And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.
The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.
Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!
What We Are Watching Day 15
Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!
Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.
Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.
Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?
Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.
Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!
Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.
Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.
Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.
Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.
Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.
As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.
But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.
Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.
Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]
Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.
Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.
Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.
Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.
Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.
Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.
Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.
Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.
Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.
Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.
Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.
Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.
Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]
Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.
It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.
What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.
Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.
Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.
Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.
Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.
Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!
Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.
Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.
Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.
Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.
Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.
Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.
Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.
Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?
Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.
Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.
Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.
You can’t count on good fortune, but today sumo fans got a gift. In defeating Yokozuna Kakuryu, Tochinoshin opened up the yusho race once more. But who could imagine that all of the other leaders would lose as well? With just 3 matches left, a loss tomorrow against Kaisei puts the yusho up for grabs. While that would be very exciting, there is almost no chance that this will come to pass. Kakuryu made a huge mistake in going chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and the Hatsu yusho winner made him pay. I am going to guess the Yokozuna will not be so cavalier on Friday.
One item of note for sumo conspiracy theorists, Chiyotairyu has won 2 of his last 3 matches, after a disastrous start to Haru. Look closely at his image on the NHK video, and we can all see why he is returning to genki status. That’s right! He is regrowing his sideburns. We heartily welcome the return of Sumo Elvis, and hope that he will never remove his sideburns again.
Ishiura vs Daiamami – Apologies to the purists, but I am very frustrated with Ishura and his continuous henka deployment. The winner of this match gets kachi-koshi, and I think I am rooting for anyone but Ishiura at this point. He won their only prior match.
Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Battle of the Yama’s, this one is big against bigger. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is mostly for rank velocity. I would guess Aoiyama wants to repair his pride following his day 12 match with Ishiura.
Ikioi vs Chiyonokuni – Do you think Ikioi is going to slow down now that he is kachi-koshi? Hell no! Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins, and I am going to guess he will need to look elsewhere. I wish this version of Ikioi came to every basho, he’s pretty nifty.
Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has been fighting well against his own cohort lower down the banzuke, but today he’s going a bit higher against Okinoumi. Jason’s favorite rikishi (from Shimane-ken) has been lukewarm this tournament, but he can still get his 8 wins if he presses ahead.
Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Daieisho looking to get his kachi-koshi against an already make-koshi remnant of Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Daieisho is doing surprisingly well at Maegashira 8 this time, but Kotoshogiku is ranked Maegashira 3, and despite age and injuries is quite dangerous if you let him go chest to chest.
Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – As a true-green Yoshikaze fan, I can only watch with increasing sadness as the Berserker struggles daily with his torikumi. Tamawashi is likely to pick up his kachi-koshi today, and move to return to a san’yaku rank for May.
Endo vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru shocked Ozeki Takayasu on day 12, and now he is going to try his sumo against Endo. Endo dearly wants to make a bid for san’yaku himself, and needs to keep winning. Time will tell if Chiyomaru is having one good basho, of if this is a step change in the power of his sumo.
Abi vs Chiyotairyu – Sure, let’s put a Maegashira 7 up against a Komusubi. Slender Abi goes against the massive dreadnought-class Chiyotairyu. Both of them are going to unleash oshi-war on each other, but Abi is out-massed, and likely out-gunned. Nevertheless, this is going to be an interesting match! Oh, and Abi still needs 1 more win to secure promotion.
Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Big mass vs big guns, here we go! Their career record is 3-3, so I am expecting a battle here. It’s unlikely that Shohozan is going to be able to shove Ichinojo around easily, so his one hope is to grab a handful of fabric and maybe a roll of flesh, and push.
Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Somehow, it seems that Shodai was able to find his sumo, and make friends with it once more. But the chances of Shodai being able to take down the Hatsu yusho winner is, at least in my guess, very slim. I predict a quick belt grab by Tochinoshin off the tachiai, and a few steps to the tawara.
Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – If the Yoshikaze situation were not enough for me to swear off having favorites, it’s these two guys. Both of them have huge potential. Both of them seem to be completely out of sorts, run amok, possibly hurt and in no condition to strive for higher rank.
Takayasu vs Goeido – Ozeki fight! I think Takayasu has this one by a wide margin unless we get a Goeido henka, which is actually not very far fetched. I did like that Chiyomaru leveraged Takayasu’s cannonball tachiai on day 12. Serves him right. Serves him right again if he deploys it against Goeido and he makes him eat it.
Kakuryu vs Kaisei – The big match of the day. If Kakuryu loses this, the last two days will be a barnyard brawl for the hardware. But I am going to suggest that Kaisei won’t represent an impossible challenge for the Yokozuna: he has never managed to beat Kakuryu in any prior match.
A few quick bites of the day 9 action – apologies to fans if their favorite rikishi is skipped due to lack of time. Act 2 is working its magic, as the leaderboard is being shredded by the bout schedule. Kakuryu and Kaisei are still undefeated. At the end of day 9, there are no 1-loss rikishi remaining, and a decent group have fallen out of the 2-loss crowd as well.
With the nearest competitors now 2 losses behind, the next task is to see if Kaisei and Kakuryu can go the distance. At this point, both men would need to pick up 2 losses to re-open the yusho race. While that would be great for fan excitement and TV ratings, it’s a tall order. Kakuryu seems to still be healthy, wily, fast and strong. Kaisei is plain enormous and is no easy man to move, even when he is not ultra-genki. [Kakuryu is matched up against Chiyomaru tomorrow. Since there are five days of basho left after that, and five san’yaku opponents still for Kakuryu to face, it is unlikely we will see Kakuryu vs. Kaisei unless the yusho goes to a playoff or someone goes kyujo. –PinkMawashi]
Aminishiki defeats Hidenoumi – Aminishiki picks up a much-needed win, but he sure does look rough. Uncle Sumo is clearly banged up all the time now, but I admire his drive.
Aoiyama defeats Sokokurai – Sokokurai really provided no significant challenge for the Bulgarian Man-Mountain. Aoiyama’s 7-2 (8-1?)
Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – The happy sumotori drops the sole remaining man with one loss. It’s now two wins that separate the leaders from everyone else.
Daishomaru defeats Myogiryu – Daishomaru is not going to give up, he wins on day 9 to keep rooted in the 2 loss group.
Ikioi defeats Kotoyuki – A fight so nice, they did it twice. The shimpan called for a rematch after both men touched down in tandem, and Ikioi blasted Mr 5×5 over and out. Yep, Ikioi is part of that 2 loss crowd!
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyonokuni – Good to see Yoshikaze pick up a win. I would consider Chiyonokuni a possible heir to Yoshikaze’s berserker form in time, and he gave Yoshikaze a solid fight today. Double bonus points today for camera work. As Chiyonokuni drops to the clay, Yoshikaze has a grip on his mawashi knot, and it comes undone. With a palpable sense of urgency, the camera pans to the ceiling before Chiyonokuni can rise from the dohyo.
Abi defeats Okinoumi – Abi showed better form today, he kept his weight from getting too far forward and powered through Okinoumi’s defenses.
Kaisei defeats Ryuden – Again on day 9, there seems to be no stopping Kaisei. He faces Ichinojo on day 10, so it’s time to see how genki the Brazilian actually is.
Arawashi defeats Takarafuji – Arawashi finally gets his first win. Sadly it’s at the expense of Takarafuji picking up his make-koshi.
Tamawashi defeats Endo – Endo needs to come up with a few new battle plans. This match was far too similar to prior bouts with Tamawashi, and it was all Tamawashi.
Ichinojo defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho looked hurt yesterday and looked more hurt today. Something about the right leg, or perhaps a groin pull. Ichinojo was surprisingly gentle with him once he won.
Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – Wow, Tochinoshin looks really solid today. Shohozan is struggling now, after a fantastic start.
Kotoshogiku defeats Mitakeumi – Old school Kotoshogiku came from the shadows, with most of his strength but all of his skill today against Mitakeumi, and it was great to see. Mitakeumi is once again fading hard. What will it take for this guy to get double digits in san’yaku?
