage over M6 Chiyoshoma.

Shohozan vs Shodai – Even though Shodai lost his day 11 match with Yokozuna Hakuho, he once again produced a slapstick result, with Hakuho somehow bumbling his face into Shodai’s shoulder. This leads me to consider if Shodai is actually some kind of cartoon character, and will manage to drop an anvil on Shohozan. Surprisingly, out of their 9 prior matches, Shodai has won 6 of them.

Daieisho vs Abi – Abi’s day 11 match was a fine example of how to dismantle his offense, and if Daieisho was watching, I hope he spends the morning practicing with his tsukebito. Otherwise his short reach may be to Abi’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – A Mitakeumi win here would give him a kachi-koshi and Chiyotairyu a make-koshi at the same time. Chiyotairyu is looking dispirited in the past few days, as it seems everyone has his number right now. His biggest issue is lateral movement. He’s very strong forward. His balance is also hampered by his belly.

Kaisei vs Endo – Now that he is make-koshi, perhaps Endo will win a few to cushion his fall down the Banzuke. I am sure the NSK would like Endo healthy, genki and back in the San’yaku for September in Tokyo. So I am going to guess they want him as close to 7-8 as he can manage.

Kotoshogiku vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo pushing for kachi-koshi here. Kotoshogiku will try to go chest to chest right away, and I am sure that Ichinojo will give it to him for the asking. The Kyushu Bulldozer holds a slight 5-4 advantage over The Boulder, so this match is far from certain.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi limps around and is in pain, but he’s also kachi-koshi now. Kakuryu needs to dispatch him to keep 1 behind Tochinoshin. Ikioi has won 3 of their 11 career matches, but with his injuries and Kakuryu’s focus on staying in range for the yusho weekend barnyard brawl, I am guessing Ikioi is going down.

Tochinoshin vs Hakuho – Tochinoshin has never beaten Hakuho. If that changes today, it will (as described above) mark a fundamental shift in sumo. Welcome to the final exam, Tochinoshin. We are eagerly waiting your outcome.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

Tochinoshin-salt

Day 11 presented no surprises, but had some solid sumo for fans to enjoy. Thankfully Hokutofuji is kyujo, and hopefully any injury to his skull or brain will be addressed before he bouts the dohyo again. The Ozeki bid by Tochinoshin is about to enter its final stage. He has 11 wins now, which is numerically sufficient for promotion. But the elevation to sumo’s second highest rank is not simply a numbers game. It revolves around the NSK and to a lesser extent the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee deciding that the performance period in question meets a threshold for promotion.

Tochinoshin’s 11 wins have all be impressive, overpowering wins. He is clearly one of the most genki or possibly THE most genki man in sumo right now. But his 11 wins can be minimized by members of the NSK or YDC citing that they come in a tournament with no Ozeki, and should he fail to defeat either Yokozuna, the raw numbers may be deemed insufficient. Please keep in mind, I don’t get to make this decision, I am not a member of the NSK or the YDC. I am just some guy in Texas who loves sumo.

For myself I think he will beat at least one Yokozuna, and he may end up with the Yusho, which would eliminate all reservation by the NSK and YDC, in my opinion. At the larger scale, sumo needs a more stable Yokozuna / Ozeki corps, and this is how that rebuilding starts. If Tochinoshin can maintain this level of performance, he will make a fine Ozeki, and sumo will be the better for it.

Highlight Matches

Kyokutaisei defeats Gagamaru – Planet Gagamaru was his traditional, lethargic self. He put forth some effort, but he lived up to his current 2-9 tournament score. This match is notable not just because of the gravity waves that disrupted LIGO observations of colliding black holes as the shitatenage took him to the clay, but Shin-Maegashira Kyokutaisei scored his kachi-koshi, and will be in Makuuchi for Nagoya.

