Aki Day 11 Recap – Mayhem At The Top

Here we are, in the last leg of this wonderful basho. The yusho race is getting hot. Tochinoshin’s kadoban is not clear yet. Some rikishi are teetering on the edge of make-koshi. Let’s dive in!

tochinoshin-carrying-kakuryu
What morozashi?

Kotoyuki determined not to roll today. He and Ryuden clash heads at the tachiai, and Kotoyuki continues with some strong tsuppari. It could be that Ryuden is a little dizzy from that clash, but I have a feeling he has his foot slightly off the accelerator now that he is kachi-koshi.

In the match of the dew-gatherers, Kakuryu’s tsuyuharai, Nishikigi, faces Hakuho’s Ishiura, who has seven losses and can’t afford another one. Ishiura has the faster tachiai and slips in his arms. It takes him about a second to secure a grip – but Nishikigi already has him at the edge, and makes sure he is no longer a dew-gatherer as of next basho (only Makuuchi wrestler participate in a Yokozuna dohyo-iri).

Takanosho, the newcomer, faces Okinoumi, with the NHK broadcast team (Japanese) making much of the fact that Okinoumi has sanyaku experience. Takanosho cares about none of that – goes low and upwards at the tachiai, applies “hazu” to Okinoumi’s armpits, and quickly drives him out. Takanosho has a good chance of achieving kachi-koshi in the next few days.

The next bout features the man who would have been the natural replacement for Ishiura in Hakuho’s dohyo-iri. Alas, Kyokutaisei has gone kyujo again. Damage to the meniscus in the right knee. Chiyomaru gets the fusensho, and Kyokutaisei will join Ishiura in Juryo next basho.

Chiyoshoma starts his bout with Sadanoumi with a kachiage, but has no follow-up, and Sadanoumi uses his right elbow to push the Mongolian to the edge rather quickly. Then he slides his arms around Chiyoshoma and drives him out… or so he thinks. Chiyoshoma does some of his acrobatics, and turns the tables with a throw. Pay attention to how Chiyoshoma works to keep his tiptoe planted on the dohyo until the very moment Sadanoumi touches ground. Thus, no monoii, and it’s Chiyoshoma’s win.

Daieisho overwhelmes Yoshikaze with some windmill tsuppari. A few thrusts, then a hazu to direct Yoshikaze around towards the nearest bales, then some more thrusts. Yoshikaze tries to land a grip, but can’t get through the barrage, and ends up landing on Futagoyama oyakata.

Takanoiwa and Kotoshogiku are kenka-yotsu – meaning that they prefer opposite grips. This normally means that whoever manages to land his favorite grip has the advantage. In this bout, it’s Kotoshogiku who gets his hidari-yotsu. But Takanoiwa is unfazed, secures a strong grip on both sides, and pulls Kotoshogiku up, occasionally even lifting him off the ground a bit. This completely neutralizes Kotoshogiku’s ability to chug, because a gaburi-yori is less about the pelvis, and all about the traction your feet have transferring power into aforesaid pelvis. Not touching the ground, he can’t do that, and when he gets a start, Takanoiwa finishes him with a shitatenage. Takanoiwa well deserves the spot in the yusho arasoi where he finds himself at the moment.

Hokutofuji is getting tired of seeing his kachi-koshi slipping away time and time again. This time he sticks to his guns. And although Shohozan throws his own guns and the kitchen sink at him, he just patiently continues with that tsuppari, his right hand forming large circles, each pushing Shohozan further. Oshi-dashi and kachi-koshi.

Aoiyama and Onosho start their match with the expected exchange of thrusts. Aoiyama probably realizes that Onosho plans to pull at some point and let him drop, so he envelopes him in his big arms. Onosho, with his inferior reach, can’t do much against that, and the bout ends with a yori-kiri and a make-koshi for Onosho, who will have to spend some time in the nether regions of Makuuchi before regaining his Prince Tadpole status.

Asanoyama falls for Daishomaru‘s henka, hook, line and sinker. His hand touches the ground before the gyoji even completes his “hakki-yoi”. For some reason, Daishomaru looks disappointed.

