Natsu Day 9 Preview

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

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

Natsu Leaderboard

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

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

7 Matches Remain

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

What We Are Watching Day 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natsu Day 8 Highlights

Endo – The Golden

What better time to really shake up the basho than the middle day? The first week was nothing but warm up, a prelude if you will to the real contest that starts now. And change was afoot in the Kokugikan, with losses dealt to fan-favorites up and down the banzuke. Some of that will be covered in today’s “Ones to Watch” post, some of it… Now.

Day 8 Highlights

Daishoho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi tries to be as low as possible, and leaves himself wide open for Daishoho to apply lateral and downward force. The result is a nicely executed katasukashi, with Daishoho rendering a look of both satisfaction and amusement that Terutsuyoshi thought that what he was doing was going to work.

Kotoeko vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu suffers again from his “cab forward design”, as Kotoeko expertly uses Tokushoryu’s propensity to fall forward to great effect.

Enho defeats Chiyomaru – Everyone was hyped for this match, and it did not disappoint. Enho does a masterful job of not staying still long enough for Chiyomaru to do anything rather than get frustrated. Enho grabs a leg and helps Chiyomaru out. As I love to say, being enormous is not necessarily a sumo tactic. Especially if you fight Enho.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a hit-grab-shift, but Shimanoumi stays focused on Ishiura’s center-mass and rolls with him, never allowing Ishiura to generate any real offense.

Shohozan defeats Yago – In the battle of the giant heads, it’s great to note that you have Yago expending a lot of energy flailing away, and you have Shohozan who stays compact and low. He keeps Yago in front of him, and is very efficient with his sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Sadanoumi gets the job done by repeatedly overwhelming all attempts by Tochiozan to change the pace and form of the match to his terms. Sadanoumi works quickly, and keeps changing the attack profile, and always moving forward.

Shodai defeats Tomokaze – There are days when (as readers note) I think Shodai is a complete chump who stumbled into the top division, but he’s so nice and so polite no one wants to ask him to leave. Then there are days when this form of Shodai shows up and you go “daayyymm”. True to form, Shodai’s tachiai is terrible, but after that it’s ka-boom!

Meisei defeats Onosho – Watch this match in slow-motion. Now watch it again. It’s over in a blink of an eye, but you can see Meisei instinctively react and execute with perfection after Onosho lands a forceful tachiai, and looks ready to bowl Meisei over.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – It was not flashy, it was not amazing, but Asanoyama got the job done. He is looking really sharp this basho, and his fans hope that he’s made a step change to his sumo.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – again we don’t see much offense from Yoshikaze, but sadly we did not see much offense from Kagayaki either. This was a kind of pointless match where they both could have taken a kuroboshi and gone to the pub instead.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi still showing up, but whatever kami had a hold of him earlier this year is back in whatever massive tree it normally inhabits. Ryuden keeps plugging away, and we will see him near the top of the rank and file in July, I would guess.

Daieisho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has nothing to bring to this match, no canon-ball tachiai, no blistering tsuppari, he’s just not brining his best sumo. Daieisho does his part by driving hard and focusing on Chiyotairyu’s expansive upper body.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Matta, Matta, ker-blam! Hokutofuji shuts down Abi-zumo for a moment, but then Hokutofuji decides to try a pull / slap down, and reaches high. This opens up his chest and here comes the double arm shove from Abi. Hokutofuji needs a formula to win against this guy.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – Fans know Endo is a master technician who many times can’t quite execute his brilliant sumo plans. But then you have today where he sacrifices a chance at Tochinoshin landing his lethal left in order to latch a mae-mitsu with the right hand. He mixes that with a pivot and a bit of luck (Tochinoshin loses traction) and its uwatedashinage magic at the shikiri-sen. Tochinoshin picks up his first loss.

Aoiyama defeats Takakeisho – On one hand, I could complain that Man-mountain Aoiyama executed a henka like a chump. Or I could look at this as the easiest way to defeat Takakeisho without taking much of a chance at further injuring him. One thing is clear, the path to kachi-koshi just got a lot more risky for Takakeisho.

Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi made this harder than it should have been, but I liked it because it was an excellent showcase for Takayasu’s really outstanding yotsu abilities. I am sticking with the theory that Takayasu is low-function now due to injury.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Goeido gets a lucky break when the tata-gyoji scampers to a bad position on the dohyo and arrests Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, allowing Goeido to rally and carry the match. Truth be told, Goeido looked sharp this match, putting in doubt my theory that his ankle is back in poor shape.

Tamawashi defeats Kakuryu – Tamawashi focuses, pushes and drives. He is rewarded with his 3rd kinboshi and a storm of zabuton flying at the dohyo. Kakuryu takes his first trip to the clay, and suddenly the chase for the Emperor’s Cup is blown wide open.

With no rikishi now undefeated, the stage is set for a brutal brawl to the finish, it’s anyone’s guess who will take the yusho.

Hatsu Day 7 Highlights

Some of our readers, and many sumo fans in general, have complained that recent basho have ended up being “Sumo light”, due to the lack of Yokozuna and Ozeki participation. As we near the half way point of this basho, we are down to 1 Yokozuna and 1.5 Ozeki, and the focus really has shifted to the lower ranks. With so many titans of sumo off the dohyo, the focus has shifted to the lower ranks.

I am impressed that Goeido is soldiering on, and finding ways to win in spite of the problems with his right arm. I expect him to go kyujo after he can manage an 8th win. Thankfully Hakuho looks genki enough, and Takayasu seems to be over his flu.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – Any match with Chiyonokuni has the potential to be a mad-cap barn burner, and today Yutakayama put everything he could towards a win. The result was a wild tsuki-oshi fest that see-sawed back and forth. A great way to start the top division today.

Kotoyuki defeats Daiamami – A second spirited bout to start the day, Daiamami held advanage several times, but The Penguin battled back each time. At attempted slap down reversed the opponents, and Kotoyuki put Daiamami’s back to the tawara, and pushed with purpose.

Yago defeats Daishomaru – Hapless, winless Daishomaru has nothing serious to offer the surging youngster Yago, and goes down to defeat. We did, however, get to see Yago engage in a oshi-zumo match, and win.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s attempt at a face slap embedded in his tachiai (ala Hakuho) results in Ikioi getting poked in the eye. In spite of (or fueled by) this, Ikioi surges into battle with yet another injury and finds a way to overpower his opponent. Word is he was complaining of vision problems following the match.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – There seems to be some magic in Abi-zumo, as he effectively landed a nodowa against a many with no neck. Takarafuji found hims sumo disrupted, and battled to clear Abi’s attacks, but ran out of dohyo to maneuver.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Both men threw the kitchen sink at each other, with Endo calling the tune. At one point their early oshi fest went chest to chest and the competitors actually did look like they were dancing. Post match, Endo was holding his forehead – another oversized bandage for a Kagayaki competitor? Maybe he needs to modify that tachiai.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – Member of the Kagayaki head wound club Sadanoumi cannot endure Asanoyama’s spin attack, and eats clay. Asanoyama picks up a much needed win.

Kaisei defeats Onosho – The only rank and file undefeated rikishi takes a loss at the hands of a surprisingly genki Kaisei. With this loss, Hakuho has sole possession of the lead.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to have completely run out of energy to compete at the Makuuchi level. It’s painful to watch.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – The hatakikomi came quickly, and made me gasp. Few rikishi are big enough and fast enough to roll someone the size of Aoiyama, but Chiyotairyu certainly can.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to have lost his fighting spirit, and each day seems to be going through the motions. Kind of tough to watch, but when injuries happen, this is the result.

Hokutofuji fusensho Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi damaged his knee day 6, and is missing an excellent chance to run up the score against a reduced Ozeki and Yokozuna force. Hokutofuji picks up back to back default wins, something that has not happened in decades.