Arawashi defeats Takekaze – Both rikishi put a bunch of effort into this. Both are at the make-koshi line now, and for Takekaze, there is a real desire to not be considered for Juryo in July. The saving grace is that there is not a huge cadre of Juryo men who are beating down the door to Makuuchi.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi, and it really looks like Chiyonokuni may have decided to coast to the finish this time. I can understand why. He is at a good rank, and he may not be genki enough for a full cruise through the joi. He’s done that a few times and he ends up getting pounded. His sumo is improving, but I am going to guess he wants to hit around Maegashira 6 or so for Nagoya. This will let him figure out if he has advanced enough to possibly accomplish anything in joi.

Nishikigi fusensho over Hokutofuji – With humble gratitude to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, Hokutofuji is kyujo for now, hopefully getting that head scanned and any sort of medical treatment needed. As a result, the man who never gives up, Niskikigi, gets his kachi-koshi at the very bottom of the banzuke, and will be Makuuchi for Nagoya. He really has put forth a lot of effort to hold on by his fingertips, and it’s great to see it pay off.

Takakeisho defeats Takarafuji – As expected, this was a fascinating match to watch. From the tachiai, Takarafuji is working to get control of Takakeisho, with Takakeisho constantly moving about and landing blows. If you have a chance to watch this on replay or YouTube, watch their feet! For whatever reason, I think a rikishi’s feet say more about what they are doing than their arms or heads. Takarafuji keeps being forced to give up his defensive footing and retreat. As soon as he is moving backwards, Takakeisho matches the timing of his steps to land thrusts when his feet are not planted. This just accelerates Takarafuji’s movement. When Takakeisho makes a mistake and pushes too high (as opposed to center mass of the chest), Takarafuji deftly moves inside and rushes forward. Takakeisho is not even slightly phased by this, and sets up a finishing move at the tawara. A ballerina pirouette later and Takakeisho’s won! Great great sumo from these two!

Ikioi defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru launches into the tachiai with gusto, and it puts Ikioi into a defensive mode straight away. Ikioi circles away and breaks contact, then attacks. Again, watch Daishomaru’s feet at the moment Ikioi starts to press his offense. His feet are not set, his balance is not over his hips. Ikioi exploits this and rushes forward for the win. Ikioi with a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Both are make-koshi, and possibly deeply so by the end of Natsu. But you would never know it looking at these two members of the Freshman team go at it with vigor. If you like yoritaoshi wins, do watch this one.

Shohozan defeats Abi – As pointed out in last night’s preview, Abi tends to get his arms up and stop his opponents tachiai. Today Shohozan countered that with pure speed. Robbed of his disruptive opening move, Abi did not have time to reset, and Shohozan attacked like a hangry bison in a fresh alfalfa field.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Looks like Endo’s return may not have been a good tactical move. Tamawashi uses his face for a slapping target. As we learn in the Marines, you can have a great battle plan, but as soon as someone is punching you in the head, it’s tough to keep on plan. Endo make-koshi now.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Not one, but TWO loud belly blasts from these two men of girth. After the second one, it seems that Chiyotairyu’s sideburns were bereft of their power inducing kami, and Ichinojo more or less walked him out.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – I think the scheduling team moved Tochinoshin’s match with Hakuho up to day 12, because they wanted a chance to have a 3 way yusho battle set up for the final weekend of the basho. Points to Kotoshogiku for giving him a good fight, but Kotoshogiku got off balance, and Tochinoshin did not let that opportunity escape. I truly hope Kotoshogiku can get his kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – About as minimal as a match could get, Shodai offered no resistance to speak of.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – There we go! That’s Kakuryu sumo to be certain. Mitakeumi gave him an excellent match, and it was touch and go for most of it. But as has been typical for Kakuryu, he likes to win in the last 3″ of the dohyo. Why rikishi don’t ease up as they get him close to the tawara is beyond me, as Kakuryu loves to use the tawara.

Natsu Day 11 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

Ready or not, here comes act 3! This is where we sort the winners from losers, and hand some hard-working rikishi the Emperor’s cup. Right now the cup is Tochinoshin’s to lose, and the only way this is competitive is if someone gets dirt on the undefeated man on an Ozeki run. That Ozeki run is looking more likely from a numbers standpoint. The only question so far is the “quality” of the wins.

