Haru Day 6 Highlights

bow twirling

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.

Highlight Matches

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.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match, notable because Hokutofuji actually won.

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.

Haru Day 5 Highlights

Makuuchi Dohyo iri

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.

Highlight Matches

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.

Haru Day 4 Preview

Haru 2018 Dohyo Iri

We Need A Hero

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.

Haru Day 3 Highlights

Kakuryu

It seems the top division is starting to clear the cobwebs of two months without sumo and get into fighting form. Already there are a number of great surprises and some expected outcomes that are nice to see.

I have to give massive respect to Yokozuna Kakuryu. On the final day of the Hatsu Basho, he took a fall off the side of the dohyo in his match with Goeido, and in the process injured several fingers on his right hand. He is right-handed, and this has kept him from generating much – if any – grip strength. For whatever reason, he decided not to go kyujo, but instead gamberized and entered the competition. It’s quite early in the basho, but I am impressed that he has managed 3 consecutive wins. If you watch carefully, you can see him wince when he employs that right hand.

Then there is the case of Ichinojo. I know I had a bit of fun with his interview during last night’s preview, but if this giant of a man really has gotten his sumo back in fighting form, everyone is going to have to step up their game. He weighs over 500 lbs in the US system [over 225 kilos –PinkMawashi], yet he does not suffer from some of the mobility issues that plagued the Great Konishiki towards the end of his career at a similar weight. There are practical challenges with combating an opponent who is north of a quarter ton, as very few things will actually impact that kind of mass. The downside is that he is one ungraceful dismount from a career limiting mechanical injury. We wish him, his opponents, the shinpan, and everyone in the zabuton zone good luck and safety.

There was a LOT of good sumo on day 3, as everyone is starting to get their basho-grade sumo on.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Aminishiki – Aminishiki seems to put up some resistance, but this match is 100% Daiamami. I am glad that Uncle Sumo was able to push to return to Makuuchi earlier, but I fear he’s not got the mojo to compete at the top division level.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Very quick win for Aoiyama, who pulls Nishikigi down straight out of the tachiai. Aoiyama seems in better condition than he has been for a while, and may be well on his way to returning as a fixture of Makuuchi.

Ikioi defeats Hidenoumi – In spite of his injuries and pain, Ikioi keeps finding ways to win. Granted, Ikioi competing at Maegashira 14 is a bit silly, but he seems to be able to survive down here in his injured state.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoyuki – Once again, Daishomaru focuses on this opponents center of mass, applies pressure and marches forward. This guy has an excellent command of the fundamentals, and I like it. Of course, Kotoyuki goes airborne off the dohyo. I may give Kotoyuki a nickname – “The Porg”

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – What a match! Neither man was willing to give an inch in this battle. No henka from Ishiura today, thank goodness. Asanoyama found himself challenged to get Ishiura under control, as Ishiura kept pressing inward and moving forward. Ishiura landed a left-hand grip, and try as he might, Asanoyama could not break it. The match was not so much won as lost, as I think Ishiura lost his footing, and Asanoyama let him drop.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ryuden – Chiyonokuni had a game plan, and he was able to execute it well. Ryuden over-committed at the tachiai (which he is inclined to do). Chiyonokuni gave token resistance, then allowed Ryuden to follow through all the way to the clay. Nicely done to Chiyonokuni, who has started this basho 3-0.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – Okinoumi finally picks up his first win. Daieisho was on the attack from the tachiai, but Okinoumi was able to shift his forward motion downward and to the right for the win.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – I know Kagayaki does not attract much attention, as he is quiet and composed, but this guy is showing steady improvement. He’s off to a solid start, and I would guess this may another basho where he shows incremental increases in the power and skill of his sumo. Much like Kisenosato, he is not a gifted rikishi like Hakuho or Enho, but is willing to work himself endlessly to improve.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Abi pulls up early for a matta, but they get underway with reckless abandon on the second try. Hokutofuji is working with everything he has, but Abi’s freakishly long reach is giving him the advantage. Hokutofuji is relentlessly moving forward, but Abi plays matador and sends the charging Hokutofuji down and out.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Not sure if this is “What happened to Yoshikaze” or “What happened to Kaisei” question. Yoshizake is clearly a fraction of his normal attack power, while Kaisei seems to have decided to dust off his sumo and win. As a Yoshikaze fan, I would rather see him dominate, but it’s nice to see Kaisei running up the score for a change. Kaisei lands a deep left-hand grip early, and Yoshikaze seems to have no counterattack available.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – As predicted, Shodai was beaten up and lost his lunch money for a week. Shohozan applied a rotating “slap, slap, shoulder blast” program, and kept Shodai reacting to his sumo. Shohozan even landed a nice slap to Shodai’s face in there. Match finished with Shohozan applying a rolling sukuinage, with Shodai tumbling to the clay. Please, Shodai – get it together man!

Chiyomaru defeats Takakeisho – A surprising mawashi battle here, as both men are so rotund that their belts could be considered unreachable. Takakeisho is clearly looking to improve his yotsu chops, but in this bout, Chiyomaru comes out on top. Much respect to Takakeisho for working to expand his attack repertoire.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Over the past 24 hours, we have come to find out more about Ichinojo, including the fact that he used to wrestle small horses when he was living on the steppes of Mongolia. So now we will forever try to visualize what kind of pony he imagines each opponent to be. In the case of Takarafuji (aka, treasure-fuji), it’s better not to consider. Takarafuji, as always, gives it everything. But he is attempting to overpower a 500-pound mountain of Mongolian beef. With both men latched on to the other’s belt, there was only one way this was ever going to end. We can assume that Ichinojo routinely sleeps standing up against various fixtures and support beams, so leaning against the comparatively tiny and lightweight Takarafuji was unlikely to tire him. I do like the fact that when it came time to finish Takarafuji, Ichinojo was both careful and gentle. Neither man faced injury. Well done.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin got his left-hand grip early, and no matter which way Kotoshogiku rotated, the Georgian stayed with him. Solid win for Tochinoshin using his preferred form.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Still sticking with my pre-basho proclamation: Keep an eye on Endo. Today he handed Mitakeumi his first loss of Haru, and he looked solid in the process. Mitakeumi launched low and compact into the tachiai, and once again Endo read the situation and reacted in a blink of an eye. He collapsed into Mitakeumi’s charge, turned him and got out of the way. Endo has always had outstanding ring sense, and split-second reactions. If he has resolved his health and injury issues, we could be seeing a new contender for a long duration San’yaku slot.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Don’t blink or you will miss it. Goeido delivers a face slap at the tachiai and then steps to the side. Chiyotairyu’s massive forward momentum does the rest.

Takayasu defeats Arawashi – Shoulder blast again from Takayasu leaves him dazed and off balance for a split second, but Arawashi does not notice or cannot capitalize. From there it’s a ragged chase scene that sees Arawashi step backward out of the ring. Kind of a dud match.

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – No complaints about that pull, as we all know Big K is hurt, and that right hand is the worst part of his body right now. Quite impressive that he beat Tamawashi off the line – that’s hard to do. Tamawashi once again came in strong, but Kakuryu was just enough ahead that he could force him back and up. From there the pull-down worked, and the Yokozuna had a victory before anyone got hurt.

Day 14 – Yusho, packed and delivered

We have ourselves a yusho winner. The first from Georgia. The first Maegashira to win the title since Kyokutenho in in Natsu 2012. The first Kasugano yusho winner in 46 years (Tochiazuma Tomoyori, Hatsu 1972 – also Maegashira at the time). No wonder the Kasugano support club wanted to see a fish and to see it now:

tochinoshin-with-fish
I lifted Mitakeumi, I almost lifted Ichinojo. What’s this puny fish to me?

Down at Jonokuchi, I’m glad to inform you that Yoshoyama managed to scrape his kachi-koshi today, facing the hapless Osumifuji.

