Nagoya Day 12 Highlights


Hokotofuji
Before Anyone Gets Fussy, Yes, This Is Ozeki Kaio

Hakuho Ties Kaio’s Record

There was a lot of great sumo action today from Nagoya, but the big news is that after a one day setback, the Hakuho win streak has resumed. He picked up his 1047th win today, tying the record held by great Ozeki Kaio, who was present to see this milestone.

Kaio-1047

There are already so many superlatives attached to Hakuho’s career, and with his recent surgery and recuperation effort, we may see him continue to be a dominant force in sumo for several more years to come. Below are a few of the sumo records that have Hakuho’s name beside them:

  • 38 Yusho
  • 13 Zensho Yusho
  • 7 Consecutive Yusho
  • 950 Makuuchi Wins
  • 86 Wins In A Single Year

That being said, there is another record Hakuho is likely to break some time next year, as long as he continues to be healthy: The most tournaments as a Yokozuna, which is currently held by 80’s era great Kitanoumi, and stands at 63.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – This was a monster of a match, which saw Chiyonokuni somehow escape Kotoyuki’s force out via a very Ura like maneuver. Sadly it seems that the marginally injured Kotoyuki may have suffered further damage in the match, and was both slow to get up and limping badly. Kotoyuki is clearly headed back to Juryo, so hopefully he will be able to recover.

Shohozan defeats Gagamaru – Also on the fast track back to Juryo is Gagamaru, who has had a miserable basho, and just can’t seem to really bring much energy to his sumo right now. Gagamaru is a beloved public figure in Japan, and I dearly hope that whatever injury is holding him back, he can overcome it by September.

Aoiyama defeats Takarafuji – Aoiyama is not fooling around this time, he is really pushing hard for any san’yaku slot that might show up. Believe it or not, he is still a yusho contender. Much respect to the man-mountain from Bulgaria who has really applied himself this basho.

Ishiura defeats Nishikigi – I am still hoping that Nishikigi can survive in Makuuchi, but Ishiura continues to improve over his lack luster week 1 performance. Ishiura survived multiple throw attempts and was able to force Nishikigi.

Takekaze defeats Daieisho – Takekaze picks up his kachi-koshi with a fairly straightforward hatakikomi. Daieisho is now make-koshi but will be back in Makuuchi for September.

Chiyotairyu defeats Onosho – Chiyotairyu also locks down his kachi-koshi in a really straightforward win over Onosho. Onosho this was one of Onosho least impressive bouts of Nagoya, so hopefully he is back in form tomorrow. I am sure he is within range of a special prize now, if he can pick up a 10th win.

Ichinojo defeats Ura – Wow, we finally get to see Ichinojo move with vigor and purpose. It was actually rather impressive. But it’s also clear that Ura is hurt, and seems to have been hurt more in this match. But Ichinojo really put in the effort to win this one. Great match that I hope they show in the NHK highlight reel.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochinoshin – A brutal match that saw Tochinoshin pounding Yoshikaze with relentless furor. Yoshikaze kept working past the blows and focused on getting inside and taking control of the big Georgain, which after a while he did. Second later Yoshikaze pushed out his opponent, and picked up a hard earned kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shodai – Kotoshogiku prevails and keeps hopes that he can cling to Komusubi alive. Shodai’s high tachiai is an open invitation to Kotoshogiku to take control and push Shodai around the dohyo.

Tochiozan defeats Takayasu – Tochiozan owned this match from start to finish. Takayasu looked vague and uncoordinated, and Tochiozan flopped him around the dohyo for a time, then pushed him out from behind. One of Takayasu’s worst bouts in recent memory.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Claiming his 1047th career win, Hakuho engaged in a brutal slug fest with Tamawashi. I am sure some of those face blows echoed in the arena, as it looked like The Boss was making up for whatever was lacking in his day 11 loss.

Harumafuji defeats Mitakeumi – Very straightforward Harumafuji win today, Mitakeumi did not repeat his magic of day 11, and the match ended by yorikiri.