Chiyomaru defeats Goeido – Big surprise today, and it was the Ozeki who stepped out first by a wide margin in this “fling fest”. Goeido did not look bad today, he just had a mistimed step.
Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Takayasu delivers a mini-henka and rolls Chiyotairyu down. The surprise is that the spherical Chiyotairyu can actually stop before reaching Nagasaki.
Kakuryu defeats Shodai – This bout is one part Kakuryu’s reactive sumo in spades, one part “Dancing with the Stars”. As expected, Shodai is high at the tachiai, and Kakuryu plays with him for a few moments before evading Shodai’s charge.
Act 2 is running on overdrive and rikishi are being shunted away from the yusho hunt, but our leaders – the undefeated Kaisei and Yokozuna Kakuryu – have yet to show any inclination to lose a single match. At this point, the main group of contenders are two wins behind, and we would need to see both men lose not just one, but two of their next six matches. Mathematically possible, but it could be a tall order.
The easier mark is, of course, Maegashira 6 Kaisei. But don’t be fooled, Kaisei is huge, powerful and seems to be quite determined to keep pushing forward. He is, in fact, a serious contender. Given that Kaisei has in the past served and even had a winning record in San’yaku, he is not a total stranger to the pinnacle of sumo competition.
But this entire yusho race pivots on Yokozuna Kakuryu. Once again we head into the second week with him as the lone Yokozuna, and undefeated. At Hatsu, he struggled in the second week because he sustained an injury to his ankle which robbed him of the ability to create any forward pressure. If we see him looking hesitant, or not moving strongly forward, let’s all do ourselves a favor and assume he’s hurt, rather than that he lacks the fiber, courage or endurance to be a Yokozuna. Frankly, in the back half of this year and into 2019, he may be the only Yokozuna that survives.
Day 9’s matches continue to act 2’s theme – the scheduling team are creating increasingly interesting pairings, working to create three distinct groups, the contenders, the defeated and the survivors.
(Abbreviated due to a shortage of time – apologies if I miss your favorite rikishi)
Aminishiki vs Hidenoumi – Uncle Sumo continues to suffer in Juryo. Now at 2-6, he is nursing a worsening of his injured knee. Likely a Hidenoumi pick-up.
Sokokurai vs Aoiyama – I am going to come out and say it. Aoiyama has only 2 losses. Had he not been robbed in the first week, he would be 7-1 and the second man in the chase group. No going back, but this would be the second time in 12 months that he would have been a contender. As it is, this match is strongly in favor of the Bulgarian.
Daiamami vs Asanoyama – The lone man with 7 wins steps off against Asanoyama. They are evenly matched at 3-3 over their career, but Daiamami is having a good basho, so I expect him to come in genki and strong.
Ikioi vs Kotoyuki – Mr 5×5 has been unable to produce any offense this tournament. I expect Ikioi to dispatch him with a wince and grimace of pain.
Abi vs Okinoumi – First meeting between these two, but it seems to have potential. Abi looked very good on day 8, but he will need to think fast as Okinoumi has a deep library of sumo knowledge and experience to draw upon.
Kaisei vs Ryuden – Odd fact that Kaisei has never beaten Ryuden, they have had two prior matches. But Kaisei is looking very genki, and this is almost a kind of cupcake for him, I would think.
Endo vs Tamawashi – This has the potential to be a great match. Endo’s ablative sumo on day 8 really caught my attention – he took a huge blast to land the grip he wanted, and he made his opponent pay. Tamawashi also likes to open big and open strong. They have had 12 prior matches, and they are split evenly 6-6.
Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – You can see the frustration on Takakeisho’s face now. His oshi attack will face a significant uphill struggle against the Boulder. Takakeisho has beaten him 3 times out of 4, so I think he has a plan, and it’s time to see which version of Ichinojo shows up day 9: The one that beat Takakeisho in January, or the one that lost in November.
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Power and speed are in ample supply when these two are fighting. Shohozan will stay mobile and try to keep the Hatsu Yusho Winner away from his mawashi. Tochinoshin holds a career advantage, but Shohozan is looking to uproot Tochinoshin from the hunt group and return him to the survivor pool.
Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi is firmly in the survivor pool now, and it’s somewhat frustrating as I think Mitakeumi is going to contend for higher rank at some point, but he just can’t seem to muster any bold forward drive. Kotoshogiku has the aura or make-koshi hanging over him already, but Mitakeumi seems like he may have been hurt day 8.
Chiyomaru vs Goeido – Actually the first time these two have matched, I am going to give the nod to Goeido, as he seems to have a stable build of GoeiDOS 1.5.1 running right now.
Takayasu vs Chiyotairyu – Both of these giant men like to open with a huge overpowering tachiai. If Chiyotairyu were a little lighter, I would suspect a henka, as it would be an easy way to beat Takayasu if you can pull it off.
Kakuryu vs Shodai – Kakuryu loves to exploit mistakes of his opponents. We can assume Shodai will be high off the shikiri-sen and Big K will take over and put him down.
The second week is underway now for Haru. Act two is working as expected, as the number of rikishi who can contend for the cup keeps narrowing. At this point, the contest is centered on Yokozuna Kakuryu. He has performed masterfully thus far and has certainly shown his detractors as fools.
That said, the dark horse contender, Maegashira 6 Kaisei, is a storied veteran who has held San’yaku rank in the past. At some point in the next week, it’s likely we will see Kakuyru and Kaisei meet on the dohyo.
Ikioi defeats Kyokutaisei – The gyoji originally awards the match to Kyokutaisei, but the Monoii reversed that. An eagle-eyed judge caught Kyokutaisei’s right hand touch the dohyo as he was chasing down Ikioi to finish pushing him out. The crowd goes wild as local man Ikioi racks another win.
Daiamami defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi put up an excellent fight, but Daiamami wins again to remain only one win behind the leaders. After going chest to chest, the two stalemated in the center of the dohyo for a considerable period of time, but Daiamami rallied and finished Nishikigi by yorikiri. As Maegashira 16, there are many higher-ranked opponents he might face as a “test” of how firm his score is.
Aoiyama defeats Daishomaru – The Bulgarian pulls down Daishomaru with his enormous reach to remove Daishomaru from the group 1 behind the leaders. Quick, effective and uncompromising.
Sokokurai defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama took control of the match early, and they went chest to chest. Asanoyama began moving forward, but Sokokurai unloaded a fluid uwatenage against Asanoyama. Nice win for Sokokurai.
Ishiura defeats Hidenoumi – Dare I say it? Ishiura seems to be gaining confidence, and his sumo is looking better day by day. He dominated today’s match, and Hidenoumi was always a half step behind.
Myogiryu defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to pick up a single win and is now make-koshi. It’s been a disastrous basho for Mr 5×5.
Yutakayama defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki seems to always put up a good match, but today Yutakayama proved the stronger in this shoving battle.
Abi defeats Chiyonokuni – Excellent sumo from Abi today, he did not get too far forward, and he kept Chiyonokuni reacting to his sumo. His initial attempt to pull Chiyonokuni down failed, but he recovered to land a right-hand grip, which he then used to throw Chiyonokuni. I love the fact that on his way to the clay, Chiyonokuni tried one last attack – a foot grab, that nearly paid off.
Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Kaisei picks up his kachi-koshi on day 8 and is a legitimate contender for the Emperor’s cup. His match against Okinoumi had more in common with the day to day functions of earth moving equipment than it did with sumo. Kaisei lowered the blade, engaged the treads, and cleared the dohyo.
Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – Readers, know I am a sucker for a strength battle between two rikishi, and these two put on quite a show. They went chest to chest early and battled with vigor for any advantage. Unlike some matches that turn into a leaning contest, Ryuden kept pushing for a superior grip, and Hokutofuji kept blocking and breaking. Ryuden, unable to achieve any mawashi grip with his left hand, resorts to a boob-grab, much to the discomfort of Hokutofuji. This turned out to be the winning move, and he was able to keep Hokutofuji high and move him back and out. Although listed as yorikiri, I wonder if a new, breast specific, kimarite should be coined. We saw Harumafuji use this technique in the past against rikishi.
Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Thank goodness Takarafuji finally wins one. I will be so glad if he can rally now, and actually achieve kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru was slapping him relentlessly, but as Takarafuji tends to do, he just kept working to get his position, which he achieved. From there it was a quick set of steps to heave Chiyomaru out.
Shodai vs Tamawashi – Ok, are we back go the “good” version of Shodai now? I would like this one to stay. The discouraged, ready to quit one should go on vacation, and maybe never come back. Shodai was still too high at the tachiai, but Tamawashi could not move forward, and ended up with his heel on the tawara. Anticipating his counter-advance, Shodai used Tamawashi’s forward push to swing him down.
Ichinojo defeats Arawashi – Arawashi injured and make-koshi. Ichinojo absorbed Arawashi’s initial vigorous attack, and then calmly took him outside the ring.
Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Endo’s head snapped back from the force of Chiyotairyu’s tachiai, but his right hand latched shallow on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. This probably saved him from being down and out immediately. It also seems to have really fired Endo up, as he came back strong, and in a blink of an eye he pushed Chiyotairyu out. Good work from Endo to even up to 4-4. Worth a re-watch on slow motion, that right hand grab was only active for a moment, but it was the key to his win.
Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – The big Georgian forcibly removes Mitakeumi from the hunt group. Mitakeumi shifted at the tachiai, attempted a tottari, then came on strong. Tochinoshin gave ground, but quickly ran out of room. But he had enough of a grip to swing down the King of the Tadpoles for his 6th victory. [Mitakeumi looked to be limping after this bout; we all hope he’s ok. –PinkMawashi]
Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – Blink and you will miss this one. Takakeisho reaches for a left hand grip, but before he is set, he tries to pull the Ozeki down. Takayasu is ready, shifts to his right and pushes with considerable force. Takakeisho is out in a blink of an eye.
Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku gave him a very good match, but could not set up his hip thrusting attack. Goeido was off balance a few times, but manage to stay stable, and control the match. Both Ozeki are at a respectable 6-2 starting the second week.
Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – This was always going to be a tough match for the Yokozuna. Shohozan is a tough, brutal and fast rikishi. He prefers to pummel his opponents on the way to winning. Kakuryu started strong, looking to finish him early before anyone got hurt, but Shohozan rallied and began the pursuit. Kakuryu is incredibly mobile, and kept shifting, robbing Shohozan of each opportunity to rain blows down on the Yokozuna. As he moved, he kept striking Shohozan on the head, disorienting him. This worked, and he was able to slap down Shohozan for the win. Kachi-koshi for Big K, and he is the man to beat for the cup.
Please note – all articles written by Bruce H, IE Bruce Henderson formerly of San Diego, are in fact his opinion alone, and represent only his twisted outlook on the world of sumo. The very young, the very old and the easily outraged may find challenges ahead. [Occasionally there are comments from the proofreader, too. Those are objective fact. –PinkMawashi]
Day 7 was brutal for the chase group, with four contenders picking up losses and being demoted to the hunt group. While at the moment it looks like the zero loss crew can run away with it, keep in mind that the scheduling team is just starting to work their voodoo on the torikumi. The front-runners still face many challenges, and we may yet see both Kaisei and Kakuryu taste clay before we hit day 10.
As mentioned in the day 7 highlights, I am looking for Oitekaze-beya to get a strong showing in the post-basho power rankings. All of the Dai* crew are fighting well, and looking like they are moving towards a lift in basic rank, based on the steady improvements of their sumo. It will be interesting to watch them compete against the likes of Takakeisho and Onosho for lead tadpole.
I will say it again, I am damn impressed with Ikioi this basho. The last few tournaments, he seemed to be really struggling physically, but he put in his days on the dohyo with focus and workmanlike determination. This time (possibly due to his lower rank), he is finding ways to win. I am glad he is not yet ready for the downdraft into Juryo, but at his age his injuries may be slowly overtaking him.
Then there is the depressing case of Yoshikaze. Injuries are not widely publicized in sumo, even less so for rank and file rikishi, but there is no way that a warrior like Yoshikaze goes passive like this. The good news is that he can retire at any time, he has a kabu, he has a huge following, he has a passion for youth sumo, and as long as he has his health, he is going to be a big deal in the sumo world.
It would be remiss of me to go without stating that Kaisei also remains unbeaten at the start of the second week. He has done remarkably well, and I salute his effort and his skill. He has been hit or miss in the past, but this is great to see.
Ikioi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo for the day and draws the injured but fierce Ikioi. I predict an Ikioi win, and then he’s 2 away from his kachi-koshi, and likely kyujo.
Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Team Oitekaze starts early on day 8, and the rikishi who never gives up is going to take on a member of the chase group. I predict a Daiamami win, with some good form. This is in spite of the fact that he has never taken a match from Nishikigi (0-3).
Daishomaru vs Aoiyama – Back to back bouts for team Oitekaze, this time the fierce Daishomaru goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama has won both of their prior matches, and this may be a tall order for Daishomaru. But a win against the Bulgarian would likely result in a tough match further up the banzuke for Monday. [The Monday torikumi will be set before Aoiyama’s match, so if the torikumi committee decide to start giving him tougher opposition, they’ll have to wait until Tuesday. –PinkMawashi, with thanks to Sakura]
Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – The Freshmen are having a painful basho, and that’s part of them settling into Makuuchi. Asanoyama has a 4-3 winning record, and he has never lost a match to Sokokurai, so I am hoping his sunny outlook will carry the day on Sunday.
Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – An all Freshman battle, Yutakayama has won their only prior match, but I think there is a slight advantage to Kagayaki for today’s match. Kagayaki is slowly improving, and I think his sumo is stronger than Yutakayama’s right now.
Tochiozan vs Daieisho – The highest ranked rikishi for Team Oitekaze takes on veteran Tochiozan. Tochiozan has been a half-step slow this basho, but his form is still very good. I think this comes down to Daieisho being about 2x as genki as Tochiozan, so advantage to Daieisho.
Abi vs Chiyonokuni – Massive ultra-mega oshi-battle here, and folks take note! Both of these young men could work a speed bag like a hungry man taking down the buffet at the Tropicana so this will be one for the slow-motion cameras. Abi will get too far forward, and Chiyonokuni’s tendency to go for haymakers will be the perils. I give an advantage to Chiyonokuni in this first-time match up.
Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – I don’t even want to know. I am tempted to get on a plane and just hand Yoshikaze a bottle of scotch as some shallow form of comfort.
Kaisei vs Okinoumi – Their history shows this to be an even match up, but I am going to guess Kaisei has the advantage going into this. The thing about Okinoumi is that he has the experience and skill to dismantle Kaisei, but will the Brazilian give him an opening?
Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden is getting his “welcome to mid-Maegashira” beating, while Hokutofuji is having a bad basho in a string of bad basho. The frustration for both men is palpable, and there may be some extreme effort as a result. This is their first meeting, but I am giving a slight edge to Hokutofuji because he looks a bit like Kaio.
Chiyomaru vs Takarafuji – The best 0-7 rikishi in the basho goes against the spherical man from Kokonoe. Given their upper bodies, there should be few if any neck attacks deployed today. Chiyomaru has yet to win one from Takarafuji, so maybe Takarafuji gets his first white star today. I promise to drink a generous shot of whisky if he does!
Shodai vs Tamawashi – I know Shodai is feeling genki now after his last two matches. But Tamawashi practices his sumo by driving nails into planks by hitting them with his thumb. The man has so much pectoral strength that he shoved Ichinojo around with ease. So I am guessing Shodai goes high at the tachiai, and Tamawashi helps to keep him moving up, up and away.
Ichinojo vs Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a win. Ichinojo needs to regroup. Someone get him some ice cream before its too late!
Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis takes on the man in gold. Endo also needs to re-group, and this might be his time to get his sumo back together. One thing is clear now on day 8, Chiyotairyu’s might was all in his sideburns. He’s been soft and ineffective without them.
Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Highlight bout #1. Anyone who tells you how this is going to end is guessing. I predict it’s going to be fast and brutal. Both are 5-2, and both want to stay in contention with the leaders. Loser goes to the back of the bus.
Takayasu vs Takakeisho – I know Takayasu triumphed in a protracted battle with Shohozan on day 7, but let’s be clear here. Pooh-bear tried three times to set the tempo of the match, and each time he had to follow Shohozan’s lead. His sumo was chaotic but powerful. Now he faces the man who I am pretty sure beat Kakuryu on day 7. This could be a great battle, as Takayasu is going to try to overpower Takakeisho, and Takakeisho’s proportions make him sumo’s greatest weeble. Dear Takayasu, make sure you have a really good plan B and don’t get too far forward or you are going down.
Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Long and storied history between these two. They have turned in some great matches in the past. It’s not a given that the Ozeki is going to win this one, as Kotoshogiku may find a way to wrap up Goeido and drive him out. Slight advantage to Goeido, as he seems to be fighting well this tournament, and he wants to stay in contention for the cup.
Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Just to be clear, even though Shohozan wants to stay in the hunt group, this match is a challenge for Kakuryu. Shohozan is big, fast and incredibly aggressive. Kakuryu tends to face these matches with a defensive strategy, buying time until his opponent makes a mistake, and then he attacks. But Shohozan is so amped up this basho, Kakuryu may need to be brutal, fast and direct to prevent Shohozan from setting the pace and tone of the match like he did to Takayasu.
All hail the wisdom of the scheduling team – tasked to begin to separate the good from the great, their will was enacted with great effect during day 7. There is some fantastic sumo action to enjoy today, so it’s another day to find Kintamayama or Jason’s sumo channels and soak in the excellence on display during the Haru basho.
It should be noted, the Oitekaze Makuuchi guys [That’s Endo, Daiesho, Daishomaru, and Daiamami –PinkMawashi] are on fire right now. They have, during past basho, had nicely above average records, but they seem to be on the march this time. I am looking towards them for some future sumo leadership, and I am seeing reasons to hope.
Myogiryu defeats Hidenoumi – I am a sucker for a strength and endurance match, and these two lower end Maegashira men provided a great example of the type. Really good form from both, and it was a pleasure to watch.
Ikioi defeats Aoiyama – Oh yes he did indeed! In spite of the pain and injuries, Ikioi explodes out of the tachiai, leaving Aoiyama on the defensive and moving backward. He tried to grab Ikioi’s head, while Ikioi dropped his hips, spread his feet and hugged the man-mountain. Aoiyama now realizes he’s in deep deep trouble, he’s high, and his heels are on the tawara. A strong and smooth shove by Ikioi and the Bulgarian is out. What a great win for a rikishi who is giving it everything in spite of his problems.
Daishomaru defeats Sokokurai – Daishomaru stays with the chasers in a really strong win over Sokokurai. Daishomaru may be one to watch, as he seems to be coming into his own, and showing some very strong sumo in the first half of Haru.
Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Try as he might, Tochiozan could not disrupt Asanoyama’s offense today. Asanoyama’s form was excellent today, hips low, feet wide and at 45° to the front, moving low and strongly. This is why I am sure that in a year or so, we are going to be looking at Asanoyama as a mainstay of mid to upper Makuuchi. Tochiozan fought well, but his injuries leave him at only 70% of full power.
Daiamami defeats Chiyonokuni – Both Oitekaze rikishi stay in the chase group, one off the leaders. Chiyonokuni gave Daiamami a rough ride, but Daiamami absorbed it all and worked to get into an attack position. After Chiyonokuni’s failed throw attempt, Daiamami rallied and took the Grumpy Badger to his chest. The closing uwatenage seemed to have an extra kick to it, as if Daiamami were disposing of an unpleasant burden. Excellent sumo.
Ryuden defeats Ishiura – For the second straight day, Ishiura tries doing some battle sumo. He’s not winning, but he looks to be doing better. Ryuden is getting dangerously close to the make-koshi line, and its increasing his drive to win.
Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – As anticipated, strength and experience overcame youthful vigor to carry the day. Okinoumi is at a welcome 5-2 record at the end of the first week of sumo.
Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Yet another Oitekaze win. Daieisho kept in motion, with Hokutofuji pursuing. This has been a key to defeating him, as he does not move with superior stability. The throw at the tawara is a great example of Daieisho’s ability to keep himself planted to the clay, even in awkward moves.
Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Kaisei stays in the leader group today. It was an easy bout, Kaisei moved forward, and Kagayaki stepped out and collapsed.
Chiyomaru defeats Abi – Chiyomaru’s mighty chin-bag kept Abi confused and off rhythm, never getting his thrusting attack started. As fans have noted, Abi tends to lean in quite a bit on offense, so Chiyomaru simply stepped aside and let Issac Newton do the rest.
Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Congrats to Shodai, but what on earth happened to Yoshikaze? This is killing me, folks.
Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Endo made the mistake of letting the Kyushu Bulldozer start the bump and grind. In his heyday, there were few who could withstand this attack, and Endo should have gone into the match with a means to prevent it. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest immediately, got his grip, and started his motor.
Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Big surprise for day 7. Ichinojo withered under Tamawashi’s powerful oshi-zumo. Ichinojo seems to have tried for a pull-down, but Tamawashi kept up the pressure and had the giant backward and out before he could mount a counterattack. Good work Tamawashi!
Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is really in rough shape physically and provided no actual challenge to Tochinoshin. As soon as the Hatsu Yusho Winner landed his left hand, it was just a matter of when not if.
Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I do believe Mitakeumi smells the winds of change blowing, and he knows it may be “now or never” for him to elevate his sumo. Chiyotairyu opened strong, but Mitakeumi found an opening and counter-attacked. Due to poor camera work, it’s tough to tell how the match ended, but I think Chiyotairyu touched out first.
Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, and the much feared “Bouncy Castle Mode” did not activate today for Goeido. Takarafuji battled strongly, but each time it seemed he would put the Ozeki to the clay, Goeido rallied. If any man deserves recognition for fighting spirit this basho, it’s Takarafuji.
Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan was never going to go down easy, and he opened with a blistering oshi-attack. Takayasu realized he was getting moved, and went chest to chest. Pinning Shohozan’s left arm, the Ozeki worked to contain his opponent and wear him down. A failed attempt to throw Shohozan resulted in an escape and Shohozan delivering a brutal nodowa, moving Takayasu back. Back to tsuppari, then once again chest to chest. Shohozan was going to find a way to win, no matter what! Shohozan had a right-hand shallow grip, with Takayasu pinning his left arm high and straight. They broke their grips, and the oshi-battle resumed! Both were clearly tired, and the match ended with Shohozan losing his footing, and hitting the clay. Fantastic effort from both men.
Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Kakuryu was in real danger two times, as Takakeisho was able to unleash his “Wave Action Tsuppari”, the force and aggression of which moved the Yokozuna back to the bales. He rallied, but Takakeisho once again attacked. The close was a chaotic tumble for Takakeisho from the west side of the dohyo. A monoii is called, as there is some question who stepped out first. Replays showed that as Takakeisho was airborne, Kakuryu’s big toe of his left foot touched the sand outside the ring. The shimpan upheld the gyoji’s decision, and even though I think it should have been a kinboshi, the result was a spotless record for the Yokozuna.
The second act gets off on the right foot, with several of the undefeated picking up their first loss, but not (so far) Yokozuna Kakuryu and Kaisei. Both men remain unbeaten, with a growing crowd at one loss.
Point two – Who turned up the sumo to awesome mode today? Lots and lots of good matches from Osaka, so you may want to consider watching Jason’s channel and Kintamayama to get a broader look at all of the excellent sumo action that I am sure won’t fit into NHK’s highlight reel.
Sokokurai defeats Meisei – Meisei is in his first ever Makuuchi bout, and he puts up a valiant effort against Sokokurai, who manages to pick up his second win. This ends up a yotsu-zumo match, with both men working hard for a winning grip on the other’s mawashi.