Now I hope someone at Tokitsukaze – preferably not Shodai – will use the time until Haru to teach the kid how to do a tachiai properly. Osumifuji joins the droves of make-koshi rikishi from Isegahama.

yoshoyama
Yoshoyama. Now you’ll be able to pick him up in a lineup.

37 year old Hokutogo from Hakkaku beya says goodbye to the sumo world after 22 years. Never made it higher than Makushita 54.

His heya mates brought him flowers to the hana-michi.

In Makushita, Wakamotoharu lost his final bout and is make-koshi. No video at this time.

Up in Juryo, Meisei goes against Takagenji:

Takagenji still doesn’t have kachi-koshi. Both he and Meisei will need a win tomorrow. Takagenji will face the strong Hidenoumi who wants the Yusho.

On to the top division we go:

Sokokurai and Daiamami engage in a lengthy hidari-yotsu, with Sokokurai burying his head in Daiamami’s chest. Eventually Sokokurai tries a throw, but it doesn’t quite work and Daiamami uses it to yori-kiri him.

Kotoyuki and Daieisho go on a tsuppari battle, that ends up with Kotoyuki spread across the dohyo. Hikiotoshi. Kotoyuki’s last chance of a kachi-koshi is tomorrow.

Yutakayama pushes Daishomaru mightily to the edge. Daishomaru tries a side step. Yutakayama slams to the ground – but Daishomaru is also out. Gunbai says Yutakayama, a monoii is called – but Daishomaru’s foot was out first, and it is indeed Yutakayama’s win – and kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki tries to be as genki as he can and bumps into Nishikigi. Gives a harite and tries to get a mawashi grip. This doesn’t quite work, and Nishikigi drives him to the edge. Then hovers around with a worried face to see that he didn’t damage the old man. On the Isegahama web site, Aminishiki writes “Tomorrow is the last match, so I want to win”. Somehow it sounds to me that he means that it’s the ultimate last match. He may not want to go down to Juryo again.

And… Ishiura does a henka against Chiyomaru. Ishiura kachi-koshi. So we’ll see more of his henka in Haru. Sigh.

Ryuden takes on Kaisei and gets in a quick morozashi. Kaisei has the weight advantage and good mobility on his side, and he shifts and turns and gets one of Ryuden’s hands out. Then tries to pull an uwatenage, but he ends up on the floor first, and it’s declared Ryuden’s shitatenage. Ryuden hits the double digits on his debut – which is impressive because he was never a double digits man.

Chiyoshoma gets a fast hold on Asanoyama and they go on a raging battle, but Chiyoshoma loses his hold, and once Asanoyama has his grip, he pushes the Mongolian out with a defiant head nod. Chiyoshoma make-koshi, Asanoyama kachi-koshi again. It’s funny to hear people in the crowd cheering for him using his real name (Ishibashi).

The Ghost of Terunofuji vs. Ikioi. Move along. Nothing to see here. It’s a yoritaoshi despite Ikioi both hurting and trying to be gentle. Terunofuji says that he wants to win at least tomorrow’s bout. Fat chance.

Takekaze comes in strong at the tachiai and gets his left hand inside… but that’s about all he can manage. Okinoumi brushes him out as if he was a fly.

Kagayaki starts an oshi battle vs. Endo, but after a couple of clashes, falls pray to slippiotoshi, Endo swiftly moving aside to let him “split the dohyo” as the Japanese expression goes.

The camera has been following Tochinoshin through the previous two bouts. A few obligatory shots of Shohozan as well, but he is not the story here. When those two finally get at it, you can cut the tension with a knife. Shohozan starts a tsuppari barrage which Tochinoshin can only fend off. This goes on for some time, then Shohozan tries to sidestep. This nearly gets Tochinoshin, and the spectators let out a big “whoa”. But he quickly turns around, and when he does, he also gets a good grip on Shohozan, and from there it’s a couple of yori followed by a yori-kiri. The man from Georgia gets his first yusho. The crowd bursts into applause. It’s party time… but there are still bouts to go.

Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu are apparently graduates of the same university. So they are sempai and kohai. But Chiyotairyu doesn’t give Yoshikaze any precedence, and quickly pulls at him for a hatakikomi. Yoshikaze looked for a moment like he was going for an outstanding performance prize, but that moment passed several bouts ago.

In yet another battle of opposite ends, Abi draws former Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a battle of the up-and-coming vs. the down-and-going. However, Kotoshogiku is not going anywhere without a fight. Abi tries to pull Kotoshogiku down quickly, but Kotoshogiku not falling for that. Abi then sticks his head in Kotoshogiku’s chest and grabs at his armpits. But a yori battle will favor the Chrisanthemum. Abi’s pelvis is about the height of Kotoshogiku’s chest, so Kotoshogiku refrains from pumping his hips, but he does know how to push, and yori-kiris Abi right out. In Yiddish we call this “rebe-gelt” – “tuition”, what you pay when you learn a lesson.

Chiyonokuni doesn’t give Hokutofuji even two seconds before slapping him down. Hatakikomi, and the Kokonoe man slowly reduces the damage of his make-koshi, while Hokutofuji is 4-10 and will drop way down the banzuke at Haru.

Now, I hate it when the torikumi guys pit two guys I like against each other, but oh well, I can always be happy for the winner. This time Takarafuji was trying to get his kachi-koshi from Ichinojo. And Ichinojo is not in the business of letting his rivals win this basho. If they want to, they have to work for it. Ichinojo unbelievably tries for a nodowa on his left and momentarily allows Takarafuji to get his hand in on his right. Nodowa? The boulder quickly realizes his mistake, abandons the nonexistent throat, and changes his grip on the right. Now it’s migi-yotsu, which favors Ichinojo. But there is no extended leaning battle this time, as Ichinojo grabs Takarafuji’s mawashi tightly and throws him outside for a shitatedashinage, no ifs, ands and buts.

Today it was the old Shodai vs. the old Takakeisho. Shodai stands up at the tachiai. Doesn’t get anything done. Takakeisho bumps him a couple of time. No kachi-koshi for Shodai as yet.

In the match of the Eagles, Arawashi with his bad knees gets a better tachiai. I would even call this one a matta. But Tamawashi regroups and goes into a tsuppari attack. Arawashi sidesteps, and Tamawashi flies over the edge. Arawashi still has a chance for a kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Goeido avoids kadoban and gets Mitakeumi all the way to the tawara in a blink of an eye. Correct bootup today, apparently.

Musubi no ichiban. Takayasu  drives hard and gets Kakuryu to the edge. But Kakuryu is looking better today, circles and regroups. Tries to get a grip on Takayasu, but Takayasu turns him around. The Yokozuna quickly turns right back and lunges at Takayasu. And then…. he… pulls… again…. Oshidashi, yet another loss for the Yokozuna. And Takayasu has the jun-yusho (though theoretically he can lose tomorrow and Ryuden or Kakuryu win).

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day14

So the yusho goes to Tochinoshin. Both the Georgian prime minister and president tweet their congratulations.

Tochinoshin's family in Georgia
Tochinoshin’s family watching his bout back in Georgia

The jun-yusho, with high probability, goes to Takayasu. My assumption is that he will do his best to win tomorrow, to make it a decent 12-3 jun-yusho, which may allow him to lay claim to a rope should he win the yusho in Haru. One of my twitter followers says that not having been in the yusho picture, this wouldn’t count for Takayasu, but I think that if he does happen to win Haru, given that he has the all-important Japanese birth certificate, the NSK and the YDC may avoid nitpicking.

What’s left tomorrow is to see if the Yokozuna can pull at least the win from Goeido. To see who gets the various sansho (Abi still has a shot, Ryuden certainly has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ichinojo gets one). And then we will get to see Tochinoshin lifting cup after cup, and being driven around in the NSK’s spiffy new Mercedes-Benz.

 

Day 13 – It’s Georgia. Not the US state, the country.