Takarafuji can’t recreate his magic from yesterday. He tries to circle around the dohyo until he gets his grip, but Myogiryu makes sure he leaves orbit. Oshidashi. Takarafuji 5-6, Myagiryu nearing his kachi-koshi.

Tochiozan slams into Chiyonokuni. Kuni doesn’t really have much power in him this basho, and soon finds himself outside – and make-koshi.

Endo has a good tachiai vs. Kagayaki, but Kagayaki has the better reach and, really, Endo doesn’t have much power in him. At the edge he tries to sidestep and start his own attack. Kagayaki rallies, and Endo runs out of gas. It seems to me that whatever mystery disease was plaguing Yoshikaze in the previous basho has taken Endo in this one. He simply can’t produce any power. But while everybody was very gentle with Yoshikaze, nobody is giving Endo any breaks. Must be all those kensho envelopes.

Abi and Chiyotairyu start a tsuki-oshi match, which suddenly comes to a halt as Abi holds Chiyotairyu at arms length. Abi, however, shows the same lack of patience he has shown yesterday, miscalculates his footing, and tries to restart the attack, promptly falling on his face. Chiyotairyu doesn’t say no to free gifts.

Takakeisho slams into Ikioi, knocking the air out of him, then sidesteps, and lets the taller man find his way to the opposite side. By the time Ikioi turns back, the tadpole is there to give him that final farewell. Given the joi carnage this basho, Takakeisho is doing rather well with a 5-6. Ikiyoyo is 1-10.

Yutakayama still has nothing to offer having returned from kyujo. He lands a classic tsuppari on Tamawashi‘s chest. Tamawashi, unimpressed, gives him one big shove for his trouble, which seems to land him on Kaisei. See, Tamawashi is very considerate about Yutakayama’s health (less so about Kaisei’s).

I don’t know what posessed Mitakeumi to try that little henka, but Kaisei sees through it. He gets all over Mitakeumi and hands him what must be his most humiliating loss so far. Mitakeumi is 6-5, and kisses his Ozeki run goodbye. Although some media people still hope that he can do something if he wins out (giving him 10-5, thus 32 wins over three basho), Shibatayama oyakata says “not with this sumo”, rather emphatically.

Goeido continues his generally good performance this basho. Slams into Shodai, and starts pushing him. Shodai can only pride himself on surviving more than the one second it usually gets to reach one side, as he causes Goeido’s circle to be larger than usual. That’s all.

And then Kakuryu meets Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin.

Really, Kakuryu has been absolutely wonderful this basho. He went through those wins day after day. Straight forward and with power. But Tochinoshin is both desperate and, apparently, on the mend.

Kakuryu starts with his usual tachiai this basho, which looks like he is dropping head first into his rival’s chest. And he gets not just a grip – he gets a tight morozashi. Now, in that situation, most rikishi start saying their prayers and wondering which shimpan they are about to hit. But not Tochinoshin. His weapon against morozashi is a soto-yotsu grip, which means both arms outside. With the height difference between him and the yokozuna, he gets a very good one. And then it starts to look like a crane game in one of the ubiquitous Japanese arcades. Lift once… drop… lift again… and you got your prize toy. The kadoban is not clear yet – one more win needed – but the Incredible Hulk (red version) is back, and tomorrow’s bout between him and Hakuho is going to be a doozy.

Moving on to the next Yokozuna match, Kisenosato, and his much celebrated kachi-koshi, faces up the near make-koshi Ichinojo. Now, although he lost to Hakuho yesterday (and got that annoying extra push), Ichinojo already looked better in that match than he did most of this basho. So my guess is that his back stopped hurting. Ichinojo has a good-boy tachiai – both fists on the ground waiting for his rival’s initiative – so there is nothing the gyoji can do to help the ailing yokozuna this time. Ichinojo straightens, and hands Kisenosato three servings of kaiju nodowa. The Yokozuna doesn’t get to lift a finger, he is blown away that fast. And he is very very unhappy about that. He has to sit down for the last bout as make-nokori, and his face is more clouded than the Tokyo sky.

