Kyushu Day 13 Highlights

Takakiesho

We had a solid day of sumo for Friday, a good number of ‘koshis were decided (make- and kachi-), and everyone works their sumo while fans wait for what Team Tachiai stalwart PinkMawashi calls the “Taka Bowl”. With the basho in a No-kozuna status since Act 1, the completion has been impressively equal. With no grand champions harvesting white stars from the upper Maegashira (like we saw at Aki), and the Ozeki corps only ⅔ genki, the field has been wide open. The result is not quite the sumo that some fans are used to, with a handful of ur-rikishi winning everything every day with overwhelming sumo.

The Juryo ranks finds Mr 5×5 – Kotoyuki, with double digits wins. At Juryo 3, we will likely seem him return to the top division yet again, where he always seems to struggle, and frequently crowd-surf. The other story is the strength of Yago and Kotokaze, two rikishi from Oguruma who are young, strong and on the ascent. With Yago on the ferry to Makuuchi for January, and Kotokaze on the path for later in 2019, we could see a lot of new power from the stable that gave us long-serving veterans Yoshikaze and Takekaze.

Highlight Matches

Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Don’t blink. Solid tachiai, then Daishomaru outright decks Yutakayama, sending him sprawling to the clay. Boom! Yutakayama gets a headache, and his make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma defeats Sadanoumi – Chiyoshoma hands Sadanoumi a make-koshi while avoiding one himself. Impressive lift and twist at the tawara! There was a brief mono-ii as the shimpan wanted to make sure Chiyoshoma’s toe did not touch out during the lift. Sadanoumi went from a solid opening week to a string of losses. Injury? Stamina?

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Onosho succumbs to the Kyushu Bulldozer’s preferred attack, and rides the hug-n-chug express all the way to kuroboshi (black star) land. Kotoshogiku secures kachi-koshi in front of his adoring home town crowd, and everyone can celebrate that.

Takanosho defeats Ikioi – Takanosho maintains his enthusiasm and finds a way to stalemate Ikioi’s repeated attempts to throw him. To be fair, Ikioi is a big, sore mess right now. Takanosho uses Ikioi’s perpendicular throwing stance to advance and motor him out. Both are now 4-9.

Okinoumi defeats Shohozan – Okinoumi goes to double digits with a big win over Shohozan. It’s impressive that Okinoumi managed to get Shohozan contained, and then packaged for shipment for a clay facial. When Okinoumi is in good health and his body cooperates, he is a solid sumotori for mid-rank Maegashira. May his fine health continue.

Meisei defeats Abi – Abi-zumo seems to be past its sell-by date for now, as fellow shiko-peacock Meisei shrugs off the double-arm attack in the opening seconds. A quick left hand to the armpit and a strong lateral shove and down goes Abi.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s normally un-glamorous sumo seems to have taken on a lethargic sludge in week 2, and Endo finds his 8th win against the increasingly make-koshi Kagayaki. We know Kagayaki is strong, and is becoming quite the master of sumo mechanics, so we have to wonder if he’s nursing an undisclosed injury.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – Maegashira 3 vs Maegashira 15, you have to wonder what this match was for except to transfer a white star to Nishikigi. Granted, I am really impressed by what Nishikigi has been able to do in Kyushu, and he made fairly easy work of Daiamami, who ends the match with a make-koshi.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – The experience and efficiency of Tochiozan’s sumo was on display in this match. Asanoyama put a lot of vigor and energy into his sumo, but it’s striking to see how minimal Tochiozan’s body movements are. The bout ends with Tochiozan hurling Asanoyama from the dohyo in dramatic fashion. Tochiozan kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, interesting times indeed.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi expertly executes a mini-henka (a completely different animal from the henka), and Hokutofuji buys it. I still see a great potential for Hokutofuji, but in this basho he has gotten himself too far forward more than a few times. Part of it is that handshake tachiai, which – when it works – gives him a half-step advantage in the match. But it also broadcasts he’s coming forward with authority. If you can watch the match in slow-motion replay, note that Hokutofuji lowers his head and takes his eyes off of Tamawashi’s center mass. Tamawashi times his move to the left perfectly to coincide with this breaking of focus, and by the time Hokutofuji senses the opening gambit, he is unrecoverable. Tamawashi is also kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2. There’s going to be a scramble for the higher slots, I think.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – Shodai has found an interesting solution to his tachiai mechanics. He has become increasily skillful at absorbing the initial charge and rapidly gaining control of the initial merge. Myogiryu was fast enough and strong enough to maintain the inside position, and kept Shodai reacting.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Notable in that it looks like Kaisei appears to have tweaked his left leg as he resisted Ryuden’s effort for a throw. Kaisei went down in an awkward way, and was visibly hurt following the match.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Takakeisho remains in the lead, but Aoiyama made him work for it. Aoiyama can deliver a IJN Yamato class pounding when he can get set up, and certainly brought the big armament out today. But what really caught my eye was that Takakeisho was not quite able to set up his wave action attack. Aoiyama’s solid offense and long reach (compared to Takakeisho’s much shorter reach) seems to have kept the yusho race leader constrained. But impressively, Takakeisho adjusted and tossed the man-mountain to the clay anyhow.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Excellent example of just how powerful Ichinojo is. Yoshikaze was tossed around like a pony, and had almost nothing to say about it.

Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi inches closer to the make-koshi line against some off-balance but effective sumo from Chiyotairyu. I don’t think Chiyotairyu had a firm stance for any moment of this bout, but he managed to maintain control of Mitakeumi and win. For Mitakeumi fans (which includes me), many Ozeki applicants fail their first attempt, and are forced to swallow demotion, re-group and re-ascend in stronger form. I look forward to the next evolutionary stage of Mitakeumi!

Tochinoshin defeats Takanoiwa – A much needed win for the Ozeki, who struggled a bit even though he was able to land a left hand grip on Takanoiwa. Takanoiwa’s athleticism and keen balance were on display today, as he managed to thwart Tochinoshin’s offense against several solid, strong moves to win. The match ended with Takanoiwa losing grip on the dohyo, and falling backward, with the kimarite listed as koshikudake (inadvertent collapse), and is considered a non-winning move.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Though the outcome was fairly certain, Daieisho put up a good fight, and the Ozeki put up an odd offense. Multiple attempts to pull Daieisho down left Takayasu off balance, but Daieisho was too reactive to capitalize on these moments. Will Takayasu uses this strategy in the Taka Bowl on day 14? I think that Takakeisho won’t pass up these openings. Bring on the doom-match of day 14!

Kyushu Day 1 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakeisho

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

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

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

What We Are Watching Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 6 – Tanabata Wish Fulfilled

chiyotairyu-got-money
Remember Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” Tanabata wish?

Day 6 of the Aki basho, opening the second act, continued the excellent action we had in the first five days. We start the day with seven rikishi at 5-0. How many will finish it with 6-0?

Ishiura attempts to do straight sumo vs. Takanosho, the newcomer, but he can’t get inside for a grip on the front of his mawashi. He tries to pull back for a hatakikomi, but Takanosho is stable enough, and the pull puts Ishiura at a disadvantage, which Takanosho is quick to exploit. Yorikiri, and unless Ishiura seriously upgrades his sumo, Hakuho will need to look for a new dew-gatherer for Kyushu.

In the matta parade that this basho is turning out to be, Ryuden‘s premature slam into Yoshikaze must be one of the most eye-popping ones. Although Yoshikaze seems to maintain his cool, and starts a tsuppari attack after the real tachiai, he is quickly swept off with a hatakikomi. There goes the first perfect record. Yoshikaze 5-1 (and somewhat surprisingly, so is Ryuden).

Kotoyuki seemed to do much better in his pale cyan mawashi, but today he faced Takanoiwa, who seems to have gotten over his little lapse of sumo from days 3 and 4. Takanoiwa unfazed by the Kotoyuki’s thrusts, circles a bit and lets the man do his usual Neymar roll into the suna-kaburi (the rows of spectators right next to the dohyo).

Chiyoshoma tries a henka against Nishikigi. Against Nishikigi? You need a henka against Nishikigi, Mr. Wile. E. Throwing-Technician? Nishikigi doesn’t have patience for nonesense this basho. He sees through that henka even without his glasses, and chases Chiyoshoma out of the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Chiyomaru starts his bout with a morotezuki straight to Sadanoumi‘s throat. He follows that with a couple more thrusts, then stops and pulls, causing Sadanoumi to lose his balance. Tsukidashi, and Chiyomaru secures his second win this basho.

