Natsu Day 9 Preview

As lksumo has pointed out, the day 8 results have thrown what had been a fairly orderly basho into chaos. I love it. In addition to defeats of both yusho race leaders, we seem to have a possible re-kyujo of shin-ozeki Takakeisho. I can almost guarantee that the YDC is going to complain about it should he re-kyujo. To some extent, they have a point. Stay off the dohyo unless you are fit to compete. I give Takakeisho a lot of latitude myself, as he is young and has a foreshortened sense of the long road that could be / should be ahead of him. Should he decide he is out for good, Tochinoshin would get the fusen-sho white star, and his kachi-koshi by default win.

There are 3 leaders now in the Makuuchi yusho arasoi, each one of them is far from invincible, and everyone knows that. This makes the week 2 matches against the Ozeki and Yokozuna that much more meaningful, as any of them, or all of them, could be taken down again. For Goeido and Takayasu, they are still walking a narrow path to their 8, but each needs just 3 more wins to avoid kadoban. For Takayasu, I forsee trouble on day 9.

Natsu Leaderboard

Are you ready for this? Because this is how nuts it became.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chaser: Abi, Ryuden, Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Daishoho

7 Matches Remain

The first reader who dares to comment “Shodai Yusho!” Is going to be fined 1000 Genki points.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Toyonoshima vs Enho – Sumo fans can’t get enough Enho, myself included. Veteran Toyonoshima has yet to beat him, so we may see more pixie magic on Monday.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Enho’s day 8 match makes a good template for a small guy to tie someone like Chiyomaru in knots, so let’s see if Terutsuyoshi can enact a similar battle plan. Just don’t slow down, don’t stand still and never be in any one spot for more than 1 second.

Ishiura vs Yago – Ishiura is trying to copy some of Enho’s fire, but he’s still a work in progress. Yago is a giant who packs a lot of power but is not capable of rapid lateral motion. He’s leagues better than Chiyomaru, but it should be possible to keep Yago from getting too stable on his feet, and use that to divert his own energy into Ishiura’s offensive moves.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – I am really looking forward to this match, as they are basically the same guy (much like Ikioi and Ryuden) about 5 years apart. That 5 year gap leaves Kotoeko employing a lot of frantic energy, and Tochiozan employing a lot of guile and cunning. Kotoeko won their only prior meeting.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Whatever is plaguing Kagayaki is not easing up, and if Shodai can continue to put that much energy into his post-tachiai sumo, it’s going to be a fun match. I am sure Kagayaki will consult his mental catalog of great sumo, and then Shodai will unleash some sort of strong random stuff and leave Mr Fundamentals stumped. Shodai leads their career series 3-1.

Onosho vs Yoshikaze – I can only imagine that Onosho re-watched that match with Meisei in slow motion a few dozen times, each time wondering what he could have done differently to prevent that whole attack from blowing up in his face. Shake it off Jr Tadpole! You have to face a faltering Yoshikaze on day 9. This match makes me sad on many levels.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Let me guess, Nishikigi lets Takarafuji get morozashi, then pins his arms and uses that to push Takarafuji around like a hand truck.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Yusho co-leader Asanoyama faces shin-Ikioi in the first match of the second half. Asanoyama has lost the last 5 consecutive matches to Ryuden. But I don’t think I have seen Asanoyama in better form, ever. These guys are going to be joi-jin mainstays next year, I would guess. So let’s hope this turns into a great sumo rivalry.

Tamawashi vs Daieisho – After putting dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna, it’s time for Tamawashi to patrol the upper Maegashira ranks. He holds a 5-2 advantage over Daieisho, so I am starting to wonder if we might see Tamawashi kachi-koshi and possibly a candidate for san’yaku yet again.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is in a pretty deep hole, and I want him to rally starting day 9 and press hard. Endo can execute amazing technical sumo as we saw on day 8, but sometimes there is no remedy for 400 pounds of high-energy rikishi on a collision course.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – In spite of what you may assume, they are fairly evenly matched with a 5-4 career advantage for Mitakeumi. Hokutofuji is still a bit hit-or-miss with his sumo, so I am going to assume that if the gyoji can keep out of the way, we will see Mitakeumi inch closer to his 8th.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these men are in a deep hole in terms of win/loss, but frankly I would rather see Kotoshogiku make it to kachi-koshi right now. Give the old guy one more run at the top as a way to say thank you for being one of the best in a generation.