Musubi no ichiban. Hakuho faces Takayasu, who is just one behind at this point. Win, and given Kakuryu’s loss, Takayasu would be in the leader group for the yusho. Lose, and he drops behind the chasers.

Takayasu stands up too early. Matta. Bad, bad mistake. This pisses off Hakuho, who reacts by stepping over the shikiri-sen and giving Takayasu a penetrating death stare.

Now, the Yokozuna is trying to get Takayasu to lay both fists on the ground like a good boy. Takayasu lays just one fist down, as does the Yokozuna. Hakuho doesn’t like the fact that Takayasu is not committing himself, and straightens up. It’s a second matta.

Now, the third time that Takayasu tries a tachiai without committing himself, Hakuho  throws hinkaku to the wind. He doesn’t care what they say – he shoots at Takayasu who still doesn’t have his fists on the ground, hands him a slap from the right side, and a kachiage aimed at the nose from the other. Let tongues wag. That… wasn’t really sumo. And yes, there was another dame-oshi there.

hakuho-takayasu-blink-of-an-eye

Mere mortal, don’t try playing mind games with a kitsune. The Dai-yokozuna is now the sole leader of the yusho arasoi – although Tochinoshin may change things come tomorrow.

Yusho arasoi Day 11

11-0Y1WHakuho
10-1Y2EKakuryu
9-2O1EGoeido
O2ETakayasu
M13WTakanoiwa

yokozunameter-2018-aki-day-11

Aki Day 3 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakiesho Aki 2018

For anyone who has been a sumo fan for the last couple of years, Aki 2018 is a welcome departure from the normal. It has been along time since this many of sumo’s top competitors were all present at the start of a tournament. Given that some of them are in less than perfect health, we may not see them at the end of act 3, but this is a great and exciting way to start a basho. The Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have not only shown up, they are competing with vigor, energy and skill. Sadly for the Komusubi and Sekiwake (as well as Maegashira 1-3), this means that they take the full brunt of being warm up cannon fodder for the Yokozuna and Ozeki. Excellent rikishi like Takakeisho and Tamawashi will find it hard to reach kachi-koshi, let alone some of the 10 win figures seen earlier this year. That spells trouble for Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid, as we will likely see him face all 6 of the Yokozuna and Ozeki starting soon.

The other thing that has caught my eye is just how well the “Freshmen” are fighting this tournament. This is the cohort that includes Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Kagayaki and Abi. Sure, Yutakayama is winless so far because he is a Yokozuna chew-toy. But he is moving well, putting together excellent matches and generally showing some solid sumo. It’s going to be a while before we see these rikishi make their way to being headliners, but it’s great to see them showing a lot of promise early on.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Kotoyuki vs Yoshikaze – Kotoyuki has looked a half step behind both days, and we can’t help but wonder if he is going to snap out of it and present a credible challenge in any of his matches. Yoshikaze, however, seems to have recovered a great deal of his genki, and has been back to his old power levels thus far. Kotoyuki holds a 6-3 career advantage over Yoshikaze, so maybe today is the day “Mr 5×5” recovers.

Takanoiwa vs Nishikigi – If you did not see Nishikigi’s day 2 match, go watch it now. Nishikigi is the poster boy of calm and polite. But on day 2 he was positively aggressive – kind of a shock, but a welcome one. But speaking of aggressive, lets see what he does with Takanoiwa! Both men come into the match with 2-0, and tied career wise at 2-2.

Kyokutaisei vs Daieisho – Kyokutaisei seems to be stuck right now, and he has nothing but kuroboshi to show right now. Fans will recall he started Nagoya the same way, taking it to 5 straight losses. He holds a career 4-2 lead over Daieisho, so maybe today is the day he gets into the win column. It could also be the case that he has family in Hokkaido, and the disaster there may be occupying his thoughts.

Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama is also in the winless column, and I think he may be feeling the pain of injuries. We have yet to see him unleash his overwhelming upper body strength, and he has been even slower than normal moving around the dohyo. Sadanoumi comes in straight from giving Okinoumi a good fight.