Myogiryu defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s magical adventure in the joi-jin looks like it has run out of gas. Can he refuel and return to surprising his opponents? I do hope so. Myogiryu gets a much needed win.

Tamawashi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan was on defense the entire match, and Tamawashi batted him about before deciding to finish him.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo has reverted to the docile form of whatever species he is, and failed to deactivate Takakeisho’s wave action attack by grabbing his opponent’s mawashi until it was too late and he was already struggling for balance.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Takayasu’s recovery from the flu continues, and he delivers the hug-n-chug to counter Kotoshogiku’s favorite attack strategy. With advantage in size, youth and joint health, Takayasu carried the match.

Goeido defeats Shodai – Impressive that Goeido is finding ways to win, now up to 3 wins out of a needed 8. He was helped by Shodai’s trademark crappy tachiai. Shodai was able to back to Ozeki to the bales, but did not lower his hips to thrust out Goeido, and instead Shodai launched his own body higher. Goeido capitalized on this blunder and won.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Hakuho is the lone undefeated rikishi, and is the man to beat for the Emperor’s cup. Shohozan could not generate much offense, and Hakuho waited for his moment and pulled “Big Guns” Shohozan down.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview

toilet-paper-stacking

Day 2 has a large mawashi to fill, as day 1 brought us more than expected. While there was great action across the top division for day 1, surprisingly little is being said about Kisenosato. Everyone expect this to be a rough ride for him, and sadly that is turning out to be the case.

In an article unearthed by Herouth, members of the YDC share their worries about Kisenosato, which is an unusual step and likely prefaces some more dramatic back-channel discussions with the ailing Yokozuna. Kisenosato went into battle on day 1 attempting to use his damaged left arm, and was roundly trounced by Mitakeumi. Now Mitakeumi is no push over, but Kisenosato had to know that leading left is no longer a viable attack strategy. The article mentions that he is falling back into the same bad, failed gambits that he used during his zero-win basho at Kyushu. For Kisenosato fans, this may be the last basho.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Daiamami vs Takagenji – Takagenji visits the top division, and we hope his dohyo etiquette is set to “excellent”. Daiamami did not look especially bright day 1, and I am sure he would like to even up his score with a win.

Yago vs Yutakayama – These two are similar in many ways, with the exception that Yutakayama is nursing multiple injuries. Yago may be on a energetic upward grind that may continue for the next few basho. The jury is out on Yutakayama and the status of his injuries.

Ikioi vs Abi – If Sadanoumi has Abi figured out, I am going to guess that Ikioi has as well. Hopefully Ikioi can exit the match without any blood this time, and I predict that Abi is going to bring out some of his alternate sumo if he faces an increasingly losing record.

Endo vs Asanoyama – Being an Endo fan is a rough ride, as the “Golden Boy” has a tough time maintaining rank above Maegashira 6. But he showed some good sumo against Takarafuji on day 1, and maybe he has it back together this time.

Daieisho vs Onosho – I expect Onosho to continue to dominate his matches. This basho is more of a test for his recovery more than anything else, and I think he will be slugging it out in upper Maegashira by mid-year.

Kotoshogiku vs Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain vs the Kyushu Bulldozer! Their series is always a battle to see who will win the tachiai, and set the terms of the match. Naturally Kotoshogiku wants to take Aoiyama to his chest and bounce him around and out, where Aoiyama will want to stay mobile and rain blows down on Kotoshogiku. Aoiyama’s mobility looked excellent day 1, so I may have to give him the edge this time, even though Kotoshogiku holds a 14-5 series lead.

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – The real question I have: Does Yoshikaze have any genki left in the batteries? Both men are fading stars of the era, and have long and well earned reputations as top division rikishi. But both are more frequently “muddling through” their matches, and show fewer sparks of their fondly remembered brilliance.

Takakeisho vs Shohozan – Shohozan’s poor footwork / ring rust on day 1 cost us a prolonged slug fest. He will need to focus on his stability in the face of Takakeisho’s increasingly complex wave-action attack modes.