Nagoya Day 6 Highlights


Takayasu

There’s a First Time For Many Things

We enter the middle weekend of the Nagoya basho missing 3 rikishi from the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks. It is actually somewhat unremarkable in that we have seen similar problems for most of the last year. As we have written about frequently on Tachiai, the current crop of Ozeki and Yokozuna have all faced significant physical challenges in the past 18 months, and none of them, except maybe Hakuho and Takayasu, would be considered fit for action. For sumo this can quickly turn into a brand and marketing problem, as these top names are what bring in the bulk of the fans. Even in Japan, there are only a limited number of hard-core sumo followers (like the people who read this site), and that hard core group is not enough to really carry the sport.

On the up side, we had some fantastic matches today, including a couple of first time wins. Rikishi finally defeating a foe they had not been able to best in all of their prior matches. It is clear that both Mitakeumi and Ura are still ascendant, and along with Hokutofuji, and probably Takakeisho in a year or two, there is a core group of sumotori for the future.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – Nishikigi improves to 5-1, but he looks very stiff today for some reason. With 9 bouts remaining, he has a very strong chance of kochi-koshi, and solidifying his escape from Juryo.

Shohozan defeats Daishomaru – Really a great bout! Both rikishi were on pushing / slapping attack mode, and twice Daishomaru had him in trouble. Shohozan battled back strongly and and prevailed. For whatever reason, Shohozan has been looking really sharp this basho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting because Tokushoryu attempted a henna, but Chiyotairyu saw it coming and made Tokushoryu pay. Note how Chiyotairyu keeps his eyes on the center of Tokushoryu’s chest during the tachiai. That’s how it’s done, lads!

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – So good to see signs of life from Okinoumi! For those of you who may not know, Okinoumi has a significant lower pelvic injury, the repair of which would end his career. When it is acting up, he competes weakly. When it does not, the man can really deliver some great sumo. This bout ended with a Monoii, and the shipman determined Ishiura stepped out first.

Aoiyama defeats Takanoiwa – For reasons that defy my mind right now, Aoiyama remains undefeated, and tied with Hakuho for the lead of this basho. Takanoiwa really seems to have nothing to offer this tournament, so this was hardly a tough contest. I would expect the schedulers to give Aoiyama some more challenging opponents soon.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Onosho continues to excel, and he dispatched Daieisho without much work or fanfare. Unless he suddenly chokes, I would expect Onosho to be ranked much higher in the fall.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ichinojo – Another excellent match, Chiyoshoma threw everything he had at Ichinojo in a bout that raged across the dohyo for a decent amount of time. Lots of good “distraction slaps” from Chiyoshoma helped keep the Mongolian giant reacting instead of winning.

Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Tochiozan is another veteran rikishi who has been doing very well this tournament. Today he dominated Kagayaki, riding him around the dohyo like a rented mule. Tochiozan improves to 5-1.

Ura defeats Takakeisho – The first time in his career, Ura wins a match against Takakeisho. He did it by employing a henna, which Takakeisho swallowed whole. Guidance to Takakeisho, study what Chiyotairyu did today. Ura executed that really well – being small and incredibly fast, I do hope he does not become a henka artist.

Mitakeumi defeats Yoshikaze – Mitakeumi continues to impress. Yoshikaze gave him the full measure, including a mini-henka at the tachiai, but Mitakeumi stuck with it and prevailed. This was the first time in 4 matches that Mitakeumi was able to win one from Yoshikaze.

Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Tamawashi really dialed it up to 11 in his match against Goeido, starting with a tachiai so strong it rocked the Ozeki onto his heels. Impressively, Goeido escaped from Tamawashi’s attempt to finish him and battled back strongly. This was a solid match, and a really nice win by Tamawashi.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu is at his best (in my opinion) when he engages in a battle of strength and endurance. He is better at this than anyone in sumo today. The man has the endurance to power a small city for a week. To be honest, an epic match like this would not have happened if Tochinoshin were not nearly his equal. But Takayasu, when faced with a bout like this, wears his opponent down – as long as it takes, and once they tire, still has plenty left to take them out.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Not really anyone left who can credibly stop the boss. Match was notable by yet another display of Hokutofuji’s outstanding etiquette. More of this please. sumotori!

Harumafuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is really looking like he is at ⅔ normal energy. I hope whatever is ailing him, it can be resolved by Aki. Harumafuji appears to have found the means to keep his obvious pain under control long enough to win a match.

Nagoya Day 6 Preview


Kisenosato-Dohyo-iri

Who Will Sit, And Who Will Fight?

Word just as this was going on the blog is that Ozeki Terunofuji has wisely decided that his newly repaired knee is not ready for combat, and he will sit out the remainder of the Nagoya basho. Though he will be kadoban (he was going to be anyhow) for Aki, if his knee is healthy he is more than capable of fixing that situation in the first 10 days.

We still away the “day of” decision on Kisenosato, who seems to have really damaged his ankle as Ikioi launched him from the dohyo into the Tate Gyoji. Right now, Kisenosato is a sports medicine superfund site. I would almost suggest that he just give up until Kyushu, develop and execute a complete rebuild plan. Yes, it would be a let down to the fans, but I think it would be less of a let down than seeing their hopes dashed by an increasingly crippled Japanese born Yokozuna.

Matches We Like

Sadanoumi vs Nishikigi – Although he suffered his first defeat on day 5, Nishikigi is already half way to his kach-koshi. Today he faces Sadanoumi, whom he leads on the career totals 6-4. Sadanoumi is fighting well this tournament, and this could be a really vigorous battle.

Takarafuji vs Chiyomaru – Another Juryo escapee, Chiyomaru, is fighting hard to ensure he’s not relegated back to the farm league any time soon. Today he faces Takarafuji whom he has never beaten.

Takanoiwa vs Aoiyama – Unbeaten Aoiyama faces a rikishi with zero wins so far. Aoiyama has a limited range of sumo, but at this rank he is able to fight with great effect. Right now he is tied with Hakuho for the leader position of the basho.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho shows no sign of slowing down, and in fact is looking sharper every day that he is on the dohyo. He has a slight career edge of Daieisho. Both of them are avid oshi-zumō disciples, so the blows will fly in their bout. Look for Daieisho to try to win the tachiai and keep Onosho outside and on the move.

Tochiozan vs Kagayaki – Tochiozan is quietly racking up an impressive score so far, and seems to be very effective at taking control of the bout and imposing his plans on each match. Kagayaki is a young up-and comer, and may not have much to counter the veteran’s battle plan. This is a first meeting between these two.

Ura vs Takakeisho – Ura has never beaten Takakeisho. In their 6 prior matches, he’s not been able to overcome Takakeisho’s blistering attacks. Typically Takakeisho begins with a massive tachiai, and then rains blows down on Ura until he crumbles. Maybe Ura will take a page from Hakuho and offer him the chest?

Yoshikaze vs Mitakeumi – Match with one of the highest potentials for awesome on day 6. Although common sense would be to vote for the Sekiwake over the Komusubi, Mitakeumi has lost all 3 of their prior bouts. I am sure Yoshikaze is looking for some actual sumo after day 5’s Hakuho Henka (Henkaho? Hakukaka?).

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Please oh please let Goeido 2.0 come out to play today. If we can get that this could be a huge brawl between two practitioners of sumo at lighting speed with overwhelming amounts of aggression. Just what we need to start the second act.

Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Big and strong meets big and strong. Time fans to find out not only what kind of condition Tochinoshin’s knee is in, but also how lose both rikishi’s fillings are. I predict a monster collision at the tachiai followed by a burly man mega brawl. But be on the look out for a Tochinoshin henka. He uses it sparingly, and with Takayasu’s tendency to rush forward strongly, it would be highly effective.