Daishomaru vs Kotoshogiku – One of the strange results of Kotoshogiku being this far down the banzuke is that he is fighting some familiar rikishi for the first time. Today it’s Daishomaru. Thus far Kotoshogiku has been moving well, and seems to not be in pain. His motions are smooth and efficient, and he would seem to be locked in to his sumo.

Takarafuji vs Hokutofuji – Today’s fight of the fujis, what I am going to look for is Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, and Takarafuji to take it chest to chest. Takarafuji is a great technical wrestler, and seems to always have a careful plan of how to win. Hokutofuji seems to be more of a “hold my beer” kind of rikishi, who decides he is going to try something fast and violet and work with whatever emerges.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Both of these guys are zero wins? Strangely enough, yes. Onosho especially has looked to be only about 80% thus far. I am going to assume that at some point his sumo will click and he will pick up a good number of wins, enough to remain in the top division anyhow. Tochiozan’s matches have boiled down to a few choices that did not break his way, so I am expecting him to leverage his 3-1 career advantage and possibly rack his first win.

Kagayaki vs Shohozan – Big Guns will take his daily brawl to Kagayaki’s school of sumo. Both of them come in 1-1, but out of their 8 prior matches, Kagayaki has won 6 of them. I am going to be watching to see if Kagayaki can set up his preferred thrusting position center mass, inside of Shohozan’s wood-chipper style tsuppari.

Asanoyama vs Abi – Both men with 2 wins, career series tied at 1-1. What’s going to be the edge here? Lord knows. First off Abi is tough to handicap. As Herouth pointed out, everyone knows about his “One Weird Trick”, but he is still getting away with it. Asanoyama has brought a lot more speed to his sumo this year, but it’s nothing compared to Abi’s stick-insect inspired sumo.

Chiyonokuni vs Myogiryu – Another fun match for day 3, two very high intensity rikishi are going to try to move up from their 1-1 records. I am going to look for Chiyonokuni to surge early, and try to close the match before Myogiryu can set up his offense. Chiyonokuni will want to stay mobile and use his superior reach. Should be a slap fest worthy of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Shodai vs Endo – Another great enigma, at least we know that one of these two deserving rikishi will exit the match with a win. Both of them are fighting well, but have lost their first two. Shodai may have been robbed on day 2 when the fact that his tachiai has improved resulted in a matta. I want to see Shodai do it again, be fast and low. Don’t worry about your score today, get the mechanics right.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Tamawashi will try a kotenage. The big question being, will Mitakeumi fall for it? Career advantage is 12-2 in Mitakeumi’s favor, but to me his sumo has looked a bit tentative thus far. We are still in act 1, so there is plenty of time for him to dial it up.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – This will likely be a very sloppy battle of the bellies, starting with an earth-shattering tachiai. In spite of the pain and injuries, Takayasu is managing to rack the shiroboshi so far. His sumo is still wild and chaotic, which is just begging for another mechanical injury. Chiyotairyu struggles this high up in the banzuke, where it’s tougher to win matches just by being enormous and smashing into people at the tachiai. Takayasu leads their career series 8-3.

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Well, Ichinojo tried the “Bad Pony” technique again on day 2, but it fell flat. Goeido managed to win one, but he still looked a half step behind. It will be easy to get the jump on Ichinojo, but I like how he is not giving up at the tawara right now. They are more or less tied over their career.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho was fired up day 2, and nearly overwhelmed Kisenosato. He is a terrifying ball of energy in a compact spherical package, which may be trouble for Tochinoshin. Thus far the injured kadoban Ozeki has been fighting well, and has been very careful with his overwhelming strength; enough to win, but just enough. Interestingly enough, Takakeisho leads their career matches 3-1.

Kaisei vs Hakuho – Day 2 Kaisei took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, and Kakuryu showed him how well tended the east side hanamichi is. He has never defeated Hakuho, who is hiding whatever pain and stiffness he might have well. I am predicting a return voyage to the lap of someone in the front row.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi is strong, and seems to be willing to sacrifice his body to do what it takes to win. But Yokozuna Kakuryu is the master of reactive sumo, so he will play with Ikioi, stalemating him until he makes a mistake. Kakuryu may be the one to beat this tournament.