Some fans and readers have very passionate positions on this, so I will mention up front that I am an armchair sumo fan living in Texas. I am not a member of the YDC, I don’t look like Colonel Sanders, and I have never been a holder of elder stock in the NSK. So my opinions count for exactly ZERO in the sumo world.

As I mentioned in the podcast, there is a means by which Tochinoshin might reach double digits, but be declared “not quite there yet” in terms of Ozeki. It all comes down to who he beats. He has yet to face any Ozeki this tournament (sorry, fresh out) or any Yokozuna (they are on the plan). But a shiroboshi from either of them would likely remove that as a possible criticism. Of course a yusho win would assure promotion.

I would also point out that to this date, Tochinoshin has never beaten Yokozuna Hakuho. Were he to accomplish that (and Tochinoshin is looking mighty genki right now), it would mark a turning point in both men’s careers, in my humble opinion. Tochinoshin is also 2-21 vs Yokozuna Kakuryu. One of those wins came last tournament, and was Kakuryu’s only loss. Clearly Tochinoshin as a big wall to climb, but I think at this point, he is at peak performance and more than ready to challenge the top men in the sport.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho
HunterChiyonokuni

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Gagamaru vs Kyokutaisei – Planet Gagamaru orbits into Makuuchi for a day. He is already make-koshi so this match may just be some kind of battle-reunion for Kyokutaisei, who needs one more win for a kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei holds a 4-2 career lead.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Honestly, what the hell sumo world. Hokutofuji is hopefully going to get completely checked out by a neuro-medicine specialist and cleared for combat before he returns to the dohyo. If the sumo world thought there was trouble with a medical incident on the dohyo during jungyo, let there be some poor fellow have a stroke, a seizure, and aneurism or even convulse and die right there on the dohyo. No amount of salt will purify it again. I want to see Nishikigi go kachi-koshi by fusensho, thanks.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both men still within reach of a winning record for Natsu, both of them fairly evenly matched. Sadanoumi looked very good in his day 10 match against Arawashi, and Kagayaki looks like he might be losing focus / running out of steam. They are 4-3 career, with a slight edge to Sadanoumi.

Yoshikaze vs Tochiozan – Both of these storied veterans have seen better days, both come in in some state of disrepair. Both of them 5-5, both of them wanting to secure a winning record. For some fans, it’s kind of a tough match to watch. We hate to see our heroes fade.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – Takakeisho is starting to look a bit better as the tournament goes forward, and it’s a great time to pair him up against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is very careful, forceful and under control. Takakeisho, when he is on his sumo, is a rippling vortex of conflicting force vectors, most of which he is going to transmit through your body. I am eager to see what he does with the very stable Takarafuji. Takakeisho won both their prior matches, but Takakeisho is not quite up to full power.

Daishomaru vs Ikioi – Winner gets kachi-koshi. Ikioi has had a bit of a rough ride with Mitakeumi on day 10, but I think he is a good match for Daishomaru right now. Ikioi still seems to be very stiff, in pain and moving with difficulty every match.