Okinoumi launches quickly into the tachiai vs. Daishomaru. He is all over the Oitekaze man and dispatches him within seconds.

The other Oitekaze man, Daieisho, faces Takarafuji. The latter tries again and again to land his favorite grip but his injured left elbow seems to be a serious hindrance. He circles around again and again as Daieisho leads him to the tawara, and eventually manages a kotenage and sends Daieisho out.

Aoiyama finally starts a match with his signature rain of fierce tsuppari. Kotoshogiku, who had a good first few days, is overwhelmed. He never gets even close to landing his own signature attack or even laying hands on Aoiyama. Tsukidashi and first win for the Bulgarian, and Kotoshogiku drops to 3-3.

Hokutofuji, when he waited for his bout in the shitaku-beya, heard of Yoshikaze’s first loss. Being the only other rank-and-filer with a perfect record, he said he ascended the dohyo today rather nervous. Yet another matta ensued. In the actual bout, he leads once again with his right hand, a couple of thrusts, and grabs Tochiozan‘s mawashi momentarily. Tochiozan shakes him off. Hokutofuji fends off Tochiozan’s own attempts to get at his mawashi, and as they go back and forth, Tochiozan loses his balance and Hokutofuji follows up. Hatakikomi, and Hokutofuji stays perfect.

As Shohozan and Asanoyama clash, it’s Shohozan who gets his right hand inside first. However, Asanoyama bars it on the left, applies an ottsuke on the right and promptly forces the muscular Nishonoseki man out with a kimedashi. This was a fine display of technique despite its short duration.

What is up with Onosho? His tachiai vs. Chiyonokuni seems to be rather weak, and the Kokonoe man blasts him out of the ring in no time. A very frustrated Onosho mounts the dohyo again to give his bow. Onosho merely 2-4 so far.

Abi faces a very tall rikishi today – Kagayaki. He knows that his reach is no greater than his opponent. So his game plan today is not his windmill tsuppari, but rather – after the obligatory morotezuki – he takes a step to the right, grabs Kagayaki’s belt and neck and throws him smartly outside. Abi may look like a gangly, happy-go-lucky boy who just happened to find himself in a silk mawashi by sheer accident, but those arms are really strong and the skill is there. All he needs is to balance his tsuki-oshi “one weird trick” (OK, two weird tricks, because that throw is also something he uses from time to time) with some belt work, and he will really be a pleasure to behold (though I’m sure the NSK officials will cringe when he finishes his Ozeki acceptance speech with a “wara!” [“LOL!”]).

Take Myogiryu, for example. He is famous enough for his tsuki-oshi sumo, that the illustration under the definition of “oshi-zumo” in my sumo dictionary is a drawing of Myogiryu. But today he launches himself at Endo, and goes chest to chest for a lightning fast yoritaoshi. Keep your skill set wide, and your rivals will never know what’s coming.

And today Ichinojo definitely woke up with his back acting up again. He simply let Takakeisho attack. Didn’t try anything, and as soon as he got to the bales, just went obediently outside. Lose that extra weight, sekiwake. It’s painful to watch you when you are like that.

Takayasu delivers his usual kachiage, but the hefty Kaisei is rather unimpressed by it. But the Ozeki adds a half-hearted harizashi – half-hearted in that the harite was very weak, and the grip itself is not very strong. He then proceeds to propel Kaisei towards the edge, and loses the grip. Kaisei tries a desperate kotenage. The Ozeki stays on his feet, and soon finishes the Brazilian off. Kaisei is only 2-4, but that’s still a good record for this basho’s Maegashira 1-3 wrestlers.

The next bout is the highlight of the day. The unbeaten Mitakeumi in his second Ozeki bout, this time against a healthy Goeido. Goeido starts with a harizashi. Although it’s not exactly a harizashi as his left hand did not go inside (“harizashi” is a combination of “harite” – a slap – and “sashi” – an insertion of the hand under the opponent’s arm) but rather outside. So I guess the expression “slap and grab” works better here. So Mitakeumi has his right hand inside, and strives to “sashi” the other one as well for a morozashi (that’s the same “sashi” – a double-sided insertion of hands). But Goeido is not easily pierced. He locks his right armpit and moves forward with that unstoppable force that we wish he would show more consistently. By the time Mitakeumi has both arms inside, it does him no good whatsoever – he is already stepping on straw. Yet another one of the perfect records broken, and the Sekiwake misses an opportunity for a “quality win” for his Ozeki run. The King of Practice beats the King of Why-Practice.