Kisenosato vs Yutakayama – Last match of the day features Kisenosato taking on the head of the Freshman class. Each basho Yutakayama shows up bigger, stronger, and with improvements in his sumo. He is winless right now, but I view him as a formidable opponent. This is their first match, and I am (as always) just hoping no one gets hurt.

Aki Day 1 Comments & Highlights

Aki Day 1 Toys

My thanks to Herouth and Josh for their excellent discussion and commentary overnight for day 1. It was a great day of sumo, that included a lot of intense action, and brilliant moves. I continue to believe that we are in a sumo “golden age” for at least a little bit longer, and I will savor every match that features such long-serving talent and such bright new skill. You can find the full live-blog transcript here.

First and foremost, let’s clear the decks and say that Kisenosato won his first match of Aki. It was fairly straightforward sumo. He landed his left hand and drove forward. Ikioi put up a good fight, and frankly Kisenosato was quite a bit higher than we might expect to see him, but the Yokozuna had enough power to make it work. He did not look good, but he did look good-enough for now. I expect him to have quite a bit of ring rust to blast away before we see anything approaching his prior form.

The Yoshikaze / Chiyoshoma match was a stunner. Chiyoshoma had the upper hand and was driving Yoshikaze back and out, when the Berserker rallied and delivered an unbelievable utchari at the edge. Chiyoshoma was looking for a monoii, as was I, but none was called and the results stood. Look at that left foot as he swings Chiyoshoma up and over. The man has the strength, skill and ring sense to inch it back forward to keep his heel inside until Chiyoshoma becomes a “dead body”. One thing was clear from the HD feed coming from NHK-G, Yoshikaze has a hideous rash all over his body, leading me to wonder if cause of his impairment might be a painful case of adult chickenpox (shingles).

Takanoiwa looked like he completely out-matched Ryuden. Ryuden’s gambit utterly failed, and Takanoiwa took command and disposed of Ryuden like a spent takoyaki tray outside of Lawson’s.

I continue to like what I see from Hokutofuji, watch that tachiai! Notice how he leads with his right hand out from the tachiai. Even if he is a half-step behind for some reason, that right hand is already inside. He has been refining this move for a while, and he’s just getting better and better at it. It also acts as a counterbalance that allows him to get very low off the shikiri-sen.

Kagayaki seems to have tweaked him mawashi color, and it’s almost iridescent now. Kagayaki picked up right where he stopped in Nagoya. He continues to become more calm, refined and operating strongly on fundamentals. Onosho is, in my book, still recovering from surgery, and is looking a bit chaotic. I am chalking it up to ring rust.

Abi seems to have pulled Chiyonokuni down twice, which means that Chiyonokuni bounced off the clay. Abi did a minor variation of his two-hand tachiai. Ok, so he’s getting creative, but I think that’s not quite what is needed. But this was 100% Abi-zumo.

The EndoIchinojo bout is a study in Ichinojo. It gets underway with Endo being very busy, attacking Ichinojo more or less at will. Ichinojo ends up with his heels on the tawara. This is where he usually gives up, but instead something flips in his sumo and he turns into this monster. He had Endo in an off-balance grip and simply flexes his enormous muscles and flings all 150 kg around and then pushes Endo down by the neck. I could see an expression flash across Ichinojo’s face that translates to “Bad Pony!”.

I am delighted to report that Shodai’s tachiai was not a train-wreck on day 1, and had Mitakeumi struggling to recover. But recover he did and sent Shodai packing. Once again it looks like Mitakeumi phones in the practice matches and brings the actual sumo out for honbasho. Mitakeumi stayed glued to Shodai’s center-mass, and that is what won that match.

The ChiyotairyuTochinoshin tachiai registered as a Hokkaido aftershock, as it was loud and painful. Tochinoshin was able to back Chiyotairyu up, and apply a lift-and-shift finish, but it looked like it hurt him to do so. We know Tochinoshin is going to gamberize like mad, so we just hope he can hold it together until he can rack his 8th.