Goeido vs Abi – I am going to state that this match is going to be over quickly. If Goeido can get a proper launch off, it’s going to be unlikely for Abi to stop his forward pressure. This is why I think we will see at least one matta, to help dither Goeido’s timing.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am going to assume this one won’t happen. The story is all over the Japanese press that Takakeisho will return to kyujo status, but no official word from the NHK as of right now. But if it does happen, I think we are going to see Tochinoshin struggle to land a grip, and Takakeisho possibly blow out his knee, joining Ura on the “could have been” list of sumo. Update: NHK has announced the withdrawal. -lksumo https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20190520/k10011922041000.html

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – You might think “Maegashira 5 vs Ozeki, this is a gimme”. Well, Takayasu has a 7-11 Myogiryu deficit. Granted, all of their recent meetings have been all Takayasu, but we know for certain that Myogiryu knows how to beat him. Takayasu needs 3 more to pick up his kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu’s day 8 loss has punctured the illusion of superior invincibility that tends to surround sumo’s Yokozuna. With that mental barrier broken (both in Kakuryu’s mind and the mind of the rest of his opponents), the chances of his tasting clay again have gone up. Okinoumi is only in fair condition this basho, so I am not looking for him to produce an upset on day 9.

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 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.

Natsu Day 3 Preview

It’s fair to say we have had a solid start to the Natsu basho in the first two days. The lone surviving Yokozuna, Kakuryu, has won both of his opening matches convincingly in a manner that is an aggressive adjustment to his normally reactive style. He has shown power, guile and no shortage of excellent sumo in the first two wins, with his dispatching of Hokutofuji quite impressive. Hokutofuji blasted his way into another attempt at a handshake tachiai, but Kakuryu was faster still, and just denshamichi’d Hokutofuji half way back to the shitaku-beya.

Both Goeido and Takakeisho have opened strong as well, each day delivering a powerful reminder of why they hold the Ozeki rank. The upper ranks will get their “tough” matches in week 2, whereas this week they are culling the upper Maegashira.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daishoho vs Takagenji – Takagenji brings his 2-0 Juryo record to the top division, looking to remain in the undefeated cohort. He and Daishoho are quite evenly matched, having battled each other in the lower divisions multiple times. Though Takagenji has added mass over the past 2 years, I think he would still qualify as a member of the “Pixies” group of smaller rikishi. (Hmm, not at 191 cm and 172 kg. -lksumo)

Enho vs Sadanoumi – First time match between these two, with Enho fresh to the top division, and Sadanoumi a long time dweller in upper Juryo and Makuuchi. Sadanoumi is happy to engage in a mawashi battle, but letting Enho get a grip has proven to be a surprisingly challenging event. The edge probably goes to Sadanoumi, as Enho seems a bit jittery still.

Shohozan vs Shimanoumi – When Shimanoumi posted to Maegashira 12 for his Makuuchi debut, I had my worries. Rather than easing him into the top division, he was landing in the middle of banzuke chaos, given the bizarre collection of bad to awful records that came out of Osaka. Now he is 0-2 going into his match against an 2-0 Shohozan, who does look to be in fairly good form.

Onosho vs Tomokaze – Dare I hope that Onosho has gotten his sumo back in tune? So far he has not gotten overly forward over his toes, and has kept his force center-mass against his opponent. Tomokaze is big, strong and will take your mawashi and make you suffer. It will be a race to see who can set the tone of the match out of the tachiai. This is my favorite bout for the first half of Makuuchi on day 3.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama has really been showing some speed and strength in the first 2 days of the basho. Readers know I have had my eye on him since he showed up in the top division, mostly because his attitude is one of the best I have seen. He works hard, he keeps himself positive and always takes each day as a chance to win. While his brother from another mother Yutakayama is regenerating himself in Juryo, we can enjoy all this great young rikishi has to offer.

Shodai vs Kaisei – It seems Shodai has gotten re-charged during some off-season visit to Toon Town, and his uncanny cartoon sumo is running well again. Today he has Kaisei who seems more frustrated and rusty than doing poorly. Fans around the world love Kaisei, as he is one of the most good-natured folks in sumo.