Daiamami defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu looking like he has run low on fuel (quick, someone go to Hiroshima and get some okonomiyaki!), while Daiamami turns this into another yotsu-zumo match. Daiamami shows off some truly classic sumo form delivering a yorikiri.
Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Keep in mind, Ikioi is fighting hurt. Yes, he went on a 4-0 tear to start the basho, but it seems his pain is taking over. Daishomaru, with only a single loss, continues to look strong. I am going to watch for his upcoming match against Aoiyama.
Aoiyama defeats Asanoyama – Unlike some of his prior opponents this tournament, Asanoyama gave the man-mountain from Bulgaria a good fight. But let’s keep in mind that Aoiyama, in spite of his 5-1 record, is, in fact, undefeated so far this basho. He’s like some overflowing dollop of belligerent sour cream out there.
Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Are you sitting down? Ishiura brought his real sumo today, and it was awesome. Chiyoshoma may have been expecting a henka, and when none appeared, he unleashed a frenzied series of blows on Ishiura’s shoulders and head. Then… what’s this? Ishiura initiates yotsu-zumo? Why yes he does! The two men go chest to chest, and Ishiura is getting the job done. The crowd loves it, and so do I! More of this please, Ishiura.
Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki returns after taking a day off to nurse injuries suffered from (surprise surprise) falling off the dohyo into the random “lap of the day”. So Chiyonokuni does his best grumpy badger, flailing away at Mr 5×5, who withers under the attack. Chiyonokuni turns him around, and into today’s lap in the front row, which may or may not have been a stable master. Okinoumi is inches away from the impact zone, but looks completely un-phased, as it’s just another day at the office. Someone get Kotoyuki a towel and a coke.
Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to be getting tired of losing, as we have yet another yotsu-zumo match break out, with Yutakayama clearly dominating. Ryuden battles strongly, and flatly refuses to be pushed over the bales. Yutakayama tries twice for a leg trip, ultimately succeeding, and has the presence of mind to make sure he falls on top of Ryuden. I like the “help the man up” we see from Yutakayama following. This group I am calling “The Freshmen” really are a breath of fresh air into the top division.
Kaisei defeats Daieisho – An odd little match, the kimarite is listed as oshidashi, but really Daieisho falls over at the edge while Kaisei is about 3m away.
Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t know what is plaguing Yoshikaze, but it’s sad to watch. Yoshikaze was in charge at the start, but Chiyomaru got him off balance and out. Yoshikaze looked a bit hurt getting up. Ugh.
Shodai defeats Abi – Abi loves to start a match by leaning forward and smacking the dickens out of his opponent’s upper body. Shodai, being Shodai, absorbs a bit of it, seemingly waiting for inspiration. Abi is relentless, backing Shodai up. Then, much like his match against Hokutofuji, he decides he has had enough and hurls Abi to the clay. Ok, win #3 for Shodai!
Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis blasts out of the tachiai and delivers a tsuppari salad to Ichinojo. Ichinojo laughs to himself, “Silly pony! I don’t like salad…” And puts his arms around Chiyotairyu, whose arms continue to work by their own purpose to continue the slap-fest. Now flailing like a trout, but completely ineffective, Chiyotairyu can do nothing but obey as the giant marches forward and delivers him to the edge.
Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – In this basho’s ultimate tadpole throw-down, it’s Takakeisho who comes out on top. Mitakeumi never really got his offense started, and could not counter Takakeisho’s attack. This is one of the reasons you see Takakeisho competing near the top: His sumo technique enables him to usually get the first hit in, and from that moment, his opponent is reacting.
Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Good golly miss Molly! What a bout! Endo sacrifices his face to Tochinoshin’s shoulder blast to land a morozashi double inside grip from the tachiai. While the Hatsu yusho winner continues to work on his head, Endo is getting ready to deliver some doom. Tochinoshin realizes he’s been had as Endo rotates him, threatening to send him out. In a hurry, Tochinoshin lands his lethal left, but Endo is not going anywhere. Tochinoshin cocks a throw as Endo rotates to take him to the clay. Tochinoshin’s superior strength carries the day, but it was a clear display of how far Endo has come from being injured and weak. Damn, that man has some sumo moves.
Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – It is at this point I feel really bad for Takarafuji. He’s given each opponent a solid match, and he is just always an inch short of the win. His match against Takayasu devolves into a chest-to-chest contest of strength and endurance, and he gives the Ozeki a run for his money. There was a moment early in the match where Takayasu attempted a pull-down. More rikishi should be looking for that, and make him eat it.
Goeido defeats Shohozan – Hometown Ozeki Goeido hands Kyushu’s Shohozan his first loss of the basho. As always, Goeido’s sumo is wild, chaotic and prone to pulling, but Shohozan fell for it… literally.
Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kakuryu has managed to keep his sumo rolling for 6 days so far, and it’s great to see him win. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest early and launched him hip-pump attack. Kakuryu times it beautifully, waiting for a forward thrust from his opponent and converts that push into a flying trip to the clay.
Act one comes to a close, and we had a number of undefeated rikishi pick up their first black stars. As guarded as everyone was about how the lone Yokozuna would do, Kakuryu is thus far warming up nicely against lower ranked rikishi. I am even starting to have hope he may deliver some good sumo in the second week when he faces higher ranked rikishi.
Act two starts tomorrow, and this is where we separate the good from the great for Haru. Even the rikishi who have one loss may hold their ground in the second act, and we will be hard-pressed to see anyone exit act two undefeated with the current banzuke.
But day 5 was a great day of sumo, and as expected we had some great matches from Kagayaki, Shohozan, and Ichinojo.
Myogiryu defeats Aoiyama – I completely do not agree with this call. All the replays show Myogiryu down before Aoiyama stepped out. So one undefeated rikishi gets his first black star…
Sokokurai defeats Hidenoumi – Sokokurai gets his first win of Haru, and actually looked fairly good doing it. I guess going chest to chest with someone roughly his own size was the key to getting his sumo running.
Daiamami defeats Ikioi – Ikioi also picked up his first loss for Haru. Daiamami chose a hit-and shift tactic from the tachiai, and it worked against Ikioi. This is the danger of a shoulder-blast tachiai. It leaves you off balance and committed to a direction, which leaves you open for an immediate slap / thrust down from the side.
Chiyonokuni defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a “hit and shift” from the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni recovers and launches his frantic thrusting attack. In an instant, he is behind Ishiura and pushing him out.
Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looking surprisingly lost this basho, with only a single win. Tochiozan is competing hurt, but I marvel at the efficiency the veteran brings to this match. Every move has a purpose and a flow to it. Great sumo from Tochiozan.
Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to be slowly, day by day, regaining his fierce energy. Today’s match against Daieisho began with high-velocity oshi, but quickly went to Yoshikaze grabbing a thigh for a leg trip. Daieisho had the presence of mind to keep moving backward while Yoshikaze held his leg, bringing him to the clay.
Kagayaki defeats Abi – As anticipated last night, this turned out to be a great contest of clashing sumo styles. Abi tried for a henka, but there was no way Kagayaki was fast enough into the tachiai for that. Kagayaki seems to have styled himself on Kisenosato’s younger days. He is careful, deliberate and moves with purpose. So he turns and persues Abi, who is now retreating and using his superior reach to land blows to Kagayaki’s neck and head. Kagayaki gives ground and endures Abi’s attacks. But of course, Abi over-commits, and Kagayaki throws him to the clay. Nice sumo here.
Kaisei defeats Chiyomaru – Chest to chest from the start, Kaisei’s long arms are enough to go around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly. Kaisei lowers his hips and advances, but Chiyomaru shuts him down. Kaisei’s strength seems to be back, and he digs to find the energy to back Chiyomaru up and then lifts him over the tawara. That’s 5-0 for the Brazilian.
Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – A battle of the “Should have been” rikishi, Hokutofuji unleashes a fierce tachiai, which Shodai absorbs. Pushing Hokutofuji back, Shodai then turns his opponent, who rockets out and over the edge of the dohyo. It’s over in a flash.