Freshman class leader Yutakayama effectively stalemated Ozeki Takayasu, who once again used that terrible shoulder-blast tachiai. But after going chest to chest, Yutakayama could not keep the Ozeki from advancing and simply plowing Yutakayama out.

Kaisei was not in the least bit intimidated by Goeido, and put his massive body to good use: driving forward with so much force Goeido was powerless to do anything other than lose.

Hakuho’s match? Pure speed. Blink and you miss it.

Takakeisho looked vague and rusty against Kakuryu, who stayed calm and kept the match on his terms.

We end day 1 with all of the Yokozuna and Ozeki winning, except for Goeido. Order and balance is established in the basho, and the young up-and-comers are going to have their hands full this time. With the senior ranks out in full, the score inflation of the Maegashira and lower san’yaku will be curtailed. This will be a great basho to watch as I still think the new forces are continuing to pick apart the old guard.

Aki Day 1 Preview

Mitakeumi - Kakuryu

Its sumo time once more, and everyone is ready to see their favorites battle it out in Tokyo. For the first time in a long time, everyone in Makuuchi will be present day 1. Many of them are in less than excellent health, but ever last one of them is going to gamberize as much as they can and push. This could be one of the better tournaments in the past 18 months, and I suspect fans are in for a treat.

All eyes will be on Yokozuna Kisenosato. I expect the Kokugikan to erupt in a joyful noise when the yobidashi calls out, “Yokozuna Kisenosato, dohyo-iri masu!”. In spite of a permanently degraded left pectoral muscle, he has somehow gotten himself genki enough to give it a try. Of course this may in fact be the execution of a planned exit strategy. Prior to his injury, Kisenosato was Mr. Sumo. Missing a day of practice, let alone a day of honbasho was simply unthinkable to him. Such a competitor would not sadly fade into the background, but would likely go out “guns blazing”, delivering as much fierce competition as he could muster for as long as he could stand it.

Any way it plays out, the fans are in store for some fine sumo.

Everyone keep in mind as we start Aki act one. The purpose of act 1 is to see who is hot, and who is not. Everyone works to shed any ring-rust and get up to full basho combat power. For day 1, everyone outside the joi-jin is paired up east-west.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Note – we are watching everything, as we are live blogging..

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze fans have been worried about “the berserker” for the past few months. He hit some kind of medical / mechanical wall, and his sumo has been without power and stamina. Everyone dearly hopes that he is in better condition now, and this will be an early indication. He holds a career advantage of 4-2 over Chiyoshoma, who has been struggling as well.

Takanosho vs Chiyomaru – Everyone’s favorite party balloon squares off for the first time against newcomer Takanosho. Takanosho existed Juryo after a fantastic 13-2 record in Nagoya. Will he have the kind of “hot basho” that many top division debutants enjoy? Chiyomaru ponderous bulk seems to have robbed him of all stamina as of late, and his many fans want to see him get his sumo back. Good ‘Maru!

Ryuden vs Takanoiwa – Ryuden, what are you doing down here at Maegashira 13? Oh, that’s right. You had your ass handed to you at Natsu and then struggled at Maegashira 15 in Nagoya. Takanoiwa returns to his rightful place in the top division at long last after recovering from cranial injuries sustained in an after-hours beating by Harumafuji. Welcome back, and get cracking. Sumo needs you.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Aoiyama is my pick for “sleeper” this basho. He has never lost to Daiesho, and I am going to guess he won’t today. Aoiyama does tend to suffer from quite a bit of “ring rust”, and he may be slow and vague on day 1. Daieisho needs to bounce back from his disappointing 6-9 in Nagoya. But I don’t see him getting inside Aoiyama’s outrageous reach.

Hokutofuji vs Daishomaru – Its about time that Hokutofuji got back in gear, after an injury during Hatsu in January, he has struggled significantly, but his firestorm 11-4 in Nagoya seemed to announce his return to full combat power. He is 3-1 over Daishomaru, who has been losing ground since Osaka. I am going to look for a low and brutal tachiai out of Hokutofuji, and it should be straight yorikiri from there.