Shohozan vs Abi – Shohozan has a pair of massive arms. But note they are actually a bit short. Abi on the other hand has shown just how useful his near cartoon like reach can be. This is underscored that Shohozan has yet to win a match from Abi. It’s just possible that Abi might go kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, which would mean a second basho in the job for Abi, and frankly would further elevate his profile to his growing base of fans around the world.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Loser of this one make-koshi. Tamawashi and Endo are very evenly matched across the board, and this has the potential of being an outstanding bit of sumo. Tamawashi will try to stay mobile, and I would look for Endo to go for a shallow grip straight off the tachiai. He will take a couple of fierce blows to get his grip, but if he can hold, he will control the match.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – Day 10 saw Ichinojo once again summon overwhelming strength against Shodai. So much so that he seems to simply push Shodai away like an empty udon bowl that could no longer hold his interest. Chiyotairyu likes to win at the tachiai with speed, force and power. Frankly Ichinojo might actually feel that, or he may be focus solely on checking the crowd for wolves. History for the two of them is an even split of 2-2.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku, aka the Kyushu Bulldozer, has a lot of frustration to discharge. He faces off against the man who would be Ozeki, who is looking like the strongest, most energetic man in sumo today. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 advantage over Tochinoshin, but in the last few tournaments, it’s been Tochinoshin who prevails. Tochinoshin will try to go chest to chest early, and that is just fine with Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku is looking stronger and healthier this tournament than he has in a while, so the hug-n-chug might actually overpower Tochinoshin. We know that Tochinoshin is strong enough to lift Kotoshogiku over his head and twirl him like a button, but Kotoshogiku has a surprising portion of his body weight below his mawashi, making his center of mass difficult to manipulate. This will either be a roaring match of the day, or a complete snooze fest. Double points if Tochinoshin pulls a henka.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Shodai is having a good basho, but Hakuho is getting himself amped up to stop Tochinoshin, and claim his 41st yusho. So Shodai is a bit of a warm up. But just a bit. There is that nagging problem of the one time Shodai beat him, so Hakuho will be on his guard, and hopefully not do anything too exotic just for the fun of it.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Not really sure what to say here. Kakuryu and his henka on day 10 was a ridiculous surprise, which he beclowned himself. I am sure he has and will catch a lot of grief over that. He is 3-3 against Mitakeumi, who copes well with Kakuryu’s reactive style.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights

Nishikigi

Act 2 is over, and the yusho race is set for the final 5 days of the Natsu basho. The one goal for act 2 that remains un-obtained is handing Ozeki hopeful, and Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin his first loss. At this point he needs one more win to stake his claim to sumo’s second highest rank, and his day 11 opponent, Kotoshogiku, is unlikely to be up to the task of defeating him.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Myogiryu – In his first ever Makuuchi bout, Kotoeko attempts a henka, fails and finds himself chest to chest with Myogiryu. As they struggle for dominance, Myogiryu is moving backwards. Kotoeko finishes him with a rousing yoritaoshi, gaining his kachi-koshi, his first Makuuchi win, and his first kensho all in one brief moment.

Aminishiki defeats Asanoyama – Uncle Sumo picks up his second win of the tournament. Asanoyama took hold and marched forward, carrying a rather powerless Aminishiki towards the edge. A last minute throw at the tawara did not appear to work, and the gyoji gave the match to Asanoyama, but the judges call ad monoii, and reversed the decision. Replay showed some amazing footwork from Aminishiki, and he picked up the win.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyonokuni – In a shocker, the lowest Maegashira on the banzuke surprised a rikishi with a bonafide position on the leaderboard. Chiyonokuni is always very energetic, and he overwhelmed Nishikigi, who at times was staggering and off balance, but always quickly reset. Although he was absorbing most of Chiyonokuni’s offense, Nishikigi kept moving forward. Though the gumbai went to Chiyonokuni, a monoii confirmed that Nishikigi did in fact prevail. As mentioned many times, Nishikigi really wants to stay in the top division. That was some top division fighting spirit on display! Well done.

Takakeisho defeats Tochiozan – It’s a hope of mine that Takakeisho gets back into proper fighting form by Nagoya, and today’s match looked less stiff, wooden and robotic. Takakeisho, in spite of his bulbous torso, has a very natural and fluid element to his sumo. When he is using that fluidity, we see him win, and he makes it look easy and natural. This is also true of Hakuho, and even more so Enho. As stated at the start of the basho, the tadpoles are down, nursing their wounds, but will be back with fierce determination this summer. If Nagoya finds Takakeisho mid-Maegashira and Onosho lower Maegashira, the lower end of the torikumi may once again be the place with the best action.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Every opponent goes for Yoshikaze’s face, and it’s kind of redundant. Yoshikaze fought back with strength, but there is just too much Aoiyama to slap out of the ring. Yoshikaze is certainly a half step slower than a couple of years ago, and I won’t be surprised to see him take up his kabu later this year.

Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – A trio of false starts, the second featured Hokutofuji falling backward and receiving a strong knock to the back of his skull, which seems to have stunned and disoriented him. After the pre-bout injury, it was not too tough to win. Post match, Hokutofuji has trouble walking the hanamichi and into the tunnel. Hopefully an actual medical doctor checked him out. Concussions are not something you try to “heal naturally”.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Quite a scrappy match that results in Daieisho picking up his 3rd win, avoiding make-koshi. Takarafuji seems to have the skill and technique, I wonder if a bit of mass and 10% more power would carry him to greater rank.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Notable in that this is Yutakayama’s first win of the Natsu basho. Chiyoshoma picked up his 8th loss and is now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Wow! Ok, I have seen Abi do this a couple of times. He lifts both arms during the tachiai, connecting to his opponents shoulder and stopping their forward motion. Due to his long reach, his opponent is far short of a workable combat range, and is somewhat interrupted from their plan. Today, Abi pivoted and grabbed Tamawashi’s belt and rolled him out in one fluid motion.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Both of them came off the line in full battle mode, and it was glorious to see them fight for position and grip. Mitakeumi held the advantage, but Ikioi was conceding nothing. When Ikioi was able to switch from defense to offense, Mitakeumi deftly used Ikioi’s forward motion to thrust him down. I want to see what Ikioi can do when he’s healthy!

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Tochinoshin picks up his 10th win, and looks unstoppable. Today he proved that even the super-sized Chiyotairyu is not too heavy for him to lift and carry to the curb for trash day in Sumida-ku.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Slow motion, Maezumo style tachiai today, which left me choking on my tea. After that it was all Ichinojo herding Shodai to the edge and giving him a strong shove.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Sadly my gastric problems continued as Kakuryu sold the henka and Kotoshogiku bought it. Once again I found myself sputtering on my morning tea. While Yokozuna wins via henka are not really the way things are supposed to go, this one was kind of over the top and almost comical. Of course Kotoshogiku found it un-amusing in the extreme, and the crowd in the Kokugikan were likewise disappointed.

Hakuho defeats Endo – That disappointment was short lived, as Endo gave the dai-Yokozuna a solid match. The tempo was fast, and Hokuho was on pure offense. Endo’s strategy was to stalemate the Yokozuna and wait for an opportunity to exploit for an upset win. It did not take Hakuho long to figure this out, and he switched his sumo to a more disruptive, staccato tempo, which lured Endo in for the attack. That was all Hakuho needed to get him turned around and shoved out from behind. Excellent sumo, and great to see not only Endo come in with a solid strategy, but fantastic to see Hakuho shift gears like that.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

Natsu Day 9

After last night’s marathon live-blogging session, most of the Tachiai team is rightfully tired and looking for an early bed. But first, let’s discuss the matches that will happen day 9 in Tokyo while the US portion of the crew is tucked into their beds.

With two days remaining in act 2, the one remaining goal for the scheduling team is to get Tochinoshin to pick up at least one loss. They also would like to get (as lksumo points out) a loss or two onto Chiyonokuni and Daishomaru. The ideal situation would be a three-way tie between Hakuho, Kakuryu and Tochinoshin going into or shortly after the start of act 3. This would drive some excitement, and some ratings. The difficulty being that for the moment, Tochinoshin is the most genki of the whole Makuuchi division.

Normally one could place their trust in Hakuho as the ultimate governor of who wins and loses, but his sumo is off at the moment. Many fans are speculating like mad as to why, but you need to look no further than the recent death of his father, and the disruption to his family life and emotional state.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Onosho vs Aminishiki – As we expected, Onosho is making a visit to Makuuchi to fill a gap left by Endo’s kyujo. It’s also likely the case that he is going to be back in the top division for July. Poor Uncle Sumo is in terrible shape right now, and likely to pick up his make-koshi against Onosho.

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – As the lowest ranked man in the top division, Nishikigi needs nothing less than a kachi-koshi to remain a Maegashira. Today’s match is tough luck for him, as he has a 7-4 deficit when facing off against Ishiura. Nishikigi needs 3 more wins out of the remaining 7 to hold on.