Yoshikaze vs Ryuden – Yoshikaze has been executing very minimalistic sumo for the first 2 days. The win on day 2 over Meisei was surprisingly un-energetic, but got the job done. This probably won’t work with Ryuden / Shin-Ikioi, who seems to be continuing his good performance from Osaka, where he was one of the few Maegashira who was able to post double-digit wins.

Chiyotairyu vs Abi – Chiyotairyu is off to an 0-2 start, and I think he will continue to struggle day 3. His tachiai is just as formidable as ever, but he seems to have challenges with his second step. When Chiyotairyu is in a winning grove, he flows smoothy out of his brutal tachiai into an all out assault. Both day 1 and 2 he seemed to lack that intensity.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – Some fans were a bit unhappy that Tochinoshin unleashed the sky crane against Daieisho, but I am going to assume that he finally feels healthy, strong and it’s more of a jubilant celebration that he is back to his sumo more than anything else. I am going to watch him land that shallow left again day 3, and help Okinoumi keep reaching for the stars. (Their head-to-head matchup only favors the Sekiwake 7-5, with Okinoumi taking 3 of the last four, so this is another must-win bout in Tochinoshin’s quest for 10. -lksumo)

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Hey, Tamawashi – get it together man! You have an 0-2 start, and you are a better rikishi than that. Hell, you won a yusho a few months ago. The good news is that Ichinojo is not quite dialed in right now, so he might be able to get some attack in against the Boulder. (The head-to-head is even at 6-6, but has favored Tamawashi recently, so we could be in for a good bout. -lksumo)

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – Both of these burly men are fighting hurt. Takayasu with a bad back and Mitakeumi with a gimpy knee. Both of them see to be a half step slow, so this will be match of attrition: whose pain will lose first? Takayasu holds a clear (12-5) career advantage.

Goeido vs Endo - ENDO EJECTION PROTOCOL ACTIVE. WEST SIDE I/O PORT AVAILABLE. APPLY 12 METER/SEC FORCE LATERAL TO ENDO-UNIT TO ACHIEVE WIN STATUS. ENGAGE.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s bag’o sumo has worked pretty well on the upper Maegashira, but for the named ranks it seems to be quite ineffective. I love that this is happening, as I see quite a bit of potential in Hokutofuji, but he needs to get a winning formula together against these rikishi, and that comes by continued beatings at the hands of the upper echelon.

Kotoshogiku vs Kakuryu – Are we going to see hypersonic doom Kakuryu again on day 3? Kotoshogiku’s sumo relies on him grappling his opponent and hopping like an aroused Mastiff to propel himself to victory. Should Kakuryu once again launch of the shikiri-sen, we might be left with only blurry, smeared images of a blue mawashi and bouncing thighs launched in a high, arcing track towards a throng of excited fans. Each of them hoping that the Kyushu Bulldozer lands nearby. (This is the 50th meeting between the pair! -lksumo)

Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Did you cheer when you saw this? Skycrane ahoy!

I found myself headed for bed at a surprisingly early hour for the first day of a basho. With AbemaTV now lost to me, and no real way to watch the lower divisions, I decided it was better to just pack it in, and enjoy the DVR’d NHK-G two hour top division program in the morning. While I wish I had seen the lower division matches, Makuuchi featured some absolute gems. With Hakuho out, the stage is set for some surprising story lines, and the possibility of a new champion for the new era.

A note to regular readers, highlight posts may come later this basho, due to changes in how we source our information. If we are late, never fear, Team Tachiai is just forwarding through video…

Day 1 Highlights

Toyonoshima defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, who chose to meet Toyonoshima head on and fight. Chiyoshoma got a decent right hand outside grip, and tried to use it for an Uwatenage. Although this failed, it left Toyonoshima out of position and off balance. Chiyoshoma lunged to push his opponent out, but Toyonoshima managed to step aside and send him into the front row.

Daishoho defeats Ishiura – Ishiura also forgoes elusive sumo, meets Daishoho head to head, and applies some effort to the match. Ishiura does well by staying mobile, and works to stalemate Daishoho. Ok, good, but that’s not winning. Ishiura’s gambit to get inside and drive forward results in Daishoho applying an arm bar and winning the match by kimedashi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – I suspect we may be glad that Terutsuyoshi managed to stay in the top division, in spite of a horrible score at the end of Osaka. Kotoeko took control at the tachiai, and was driving Terutsuyoshi around the dohyo like he was the boss. But Terutsuyoshi loaded and executed a tsukiotoshi while in reverse gear, taking the match. Great sumo!