Hakuho vs Hokotofuji – Hokotofuji will get a very different reception, I would guess, than Takakeisho did. Where Takakeisho is kind of small and almost like a capsule toy, Hokotofuji is a lumbering hulk who spends a lot of time studying his opponents. Hakuho will likely try to nullify him at the tachiai and blast him out early. To have any chance, Hokotofuji will have to sacrifice everything, and endure a torrent of tsuppari to get inside. Without that, it’s all Hakuho.

Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these two wrecks should be in dry dock, not on the dohyo. Not that it really matters much given both of them would qualify for wheel chairs, but Kotoshogiku has a slight career edge at 34-31.

Ikioi vs Harumafuji – I am sure Ikioi is happy his only win is a kinboshi. So I am sure that Harumafuji will pommel him around a bit before he takes Ikioi to the clay.

Nagoya Day 2 Highlights


Day 2 Iri

Concern For Harumafuji

Day 2 saw things improve slightly for the top two ranks, but in the Ozeki there is a lack of dominance. For Terunofuji, it would seem quite clearly that his knee problems are quite significant, and keeping him from really producing much power. The amount of bracing and bandaging Terunofuji wore on day 2 was substantial, and his inability to counter anything Tamawashi was using identifies the problem squarely. In the past I have jokingly referred to Terunofuji as Kaiju – a tangential reference to Godzilla and other giant creatures of the cinema. When he is healthy and fit, Terunofuji is somewhat unstoppable by any normal means (much like Godzilla).

Goeido on the other hand seems to be healthy, but is making tactical mistakes in his split-second decisions on the dohyo. Today he seemed to want to get into a speed battle with Yoshikaze. That’s a bit like Wile E Coyote racing the Road Runner – it won’t end well. As of day 2, both established Ozeki have two losses and zero wins.

I would add to that score an unexpected name – Yokozuna Harumafuji. Normally Nagoya is the place where he shines, but for two days in a row he has suffered defeat. Today Shodai was somehow able to package him up and move him off the dohyo. For Harumafuji (“The Horse”) this is clearly a further manifestation of his many injuries that continue to degrade his performance.

Selected Matches

Nishikigi defeats Gagamaru – After one basho in Juryo, Nishikigi seems well motivated, and overcame the greater mass of Planet Gagamaru, who seems to be injured or in pain.

Arawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni is looking very sloppy now. He drove hard into Arawashi, who countered brilliantly and used Chiyonokuni strength to speed his exit. Sometimes an up and coming rikishi makes it to the top of Maegashira for a basho, and get pounded flat. It then takes several tournaments for them to re-assert their sumo with any confidence or poise. I wonder if that is what has happened to Chiyonokuni.

Shohozan defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi suffers from a chronic and somewhat untreatable (while he is active) injury, but he put up a solid effort against Shohozan. I am going to guess that Okinoumi will retire before long as he has few options now.

Daieisho defeats Ishiura – No Ishiura henka means that Daieisho got to really toss Ishiura around. Daieisho was very impressive in this bout.

Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Not a powerful win from Onosho, he probably sensed that Tochiozan had a yorikiri almost ready to deliver. But Onosho showed amazing presence by timing a side step at the apex of Tochiozan’s forward thrust. A win by Hikiotoshi in this case was more impressive than a strong oshidashi.

Ura defeats Chiyoshoma – I think most were expecting Ura to dial the Jackie Chan module up to 11 in his debut in the upper Makuuchi. Instead what we are getting are quite excellent execution of solid sumo fundamentals. Ura remains low, powerful and moving forward. Sadly it looks like Ura took a finger to the eye in his win over Chiyoshoma.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Highlighted as a possible match of the day, this one did not disappoint. Both are amazingly strong young men, focused on advancing. This bout was all Mitakeumi, who got his hands under Hokutofuji’s armpits and marched him backwards. Impressive victory.

Tamawashi defeats Terunofuji – Tamawashi again is making the case that he has a lot of sumo left to apply, and today he was out to demonstrate that against a seemingly injured Terunofuji. Terunofuji was stiff and reactive, he was not able to bring his trademark hideous strength to play in this match, and Tamawashi tossed him around like a beach ball on a string.