The Makuuchi Chamipionship is all but determined, as Tochinoshin goes from chasing to being chased. But before we make ourselves familiar with the Caucasus and the Georgian cuisine, rich in walnuts and cheeses, we already have a champion today – in the Makushita division.

wakatakakage
Your shikona is Wakatakakage. Now repeat that 10 times at high speed.

The schedulers matched Wakatakakage (Ms #17) with the other yusho contender, Tochiseiryu (Ms #47). Both came into the bout with 6-0.

Tochiseiryu’s pre-bout looks similar to Tochiozan’s, doesn’t it? Anyway, W.T.K. dispatches of him easily, as the difference in rank would suggest, and wins a zensho-yusho. I believe his position is just below the Juryo promotion line, though, and in any case the upper Makushita have many kachi-koshi wrestlers waiting for one of the (probably 7) open Juryo positions.

One of those on line for those 7 positions is Prince Enho, who today had a battle for the kachi-koshi with Shonannoumi. Both coming into this match 3-3.

Ah… Enho… I guess with Hakuho’s royal feet being kyujo, Enho has to settle for taking lessons from Ishiura. Which is not something I’d recommend. What’s with the henka? Was that really necessary?

OK, I’ll try my hand at a bit of demotion-promotion speculation. Here is a summary of the situation of the bottom of Juryo:

#14E Akua Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#14W Kizenryu Make-koshi, only three wins so far.
#12E Yamaguchi Make-koshi, only two wins so far.
#12W Tochihiryu Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#11E Ura Full kyujo due to surgery.
#9W Toyohibiki Full kyujo due to injury.
#8W Osunaarashi 1 win. Kyujo due to scandal. Drop from Juryo certain, may face retirement.

The others in between are either kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi. So these are seven potential slots, though I suppose Tochihiryu may still be saved.

The situation at the top of Makushita is:

#1E Yago kachi-koshi
#1W Terutsuyoshi kachi-koshi
#2W Shimanoumi kachi-koshi
#3W Tobizaru kachi-koshi
#4W Akiseyama kachi-koshi
#6E Enho kachi-koshi
#7E Takayoshitoshi kachi-koshi

So Takayoshitoshi is on the bubble, it seems, but he still has one bout to go, and if he wins it, he’ll have a better kachi-koshi than Enho and may pass him in on the promotion line.

Down in Sandanme, unfortunately, Torakio suffered an injury. I will not post his bout from yesterday as I don’t like to share videos of people rolling around in pain. He could not return to the dohyo for his bout after his loss, and he is now on the kyujo list. He will be make-koshi. Too bad to have an injury at such an early stage of his career, let’s hope it’s not as bad as it looked – shoulder and arm issue).

I’m not going to give you the Hattorizakura video this time – because the kid is back to his old way, walking backward just being looked at, which is a real shame. Anyway, he has now completed is usual set of 7 losses, and will have to wait until Haru to show us some progress again.

Tomorrow Yoshoyama-Osumifuji, both 3-3, vying for the kachi-koshi.

Up in Juryo, Kyokutaisei has ensured his kachi-koshi, and being Juryo #1, has ensured his promotion to Makuuchi. The papers make much of the fact that he is from Hokkaido, but I’m making much of the fact that he is from Tomozuna beya (Kaisei’s heya), and will therefore help the Isegahama ichimon a little bit in the coming power rankings. 🙂

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei vs. Takagenji

Mitoryu has also ensured his kachi-koshi and will continue wearing his kesho-mawashi for a second tournament.

If you’re interested in the Juryo bouts, there’s this channel where the owner seems to upload each of the lower division’s complete bouts a few hours after each day ends.

So… we go up to Makuuchi, and what do we see?

Sokokurai trying hard to stay at Makuuchi. Today he faced Yutakayama who is still looking for a kachi-koshi. He can’t get a mawashi hold on Yutakayama, but eventually sidesteps and gets a hikiotoshi.

Today Ishiura decided to go for plain, forward-moving sumo. Maybe because Daishomaru is not much taller than he is. And what do you know, it worked! He grabs Daishomaru’s mawashi with his left hand and shows him the way out, yori-kiri.

Kotoyuki gets an easy one against Daiamami. They call this a tsukitaoshi, but I’d say it was a tsukite (which is a hiwaza).

The ghost of Terunofuji meets Takekaze and gives the old man a little more padding against the Juryo drop. Terunofuji unable to do a proper tachiai, let alone keep from being pushed.

A… Asanoyama… where are you? Who is that scarecrow who mounts the dohyo in your place in the second week? Chiyomaru needed exactly half a second to pull Asanoyama to the ground. Is Asanoyama sitting too close to the Isegahama guys in the shitakubeya or what?

Shohozan makes short work of Daieisho, who seems to have lost his will to do sumo once he secured his kachi-koshi. Shohozan gets in a couple of harite, then wraps Daieisho’s body and flips him for a sukuinage.

Abi really looks like he is enjoying his work, even during the actual bout. He got Kaisei, who has a huge weight advantage on him. He starts as usual with a “morotezuki”, which means he thrusts with both hands. Then he sidesteps and nearly gets Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei stays on his feet but it’s enough for Abi to grab at his mawashi, turn him around and send him out by okuri-dashi. What weight advantage? The youngster is 9-4, and may actually get one of those sansho prizes he talked about.

Chiyonokuni seems to have improved once he got his make-koshi. He starts with his tsuppari attack before Nishikigi completes his tachiai, and then pulls for a tsukiotoshi.

Chiyoshoma gets in for a fine tachiai, but Kagayaki gets a grip on his belt, and they start dancing around the dohyo. Although Chiyoshoma manages to escape from that grip, that wild dance ends with him putting a foot outside the dohyo. Kagayaki secures his first kachi-koshi since Natsu.

The shimpan gave poor old Aminishiki a real scare. This match was nervous for both him and Ikioi (which one is more injured?), with two mattas to begin with. And then he threw a flying henka and somehow managed to get Ikioi down  before he ran out of dohyo. Not his usual precision, though. Anyway, Konosuke called it Aminishiki’s. The shimpan called a monoii. And as Kintamayama will tell you, a monoii on Konosuke’s shift is an exercise in futility. Finally the shimpan agree that Konosuke is right, and the head shimpan tries to explain the decision. But he seems to be in his cups – mutters and forgets what he wanted to say. He goes as far as saying that it was a “gunbai sashi-chigae” – which it certainly was not, before the crowd’s murmur wakes him up and he corrects himself and lets Aminishiki get his kensho. Poor Uncle.

Ryuden gets a better start than Takarafuji, but Takarafuji manages to get his left hand inside, which is his favorite grip. Ryuden circles and squirms and gets rid of that hand, while himself maintaining a hold on Takarafuji’s mawashi. A battle of grips ensues. Takarafuji gets Ryuden’s hand off his mawashi, but Ryuden still has a hold on his body. Ryuden tries to make a throw. Loses the mawashi grip he momentarily regained. Takarafuji manages to lock both Ryuden’s arm in front of his chest. But at this point Takarafuji runs out of stamina and eventually Ryuden yori-kiri’s him. I hope Takarafuji hasn’t contracted that Isegahama flu. Ryuden is an excellent wrestler, and I believe we’ll see him in sanyaku at some point. And yes, he has 9 wins, like Abi, and may also become a sansho winner.

Endo starts by pulling and sending a couple of slaps in Kotoshogiku‘s direction. Grabs at Kotoshogiku’s hand, then converts that into a right-hand-inside mawashi grip with Kotoshogiku between him and the tawara. Kotoshogiku dances and gains some ground. Grabs at Endo’s right hand and tries for a kotenage. Endo manages to retain his footing. Kotoshogiku still has his right hand, but he has his left on Kotoshogiku’s torso. He then pushes against the right hand – the one Kotoshogiku is still latched onto – for a yori-kiri. Excellent match, and Endo gets a kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo and Tochinoshin… what is a yusho-related bout doing here, so early in the day? Well, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin grab at each other’s mawashi right off the tachiai. It’s a migi-yotsu and both of them have firm mawashi grips on both sides. So who’s going to be stronger? For a moment it looks undecided, but Ichinojo loses his left hand grip, and Tochinoshin goes for the kill. Ichinojo sticks to the tawara – good boy! But Tochinoshin applies some sideways force and gets Ichinojo out. Titanic.

ichinojo-tochinoshin
Note to self: don’t try tsuri-dashi again on this guy

Hokutofuji comes in strong at Yoshikaze. The man in the green mawashi seems not to have completely recovered from yesterday’s Force-choke. Hokutofuji finally gets to show the sumo he became famous for. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu overwhelms Takakeisho who once again finds himself flying off the dohyo (and into Arawashi’s lap). Oshitaoshi.