Shohozan defeats Arawashi – Excellent opening from Arawashi, who nearly gets Shohozan out immediately after the tachiai with an armbar throw. But “Big Guns” is not to be denied today, and pivots to return the attack. He grabs a handful of Arawashi’s belt and marches forward, tossing him aside at the tawara. 5-0 for Shohozan, 0-5 for Arawashi.
Ichinojo defeats Endo – Ichinojo decides to unleash his battle-cuddle for a second day, this time tasking Endo to support his quarter-ton bulk until he gets tired. After an initial drive by Ichinojo that almost takes Endo out, the two lock up in the center of the dohyo, chest to chest. There they stay for a minute or more, Ichinojo calmly resting, and daydreaming of eating ice-cream with his favorite pony, while Endo is losing stamina. Endo rallies first and digs deep to raise the Mongolian giant up and start moving him back. But there’s just too much Ichinojo to move. Sensing Endo had reached the end of his endurance, Ichinojo returns the favor and finds Endo light enough to lift and push. Yorikiri. I firmly think Endo is going to be a san’yaku regular before long. He will need to find a way to deal with Ichinojo’s mass.
Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Quick bout, after the tachiai, Tochinoshin circles around Chiyotairyu in a blink of an eye, and pushes him out from behind. Done and done.
Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s tachiai delivered his skull squarely into Mitakeumi’s face with a wet sounding crunch. I am going to guess that hurt. The match goes oshi-pushy, but Mitakeumi is able to give as well as he gets from Tamawashi. Already close to the edge of the ring, a well-placed shove at center-mass moves Tamawashi back over the bales for Mitakeumi’s 4th win.
Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Quite straight forward Goeido 2.0 bout. He stays stable, and apply wax on / wax off thrusts to keep Takakeisho moving backward and off balance. Still no “wave action” from Takakeisho? Nicely done Goeido.
Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to be hurt, drained and on his last legs. We love the guy, but enough already.
Kakuryu defeats Takarafuji – I like how low Kakuryu was at the tachiai, and he moved forward strongly. His nodowa keeps Takarafuji high and moving backward. With his heels on the tawara, Takarafuji mounts his counter-attack, thrusting Kakuryu to the side. Takarafuji lunges and drives Kakuryu backward towards a loss. With his heels on the bales, the Yokozuna pivots and brings Takarafuji down. But a monoii declares the touched down at the same time, it’s a rematch!
The second bout started the same as the first, Kakuryu low and strong at the tachiai, into a nodowa. But this time he kept driving Takarafuji back and out.
We come to the end of the first act, and it’s clear that there are a few “sleepers” in the ranks. Rikishi who have been ranked higher who have returned to their previous, genki ways. They are now ripping their opponents apart and having marvelous runs. The pace and rhythm of a basho takes this into account. The first act is all about seeing who is hot, and who is not. Starting on Friday, act two will take the hot, feed them into increasingly difficult bouts, seeking to winnow the great from the good. This should include Aoiyama, Kaisei, Shohozan and oddly enough, an injured Ikioi.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – The big Bulgarian will likely continue to act as a massive, flabby wrecking ball at the bottom end of the banzuke. Myogiryu has split their career record 9-9, but right now Aoiyama seems to be a man possessed, and he is giving everyone black stars as prizes.
Ikioi vs Daiamami – How long can Ikioi keep winning? He has only faced Daiamami once, and he won that match. So far the Osaka native has had a very good run, and he is halfway to a kachi-koshi. His key to winning has been moving fast and low out of the tachiai and for most of his opponents that has left them reacting, usually poorly, to his authoritative opening moves.
Nishikigi vs Asanoyama – Both men are fairly safe in Makuuchi if they can get at least 6 wins, but both are struggling to get past two. Asanoyama showed a lot of potential during his debut tournament, Aki 2017, but seems to have lost the throttle on his sumo. He faces off against Nishikigi who is working hard to keep himself at or above 50%.
Ishiura vs Chiyonokuni – In his 5 prior matches against Chiyonokuni, Ishiura has not found a way to beat the Grumpy Badger. Like many of the younger rikishi, they seem to have hit some kind of wall and are struggling to move to higher levels of performance. Ishiura at 2-2 could get his “go ahead” win on day 5 if he can stand up to Chiyonokuni’s typically frantic attacks.
Tochiozan vs Ryuden – The first match between the two, and Tochiozan is looking questionable already. I would give a definite advantage to Ryuden.
Daieisho vs Yoshikaze – Also a first-time match, we saw some small amount of fire from Yoshikaze on day 4, and fans can begin to hope that he will return to his high-energy sumo. But then again, he does turn 36 next week. Sumo life likely takes a heavy toll on his body.
Abi vs Kagayaki – Both are tall, Abi is lanky, Kagayaki is deliberate. Abi seems to jump about and attack with rapid blows, Kagayaki plans and moves with care and power. Could be a good match, or a complete snore fest.
Chiyomaru vs Kaisei – I love me some Chiyomaru, but I am not sure if anyone is going to slow down Kaisei during week one.
Arawashi vs Shohozan – Arawashi holds a 5-3 career advantage over Shohozan, but right now “Big Guns” is on a tear, and I don’t think the winless Arawashi will have any mojo to slow him down.
Ichinojo vs Endo – Oh you wonderful schedulers. It’s time to take a couple of hard-charging, genki guys from the joi, and face them off. I could say Ichinojo holds a slight 3-2 career advantage, but that’s not going to matter this time. The Boulder has outrageous mass, love of ice cream and no fear of wolves on his side. Endo has his enchanted golden mawashi, a legion of swooning little old ladies and some kind of bionic foot it seems. Who’s going to win? Maybe Endo shows up Thursday leading a horse to the dohyo. Ichinojo loses focus and it’s easy from there. I am hoping Endo is watching Mitakeumi’s day 4 bout.
Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Sumo Elvis against the Yusho Man. I am going with Tochinoshin, as I think day 4’s loss really motivated him.
Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – The thing to note, Mitakeumi leads their career series 9-2, so in this case, that’s a clear advantage. Tamawashi is looking “good enough” to handle Mitakeumi this time around. I would be interested to see if we get a Henka here, it is almost begging for Mitakeumi’s cannonball tachiai to meet thin air.
Takakeisho vs Goeido – Takakeisho steps onto the dohyo with a plan to dismantle nearly everyone he might face. You can see it in the way he conducts himself, and how he fights. Goeido, sadly, is riddled with doubts and worries. I think Takakeisho will psych out the Ozeki, and that we are going to see a fast match, one way or the other. Slight edge to Goeido here, as he is in his hometown, and he’s not happy about his loss to Endo.
Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – the match of great sadness, We have an Ozeki who discarded his excellent sumo form to become a street fighter, facing off against a broken wreck of a former Ozeki who’s body can no longer support his favorite technique. Someone please just let them toss a coin and go drinking.
Kakuryu vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has only won a single time in 13 matches against Kakuryu. So my hope is that their match does not result in further injury to the surviving Yokozuna relic.
Absolute blockbuster day of sumo, as the cobwebs of the early days are almost all swept away, and we race towards the end of Haru’s first act. Today we saw some of the best sumo thus far from Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, with Takakeisho and Tochinoshin a close second. In fact, I would say that both of those matches are worthy of study in sumo school, as each show an opponent going against a larger, strong rikishi, and finding a way to win.
Apologies for the late highlights today, much insanity has broken loose in life. I will gamberize for Thursday.
Aoiyama defeats Hidenoumi – Aoiyama to gut and fillet everyone who stands against him. Hidenoumi had no chance as his tachiai hit a wall of flesh, and then the nodowa landed on his throat. Aoiyama finished with him and tossed him aside like a bag of rotten miso. With Aoiyama back to genki status, I predict he is going to inflict a lot of pain at the bottom of the banzuke.