Takekaze vs Chiyonokuni – Takekaze seems to be fading fairly rapidly, and has not really had much sumo this tournament. He is still at 4-4, so it’s possible he could pick up enough wins to keep out of Juryo. Takekaze is highly evasive, where Chiyonokuni is direct and violent. The veteran holds a 5-3 career advantage over Chyonokuni.

Aoiyama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has never won against Aoiyama, but for this basho, Aoiyama is clearly hurt, and Kagayaki is fighting in possibly his best form ever. If there was a chance to start correcting that 0-5 losing streak against Aoiyama, day 9 looks like it could be the day.

Takakeisho vs Chiyomaru – I think this one will be a blast. We have the near constant motion of Takakeisho against the bulbous Chiyomaru, who showed on day 8 that he actually has some decent sumo chops against Okinoumi. Takakeisho has won 3 of their 4 prior meetings.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – Notable to me in that Hokutofuji seems to be getting some sense of his sumo back together, and may actually offer some kind of challenge to Takarafuji who has been struggling this tournament with rikishi who tend to stay low. Hokutofuji has a long way to go to recover to the kind of genki he was last year, but his fans believe he has it in him.

Chiyotairyu vs Ikioi – This match is more even than it may seem. Ikioi has been fighting above his recent average during Osaka and Natsu. Ikioi delivered a winning hatakikomi, and I think he will find a way to overcome Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai and win again.

Abi vs Kaisei – This one seems just for fun, as I am going to guess that unless Abi applies some force behind his long-arm tsuppari, it’s going to come down to Kaisei’s mighty bulk as the deciding factor. They have split their two other matches, so it’s anyone’s guess. I know Abi is having a fun time regardless.

Tochinoshin vs Daieisho – Tochinoshin needs just three more, and I am guessing that his 3-1 career advantage over Daieisho means he’s going to likely get one of them today. Daieisho did surprise Goeido, but I doubt he will be able to overcome Tochinoshin.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – If my guess that Goeido is having ankle problems again is correct, he won’t have much resistance to whatever Ichinojo brings to the early portion of the match. Goeido’s only hope is to use his favorite and best tuned offense – speed. Rapid movement is not an Ichinojo aspect.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho leads the series 53-6. I am going to say 54-6 shortly. Kotoshogiku is looking better this basho than he has in some time, and Hakuho looking rough and chaotic. But I still think “The Boss” will dispatch the Kyushu Bulldozer. Maybe not cleanly, but effectively.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – The career record favors Kakuryu 7-0, so he is clearly likely to win this one. But Shodai has been getting his opponents to more or less defeat themselves somehow this tournament. Perhaps some kind of Jedi mind trick. So there’s a small chance he my find a way to get Kakuryu to do himself in, and I will be eagerly watching the final match of the day.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

Endo-Badge

With Act 1 in the books now, we can start to look forward to Act 2, where we sort the strong from the struggling, and a lot of hopes and dreams get crushed. While it may seem brutal to put it that way, each basho is a clean slate, and each rikishi has a chance to be completely different than the time before, if they have the means to do so. I would say the biggest surprise for me thus far is Shodai. How or why Shodai is 5-0 at the end of act 1 is a complete mystery to me, but I congratulate him on the effort and the achievement. I have always maintained the man has seeds of greatness within him, if he could just fix some of the mechanics of his sumo.