Shodai once again comes straight off the tachiai into a morozashi. But Tamawashi gets himself released and answers with an expert tsuppari attack that sends Shodai outside, looking for his kachi-koshi elsewhere.

Arawashi, still suffering the effects of a Takakeisho bomb landing on him, has to suffer yet again as the Takayasu locomotive slams into him. Boom! Seismographs around Tokyo register a level 3 tremor while the Eagle flies into Goeido’s arms. Sitting on the East side of the dohyo today has been a serious health risk. Takayasu gets double digits for the first time since his Ozeki run.

Goeido gets a grip on Okinoumi‘s body and pushes forward, though it looks half-hearted. Gets his 7th win. Will try to get his kachi-koshi vs. Mitakeumi tomorrow.

And now, the musubi-no-ichiban. It’s a bit of an anti-climax as we already know that Tochinoshin maintained his lead. But let’s see…

Mitakeumi just lifts the Yokozuna’s upper part with his left hand and pushes forward. Kakuryu finds himself backpaddling again. And out again. And… the yusho flies away, probably never to return.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day13

The Yokozuna has his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, that’s true. But this crumble at money time is bound to raise murmurs among the YDC this Monday. One of the guys on Twitter wrote something along the lines of: “In the first few days, all my friends were saying Kakuryu stands up to pressure much better than Harumafuji. I had to nod. But now we can see the real difference, because Harumafuji’s nerves held up much better once the yusho was on the table”.

The Yokozuna still has a couple of days to improve his score. But the chances that Tochinoshin will drop two consecutive bouts are very slim. And who knows if it’s the Yokozuna who’ll be doing the playoff with him if that happens.

Yusho Arasoi:

Leader (12-1): M3 Tochinoshin

Chasers (10-3):

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Ozeki Takayasu

Tomorrow those two face each other, and oh boy, Takayasu looks much better at the moment.

So, start learning about Georgia, because it sure looks like the Emperor’s Cup is going there right now.

 

Hatsu Day 10 Preview

Tochinoshin

The snow was coming down in big, heavy globs today across Tokyo. It’s amazing how quickly a bit of snow turns a modern metropolis into Ukiyo-e scene, complete with burly figures in robes making their way through the drifts. At the end of day 9, there was really only one rikishi who had a chance to impact the yusho favorite, Kakuryu. In his winning match, Tochinoshin showed a level of power and vigor that he has been unable to bring to the dohyo for quite some time, and sumo fans worldwide are delighted to see him lift a smaller rikishi like Mitakeumi and carry him to the curb.

Day 10 marks the end of the second act, and true to form, on the closing day of the second act, we know who is a competitor, and whose dreams have been crushed. For Kakuryu, he enters the final five days of Hatsu as the sole surviving Yokozuna, and in a commanding lead. He is thus far unbeaten, and his sumo is as sharp and effective as the heady days when he was an unstoppable Ozeki on his way up.

Mitakeumi has faltered in the past few days, but his goal of a double-digit win record for Hatsu and the beginning of an Ozkei campaign is still within reach.

Hatsu Leader Board

Leader – Kakuryu
Chasers – Tochinoshin
Hunt Group – Mitakeumi, Daieisho

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Ryuden vs Azumaryu – Juryo 2E Azumaryu joins Makuuchi for the day to even out the ranks. Azumaryu and Ryuden have had eight prior matches, and have split them evenly. Azumaryu is nowhere near contention for the Juryo yusho, but his one day pass to Makuuchi may give fans in the US their first look at another rikishi fighting to rejoin the upper division.

Abi vs Yutakayama – Abi has been steadily improving after starting with two straight losses. Though he has struggled in the past, this may be the basho where Yutakayama is able to secure a kachi-koshi in the top division and stick around. Yutakayama won their only prior engagement, but at present, there is likely a slight advantage to Abi.

Asanoyama vs Daishomaru – Asanoyama had an impressive 6-0 start, and has now endured three straight losses. He is looking to turn that around against a struggling Daishomaru, who has been fighting injuries since Aki. Daishomaru won their only prior match, which was during Aki.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – Daieisho is fighting strong this tournament, so the schedulers pulled Maegashira 8 Tochiozan down to face off against Maegashira 13 Daieisho. This will be interesting because two of their prior matches went to Daieisho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo returns! Fans around the globe dearly hope that he is well enough to compete, and is not risking further or increased injury. Although he is already make-koshi, a few wins might make the difference in allowing him to remain at the bottom of Makuuchi for March.

Takarafuji vs Kaisei – Two strong 6-3 rikishi battle it out in a fight of steady and strong. Takarafuji prefers to get a grip on Kaisei and yorikiri the Brazilian, where Kaisei tends to apply throws against Takarafuji. Their career record of 12-9 favors Kaisei.

Shohozan vs Endo – After a strong start, Endo has been struggling, and fans have to wonder if maybe he has aggravated one of his chronic injuries. Today he goes against Shohozan, who has been bludgeoning everyone into submission. Their career record of 4-2 favors Endo, but I am going to see if Shohozan can apply an immediate hatakikomi.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – An injured and demoralized Kotoshogiku goes against a raging mass of genki named Tochinoshin. While it would be great to see the Kyushu Bulldozer put the doom on Tochinoshin, there is no way Kotoshogiku’s knees could withstand the amount of pressure it would take for him to force the big Georgian out. Career record of 24-5 favors Kotoshogiku.

Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – I am going to assume that the Boulder is going to use the same approach he used on Onosho, that is, to just go bowling with his roly-poly tadpole opponent. To be honest, it may not be that easy, as Ichinojo has never beaten Takakeisho in the three times they have faced off. But Ichinojo seems to have recovered the zen of mass and seems unafraid to use his enormity to win.

Mitakeumi vs Arawashi – Arawashi is struggling this basho, and will be lucky to hit kachi-koshi. But Mitakeumi needs three more wins to tick over to the magical double digits. After his humiliating defeat at the hands of Tochinoshin on day 9, Mitakeumi probably has a lot of frustration to resolve. Arawashi has never won a match against Mitakeumi so this could be a foregone conclusion.

Goeido vs Shodai – The Shodai match is a unit-test for GoeidOS 2.0. If he applies maximum upward force from below and inside Shodai’s high tachiai, we can assume that GoeidOS 2.0 is working as planned. Honestly, this should be pretty easy for Goeido.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Not going to be an easy day for a struggling Takayasu. Tamawashi more or less has his number, beating him 10 times out of their 16 career matches. With Takayasu looking disorganized and chaotic on the dohyo, he may fall prey to a focused, organized and concentrated attack. Sadly for Tamawashi, he has not been able to execute that kind of engagement this tournament.

Kakuryu vs Okinoumi – It would be a huge surprise if this were not a rapid win #10 for the surviving Yokozuna. Okinoumi has, in the past, been a worthy foe for Kakuryu, but this Kakuryu is strong and fast, Okinoumi is looking disorganized and injured once more.

Day 9 – Ichinojo goes bowling, Tochinoshin dangling bait.

As usual, I shall start somewhat below Makuuchi.

For those who are not aware of it yet, Osunaarashi is kyujo as of today (day 9), due to a suspicion of rear-ending a car while driving without a valid license. This was bad enough to make the NHK World news yesterday.