Ikioi goes through his pre-bout routine with precision. Actually, it’s not his. He mimics Hakuho’s pre-bout routine to the last detail. The crouch with hands open palms up on his knees, the trot towards the towel. Every single point. And this is why it seems comical to me to see Tochinoshin – whose eye looks like a train wreck – flatten Ikioi on his face within half a second – which is mostly the time it took for them to complete the tachiai, rather than the time it took him to perform the tsukiotoshi. You can copy Hakuho’s external mannerisms all the way to the supporter on his right elbow, but once it comes down to Sumo, Ikioi is Ikioi (or as Bruce coined him, Ikiyoyo, because once again he is going to drop in rank after a barren visit to the joi), and Hakuho is… Hakuho.

However, today Hakuho seemed to be a bit of Ikioi instead of Hakuho. Hakuho knows he should make use of his much superior tachiai when faced with Shodai, and he does slam very quickly into the rank-and-filer. He tries to get a grip on Shodai’s mawashi with his left, but instead, it’s Shodai who gets a firm hold on the Yokozuna’s mawashi. Furthermore, Shodai manages a quick makikae with his left arm and gets a morozashi on Hakuho. Of course, at this point he is at the edge of the dohyo, but he knows how to use a morozashi, and attempts a throw which sees the Yokozuna flying in the air. Not something he would expect from anybody who is still an active rikishi.

Both men fall out. The gyoji points towards Shodai. Hakuho looks shocked. But a monoii is called. There is a question about Shodai’s heel – did it touch outside? And if not, who is the winner and who is the loser? After the conference, the shimpan reverse the gyoji’s decision – it’s Hakuho’s win. “正代のかかとが先に出ており” – “Shodai’s heel went out first”.

If you watch the replay, take a look at how Hakuho strives to keep the tip of his toe touching inside the dohyo, like a snooker player. As long as that toe is inside, it’s his win. He knew the toe was lost at some point there, and if it wasn’t for Shodai’s heel, which went out while Hakuho’s toe was still in, it would have been the same situation as Chiyonokuni vs. Asanoyama the day before.

Hakuho picks the prize money, but looks far from happy. He is still 6-0, but… right?

Kakuryu clashes heads with Tamawashi (why are you wrecking that fine brain, Yokozuna?), then proceeds with a tsuki-oshi attack – Tamawashi’s own weapon. Kakuryu simply looks great this basho. His only slightly icky bout was that little pull – day 2, was it? – but since then he has been formidable. If he keeps that up, we are going to have an awesome senshuraku.

Chiyotairyu, who so far didn’t look too good against any of the upper ranks, and went into this bout 0-5, faced Kisenosato in the musubi-no-ichiban. Rows on rows of flags pass by. Tachiai. Great clash. I think again their heads met. Chiyotairyu lands a couple of tsuppari, then pulls and lets the Yokozuna’s mass do the rest. In all the bouts so far, Kisenosato had an opportunity to come up with plans B and C. But Chiyotairyu leaves him no time to do anything before he gives him that last little push over the edge. First gold star of the tournament, and the Kokonoe man, whose Tanabata wish was “I need money”, not only got a hefty stack of kensho envelopes, but a nice extra income every basho from now until he drops below Juryo or retires.

Leaders (6-0): Kakuryu, Hakuho, Takayasu, Hokutofuji. (5-1): Kisenosato, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Ryuden, Yoshikaze.

yokozunameter-2018-aki-day-6

Aki Day 4 Recap – Casualties and Bloodshed

aoiyama-hokutofuji
Aoiyama pushed by Hokutofuji – yet another casualty

Day 4 is the day where the injuries start to make appearances in the top division. While yesterday we had to bid goodby to Seiro from Juryo, today Kyokutaisei announced his kyujo, and Aoiyama may be the next one in line.