Kyokushuho defeats Myogiryu – Visiting from Juryo, Kyokushuho takes a bite out of the struggling Myogiryu. Both men started with thrusts, and then went chest to chest. The closing kotenage looked on the painful side, but Myogiryu seemed ok afterward.
Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The injured Ikioi remains unbeaten at Maegashira 14 and is managing to best his opponent each day, no matter what. He is already halfway to a kachi-koshi. Today it was Asanoyama. Ikioi absorbed a fury of blows, then drove forward. Asanoyama seemed ill-prepared to shift to defense, and Ikioi applied a yoritaoshi for a rapid win.
Tochiozan defeats Kotoyuki – Fusen-sho, Kotoyuki has withdrawn from Haru. Possibly too many air-express trips into the front row.
Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempted a mini-henka, but Yutakayama was ready. Following that, Ishiura could never set his feet at all, and it was a bit of a dance/chase routine that had Ishiura out in a hurry.
Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Chiyoshoma gets his first win, in a thrusting battle with Ryuden that left the Freshman unable to find his balance or set up for any kind of stable offense. Chiyoshoma uses this with great skill and keeps him unsteady. Ryuden was a bit slow to get up, hopefully, he is ok.
Abi defeats Daieisho – Once again Abi plays the part of the bull fighter. He uses his superior reach to goad Daieisho into a fierce forward charge, then steps out of the way as Daieisho launches out of the ring. We like to make fun of Abi and his long limbs, but watch this bout in slow motion, Daieisho can’t even really touch the man.
Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – Yoshikaze looked a bit better today, but nowhere near full berserker strength. Kakayaki was unable to cope with the raging chaos that is Yoshikaze, and he was overwhelmed. Both men are now 2-2.
Hokutofuji defeats Chiyomaru – Great to see that Hokutofuji finally picked up his first win. He has been turning in poor performances for a few months, and fans have to wonder what problem is plaguing him. Chiyomaru was soft at the tachiai, while Hokutofuji launched with abandon. Strictly a thrusting battle, Hokutofuji focused on pushing Chiyomaru from center mass, and it worked.
Kaisei defeats Shodai – The worst part of this match? A moment before he steps out, you can see Shodai visibly give up. Can we please find some way to put Shodai through whatever self-help session fixed Ichinojo? Maybe some time with a couple of nice ponies, or maybe chasing down wolves in the streets of Sumida? Kaisei looking quite genki, and picks up his 4th straight win.
Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Damn, Shohozan is looking quite fierce so far. Kotoshogiku is a fraction of his former self, and he tried to rush forward and go chest to chest. But Shohozan gave ground under his control, and Kotoshogiku could never plant his feet and bounce forward. Shohozan picked up a nice win, also 4-0 to start.
Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Chiyotairyu also picking up his first win of the tournament today against Takarafuji. It was clear from the start that Chiyotairyu was going to make this an oshi-battle, and Takarafuji planted his feet and dug in. But the more massive Chiyotairyu took control, got Takarafuji off balance, and slapped him down.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Now we start the really GOOD stuff. Wow, very impressed with Mitakeumi this fight. Ichinojo was going to once again apply the “I’m incredibly large, deal with it” strategy, but I think he was unprepared that yes, Mitakeumi was ready to deal with it. From the start, Ichinojo is just physically much higher than Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi works with that. He gets inside of Ichinojo, but rather than going for the belt, he puts his hands on the giant’s chest and starts pushing. Ichinojo thinks to himself “silly pony!”, and leans forward. The weight is clearly taxing Mitakeumi, but he dials up the pressure. 500 pounds of Mongolian is crushing down on Mitakeumi, but he’s not going to relent. Ichinojo moves to shift his grip, and Mitakeumi takes Ichinojo’s armpits. He lifts and pushes hard. There was no recovery, and Ichinojo could never again plant his feet. Fantastic win by Mitakeumi!
Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Day 4 was not done giving us things to cheer about. A fantastic match between Hatsu Yusho winner Tochinoshin, and the grumpy tadpole Takakeisho. You know, of course, that Tochinoshin wants to get his left hand on the Bowling Ball’s mawashi. And he gets it. But rather than shock or defeat, a look of intensity and motivation sweeps across Takakeisho’s face, and he drives forward, lifting Tochinoshin’s left arm with everything he has… and breaks the grip! This leaves Takakeisho off balance and stumbling, but Tochinoshin pursues. They continue to stagger like drunken Tanuki across the dohyo, with Takakeisho doing a pirouette as Tochinoshin takes in a mouth full of clay. Nicely done to Takakeisho! The crowd cheers as both men bow, what an effort!
Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Kind of boring oshi-fight, with Takayasu delivering his now obligatory shoulder blast. He does manage to out slap Tamawashi, which is quite an accomplishment. Bout ends with a hatakikomi. Kind of boring… but hey, Ozeki got his second win, now 2-2 for the basho.
Endo defeats Goeido – Endo has a sequence of moves he has used a few times now at Haru and Hatsu. He employed it again today against Goeido, and shame on the Ozeki for falling for it. He meets the tachiai low and strong, makes sure his opponent ramps up the pressure to full power, and then while keeping his hands on his opponent’s upper body, steps aside and releases. Worked again today. Everyone, keep an eye on Endo!
Kakuryu defeats Arawashi – Very straightforward match. Big K meets Arawashi at the tachiai and marches him straight backward. Very happy that the lone Yokozuna is doing well this basho. Perhaps his detractors will gain some respect for him?
I wanted to hold judgment for a few days, with the long break between Hatsu and Haru dulling everyone’s sumo, but it’s clear now that the upper ranks are still in turmoil, and the coming period of change may be even greater than expected. Is the sky falling? Not at all. Sumo is a completely Darwinian environment. The strong survive and rise and the weak are left behind. That is one of the great appeals of sumo, and that principle is core to its enduring place in the world of sport.
With only one damaged Yokozuna on the field for the last two basho, at least one San’yaku holder should be ⅔ of the way to an Ozeki claim. But instead, we have the chief tadpole unable to break double digits, a hard-charging yusho winner who is one bad fall away from retirement, a promising giant, and sumo Elvis. Before the year is out, I am going to guess that sumo will need another Ozeki. Please keep in mind that it takes at least two Ozeki to convene a Honbasho. This can be two Yokozuna, a Yokozuna and an Ozeki, or two Ozeki. Having two Ozeki and one damaged Yokozuna is just bad math, but so far no one has emerged who can contend for the Ozeki slot.
What We Are Watching Day 4
Aoiyama vs Hidenoumi – Aoiyama has returned large and in charge of the bottom end of Makuuchi. I expect him to beat Hidenoumi like a rug before dropping him to the clay. Aoiyama is fighting with mid-Maegashira class sumo right now, so I expect him to clean up the bottom end of the banzuke.
Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Ikioi winces in pain every day, and he still has 3 wins. I am not sure if he is going to be able to pull the plug on Asanoyama for day 4, but I am hoping that the guy can quickly get his 8 and then go kyujo. Asanoyama will likely move fast to get inside, and if Ikioi follows the same formula, he will lure him into over-committing.
Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Ishiura fought well on day 3, with a left-hand grip he would not release. Yutakayama is quite a bit larger in every measurement, but I am looking for Ishiura to continue his winning streak. It’s time for “Scary Dude” to help educate the Freshmen.
Okinoumi vs Chiyonokuni – I am impressed that Chiyonokuni has gone 3-0. Not very long ago he was Maegashira 1, but that ended poorly for him. He seems to have lost a bit of weight around his middle and maybe added it to his legs, so maybe he is more comfortable with his mass and is moving better. Okinoumi seems to be fading hard.
Abi vs Daieisho – These two should go at it like two ferrets in a bathtub, and I think this could be a real winner of a match. You have Daieisho, who seems to care nothing for how much he gets tossed about, always driving forward against the man with freakishly long limbs. Abi has yet to win a match from Daieisho, but you know he is going to give it his all.
Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – I will come out and say it, Yoshikaze should win this one, but I have my doubts. Something has robbed him of his boundless energy and overwhelming attack power. This is their first match, ever, so experience may carry the day. But Kagayaki has been looking like he has stripped his sumo down to the fundamentals, and that is usually a winning formula.