Takayasu defeats Ikioi – The shin-Ozeki came roaring back in a really sloppy match that still counts as a win. Out of 6 Ozeki matches thus far, this is the only win. My pre-basho projection of Ikioi having a strong tournament is clearly wrong, as he looks unfocused and ill prepared for battle.

Yoshikaze defeats Goeido – I saw something really special again today from Yoshikaze. He deployed it on day one against Harumafuji as well, and he does not frequently use it: patience. It did not take long for Goeido to make a mistake, but Yoshikaze waited for it, and then exploited it for a win. Goeido really looks ragged right now.

Hakuho defeats Tochinoshin – It’s clear the Boss is having fun on the dohyo. He gave Tochinoshin a few moments to trade “strong man” moves back and forth. And at least once he was almost able to lift to Yokozuna off the clay. If Tochinoshin’s right leg were healthy, it would have been a different story, but Hakuho backed Tochinoshin to the bales and hip-rammed him out.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – I thought this bout was magic. We knew that Ojisan Kotoshogiku is pretty much just making a farewell tour now, but Kakuryu did in fact let him set up for a hip-pump attack, and then dropped him hard on the first thrust. This is one of the things that makes Kakuryu a worthy Yokozuna when he’s healthy. He can use almost any rikishi’s attack to his advantage.

Kisenosato defeats Takakeisho – Glad that the Great Pumpkin was able to get a win against the hard-charging Takakeisho, but Kisenosato struggled to pull it off. The Yokozuna is still clearly protecting his left side, and it’s only a matter of time before the problems grow to the point he will consider going kyujo again.

Shodai defeats Harumafuji – This one was over the a blink of an eye. Harumafuji won the tachiai, but was off balance quickly. Shodai showed why he remains the upper ranks by immediately exploiting that opening for a solid kinboshi win.

Nagoya Day 2 Preview


Yoshikaze

Will The Ozeki Corps Recover?

Day One was the kind of open that sumo fans dream about. The unexpected was out in full force, and everyone had their expectations re-set (myself included). As Tachiai had been implying, the up-and-coming crop of young rikishi are working hard to de-throne much of the established brand name sumotori we have loved for years. This is the natural order of things, and I welcome it. Be aware, things will revert to normal soon, possibly on day 2. Ozeki and Yokozuna have lost face massively, and they will fight with redoubled strength and determination today.

But it was a beating unlike any that has been seen in at least a decade. Out of the 7 men in the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps, only 2 of them won. There were a couple of telling indications.

Kakuryu – Big K, who is frequently the one everyone worries will fall first, looked convincing and solid. Shodai is easy enough if you know his repeating weakness (crummy tachiai), but Kakuryu looked strong, planted, solid and (dare I say it?) healthy. If we have a genki Kakuryu, the fun factor goes up quite a lot.

Hakuho – Clearly the Boss is back in fighting form. Ojisan Kotoshogiku is a shadow of the Ozeki who won the 2016 Hatsu basho, so Hakuho’s win is no surprise. But the Boss is clearly running well and looking to be is normal dominant self.

Goeido – Did anyone else notice he reconstructed ankle was not taped? And that in his battle of strength with Tochinoshin he was pushing hard with both feet? I am happy to assume now that the repairs were effective, and we may get to see Goeido 2.0 again some day.

Kisenosato – Clearly he is still far short of his normal health. Mitakeumi picked a vulnerable route and worked it hard, with great success. That’s the real problem. As a Yokozuna, you are not supposed to have easily exploitable vulnerabilities.

Yoshikaze – Holy smokes! That was excellent sumo no matter how you slice it. I am greatly impressed that Harumafuji was able to mount such an effective defense at the drop of a hat. Yoshikaze is clearly still having a lot of fun being an active sekitori, and with bouts like day 1, I can see why. The NSK must be happy they made him San’yaku or they would be paying out still more kinboshi.

Once again, like day 1, the interest level in day 2 matches is broad and intense. There is the potential in Nagoya for one of the most pivotal, and exciting tournaments in several years.