Enho defeats Tokushoryu – Enho takes his first match as a Maegashira in solid Enho fashion. Tokushoryu had the size and reach advantage, but Enho took him for a ride on the tiny-town express. While Tokushoryu was working to lock on to Enho’s shoulders, Enho was on the mawashi, turning the larger rikishi and escorting him to the tawara. Enho gives his 2 kensho envelops to his mother for a Mother’s Day gift. She is even smaller than he is!

Chiyomaru defeats Sadanoumi – Blink and you might miss it. Chiyomaru is getting better milage with Akua’s green mawashi than Akua ever did. A very simple stand him up, slap him down win for the man in green.

Yago defeats Shimanoumi – Yago won the match, but to my eye Shimanoumi had better sumo today. Yago repeatedly worked to pull or slap Shimanoumi down (and eventually succeeded), but the shin-Maegashira was focusing center-mass and moving forward with power. After taking two consecutive Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi has the skill to succeed in the top division. Let’s hope he can settle into a working rhythm.

Shohozan defeats Tochiozan – It looked like Tochiozan’s battle plan was to stalemate Shohozan and look for an opening. He executed that with his expected top-level skill, until Shohozan lost his patience and drove in for an atypical combat-hug. Tochiozan moved to win in the blink of an eye, but could not finish the rotation to execute his throw.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – My candidate for “ring rust match of the day”. Mr Fundamentals, Kagayaki, gets taken to the wood shed by a rather genki Onosho. Hard core sumo fans, you know, the ones who pine for AbemaTV access, are hoping that Onosho can get his body back to good form, and we can see some Takakeisho – Onosho Ozeki rivalry in the future. Onosho had the full happy meal today: Hips low, thrusting strongly against center mass, and strong forward movement.

Tomokaze defeats Nishikigi – Special mention in the “ring rust” category goes to Nishikigi, who seemed to change his mind about opening attack midway through the tachiai. Tomokaze works him hand to hand like he is pulling an enormous ball of taffy, and Nishikigi really can only struggle to stay on his feet.

Asanoyama defeats Kaisei – Closing our trifecta of ring rust, Kaisei did not fail to deliver on his expected oxidation. I really liked Asanoyama’s drive after the tachiai, and that shallow left hand grip was solid. Kaisei struggled to get a throw going at the bales, but Asanoyama just used the Brazilian’s balance shift to deliver a yorikiri.

Shodai defeats Meisei – Those of you wondering why so many fans think Shodai has a lot of potential, watch this match. He is sky-high at the tachiai. He’s practically trying to lose here. But following that, look at his agility, his ring sense, and the fact that even in defensive action, he maintains an element of offense. Could we please get Araiso Oyakata to teach this guy how to come off the line?

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yeah, Yoshikaze knows he’s beat about 5 seconds into it, and decides not to risk injury with a tawara defense. For fans of one of the most intense rikishi in many years, this match is tough to watch.

Ryuden defeats Myogiryu – Shin-Ikioi (Ryuden) continues to shine. Today’s match showed really outstanding patience, and top level balance as Myogiryu changed offensive plans at least twice. Ryuden waited them out, and took his opportunity to get Myogiryu turned around and propelled him out.

Abi defeats Okinoumi – The double arm attack was shut off fairly early, but Abi was able to convert it to a powerful two hand nodowa, which he withdrew suddenly to perform a pull-down. Points to Okinoumi for shutting down the typical Abi-zumo offense (and to Abi for having a plan B –PinkMawashi).

Aoiyama defeats Tamawashi – This anticipated slug-fest did not fail to deliver. Tamawashi took command at the tachiai, and backed Aoiyama to the east. A massive shove from Tamawashi, intended to send Aoiyama out, only stood the Mongolian up as he slid back. Aoiyama cocked that meaty right arm and delivered a blow that made the crowd gasp, then took control.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not muster enough force at the tachiai to effectively disrupt Tochinoshin, who waded into the slap fest with gusto. In spite of Chiyotairyu focusing well on keeping Tochinoshin away from his mawashi, the Georgian found his mark. You can hear the crowd rally as both hands find their grip. We all know what’s coming. Hell, Tochinoshin has been waiting to do this for a couple of months. You can hear the motors roar as he lifts Chiyotairyu, who obliges by pedaling his legs in free air like some cartoon character, suddenly finding himself over a cliff. Let’s admit it, we all want to see him get his 10 and take back his Ozeki rank.