Kaisei vs Shodai – Shodai seems to have given up. I hate to say it, as he has a lot of potential. The problem is squarely between his ears, and I am not sure who can help him cure that. Needless to say, Kaisei is going to increment their career record to 5-0 tomorrow, in my opinion.
Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Shohozan is on a roll right now, and it looks like he has something in his bag of pain for everyone. Kotoshogiku is even more damaged than he was at Hatsu and continuing to fade. The guy has skill and courage, but his body is done with sumo at the top division. That being said, if he can lock up Shohozan, I am sure he can still apply his trademark kimarite with vigor.
Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – This one is akin to having a giant use you as a doormat. I suspect that unless Mitakeumi has a really well-executed strategy, that Ichinojo is simply going to envelop him like some kind of tiny, round pony that needs a good battle-cuddle. No shame to Mitakeumi, but some great force has possessed Ichinojo now, and everything sent to stop him will be thrust aside.
Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am leaning towards the Hatsu yusho winner, Tochinoshin for this one. Takakeisho has a lot of problems when it comes to the mawashi, as day 3 displayed clearly. Takakeisho would be wise to try and block Tochinoshin’s grip, but the Georgian has a much greater reach. Takakeisho, it’s wave-action for you or a black star.
Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi strikes me as a happy go lucky guy, but I could understand if he held a bit of a grudge against Takayasu. They were co-Sekiwake for a while, and Takayasu got himself to Ozeki while Tamawashi ate clay. Takayasu’s sumo is a chaotic mess, as you can plainly see any day of this basho. Only one win, and that had at least one moment where he was off balance and headed out. Tamawashi will know exactly what to do, let’s see if he can seal the deal.
Endo vs Goeido – Keep an eye on Endo. He is looking better than I have seen him in a long while. Goeido is not doing too bad. His sumo is rough, but I chalk that up to ring-rust that is quickly coming off under the stress of Honbasho competition. Goeido holds a 4-2 career advantage, but Endo is on a mission.
Kakuryu vs Arawashi – Easy win for Big K, I just want him to not hurt anything in putting Arawashi away.
We are only on day 3, but it strikes me that we are back to a roster very similar to Hatsu, with a somewhat injured Yokozuna Kakuryu really the only upper ranked rikishi who seems to be delivering wins. Takayasu is all over the map and looking out of control. Goeido is working to settle down and focus on his sumo. Much as we suspected leading up to this basho, it’s going to be a free for all, and we may, in fact, see another Maegashira win the yusho this time, too.
This is all part of the transitional period that is natural after we have had a dominant cohort who have been able to hold on to and maintain the top slots for 10+ years in many cases. Much as I love Yoshikaze, Ikioi, Shohozan and all of that crowd, they are in their final tournaments of the top division, and we should enjoy them. They have an important and useful function – knock the youngsters around enough to make them proper sekitori.
Then there is Ichinojo (whom we affectionately call The Boulder); rarely have I seen a better return from a moribund state in any athlete. He seems strong, confident, poised and clearly benefiting from the lack of wolves prowling Japan, which allows him ample rest.
What We Are Watching Day 3
Daiamami vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo once again returns to the upper divisions. Sadly he enters with zero wins and is in fact not looking very genki at all this time around. He and Daiamami are evenly matched with a 4-3 career record in Daiamami’s favor.
Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Bulgaria’s own self-propelled man-mountain is eager to defeat everything so he can earn his stay in Makuuchi. Nishikigi is likewise focused on survival but may have problems with Aoiyama’s superior reach, and impressive bulk.
Ikioi vs Hidenoumi – It was clear following day 2 that Ikioi was injured and in pain. He is clearly on the bubble this tournament, and a losing record or kyujo might put him in Juryo for a while, or for keeps. Hidenoumi has never found a way to beat Ikioi, but with Ikioi hurt, this may be his change.
Ishiura vs Asanoyama – Ishiura’s henka dispenser is getting boring. Sadly there is a good chance that Asanoyama will buy it at full price. Ideally, we would see these two scrap it out, but Ishiura seems to be very worried about his height disadvantage these days. It’s a far cry from his sumo during Kyushu 2016.
Chiyonokuni vs Ryuden – Maegashira 10 seems to be a comfortable rank for Chiyonokuni, who has always fought well no matter what rank he holds, but at this point, he is (so far) winning. Chiyonokuni delivers frantic, high energy action on the dohyo, and I am expecting he will overwhelm Ryuden.
Abi vs Hokutofuji – It makes me sad to think that Hokutofuji seems to have become the Eeyore of the sumo world. There is always some sort of negative outcome for him, no matter what. He can’t seem to muster a winning record these days, and his sumo is just not cutting it, even down at Maegashira 6. Abi gets his first meeting with him on day 3, and he is eager to bounce back from being Kaisei’s toy on day 2.
Kaisei vs Yoshikaze – Kaisei seems to be back in the groove with his sumo. It’s odd because he was doing poorly for a while, clearly fading out from his heights in 2016. But he rallied during his time in Juryo and seems to be on the march now. Sadly Yoshikaze has yet to look genki or even really at 80% of his normal crazy levels. Is time finally nipping at the heels of our favorite berserker? Yoshikaze fans may want to look away, the big Brazilian holds a 10-4 career advantage.
Shohozan vs Shodai – Oh lord. Shodai continues to be reactionary rather than dictating the match. When you are reacting, Shodai, you are like the worm waiting for the hook. Now he goes up against a resurgent Shohozan. Let me guess, more round-house slaps inbound to Shodai’s face. Interestingly enough, Shodai holds a 6-2 career advantage.
Chiyomaru vs Takakeisho – Chiyomaru has yet to take a match from Takakeisho, and the fact that it’s day 2 and the angriest tadpole in the squadron has already dusted off the “Wave Action” attacks may indicate that he’s looking to do more than an 8-7 kachi-koshi.
Ichinojo vs Takarafuji – Ichinojo seems mega-genki right now. That’s a lot of genki. Today, Tachiai’s own Herouth found an article on him in the Japanese press where he actually talked about tossing young horses about in his native Mongolia. Takarafuji is going to put up a good fight, he always does, but Ichinojo holds a 10-2 advantage over the man with no neck.
Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – Kotoshogiku seems to be undergoing a gradual mummification process, where he had large amounts of his right abdomen and hip covered with flesh colored tape. Tochinoshin’s fans know that he’s only a fierce competitor when he’s not hurt, and we are all dreading the haunting possibility that one of these matches could see him hurt. Over their career, Kotoshogiku holds a 24-6 advantage over Tochinoshin, but with Kotoshogiku hurt, and Tochinoshin looking to move past his day 2 loss, that trend may have no meaning.
Mitakeumi vs Endo – Endo wants to recover from his hasty leap to take Kakuryu’s bait on day 2, which cost him the match. Mitakeumi pushes to do well the first week, knowing that many times he fades against the more senior rikishi. They are evenly matched 2-2 over their career, but I would give a slight edge to Endo this time.
Chiyotairyu vs Goeido – Goeido, look past the fact you have a losing record against super-sized-sumo-Elvis. Just plow him over. Takayasu is in trouble this time, and we need you to carry the Ozeki banner. Should Kakuryu get (more) hurt, you could end up the senior man for the rest of the basho.
Takayasu vs Arawashi – Oh Takayasu, please get your sumo under control. I think I know why Kisenosato was winning practice matches against you. You may have gone a bit off the rails with your technique. Arawashi’s dismounts are usually high on drama, and he has given Takayasu an excellent 2-3 career run. Pooh-bear, you don’t want to go into day 4 with zero wins.
Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – This one may be the match that puts Kakuryu out of action for the basho. Tamawashi has not been really genki for a while, and he is no joke this basho. I expect Kakuryu to attempt a pull or two, and he may not have much power from his primary right hand. Tamawashi, of course, is going to try to slap the Yokozuna into a mistake, and then make him pay.