Matches We Like

Nishikigi vs Gagamaru – Nishikigi was clearly unhappy with his visit to Juryo last basho, and it was a wake up call to tune up or give up. Today he faces Planet Gagamaru, who is a walking complexity of sumo malfunction. Popular in the broader Japanese media, Gagamaru seems to have lost any edge he may have had in the past.

Sokokurai vs Takekaze – Sokokurai looked very strong day one, and he needs some momentum going into week two. Tachiai expects any number of kyujo rikishi to throw chaos into scheduling, and any wrestler with a decent record will be pulled higher in the torikumi to fill in. Takekaze is no slouch, and he needs to get out of the lower Maegashira ranks to keep himself in business.

Chiyonokuni vs Arawashi – Chiyonokuni was lost and off balance day 1. He has in the past been strong and poised, and we worry the thumping he took during Natsu wrecked his confidnece and drive to win. He will get no quarter from Arawashi, who needs to renew his record, too.

Ishiura vs Daieisho – Ishiura pulled out a rather unsavory henka on day 1, and we can be certain that Daieisho is going to bring some caution to his tachiai. Watch for an early attempt at a slap down, or even a Daieisho henka.

Onosho vs Tochiozan – Onosho is picking up where he left off from Natsu. Today he is against Tochiozan, who seems to again be showing some rather good sumo. This is their first match up ever, so very interesting to fans.

Ura vs Chiyoshoma – Ura day 1 was impressive. He was a whirling mass of chaos with an overall theme that he used to his advantage. In their prior two matches, Ura has won them both, but I am looking for Chiyoshoma to deploy something new day 2.

Kagayaki vs Endo – It’s tough watching Endo with the new mawashi. My poor sleep starved mind just associated Endo with his old color. Kagayaki’s big problem is inconsistency. When he is “on” he has what it takes to be an upper Maegashira, but he struggles to maintain that form. Interestingly enough, Endo has yet to defeat Kagayaki!

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – Could be the match of the day. Two lead riskishi in the class of “up and coming” square off for supremacy. Both are formidable, both are capable of winning. Both are going to bring a strong attack. Their only prior match was won by Mitakeumi, so pay attention to this bout!

Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – Terunofuji on day 1 looked quite disorganized. There were some reports that his knees were bothering him in the lead up to Nagoya, and this bout against the hard charging Tamawashi will tell us much about the Ozeki’s health. As a big Terunofuji fan, I do hope he is healthy.

Takayasu vs Ikioi – Ikioi looked like hell on day 1, and completely blew what could and should have been a competitive bout. Takayasu! Get it together! I will be highly agitated if the shin-Ozeki launches his career with a kadoban mark.

Yoshikaze vs Goeido – As with day 1, Goeido will need to decide if he wants to go strength or speed. If he lets Yoshikaze control the match, it will likely be speed and he will have to start on defense. Goeido 2.0 would go left hand inside at the tachiai and heave-ho the berserker off the clay before he can even blink.

Hakuho vs Tochinoshin – I know Tochinoshin is going to put up a strong and vigorous struggle, so I am eager to see how Hakuho wins this one.

Kotoshogiku vs Kakuryu – Bonus points to Big K if he lets Kotoshogiku set up the hip-pump attack and then defeats him. I am convinced a healthy Kakuryu has a way to counter almost any attack, so the more we can see him deploy, the better.

Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – This could be a really important match for several bad reasons. If we see Kisenosato once again defeated directly, it indicates that Japan’s favorite Yokozuna has little choice left except to put himself into the queue for surgery. I know the NSK and Kisenosato do not want that. But it may be that or retirement.

Shodai vs Harumafuji – I am looking for The Horse to get back to form, and to bend Shodai up onto a crane shape prior to sending him back to the dressing room. I think Shodai has a lot of potential, but he needs to work on some fundamentals to get to the next level.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights


Goeido

This Basho Keeps Giving

I have recalled many tournaments where things fade a bit on the last few days, the yusho is kind of a foregone conclusion, or there are no really competitive things going on except maybe a few top matches. Given the number of sekitori that have withdrawn, this seemed quite possible this basho, but it has kept fans engaged right up until the end. This is a fine example of the schedulers spinning gold out of straw, and I complement them without reservation.