Daieisho defeats Ichinojo – Runner up in the ring rust prize is Ichinojo, who clearly struggled to execute his planned attack strategy. Multiple times he tried to pull down Daieisho, who evaded well. This left Ichinojo high, off balance and fairly easy pickings. A solid win for Daieisho.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – The thing that is really striking is that Takakeisho has gotten better at initiating the wave-action attack earlier and earlier in the match. Endo has no time to even begin any offense. Endo foolishly tried to match the shove, aiming for Takakeisho’s head and neck. This gave the shin-Ozeki a open lane straight to Endo’s center-mass, and it was over. 41 kensho banners. Wow.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takayasu – I can’t recall how long its been since I have seen Kotoshogiku at this level of intensity. For recent fans, this was what Ozeki Kotoshogiku looked like at his peak. Granted, Takayasu is nursing a bad back right now, but that was awesome.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – I love this match because it shows Goeido’s speed. Hokutofuji likes to set up a nodowa at the tachiai, and take control before his opponent can do anything other than react. But Goeido is so fast and so low, you can see the surprise in Hokutofuji’s reaction. I am so very happy that Goeido seems to be healthy and on his sumo.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi could not generate forward pressure against the Yokozuna, who executes a textbook oshi battle plan. This was interesting to me in that Kakuryu is usually going to start a match and react to his opponent. Today he took charge and dictated the win. This shift may have surprised Mitakeumi. It sort of surprised me!

Haru Day 15 Preview

Once More…

It’s been a big crazy ride! Haru has been 14 days of the legends of sumo stomping with force through the rank and file, taking white starts wherever they go. Not a single kinboshi this tournament, let that sink in. Now that we are down to 2 Yokozuna, and they are both in fairly good health, the chances of a gold star are down. Looking at Kakuryu, there is a chance that his ankle is not quite right again, but with just one day left to go, I don’t think we will see him go kyujo.

The battle of day is, with no doubt, Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin. The landscape of the final day of the basho has been set up expertly by lksumo, as is his custom, but I wanted to examine this match. Tochinoshin is a mawashi rikishi, and he likes to use “lift and shift” sumo to remove his opponents bodily from the dohyo. When he is in good health, he can and does do it to anyone, including Ichinojo. Frequently this is accompanied by his opponent pedaling their legs furiously as the are lifted to height and carried to the janome like a crate of green bottles on Wednesday in Sumida. If Tochinoshin can get a hold of you, there is simply no way to stop it. It has even worked on Hakuho.

Takakeisho is a finely honed oshi-fighter, with the focus being primarily on thrusting / pushing attack and less on slapping his opponents around. He has perfected what we sometimes call a “wave action” attack, which features both arms working in tandem or near tandem to apply overwhelming force to his opponents body. This works best when he can get inside, and he can focus on center-mass. The day 14 match broke down when, for reasons we can’t explain, Takakeisho targeted Ichinojo’s neck, with absolutely zero effect. This double arm push is repeated in rapid succession, like a series of waves breaking against his opponent’s body. The result is that his opponents must constantly react and fight for stance and balance, all the while Takakeisho is moving them rapidly to the tawara.

The fight will hinge on if Takakeisho can move fast enough at the tachiai to land his first push before Tochinoshin can get a hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi. If Tochinoshin can grab a hold of this tadpole, it’s likely to Takakeisho’s doom. Tochinoshin’s sumo typically relies on him being able to set his feet and brace his shoulders and hips for his “sky crane” lift; this means if Takakeisho is landing wave after wave of heavy force thrusts against him, he won’t have a chance to use his lethal move.

A real clash of sumo styles and approaches, and on the line is who gets that 3rd Ozeki slot. The stakes could not be higher, and the rikishi nearly opposites.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Shohozan vs Chiyoshoma – The bottom man on the banzuke needs one more win to hold on to Makuuchi. Shohozan has lost 4 of the last 5, and seems out of gas. Should Chiyoshoma lose, he will join the platoon of rikishi that are eligible for return to Juryo.