A close second place would be Ikioi. He was a force of nature in Osaka, in spite of what looked like the kind of injuries that might require hospitalization. Nope! He’s at it again. He has one loss but he is in “badass” mode every day. Today he dismantled Kotoshogiku in a wild “kitchen sink” match that delighted and entertained. I swear he has decided that playing it safe is no way to close out a sumo career, and he’s just going to throw caution to the winds and fight like a angry swan. For those of you who have never had a swan attack you, let me tell you, don’t try it.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Takekaze – Uncle sumo finally wins one. It has been awesome to see him battle his way back up to Makuuchi once again, but he’s a poor broken fellow with more courage than fortitude remaining.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – The giant Bulgarian wins by getting an armpit grip on Nishikigi and forcing him out. It’s painful watching Aoiyama fight, as it’s clear he is in a bunch of pain, but pushing to keep himself in the top division. Nishikigi’s position is even more precarious, so any loss must be a worry for him.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama, featuring a massive elbow bandage, had the initiative for the bulk of this match. Tochiozan, to his credit, waited for an opportunity. Asanoyama continued to thrust against Tochiozan’s chest but eventually went off balance, and Tochiozan converted that quickly into a win. Experience pays.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Wow, what a match! The start out with some oshi, punctuated with Daiamami taking a round house slap to the face. Having had enough of that he latches onto Chiyonokuni’s mawashi. Chiyonokuni struggles for a bit, but responds in kind. At one point Daiamami gets the deep double inside grip, but Chiyonokuni blazes ahead, forcing his opponent backward and out. Great match.

Takakeisho defeats Arawashi – This was won at the tachiai. Take a good look at how Takakeisho lands his first thrust against Arawashi’s shoulders before Arawashi can finish lunging forward. There was no recovering from that.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Kagayaki’s battle plan was simple, powerful and effective. He got under both arms of Okinoumi and marched forward. This guy keeps reminding me at times of a young Kisenosato, and I think if he can keep working upward and stay free of injury, he may follow a similar trajectory. Never glamorous, just solid sumo fundamentals.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden picks up his first win, much to his relief. Chiyomaru really made him work for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to get hopeful. Yoshikaze looked stronger and faster today, and maybe a touch genki. The match was all about battling for grip, until Takarafuji lunged forward, and Yoshikaze instantly converted to exploiting his off-balance stance.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi comes in low and goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer straight out of the tachiai. When Kotoshogiku flexes to lift him up, Ikioi declares he will have none of that, and moves forward strongly, causing them both to lose their grip. After a failed attempt to throw Kotoshogiku, the resulting mess was completely off balance, but under Ikioi’s control, which he kept in motion until Kotoshogiku found the edge of the ring. Great work by Ikioi today, but once again post match he can barely walk.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Another mediocre to lame tachiai from Shodai, but then he takes over and just fork-lifts Chiyoshoma at the edge of the dohyo. Undefeated Shodai? I am going to make a bet that the scheduling team has some fun with him in act 2.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took a head butt as the price to get inside, but he got his preferred offensive stance and went to work. Tamawashi immediately gave ground, but rallied. In his aggressive forward attack, he put his balance too far forward and Mitakeumi pulled him forward. His own momentum carried him out. Tamawashi is looking poorly right now, and I wonder if he is hurt. Mitakeumi ended the match dripping blood from his right eye, ouch!

Endo defeats Ichinojo – The big outcome of the day, and it was not an easy match for either man. Ichinojo gave Endo the inside grip immediately and went chest to chest, I am going to assume that his superior size and strength would carry the day. While Endo latched his right hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi, Ichinojo could not find a reciprocal grip. Finally getting deep with his right hand over Endo’s back, Ichinojo tried repeatedly to load an uwatenage, but Endo countered with some very impressive footwork. Stalemated, Ichonojo locks up Endo and works out a stage 2 plan, but Endo lands a left hand frontal grip for his third attack. Ichinojo realizes that his size is not going to stop this onslaught, and he is too high, with Endo buried in his chest, he has no room to lower his hips. Endo gives it all he has, and advances, winning a fantastic match. Complements to both rikishi on some outstanding sumo. The roar in the Kokugikan must have been deafening.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was completely out-classed. No one can match the intensity of Tochinoshin right now, it’s a think of beauty.

Goeido defeats Yutakayama – Goeido almost attempted a pull against today. Someone fit that guy with a shock collar and give his oyakata the button to set it off.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am going to assume that Hakuho is bored right now. No one has really given him even a decent warm up.

Kakuryu defeats Abi – Much as I assumed, Kakuryu found those long arms a bit of a problem, but they also are great leverage if you can grab one. Big K pulling again, but he got the win.