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I am looking for Shodai to return to his improved form that we saw in Kyushu today. I think getting tossed around by Takakeisho may have woken him up. And if not, I am sure a couple blows to the head by Tamawashi may help.

Takayasu vs Myogiryu – Between the fever and the fact that Myogiryu holds an 11-5 advantage over Takayasu, I am looking for the Ozeki to have another crummy day on the dohyo. Takayasu is not overly nimble when genki, and he will be hard pressed to deal with Myogiryu’s mobility.

Nishikigi vs Tochinoshin – I am looking for Tochinoshin to bounce back today, too. I think Nishikigi caught Goeido trying to file down some ring-rust, and cashed in. Tochinoshin was rough on day 1, but Nishikigi likes to go chest to chest, and that will put Tochinoshin in the drivers seat.

Hokutofuji vs Goeido – I think Hokutofuji has one chance, and that’s to land that handshake tachiai again today. Goeido is going to be spun up and fierce after letting Nishikigi literally roll him around like a piece of discarded mochi. I look for the Ozeki to accelerate inside of Hokotufuji’s initial nodowa gambit and put maximum pressure full ahead. If he finds him mark, Hokutofuji may wonder what happened.

Kisenosato vs Ichinojo – Much to Josh’s delight, I am starting to stack my toilet paper horde for the approach Kiseno-pocolypse. Before he was a tragic Yokozuna, he was one of the most solid Ozeki the sport had seen in years. In spite of his damaged body and his deconditioning, Kisenosato has the capacity to find a way to win. If we see the same Ichinojo that chased Takayasu out of the ring, the Mongolian behemoth may find himself enjoying the rarely seen Tagonoura sandwich with tonight’s ice cream.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Herouth pointed out that at the end of day 1’s match, Kakuryu looked disappointed at Tochiozan for a somewhat pathetic henka attempt. Day 2 will bring a more meaty battle against Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi dispatched a disoriented looking Kisenosato with solid sumo, and I predict he will will give Kakuryu a straight ahead fight.

Tochiozan vs Hakuho – The boss is back, and he’s looking lean, strong, and aggressive. Tochiozan needs better sumo than day 1, or he’s going to be on the receiving end of one of Hakuho’s famous flying lessons.

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!

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 2 Preview

Kisenosato Aki 2018

Day 1 gave us great sumo, but few surprises. With plenty of ring-rust left to shed, fans can expect some of the unexpected in the first 5 days. Will day 2 deliver?

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ishiura vs Yoshikaze – Tough to believe, but it seems this is the first time these two have fought. Ishiuran is still struggling to figure out what his kind of sumo will be, and Yoshikaze looks like he just wants to go sit in an onsen until that rash clears up.

Ryuden vs Takanosho – Takanosho looked fresh, eager and genki in his day 1 debut match, just as much as Ryuden looked vague and stale. Ryuden is at real risk of returning to Juryo, and needs to find the sumo that took him to mid-Maegashira levels earlier this year.

Chiyomaru vs Takanoiwa – I suspect we are going to see some fierce sumo from Takanoiwa. He has been very eager to return to the top division, and resume his push for higher rank. Everyone loves Chiyomaru, but I think he will need to do something new to overcome Takanoiwa today.

Nishikigi vs Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi’s day 1 match against Okinoumi showed that Nishikigi seems to have made a step-change improvement to his sumo. He holds a 7-3 career advantage over Kyokutaisei, but as a long time follower of Nishikigi, I have to wonder if he is starting to put together a successful campaign towards a steady Maegashira 6 level ranking. Kyokutaisei still seems to be struggling to find his Makuuchi footing.

Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – Daieisho won their only prior match, and I am eager to see if we get to see Hokutofuji’s “Handshake” tachiai again today. It establishes Hokutofuji with an inside position that he can use to control his opponent. Daieisho will be working to raise Hokutofuji as best he can out of the tachiai. I am expecting a real battle here.