Ryuden vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has had a great tournament, and this is his highest score since his January 2016 yusho (14-1), but it seems to me he has run out of stamina, and he may be picked off by Ryuden on day 15. Many fans, myself included, are a bit let down that the schedulers did not put Kotoshogiku against Toyonoshima for their final match. Some of these guys need to take nostalgia into account.

Asanoyama vs Kotoeko – Asanoyama has been fighting for that 8th win for the last 4 days, and his chances are good on day 15, as he holds a 4-0 career advantage over Kotoeko.

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji is also in the 7-7 category, and will need to keep Ishiura in front of him to pick up #8. Ishiura may as well henka this one, in my opinion. But do make it acrobatic!

Kagayaki vs Abi – Abi, old bean, I worry you won’t diversify unless you lose more matches. Won’t you give something else a try? Your double arm attack is solid, but is that all you can do? You have so much talent. Ok, go ahead and win day 15, and while you are at it, give Kagayaki some reason to look a bit more excited. The poor fellow looks a bit like the walking dead some days. Thanks, signed: your fans.

Okinoumi vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze at 10 wins, Okinoumi at 7 wins… Yeah, I think Okinoumi gets this one.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Although Chiyotairyu needs a win to get to 8, I am going say that Myogiryu has an advantage here due to his shorter stature, and his strength. Chiyotairyu can and does hit like a wrecking ball, but he loses stamina in a hurry.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – “Hulk Smash!”

Tochinoshin vs Takakeisho – The big match, in my book. It may only last seconds, but it’s going to leave someone out in the cold.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Both Ozeki have 10 wins or better, so I see this as a “test match” of Takayasu’s tuned up sumo style. Goeido is going to blast in fast with everything he has. In the past that is sometimes enough to actually bowl the burly Takayasu over. But Takayasu has changed his “contact” stance a bit at the tachiai, and I think we may see this shift into a battle for grip in the first 4 seconds. If Takayasu can stalemate Goeido to the point his frustration leads Goeido into an attempt to pull, he will have his opening to strike.

Hakuho vs Kakuryu – The Boss goes up against Big K for the final match. Should Hakuho go down for some reason and Ichinojo prevail, we will get one more tasty sumo morsel before the long break leading up to Natsu. Wise money is on Hakuho to contain, constrain and then maintain his perfect record. But it will be fun to watch.

Haru Day 3 Preview

In Front of His Home-Town Crowd, Ozeki Goeido May Be Tough to Beat…

We are still early in this basho, and there are a number of compelling story lines that we are following. Here are a few

  • Hakuho wanting to win back-to-back: He said he would love to win the last tournament of the current imperial era, and the first tournament of the next era (May). His health seems a bit shaky right now, but he’s started 2-0.
  • Will Takayasu someday take a yusho? He has picked up where Ozeki Kisenosato left off. Plenty of jun-yusho without every taking the cup.
  • What will it take for Takakeisho to get the Ozeki nod?: Sure, it’s not a straight 33 wins and you are in formula, but I do wonder now what they are going to put this guy through.
  • Can Tochinoshin get his 8?: It’s clear he is both hurt, and rusty right now. I think everyone is pulling for him to clear kadoban and hopefully heal up.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Chiyoshoma vs Kotoeko – I am expecting Kotoeko to be wise enough to expect a henka, fast enough to react to it, and strong enough to make Chiyoshoma pay if he tries it. The are evenly matched at 4-4 for their career record.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama does tend to plow ahead in a reckless manner, and we are back on the subject of henka again with Ishiura’s day 2 flagrant whopper. Yutakayama really needs 8 wins this tournament to stave off a return to Juryo. If he is relegated back to the junior division, I fear he is there for a while.

Tomokaze vs Toyonoshima – Two big powerful guys on deck for this match, so it comes down to youth vs experience. Toyonoshima had a good start day 1, but looked off his sumo day 2. Fans love a grizzled old vet fighting his way back to the top, so everyone wants to see Toyonoshima do well.

Terutsuyoshi vs Yoshikaze – I worry the Yoshikaze slide will continue, as he seems to be unable to generate much in the way of forward pressure. But this will be the first time that Terutsuyoshi has faced him, and maybe there is something useful he can learn via this match.

Kagayaki vs Meisei – Kagayaki has had 4 straight make-koshi tournaments, and for fans of his its quiet frustrating to see him struggle to produce the same power, focus and forceful sumo that took him to the top division. I am predicting Meisei may have his number for day 3.