But we are here to talk about sumo, not yet another scandal, so let’s start with my main man Terutsuyoshi, who made a visit to Juryo today to face Kizenryu.

The video doesn’t contain the explanation of the monoii, but if I understand the announcers correctly, the question was who initiated the throw. If it was Terutsuyoshi, then clearly Kizenryu touched first. But if it was Kizenryu, then Terutsuyoshi was shinitai.

The monoii ended with a torinaoshi. And the second bout didn’t look very different from the first, but this time it was pretty clear cut:

Too bad for my man from Isegahama, but win or lose – he entertains.

OK, let’s go on with the matches of the day in Makuuchi.

Abi starts with his usual tsuppari attack, which doesn’t seem to effective against Asanoyama, so Abi gives a strong pull and Asanoyama finds himself on the ground.

abi-with-kensho
Hey, look what I found tied to my sagari!

Ishiura starts off his bout with his hand straight on Daieisho‘s mawashi knot, and deftly undoes it. Wardrobe malfunction. The gyoji stops them, corrects, restarts the bout, and Ishiura, with one hand on the knot and one on the front, flips Daieisho into a shitatehineri. But wait, I have a sense of Deja vu:

That’s Kyushu 2017. Ishiura vs. Ryuden – both in Juryo at the time. Ishiura must have been one of those teenagers who practice undoing a bra with one hand.

Nishikigi really does nothing in the tachiai, and lets Takekaze slam into him. Doesn’t get any kind of a grip, and Takekaze pulls at him for a katasukashi – but doing that he flies outside, and the gunbai goes to Nishikigi. No monoii. I think both the gyoji and the shimpan took this to be Nishikigi’s attack. Takekaze now make-koshi.

Sokokurai  gets into a classic yotsu bout with Ryuden. Tries a shitatenage, Ryuden keeps on his feet. Tries the same on the other side of the ring. Still no results. Sokokurai puts some more force into it and manages a yoritaoshi – rolling together with his rival. Kintamayama says he hurt his back, let’s hope it’s fine by tomorrow. No need for more injuries.

Daiamami beats Chiyomaru in a slow motion oshi battle. Boom. Boom. Boom. Yawn.

Kagayaki, on the other hand, is very sharp and fast. He doesn’t let Shohozan get anywhere near his belt, and instead slaps him all the way out. Kagayaki back to the form he has shown in the first couple of days.

As long as Chiyonokuni can keep the bout on the tsuki-oshi side, he seems fine. But eventually Yutakayama decides he has had enough harite for one day, grabs the Kokonoe man and throws him out. Yoritaoshi. Chiyonokuni one loss away from a make-koshi.

Chiyoshoma‘s bout with Kotoyuki was over in the blink of an eye. No wiles, no throws, and Kotoyuki just pushing the slender Mongolian out.

Ikioi finally manages to attack and win – a couple of strong pushes and then a desparate lunge, and Daishomaru is out. But Ikioi seems to have caused himself further injury.

Takarafuji wins very decisively. Tochiozan gets a morozashi on him, but he applies his mighty arms in a “hasami” – basically a pincer hold – and doesn’t let Tochiozan do anything with that morozashi. Oshidashi for the only Isegahama man who seems to be in working order nowadays.

Kaisei first grabs a hold of Endo‘s arm. Endo manages to shake him off, but Kaisei maintains his balance and responds with another attack. This time Endo is driven to the edge. Desparately tries a leg trip, doesn’t work. Yorikiri for the Brasilian (who is not too enthusiastic about the snow currently enveloping Tokyo: “I loved it when I saw my first snow, but…”)

Chiyotairyu gets his second win in a row, and very quickly, too. Okinoumi touches down before you blink.

In the battle of the veterans, Kotoshogiku gets a pretty firm hold of Yoshikaze‘s left arm. They then fight over the hold on the other side. Kotoshogiku tries again and again to get his left hand inside. Yoshikaze catches on to his wrist. Eventually Kotoshogiku gets that sashi (hand inside) and finishes Yoshikaze off with a couple of gaburi. Classic Kotoshogiku.

Onosho tries, for some unfathomable reason, to grab at Ichinojo‘s belt. Probably realizes that a tsuppari attack against the boulder’s midriff is going to give him no results. But Ichinojo doesn’t really care what Onosho plans. That arm that went to his belly? He sticks his own hand to the armpit and rolls Onosho out like a bowling ball in a red mawashi. What can I say? “Ichinojo is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh Onosho to lie down below the dohyo” [Book of Mountainous Mongolians, Chapter 6, verse 3]

Hokutofuji and Takakeisho go on what is half way an oshi battle, and half way keeping each other at arm’s length. Again, typical tadpole sumo. Amazingly, both manage to stay on their feet and neither ends up in doggy position. Takakeisho manages to get Hokutofuji moving a bit to the right as he gets to the tawara, and uses that to get the man off balance and out of the ring.

And now, to the battle of the chasers. Both 7-1 coming into this bout, Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi both want to stay in the yusho race. They start off with Mitakeumi trying to prevent the Georgian from getting at his mawashi, but Tochinoshin gets the left hand outside pretty quickly. Now it’s a fight on the right hand. Mitakeumi gets his own right hand on Tochinoshin’s mawashi. But Tochinoshin does the same, gets a secure grip on both side. And at this point he just picks up Mitakeumi for a new world record in wedgies. Upsie-daisy… not out yet? Upsie-daisy… now you’re out.

tochinoshin-mitakeumi

The kimari-te is tsuri-dashi, “dangle-and-out”. I’m still waiting for the fish to bite. Tochinoshin the second man in Makuuchi to make a kachi-koshi, but I’m sure he’s not settling for that any more than Kakuryu is.

By the way, it’s not Mitakeumi’s first tsuri-wedgie. This used to be a Terunofuji specialty. Maybe Tochinoshin could have a talk with Terunofuji and explain about knees, healing and regaining strength.

So basically, Mitakeumi is out of the yusho race unless Kakuryu drops a couple of bouts (and Mitakeumi doesn’t).

Compared to that bout, the two Ozeki bouts that followed were meh.

Takayasu dispatches Shodai in an eye blink with a tsukiotoshi. Shodai looks pretty frustrated.

Goeido all over Tamawashi in his usual 2.0 steamroller style.

Finally, in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu continues to dominate. Gets his left hand on Arawashi‘s mawashi, and while still seeking the right hand grip, pushes him to the tawara. Plain and simple yori-kiri, still unbeaten.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Yusho Arasoi

Leader: Yokozuna Kakuryu

Chaser: M3 Tochinoshin

Hopefuls:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow Aminishiki is back on the dohyo. He says that his condition is “Good enough to be able to wrestle”. He is already make-koshi, and desparately needs wins to cushion his fall from reaching all the way to Juryo.

 

Day 7 – Pressure? What Pressure?

So, as usual, I’ll start with some lower division bouts. Remember Yago (nickname “Ago” – “chin”)? His visit to the sekitori ranks was not as successful as he would have hoped, and he dropped back to Makushita for this basho. However, in Makushita he feels right at home.

This bout marks his fourth straight win – a kachi koshi – and an almost sure return to Juryo, as he is ranked Ms1 at the moment. And he may well repeat the zensho-yusho he got in Makushita back in Nagoya 2017.

My main man, Terutsuyoshi, did not let his loss the other day put him down. Here he faces the same potato, er, rikishi, who defeated Enho yesterday:

Enho, watch and learn!

Terutsuyoshi is also ranked at Ms1, and will probably need just one more win to get himself back to Juryo. Next basho he is likely to meet Takanoiwa there. Wonder how that will turn out.

Toyonoshima attempted to return after he was kyujo on day 4. Unfortunately, Asabenkei is not a pushover, and Toyonoshima got his first Makekoshi in four basho.

OK, up to Makuuchi we go.

Ryuden shows why so much was expected of him. He evades Yutakayama‘s tsuppari attack, gets inside, takes hold of Yutakayama’s armpit, and applies power. Oshidashi, and Ryuden in has a positive balanace.