We were following the Komusubi, and both of them locked up kachi-koshi today, which is a fantastic and interesting development. There is one Sekiwake slot open for July, and it’s going to come down to the final day and total win count to see who gets it. Either of them would be a great choice, but in spite of being a huge Yoshikaze fan, I think Mitakeumi is the better fit.

Although no one in the Japanese sumo press discussing this much, it’s clear that Harumafuji’s performance took a step down after his bouts earlier this week. He had very little power to ground with Goeido today, who (thankfully) had the mojo to exploit the weakness and drive to a win. There had been some cat calls over Goiedo’s easy path to lift kadoban, but with a win over a Yokozuna, he’s got nothing to hide from now.

Juryo keeps refusing to behave. We now have two rikishi at 9-5, and 12 (!) at 8-6. Furthermore, the two leaders right now are none other than long suffering sekitori Nishikigi, who would be welcome back in Makuuchi, and the relic Aminishiki, who is now 38 years old! Never give up, never surrender!

Highlight Matches

Chiyotairyu defeats Gagamaru – Chiyotairyu picks up his kachi-koshi, and holds onto Makuuchi in a match against Planet Gagamaru. Gagamaru is a real mixed bag, like Ichinojo, he probably relies too much on a lot of mass as a defensive system. There is a lot to be said for bulk in sumo, but there are a host of sumotori who lose mobility and attack power as their weight climbs. I would count Gagamaru among them. I bet he would improve greatly if he shed 10-15 kg before July.

Onosho defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is now make-koshi, and Onosho keeps rolling on. It’s really kind of impressive the sumo he has been able to put together on his Makuuchi debut, and I hope it’s a sign of good battles to come. Arawashi was late in setting up his throw, and was out before he could swing Onosho down.

Shohozan defeats Kaisei – Kaisei’s demotion to Juryo or persistence in Makuuchi comes down to the final day, he is now at 7=7 after his loss to Shohozan.

Takakeisho defeats Ura – Ura has still never beaten Takakeisho in a match. Today Ura looked out of control, vague and confused. Takakeisho had Ura under control and off the dohyo in a hurry, and it was really impressive.

Hokutofuji defeats Endo – Ok… Endo beats two Ozeki and a Yokozuna this basho. He even put Yoshikaze away on day 11. Yet he is deeply make-koshi, and lost to a Maegashira 7 today. Granted, Hokutofuji is a powerful up-and-comer, but Endo either has some mechanical injury, or needs to get his mind in his sumo. We hope the stretch between now and July can help him get things together.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – Solid match from both, but it was all Yoshikaze today. He gets his kachi-koshi and will stay in San’yaku for July. I also get the impression that Yoshikaze is really have fun with his sumo this basho. He has not looked this dialed in since last summer.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – HENKA! The NHK commentator, Hiro Morita, was really upset by this. But let’s get real here, Tochinoshin was squirrels before the tachiai, he practically telegraphed this to Tamawashi. Tamawashi, keep your head up and eyes on your opponents center of mass during the tachiai. Everyone who plays a football lineman in the US understands this. It’s not that tough.

Kotoshogiku defeats Daieisho – Ojisan seems really sullen and resigned now, and it’s a bit depressing. I am sure he is trying to figure out if he stays in as he floats down the banzuke, or if he takes his kabu and transitions into a behind the scenes role. He is now and can always be a big deal in sumo, but he continues to diminish.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – This one was a bit of a surprise, and in my book, it was Takayasu who made a few mistakes and Shodai who had the sumo sense to make him pay. It’s possible he was out celebrating with his mother and father (and friends) last night, and may have been a bit ragged during the match. Shodai kept moving forward, no matter what, thus he won.