Shohozan vs Yago – Shohozan has yet to get his first white star of Haru, and I hope he stays mobile on day 3. Yago may have seen how poorly his opponent does chest-to-chest, and decide to take that road. “Big Guns” is at his best when its run-and-gun.

Ryuden vs Ikioi – These two have so many similarities, it can be uncanny at times. Ikioi is 4 years older, but in so many ways, they are the same guy. Except that Ikioi seems to have a string in injuries he can’t seem to put behind him, and every time he steps on the dohyo, his fans reach for the aspirin. Ryuden has yet to take a match from Ikioi, but today could be his day.

Asanoyama vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has looked very good so far, and I am expecting this to be an offense heavy match. Kotoshogiku will, of course, try to get chest to chest with Asanoyama, who I think will be focusing on a thrust-and-shift strategy, keeping the former Ozeki out of range.

Sadanoumi vs Takarafuji – No wins for either rikishi yet, and Takarafuji holds a 10-5 career advantage. Both have fought well enough thus far, but seem to be a half-step slower than their opponents.

Okinoumi vs Abi – Another winless duo, has Abi-zumo finally reached its end? I think that most rikishi have figured out how to disrupt his attack, and his double-arm thrust technique seems to be an all or nothing affair. Okinoumi can win with both yotzu and oshi combat techniques, so it will come down to shutting off Abi’s attack.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – Onosho has to focus on getting inside, and close to Aoiyama within the first few moments of the match. Once the man-mountain begins flailing those long, powerful arms, its usually all over. Onosho has beat him before (career record 3-2), but each time it was because he could move close early and thrust against Aoiyama’s considerable body.

Tochiozan vs Ichinojo – Though Tochiozan holds a 9-5 career advantage, Ichinojo may be in his “good” mode for now, and its quite tough for anyone to battle that much motivated rikishi. We have yet to see Ichinojo with his heels on the bales, which is where he tends to give up, so Tochiozan will need to drive hard out of the tachiai and back him up before Ichinojo can rally.

Chiyotairyu vs Shodai – I will be watching to see any signs of an improved Shodai tachiai in this match. Chiyotairyu puts all of his power up front, and if Shodai can remain in the match past the 6 second mark, Chiyotairyu quickly runs out of stamina.

Myogiryu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi got distracted day 2, and ended up with a loss. He stated prior to the basho that his training routine was off because of all the extra duties he had as the yusho winner. Day 3 he has a chance to bounce back against a rikishi he holds a 5-3 career advantage against. The last time Myogiryu beat him was about 3 years ago.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Tadpole fight! Mitakeumi has been a surprisingly strong competitor for this first two days, and we know he is fighting hurt. Takakeisho will need to power past the elder tadpole to keep himself in the hunt for another bid at Ozeki promotion. Mitakeumi holds a 6-3 career advantage. This is my match of the day.

Nishikigi vs Goeido – Goeido has never beaten Nishikigi. I had to think about that for a minute, but it’s true: 2-0. Goeido is looking genki this time, and Nishikigi seems to be struggling with his sumo. I am going to predict that the Ozeki starts to even out the balance on day 3, and Nishikigi’s magical tour through the joi-jin is hitting some turbulence.

Takayasu vs Daieisho – I think this match is an easy win for Takayasu, but I am looking at the Ozeki each day, hoping to see signs of improvement in his already considerably excellent sumo. Everyone wants to see the big hairy man claim a yusho, and we hope he can do it this year.

Tochinoshin vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is a shambles right now, and that’s great news for Tochinoshin, who needs to rack any win he can get in the first week before his matches get tougher. His magic number is 7 going into day three. These two have split their 4 career matches.

Endo vs Kakuryu – Likewise Endo is fairly shambolic right now, and Kakuryu seems to have shaken off whatever ring rust led to his day 1 loss against Mitakeumi. Kakuryu leads their career series 8-2. I am looking for a solid “reactive sumo” match from Kakuryu on day 3: Give Endo some room, let him make a mistake, then make him pay.

Hakuho vs Kaisei – Kaisei is 0-12 against Hakuho, which is more or less all you need to know here. I predict the big Brazilian will be on the clay, and Hakuho will remain unbeaten.