Aoiyama vs Daishomaru – After his day 1 match against Daieisho, Aoiyama is looking to bounce back against his stablemate Daishomaru, who has not yet been able to overcome the “Man-Mountain” in the 3 prior attempts. Daieisho did a masterful job of boxing in Aoiyama on day 1, perhaps Daishomaru can do the same.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – Kotoshogiku looksd smooth and in total control of his day 1 match, but day 2 he faces another long serving veteran in Tochiozan. They two share a 17-20 career record: thats 37 matches over more than a decade of sumo.

Myogiryu vs Kagayaki – Great match here. Myogiryu brings intensity to his matches, Kagayaki brings structure and discipline. Which force will prevail on day 2? I give a slight edge to Kagayaki right now. He seems to be aware but not worried about rank, he is simply looking at every match as a chance to improve.

Onosho vs Asanoyama – Rusty, rusty Onosho will try to apply some steel wool before his match with Asanoyama. Asanoyama seems to have genuinely settled into his sumo now, and is a solid mid-Maegashira entrant for now. Time will tell us if he can make the step change to the joi-jin. Onosho has the skill and the drive, but I am going to guess his body is not quite back to being ready, yet.

Shodai vs Chiyonokuni – Both had disappointing day 1 losses, both put forth some solid sumo, but came up short. I would give the edge to Chiyonokuni, but I will be closely watching Shodai’s tachiai. His first step against Mitakeumi was something new, and if it was not a happy accident, it could mean that we are going to see much better sumo from Shodai soon.

Abi vs Endo – Endo got the rag-doll treatment from Ichinojo on day 1, while Abi-zumo prevailed. Abi’s stick-insect proportions seem to give many rikishi fits, so Endo may be in for a rough start for Aki. Abi – get some different sumo, or you are going to end up like Ishiura, with your magic trick expected and defeated.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – I am expecting a thunderous tachiai from Chiyotairyu, followed by a lightning fast drive to the bales. If Mitakeumi runs the same plan as day 1, he will only have seconds to arrest his backward motion and counter-attack. Chiyotairyu is faster, stronger and much more massive than Shodai. They are evenly matched at 4-4 over their career record.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Both men will launch hard off the shikiri-sen, and both men are brawlers. Goeido looked good on day 1, but simply could not carry the match against the enormous Kaisei. His record against Tamawashi shows them to be quite evenly matched (9-8).

Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – I think Tochinoshin will once again go for a fast left, but we may see some good evasive sumo from Yutakayama, possibly a nodowa or other counter-attack move meant to keep Tochinoshin from getting his favored left hand grip.

Ichinojo vs Takayasu – Will we see the “bad pony!” kimarite again on day 2? Takayasu tried to use his brutalist tachiai on day 1 and it got him stalemated by Yutakayama. Ichinojo is larger and stronger, but Takayasu seems to be in the habit of doing that every single match. This could and should be a great strength sumo match.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – Kakuryu won’t repeat Goeido’s mistake. 500 pounds of Kaisei is a lot to maneuver, but Kakuryu’s reactive sumo style means he will let Kaisei do most of the work for him, then the Yokozuna will finish him off. Kaisei has yet to be Kakuryu, but Kaisei does not seem to be the kind to let that discourage him.

Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – This will be their 4th match, and Takakeisho actually leads 2-1. So this will be a great test of how dialed in the Yokozuna really is. Both men looked like they had quite a bit of ring rust day 1, so both may stumble through this match. Kisenosato will try to keep Takakeisho from moving too far to his right, blunting the use of the left hand. Takakeisho will try to keep some daylight with the Yokozuna so he can apply his tsuppari. Please, nobody get hurt.

Ikioi vs Hakuho – Hakuho will again try for speed. If he is still nursing his need, long power matches are not in any of his plans right now. Ikioi will need to shut down the Yokozuna’s rapid advance, and ignore the face slap at the tachiai. There are some indications that Ikioi is having knee / foot problems, so this may be another quick win for Hakuho.