Abi starts with a tsuppari attack. Tries for a second to grab at Nishikigi‘s mawashi but it looks more like a distraction. It’s actually Nishikigi who is trying to get a grip and can’t. Eventually Nishikigi lunges desparately at Abi’s mawashi, at which point Abi grabs him for a quick sukuinage. So there is more to the young Peter Pan than just tsuppari.

It looks like Asanoyama woke up this morning and thought he was still in Fukuoka. Daieisho overwhelmed him and bang – there goes the zensho. Perhaps this will prevent Asanoyama from being scheduled against joi wrestlers.

Daiamami pulls at his nose no fewer than three times, and then proceeds to rain tsuppari at Takekaze. The veteran has no answer. He is two losses away from a make-koshi, and if he doesn’t start winning somehow, will join many familiar faces in Juryo next basho.

In the battle of the meh, Ishiura gets pushed to the tawara by Kagayaki, but manages to circle and defend. Then he seems to go too low and be in risk of losing his balance, but it is in fact Kagayaki who slips on the dohyo and ends up face down. Tsukiotoshi.

Chiyomaru doesn’t really have to work hard to beat Sokokurai. The man from Inner Mongolia tries a couple of times to get at the mawashi behind that huge belly, but doesn’t even get close. Easiest oshi-dashi in the world.

Kaisei makes short work of Daishomaru, gets him turned around and sends him off the dohyo. Tries to give him a helping hand up, but Daishomaru refuses it and goes up on his own.

Kotoyuki seems to get in control in the bout vs. Tochiozan, as oshi is his game, whereas Tochiozan usually prefers to get a morozashi on his opponents. However, once again Kotoyuki overreaches and find himself getting intimate with the spectators.

Chiyoshoma up to his old tricks. Two mattas. Then starts the bout with a harizashi. Gets several more harite in, but Shohozan is not impressed and pushes the lighter man out.

Chiyonokuni is having a miserable time in this basho. Only one win to his name at the moment, and Endo is not a good place to look for the second one. Chiyonokuni starts with his tsuppari barrage, Endo manages to get a half-grip on his mawashi, nearly loses balance but eventually gets the Kokonoe man out of the ring for an oshidashi.

Ikioi manages to get his left hand inside, but Okinoumi turns this against him as he wraps his arm around Ikioi’s for a kotenage. Okinoumi seems to be on his way back. Ikioi in deep trouble.

Takarafuji and Shodai fight for a grip for a few minutes. It’s Shodai who gets his morozashi, and quickly dispatches of the Isegahama man. This new Shodai is dangerous. Kakuryu better be careful.

Chiyotairyu is yet another Kokonoe man who is in trouble, with his only win a fusen. Kokonoe is only fairing better than Isegahama in that it doesn’t have as many injuries. Arawashi, with or without legs, manages to sidestep and roll the huge Chiyotairyu. Hatakikomi.

Onosho came fast and strong at Kotoshogiku, pushing the veteran all the way up to the tawara. Giku hung on by his tiptoes, moved around, grabbed hold of Onosho’s left arm and took him down for a kotenage. Still has some juice flowing, Kotoshogiku.

I don’t know what’s up with TamawashiHokutofuji could not ask for an easier rival. A henka, Tamawashi running into thin air, and Hokutofuji coming from behind and finishing the job. Okuridashi.

Yoshikaze was hoping he could continue in his giant-toppling routine today, but Mitakeumi had other plans. Yoshikaze tries to pull Mitakeumi down, fails, is driven to the edge, and then tries to launch an attack, when Mitakeumi simply pulls back and pulls him down. Mitakeumi keeps his perfect record.

Takayasu may have had a good record against Ichinojo, but the Mongolian boulder has brought some fighting spirit to this basho. He takes Takayasu’s kachiage with nonchalance and they both grapple, neither getting an overarm grip. Takayasu tries to change the grip, gets the grip he wants and tries to pull at ichinojo, but ichinojo has an underarm grip of his own, pulls at Takayasu’s mawashi and throws him outside as if he was a rag doll. That man is powerful, make no mistakes. Takayasu finds himself with two losses in a row, three in total, and depending on the strength of competition in the second week, a serious chance of kadoban.

Goeido, on the other hand, booted up in the correct version today. Two losses are enough, and despite a weak tachiai, he just grabs and overwhelms Takakeisho, leading him all the way out. Still an Ozeki.

And then, the musubi-no-ichiban, the one we have been waiting for. Truth be told, Tochinoshin had a miserable score against Kakuryu, 20-1 before today, with that one victory being somewhere in 2010, when Kakuryu was still sekiwake. Still, Tochinoshin looks great in this basho, as strong as a grizzly bear. And Kakuryu is only back from injury, and is smaller than the big Georgian.

kakuryu-tochinoshin
For the blink of an eye I could have sworn I saw Harumafuji there

But we have a Yokozuna here, and he wasn’t letting Tochinoshin anywhere near his mawashi. He speedily got a strong mawashi grip himself, and just drove forward, in a determined de-ashi that reminded me very much of Harumafuji. Tochinoshin looked pretty frustrated there at the end, but there you have it. A yokozuna is a yokozuna.

And this yokozuna is now 7-0.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

No point in keeping track of Hakuho and Kisenosato anymore, so we are down to a Kakuryumeter. So far, so good. Despite the pressure to perform, being the only yokozuna in attendance, and not being paid for this basho other than those mountains of kensho, Kakuryu shows amazing resilience to pressure.

Yusho arasoi:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi

Chasers:

  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho
  • M16 Asanoyama

The san-yaku is really doing miserably this basho. Tomorrow Kakuryu is going to meet the dangerous Shodai. I hope he realizes that Shodai no just stands up at the tachiai. Mitakeumi is facing an equally dangerous Ichinojo. And I’m going to be rooting for the boulder. Go go Mongolian geography!

Hatsu Day 6 Preview

Yoshikaze kensho-stack
Yoshikaze’s Mountain of Kensho

With Kisenosato now officially out of the tournament, we face another basho where only one Yokozuna shows up to compete. As predicted at the end of 2017, significant changes are going to sweep through sumo this year. I am happy that it looks like Kakuryu has returned genki and ready to compete, and seems to really be dominating this tournament with strength and poise.

If you did not see it, Aminishiki took a terrible fall from the dohyo at the end of his day 5 match. And by terrible I mean he could not re-mount the dohyo to bow. He needed help walking, and was in very rough shape. Uncle Sumo, as we lovingly call him, is a miracle of orthopedic braces, large bandages and sheer human determination. It’s that force of will that got him back to Makuuchi, but sadly this injury may be the one that ends it for him.

There is good news as well! Mitakeumi is half way to his goal of double digit wins, and the kick-off of an Ozeki run. To be clear, with only one Yokozuna active at any given tournament, the Ozeki promotion lane is wide open. In addition, Tochinoshin is looking surprisingly genki this basho. His day 5 performance against Goeido was one for the highlight reels.

Hatsu Leader board

Leaders – Kakuryu, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chasers – Goeido, Takayasu, Endo, Chiyoshoma, Tochiozan, Shohozan, Kotoyuki, Daieisho

10 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 6

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – This one has a lot of potential, including the fact that this is the first time these two young men have met on the dohyo. Asanoyama comes in with zero defeats, but Ishiura brings speed and amazing strength.

Takekaze vs Ryuden – Ryuden is struggling a bit starting the second act of Hatsu, needing a few more wins to ensure a winning record. Takekaze has a terrible start to the basho, and needs to really step on the gas to avoid a possible demotion to Juryo for Osaka. This is also their first ever match.

Yutakayama vs Kagayaki – Struggling Yutakayama takes on “Buxom Rikishi” Kagayaki. Once again, these two meet for the first time. Both of them have similar approaches to their sumo, so I am going to suggest this will be evenly matched.