Goeido defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji is back to suffering from his lower body problems. It robs him of mobility and a strong stable platform to bend opponents into odd shapes and hurl them into the sun. He will close out the basho with a respectable double digit record, and what could be a really fun match with Hakuho. Much respect to Harumafuji indeed!

Natsu Day 10 Preview


bow-twirling

Closing Out The Second Act.

Hard to believe, but we are about to complete the middle ⅓ of Natsu. Hakuho and Harumafuji are the leaders, with no one really able to even give either of them a decent fight so far. There is a lot of interest in Takayasu vs Hakuho, which is the final match of the day. Frankly I don’t think it will be much of a contest, and I say this as a hard core Takayasu fan. Right now Hakuho is back to his old amazing ways, and the only people who could possibly challenge him are Harumafuji, or a healthy Kisenosato. Sadly no chance for a healthy Kisenosato.

Harumafuji appears to have at least mildly injured his right knee in his dive off the dohyo defeating Tamawashi. If this is something the trainers can work, or another performance limiting injury, we should be able to tell tomorrow when Harumafuji faces a surprisingly resurgent Tochiozan. Tochiozan made very easy work of Kisenosato on day 9, and it brings up a really tricky question.

If Kisenosato, is having a sub-par (for him) basho, everyone knows it’s because he is more or less a one armed Yokozuna. Everyone gets it, and frankly we are all amazed that he is still competitive in this condition. But given that the press and the YDC are very critical of Yokozuna with sub-par performance, are they going to make a point of admonishing him? Are they just going to keep quiet because he is the Japanese golden boy? This is very ugly territory. Don’t be surprised if at some point this week, Kisenosato goes Kyujo. No one in their right mind would blame him. In my opinion he should be recovering from surgery right now, but he is too dedicated to sumo, and the dignity of his Yokozuna rank.

Natsu Leader board

LeadersHarumafuji, Hakuho
Hunt Group – Takayasu
Chasers – Terunofuji, Shodai, Tochinoshin, Ura

6 Matches Remain

Apologies, but the match previews will be brief, jet-lag is crushing me today.

Matches We Like

Tochinoshin vs Daishomaru – Both of these rikishi are exceeding their baseline for the last 3 basho. Daishomaru is coming in with 6-3, and Tochinoshin has an outstanding 7-2, and if he wins would clinch his kachi-koshi. In their 3 prior bouts, Tochinoshin won them all.

Kaisei vs Ura – The fans love a big vs little bout. It will be really interesting to see if Ura’s gymnastics work against the meat mountain that is Kaisei. This is their first match ever.

Okinoumi vs Daieisho – both of these men are 1-8. This is the saddest match in sumo. Both are already make-koshi. Both are facing significant demotion.

Terunofuji vs Yoshikaze – While I love me some Yoshikaze, Terunofuji is clearly Kaiju positive right now, and if he gets frustrated using his technique to defeat you, he just picks you up and carries you to the curb like this week’s non-burnable trash. I am going to be curious to see what if anything Yoshikaze does to try and counter this. Career record of 6-5 in favor of Terunofuji, so they are, at times, evenly matched.

Harumafuji vs Tochiozan – Previewed above, the prior 32 matches have been mostly won by Harumafuji (24-8), but Harumafuji may have hurt himself day 9, and Tochiozan is looking surprisingly good, especially coming off of his kinboshi against Kisenosato day 9.

Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – This should be a Kisenosato win. I expect that Kisenosato will go kyujo as soon as he secures his kachi-koshi, which could come day 11. But interestingly enough, Kotoshogiku holds a slight 33-31 career edge over Kisenosato. Both of them are operating at a fraction of their typical capabilities, so who knows where this one is going.

Takayasu vs Hakuho – This one has everyone excited, but I am calling my bet for Hakuho. Their career record is 14-2 in favor of the Michael Jordan of sumo. Takayasu is a man on a mission, and is looking good, but Hakuho is more or less his old self right now, and that means beating him requires speed, strength and a large amount of luck.