The bouts of the day start at the very bottom with Ishiura facing Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma lands a firm morotezuki on both of Ishiura’s shoulders, to keep the Miyagino man from trying to get to the front of his mawashi. He follows this with a quick pull for a hatakikomi. But Chiyoshoma being Chiyoshoma, he just can’t keep his hands to himself and as Ishiura starts to rise, adds a hearty slap to the little man’s back that nearly sends him off the dohyo. Because what’s the best way to celebrate an easy win if not a good dame-oshi?

Kotoyuki decided to wear his light-cyan mawashi again, saying that the purple one, which served him when his girth was greater, is now too long and doesn’t fit well. Apparently, with a mawashi that fits, winning is easier. Apparently, it helps when you are faced with Chiyomaru, who is looking out of sorts so far this basho. Kotoyuki finishes him off with a few thrusts. Oshidashi.

I don’t know what the cause of Yoshikaze‘s ugly rash is, but it appears to be a +2 Blessed Rash of Victory, because the berserker keeps winning this basho. His rival today is Takanoiwa, who looked good in the first two days of the basho, and is now 2:2. Takanoiwa is not bad off the tachiai, but Yoshikaze just starts his engine and steamrolls him out of the dohyo, making sure the Mongolian is out before rolling head over heels himself.

Nishikigi looks very good this basho. He overcomes Takanosho‘s nodowa, lifts his opponent and starts a convincing tsuppari that brings his opponent to the rim. However, Takanosho manages to grab his arm and pull him down, giving him his first loss, by tsukiotoshi.

At this point Ryuden gets his freebie in the bout he was supposed to have with Kyokutaisei.

Okinoumi seems to be in control of the bout with Daieisho from the tachiai. Kachiage, then some tsuppari, then he encircles Daieisho and walks him over to the rim. But in doing so, he shifts too much of his own weight to one leg, and Daieisho uses that to twist him and reverse the outcome, winning by makiotoshi.

Hokutofuji slams into Aoiyama at the tachiai with that iron right hand of his. It seems the Bulgarian had his breath knocked out of him –  he doesn’t even try to start his own tsuppari, just stumbles backwards and falls off the dohyo with little assistance from the astonished Hokutofuji. While falling, he somehow hurts his ankle and finds it hard to rise back. The kachinanori – calling of the winner’s name and awarding of kensho if any – takes place without waiting for him to come up the dohyo and bow first. He goes to the shitaku-beya on his own feet, and later leaves the Kokugikan entering the awaiting car on his own feet – but he refuses to answer questions from the press, who report he looks in pain. Keep your eyes on the kyujo lists tomorrow.

Daishomaru drives his head into Sadanoumi‘s chest. Sadanoumi is not impressed, and moves forward. Daishomaru tries to circle around, but somehow steps outside before Sadanoumi gets off balance and falls forward. Sadanoumi wins, not a quality bout.

But the next bout, between Kotoshogiku and Shohozan, is certainly worth viewing several times over. Shohozan leads with his head into the former Ozeki’s chest at the tachiai, and gains a morozashi. Kotoshogiku quickly performs a makikae (switch from overhand to underhand) and operates his pelvic pistons. Shohozan turns and twists, but Kotoshogiku does not let go, and continues the chugging. Eventually Shohozan uses those artillery-grade guns to pull the pump off his feet – uwatedashinage. Good entertainment.

Takarafuji looks a bit hesitant off the tachiai. Perhaps he thought it was a matta. Tochiozan takes advantage of this, takes control of the match and drives the Isegahama man out, securing his first win this basho. Not a good day for that heya, by the way. All three of its sekitori lost.

Myogiryu gets Onosho in a lengthy nodowa, which he then converts into a pull for a hikiotoshi. This is Onosho’s third loss, and he is doing a lot worse than most of us would have thought. Also, it doesn’t look related to his injury. His game is just not as sharp as we would have expected, especially given his pre-basho practice sessions.

Asanoyama has Kagayaki chest to ample chest very quickly. One would think, with Kagayaki being the oshi-man and Asanoyama a yotsu-man, that this would give the advantage to the Takasago rikishi. But Kagayaki is not fazed, moves quickly this way and that, and eventually gets Asanoyama off-balance and down with a kotenage. As the NHK announcers noted, this leaves only two Maegashira with a clean slate: Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze.