Shohozan vs Kotoyuki – Shohozan has been fighting well so far. His strength, speed and stability have carried him fairly far. Kotoyuki has been all over the map in prior tournaments, but seems to have his sumo running well for Hatsu. Kotoyuki brings a 4-2 career advantage to this match.

Okinoumi vs Chiyoshoma – For the last several days, Chiyoshoma has been attempting to deploy many of the tactics that were once the domain of Harumafuji. It’s been working for him, too. He comes in against a struggling Okinoumi who does not seem to be able to put together a winning recipe.

Shodai vs Endo – I am going to just say that Endo is likely to completely dominate Shodai, even though the career record (2-1) favors Shodai. Much as I love me some genki Shodai, that version is not showing up these days, whereas Endo is fighting as well as I have seen in at least a year.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Red hot Tochinoshin has a date with a tadpole, and it’s an epic clash of opposing sumo styles. Takakeisho will work to set up and run his “wave action tsuppari” from the tachiai. Tochinoshin needs to get inside, grab a hold of this guy and toss him like an angry pufferfish in Shimonoseki’s fish market. Interestingly enough, Tochinoshin has never beat Takakeisho. This one is a must-watch bout.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is on the receiving end of the traditional Maegashira 1 beating. This is necessary and important to bring him to the point when he will be a fixture of the upper ranks. But on day 6, its Mitakeumi’s turn to slap him around. Their career record of 2-2 shows an even match, so there is a chance that Hokutofuji can rally.

Goeido vs Yoshikaze – There are two Yoshikazes. The normal one is a fast, capable and a great all around athlete. He’s a force of sumo, and always gives it his all. The second one I call “The Berserker”. The Berserker can beat anyone, when he shows up. Not even Hakuho is safe from Yoshikaze in berserker mode. This is why nobody takes their match with him lightly. Goeido is fighting very well, but the career record of 12-11 favors Yoshikaze slightly, but underscores how big of match this could be.

Onosho vs Takayasu – Takayasu looks to be in his groove now, and it will be fun to see him chase Onosho around the dohyo for a few seconds. Hopefully he keeps his balance, and if he does I predict that Onosho is little more than a speed bump to another double digit tournament.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku is a shadow of his former self, but their career 22-24 record indicates these two are usually evenly matched. Kakuryu has been smooth and strong since the start of Hatsu, but Kotoshogiku’s recent wins have likely given him a needed confidence boost.

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes

So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

aminishiki-hurt
Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)

Hatsu Day 3 Highlights

Yoshikae-Down

With three days worth of data, its becoming clear that the mandated changes to Hakuho’s tachiai have really put him off tempo. In addition, I have to wonder if there may be an additional physical problem that is robbing him of his normal excellent performance. Not to detract from Hokutofuji’s excellent sumo on day 3, but he has been quite a bit less than himself for each of the first three days.

However, the real danger is Kisenosato. There was quite a bit of talk pre-basho on how he was nearly back to his old self. His fans and people who generally think he’s a good guy hoped that was the case. But then the science of medicine strongly suggested that was just not possible. Sadly it seems that medicine may hold the final say.

On top of that, poor old Terunofuji withdraws due to complications from diabetes. The original report in the Japanese press was that his knee was once again preventing him from good sumo, but later reports changed it to “ill health”, which the sumo grapevine clarified to diabetes. We all hope that Terunofuji can get his body well, and come back strong.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama seems to be back in his groove again after struggling in Kyushu. He has a respectable 3-0 start to Hatsu, and his win over Ryuden was convincing.

Ishiura defeats Daiamami – Fast and strong again today from Ishiura. At the tachiai he deployed a henka, but immediately latched a deep left hand grip on Daiamami, and from there he controlled the match. Being short in stature, he was close to Daiamami’s knees already, so he picked one up and danced Daiamami out for a shitatenage.

Abi defeats Takekaze – Abi picks up his first win of the basho with a straight ahead shoving match with Takekaze, who seems to be sharing whatever malady has plagued Yoshikaze.

Daieisho defeats Kagayaki – Daieisho unleashes a very strong and well coordinated oshi attack, which Kagayaki seems unable to counter. While I think Kagayaki has potential, he is far to easy to bring high and off balance.

Chiyoshoma defeats Endo – Chiyoshoma is lightning fast this bout, employing something similar to Harumafuji’s mini-henka. Following the hit-and-shift, Chiyoshoma gets behind Endo and pulls the uwatenage. Endo never had a moment to recover.

Tochinoshin defeats Okinoumi – Clearly Tochinoshin is feeling well and can apply his enormous strength. Okinoumi puts up a valiant effort to try to block Tochinoshin’s grip, but he eventually goes chest to chest, at which point Tochinoshin overpowers him for the win.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – This was always going to be a mighty Oshi-battle, but like some of Takakeisho’s earlier fights, it took an odd turn, with Takakeisho engaging in a flurry of tsuppari, then breaking off and diving back in time and again. This seemed to throw Tamawashi completely off his sumo, and the end was fairly sedate.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Onosho came out strong and had Mitakeumi moving backwards. But Mitakeumi used Onosho’s forward momentum at the edge of the dohyo to slap him down for the win. Onosho really having a crummy start to Hatsu.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Takayasu continues to employ his shoulder-blast off the tachiai, and it successfully disrupts Chiyotairyu’s battle plans. From there it’s an Oshi-battle with Takayasu controlling the short match.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – It’s very painful to watch Kotoshogiku fade away, but he is fading quickly. Goeido on the other had seems to have his sumo together this basho, and is fighting well. He may not face a real challenge until week two.

Ichinojo defeats Kisenosato – Much as I want Kisenosato to be healthy, it’s nice to see Ichinojo grab a kinboshi. But really, Kisenosato is not even fighting at Ozeki level right now. Again. Ichinojo completely overpowered him, and Kisenosato could do nothing to stop it. I am going to assume we will be losing another Yokozuna soon.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – The second kinboshi of the day, Hokutofuji has now taken a gold star from four different Yokozuna, quite an achievement so early in his career. After a false start, Hokutofuji took the fight squarely to The Boss. Hakuho seemed to be searching for an offense, while Hokutofuji kept moving forward. One of the great things about Hokutofuji is that you can beat his upper body to a pulp, but his lower body keeps moving forward. Great sumo from a rising star today.

Kakuryu defeats Yoshikaze – Something is seriously amiss with Yoshikaze. Is it the flu? It’s almost as if he’s not got any strength at all. Kakuryu simply rolls him in the first few seconds. I hope whatever the Berserker has going on, he can overcome and return strong.

Hatsu Day 3 Preview

Kotoshogiku-Flying Lesson
Kotoshogiku Gets A Flying Lesson

The first two days of Hatsu have exceeded my expectations, producing some exciting and enjoyable sumo. One of the Tachiai team, Josh, is in Tokyo this time, and I am incredibly envious.

Meanwhile, we seem to have all three surviving Yokozuna in workable condition, and turning in solid performances. Add to that that both Ozeki also seem to be on top of their sumo, and we are anticipating final day scores to see a dramatic departure from recent history. Over the past year we saw multiple upper Maegashira and San’yaku rikishi turning in double digit scores. Over the history of sumo, this is an unusual occurrence. Normally the named ranks completely wreck everyone from Sekiwake down into the joi. So don’t be shocked or disappointed if your favorite tadpole gets sent packing down the banzuke this time.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama comes into day 3 with 2 wins, and I am quite sure Ryuden will give him a good test. These two have only had one prior match, in Juryo, and Asanoyama was the winner. Both rikishi are looking sharp and aggressive early in this tournament.

Ishiura vs Daiamami – I am starting to hope that Ishiura has gotten back on top of his sumo. His tachiai looks greatly improved, and he’s not submarining into an inevitable hatakikomi so far. Can he make it 3-0 to start the new year? This is their first career match.