Natsu Day 5 Preview

Natsu Day 5

With day 5 we mark the end of the first act of the Natsu basho. The goal of the first act is to see who is hot, and who is not, and the schedulers have met that goal. Clearly at this point we are starting to get some good indications of who is going to at least start Natsu ahead of the pack. Let’s have a look.

  • Hakuho – Clearly whatever injuries other may have thought plagued “The Boss”, he is competing well enough to defeat all comers thus far. With any luck, he is getting warmed up and the week 2 matches will be (as Josh says) “Box Office”.
  • Tochinoshin – Well, Mr. Ozeki run is executing well. So far no one has given him a decent challenge, and the one hopeful for act 1, Mitakeumi, was no challenge at all.
  • Ichinojo – Not a surprise, but the Boulder is either hot or cold, and right now he remains hot. Where is all of this heading? I think if Ichinojo can keep motivated and fighting well, he is going to be a Sekiwake for a while.
  • Shodai – I am sure this is going to change, but Shodai? Ok, the guy has potential aplenty, but he gets the jitters and goes to pieces at times. But happy to see him get a solid start.
  • Kakuryu – In spite of one loss, I think he’s still in solid shape for this tournament, even if he may be really disappointed in himself now.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Sadanoumi vs Kyokutaisei – After a day 1 loss, new comer Kyokutaisei seems to be getting his confidence together, and focusing on his sumo. This will be a good test as these two have faced off 5 times in the past, and are just about evenly split. They also come into the bout with matching 3-1 records.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan was reported to be in fine form in the practice sessions leading up to the basho, but sputtered at the start. Has he gotten his sumo together? I am curious to see if Asanoyama can deliver his 4th win today. Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Daiamami vs Chiyonokuni – Again a pair with 3-1 records are going to face off in a match that could get high-intensity. Chiyonokuni always gets crazy if you let him get going, but Daiamami is once again showing solid, steady sumo.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still probably looking shaky, and Daishomaru has his sumo where he wants it. I would dearly love to see Hokutofuji get genki and go on a winning streak, but I am going to assume he is still hurt. Hokutofuji won all 3 of their prior engagements.

Yoshikaze vs Takarafuji – These two are fairly evenly matched, as their 7-6 career record would indicate. But Takarafuji has been looking sooth and confident, and I would give him an edge over the struggling Yoshikaze. But as a Yoshikaze fan, I am going to be hoping he can put on a solid showing for a second straight day.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Another great 3-1 match up. These two have had 13 prior matches, with Ikioi taking only 5. Kotoshogiku looks like he has strong command of his sumo right now, so this could be a great battle for day 5.

Chiyoshoma vs Shodai – Ok, I give up. Is Shodai going to stumble to a 5th straight win? Part of me wants to see him do that, just to get a broader understanding of how chaos works its magic. But to be honest, Chiyoshoma is not looking very good yet, and he has never beaten Shodai.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Ok, get this. During all those tournaments when they were both Sekiwake, these two racked up a 12 bout record that favors Mitakeumi 10-2. This one has potential.

Endo vs Ichinojo – The other really interesting match today, but it may be a complete dud. I know Endo wants to use his technical sumo on Ichinojo, but I think Ichinojo may be far too massive for Endo to have much effect unless he can get the Boulder to chase him around. That may be his strategy, but pulling against 225 kg is just a bit suicidal.

Tochinoshin vs Kaisei – Just hoping Tochinoshin does not injure himself trying to lift and shift that much Kaisei.

Yutakayama vs Goeido – If Goeido does not win this one clean and easy, I am going to start calling for a re-flash to factory settings.

Daieisho vs Hakuho – Should be another easy win for Hakuho.

Kakuryu vs Abi – All it takes is one crazy bad bout for Kakuryu, and fans like myself start to wonder if he can hold it together. While he is “on” he is really excellent, but he has bad modes (not unlike Goeido). So today he at taking on Abi, who should be fairly easy for him, but with that crazy body structure of his, it could give him an excuse to default to his “bad mode” sumo.