Yesterday, I was afraid Shodai will get back into his old tachiai habit. He did his “good boy” stance, with his weight on his fists, and was awarded with a win. But to my relief, today again he started his tachiai on his feet rather than on his fists. Abi started up with his usual morotezuki. Landed a few thrusts – or were they nodowa? – at Shodai, who knew the drill: wait for an opening, grab a long arm, then get into your own game. In Shodai’s case, his own game is a morozashi and a yori-kiri. NHK showed footage of Shikoroyama oyakata in his Terao days, in which he engaged in a beautiful yotsu bout with his sworn rival. Why doesn’t he teach Abi some of that, then?

Endo keeps Chiyonokuni at bay, tries once or twice to get a grip, but when that doesn’t work, simply pushes him out with an oshidashi. Not a spectacular bout, but at least Endo secures his first win.

Now comes what was supposed to be a big bout – two Sekiwake facing each other in the first week. But Ichinojo is like a box of chocolates (in more ways than one). He tries to do something at the tachiai, but from there he just goes backwards and backwards, and over the bales. Mitakeumi fans will put that down to the might of the future Ozeki. I just think Ichinojo woke up today with his lower back acting up.

Put up Tamawashi against Tochinoshin, and you know that trouble is brewing. Tamawashi denies Tochinoshin the belt. A wild exchange ensues, and eventually Tochinoshin tries for a pull down, at which point it’s not clear whether Tamawashi’s elbow or Tochinoshin’s heel touched first. A monoii is called. Somehow through all this Tochinoshin bruises his eye and starts bleeding profusely. By the time the shimpan conference is over, it seems that the bleeding has stopped (it wouldn’t do to bleed on the dohyo). The shimpan call for a torinaoshi.

The torinaoshi starts with a heavy slam, after which Tamawashi is the one leading the attack. But Tochinoshin takes advantage of his uncontrolled forward motion and finishes with a tsukiotoshi. Tamawashi still doesn’t have a win this basho. Tochinoshin’s eye starts bleeding again, and doesn’t stop as he steps down and waits to give the chikara-mizu. I hope all his facial bones are in one piece.

Takayasu wrecking-balls into Takakeisho at the tachiai, then holds the bowling-ball’s face in his hand for a couple of seconds, debating in his head whether to rip it off or just rattle him to death. Eventually he decides that murder will not be acceptable, and just dumps him. Takakeisho once again finds himself doing less than dignified splits on the dohyo. Easy one for the grizzly bear.

Goeido and Ikioi starts off with a mighty clash of craniums (ouch). Ikioi starts a tsuppari and Goeido retreats, then pulls sideways. Ikioi falls like a stone. Hikiotoshi for the Ozeki.

Kisenosato and Kaisei enter into a heavy yotsu battle. Neither seems able to get a full mawashi grip, though. They each hold one side, and do whatever they can to deny the other. Kaisei is the first to get a firm grip on both sides, but Kisenosato uses his experience to shake that hand off again. Kisenosato then achieves his own double handed grip, and starts pushing the Brazilian to the edge. He has to summon every ounce of stamina to push the heavy man out, but eventually he does so, and stays perfect – though, like Tochinoshin, bleeding. Kaisei, as he heads down the hanamichi, does this:

kaisei-after-kisenosato

“At least I am extending my record” he later responds to the press mentioning the fact that this is the 35th loss he has vs. a Yokozuna (0 wins).

Hakuho starts for the third day in a row without any tricks or shticks. No harite in sight, just goes straight in for a grip. Only, he can’t get that grip on the bulky Chiyotairyu. He gets inside, but it’s a hidari-yotsu (left hand inside), and he is a migi-yotsu man. For a few moments he tries for the mawashi with his left hand, the right hand hanging in the air above Chiyotairyu’s arm. Then he gives up, slips out, catching the mawashi with his empty right hand, then executing an uwatenage. There is always a plan B. And a plan C.

Kakuryu and Yutakayama clash heads (oof, again), and the Yokozuna doesn’t give Yutakayama much time before he grabs his mawashi with his right hand, pulls aside and spins him around, then pushes him outside the dohyo. Nothing that Yutakayama tries to do makes any difference.

 

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.