Kagayaki vs Onosho – Kagayaki is mister deliberate. He is going to go in with a plan to negate all of Onosho’s favorite moves (aka “his brand of sumo”) and dismantle him a piece at a time. Onosho is going to come in there and just blow Kagayaki into the zabuton. I am eager to see if Onosho returns to the red mawashi.

Myogiryu vs Asanoyama – Getting up to Maegashira 5, we have a match with a lot of potential. These two are quite evenly matched, and will likely got at it with vigor. A longer match favors Asanoyama, who will likely try to keep Myogiryu from getting low.

Chiyonokuni vs Abi – Yes yes! My guess is this is where NHK will pick up the live broadcast, and it’s a perfect spot. Chiyonokuni is high energy and high intensity from the shikirisen. I am hoping we see a new move or two from Abi, as everyone in Makuuchi have decoded his double arm shoulder brake move, and most are now countering it well. Abi will try to keep Chiyonokuni’s whirlwind attacks back and away, and Chiyonokuni is coming in low and going for center mass every time.

Endo vs Ichinojo – We saw some fire from Ichinojo in the practice sessions leading up to Aki, in stark contrast to his passive sumo at Nagoya. Endo still seems to be struggling to get his sumo into a stable san’yaku class category, and he heads into this match with a 3-5 disadvantage against the Mongolian behemoth. Great test match for Ichinojo’s resolve and Endo’s speed.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Shodai is a mawashi-clad enigma. He presents himself as a bumbling Gomer Pyle style rikishi, who somehow can defeat some very serious opponents. His tachiai is terrible, and many times he wins because his opponents make horrible, stupid mistakes. Amazingly, he tends to beat Mitakeumi more often than not. He tends to get Mitakeumi disrupted, off balance, and then he throws him around like a stress relief ball. If Mitakeumi wants to make the case for Ozeki, he needs to rack wins early.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshi is looking for a quick and decisive 8 wins, coming off of a foot injury in Nagoya. His typical attack mode is left hand driving a “lift and shift” offense. That will be tempered by the sheer size and diameter of Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu has been focusing more on bulk than stamina, and this will likely be the decider as even if his foot were missing, Tochinoshin’s endurance is second to none.

Yutakayama vs Takayasu – As the leading man in the cohort I refer to as the “Freshmen”, Yutakayama comes into his day one match with a surprising 1-0 advantage over Takayasu. Takayasu has been nursing multiple injuries and miseries, and may be hard-pressed to present much offense during the second act. This match will be an excellent gauge of just how hurt Takayasu is, and how hungry Yutakayama has become. I will be watching to see if Takayasu unleashes his ridiculous shoulder blast, which I maintain is the source of his injuries, and should be put in a “seldom used” status at once.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Some sumo fans love mysteries, and we all know who the mawashi man of mystery is – Goeido! Which one is going to show up? The unstoppable sumo machine that dominates practice and could not be defeated during Aki 2016? Or the hesitant, vague and un-genki Goeido that frustrates everyone? Kaisei comes into the match at the bottom of a 4-14 hole against the Ozeki, so I am expecting that Goeido is going to give us a bit of a show.

Kisenosato vs Ikioi – What great way to start this basho for Kisenosato. He holds a career 15-1 advantage over Ikioi, and “by the numbers” should dispatch Ikioi with flair. But Kisenosato is no more than 75% of his old self, and Ikioi of late has been an unstoppable, armor plated sumo machine. No injury, pain or distraction stops him from mounting the dohyo and delivering powerful sumo. This one, in my opinion, is going to be a real fight. I am looking for Ikioi to try to get the Yokozuna high and moving backward straight from the tachiai. Kisenosato needs his low, crab-walk attack that overcomes Ikioi’s power-based offices.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – A fun match, Hakuho is undefeated against Tamawashi. But Hakuho has undercarriage damage this tournament, and many learned fans think he won’t last all 15 days. I look for Hakuho to go left and throw in the first few seconds.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Probably the most genki man in the top ranks, Kakuryu brings his reactive sumo up against Takakeisho’s “wave action tsuppari”. My instinct is this one is all Kakuryu.

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.