Daieisho vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is also looking to establish his credibility as a solid Maegashira rikishi, and his next stop is long term opponent Daieisho. Kagayaki will work to try and land a grip and use his superior strength, and Daieisho will try to stay mobile and work towards a throw / thrust out. Their career record of 5-6 indicates they are evenly matched.

Tochiozan vs Kaisei – Greatly inflated Panda-kun Kaisei faces Tochiozan day 3, and Tochiozan may have his hands full trying to maneuver that much churrasqueiro. As I have stated many times, being enormous is not a long term sumo strategy. But in some cases, it can be decisive. Tochiozan is a skilled technician, and may show us how its done.

Chiyoshoma vs Endo – Excellent pairing from the schedulers, we take two experienced, skilled rikishi with no losses thus far facing off. Endo holds a 4-2 career advantage, and tends to win by throwing Chiyoshoma.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – I am going to make a guess that Okinoumi is in reasonably good health for now. He faces off against Tochinoshin, and his incredible strength. These two will go chest to chest from the start, and it will come down to who gets the best grip. If this goes long, it favors Tochinoshin, so look for Okinoumi to end it in the first 30 seconds. Their 5-6 career record shows how evenly these two are matched.

Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – Another great match from scheduling. Two tsuppari / oshi masters going head to head is a formula for an explosive bout. Even thought Takakeisho holds a slight 2-1 career advantage, Tamawashi is pressing hard for double digits.

Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Mitakeumi is looking genki, and Onosho has yet to settle down and get his sumo running well. So this may be all Mitakeumi. But this could also be the day that Onosho clears the cobwebs and brings his blistering offense to the dohyo.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – Match of the burly-men, I am quite sure this is all Takayasu, and it’s going to be over in short order, I expect.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – A long term rivalry that goes back years, this match strongly favors Goeido. The first two days have seen Kotoshogiku hit the clay twice. He seems to be cold and disorganized, which is a huge shame.

Ichinojo vs Kisenosato – Ichinojo presents a significant challenge to Kisenosato. Given his performance in the past two days, it seems that he is still not nearly as strong as he was prior to his injury last March. At 215 kg, Ichinojo represents a huge mass to overcome, and Ichinojo has been fighting well.

Hakuho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has never been able to present a reasonable challenge to Hakuho, and much as I love Hokutofuji, I don’t expect his day 3 match to be appreciably different.

Kakuryu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really seems to be lacking any kind of spark in his first two matches, and frankly fans have to wonder if he is injured. On the other hand, Kakuryu seems quite genki, and he has been calling the shots in his first two matches.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview

kisenosato-down

Day 1 got off to a very solid start, better than either of the last two basho, and I am cautiously enthusiastic about what we are in store for. With so many excellent matches on day 1, I encourage everyone to at least try out Kintamayama’s review on YouTube. While I love the NHK highlights show, and days when there are a large amount of quality bouts in a rather lengthy torikumi, it’s worth it to pick up the matches you missed.

I finally got to see the NHK highlight show at 2:30 Pacific today. Yes, I am in San Diego for a bit instead of the mighty bastion of Texas. Counter programming to it was a show on PBS about black holes, and super-massive black holes. I thought nothing of it…

But then here’s Murray Johnson remarking that Kaisei has packed on over 20 kg since November. Dear readers, that’s the size of a small Panda Bear, whose form Kaisei seems determined to emulate. It appears something similar has taken place within orbit of the gas giant Chiyomaru, who may have swallowed a nearby moon. Both of these two balloons will find their added mass a terrible strain on their bodies, and I fear for their longevity.

Say, you know what has me really delighted so far? Great matches at the bottom of Makuuchi! These guys are on fire. The Tadpoles had best consolidate their position in a hurry, as it seems there is yet another cohort advancing on their positions.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ryuden vs Daiamami – Ryuden looked very poised on day 1, I am going to be watching to see if he can repeat that with his match against Daiamami, who holds a 5-2 career advantage of him.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – I am calling for Asanoyama to try to set up a throw early on. If Nishikigi can block the outside grip, he will probably have a chance to get inside and dismantle Asanoyama.

Abi vs Ishiura – An early match with a lot of interest. Both guys are on the lighter side of the scales, and both of them like to move around and mix it up. If Ishiura gets stuck, will he resort to his submarine attack that gets him in such trouble?

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – See, this time I spelled it correctly. Yutakayama has won both their prior matches. I expect a flurry of thrusting and a lot of mobility. Yutakayama seems to choke when he gets into Makuuchi, and I think everyone is hoping that this time he can settle down and show us some great sumo.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – When I said keep an eye on Kagayaki, people laughed. I get it, he has ridiculous man-boobs. He seems to have come to terms with it, and possibly uses it to distract his opponents. They say life in the heya can be lonely, and perhaps these poor guys find the display captivating. But hell no! Kagayaki takes his sumo with all of the earnest concentration you might expect from a rikishi who wants to be somebody. Like Kiesnosato, this guy is willing to train himself to death to get there. Never count that out.

Terunofuji vs Kotoyuki – Did you read Herouth’s discussion of Terunofuji? It’s toward the bottom of her typically awesome post. If you have not read it, go read it. It seems that in addition to Kaisei and Chiyomaru, Terunofuji may have spent time at the Gagamaru body sculpting clinic. If he can’t toss Kotoyuki around like a rotten bag of miso on day 2, it’s very dim indeed for our once mighty Kaiju. (shout out to Joshua who is in Tokyo… Lucky bastard)

Aminishiki vs Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo vs the Gas Giant. Not good as Chiyomaru’s intense gravity well may crush Aminishiki’s space age metal support structure. Seriously, Aminishiki is in lower mid-Maegashira territory now. I hope he’s able to keep himself from getting injured.

Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Panda-kun vs Grumpy Badger. Chiyonokuni came out blazing day 1, but in typical fashion could not close the deal. He’s got strength, speed and energy, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to put together a consistent approach to get a win.

Ikioi vs Endo – Looking forward to this fight, as I am keeping my eye on Endo, who I would not be surprised to see hit 10 wins this tournament. A genki Endo may come as a bit of a shock to the tadpoles, as he brings a surgical precision and some depth of experience to the dohyo. I am looking for him to contain Ikioi’s superior strength and reach, and work inside and backwards.

Shodai vs Okinoumi – Shodai looked better on day 1 than he has in a while, and I am going to guess that for now Okinoumi is in good health. So this is probably a fairly good match, if Shodai does not blow the tachiai. Both of them will go for a mawashi grip from the start, and it will come down to strength and tactics.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi needs a 10 win basho to be taken seriously as an Ozeki contender. So it’s time for him to produce before he faces the upper San’yaku next week. Chiyotairyu is bigger, strong and looks a lot more like Elvis. So Mitakeumi is going to have to gamberize.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in day 1’s outcome. His shot at recovery is with the tough as nails Tamawashi on day 2. Tamawashi is back at Sekiwake after a stumble at Aki and Nagoya, and he wants his back in line for an Ozeki run.

Goeido vs Onosho – Battle of the manic over-committing rikishi, where both of them tend to charge forward with everything they have. Although I tend to be against the use of henka, this is the correct case where it’s of most use. Free tacos if they do simultaneous henka and orbit each other for the first few seconds.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – All the fans want Kotoshogiku to do the big back bend. We know its the source of his magic powers, and he needs every ounce of power against an especially genki looking Takayasu.

Hakuho vs Ichinojo – Hakuho looked a bit lost without his slap-n-grab power combo. Against Ichinojo he needs some clarity, as once that much Mongolian gets moving, he’s headed somewhere. I am expecting the Boss to try another tachiai variation, hopefully with improved effect.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s post match interview had me rolling. When asked about the sumo he used against Kisenosato, he more or less said, “I can’t really remember, I was just trying to win”. Damn straight! He was all over the map throwing everything including the kitchen sink at The Great Pumpkin, and he prevailed. Now of course comes Kakuryu, whose whole sumo approach is to let his opponent get rolling, then use their motion and attacks against them. I can’t wait to see how this one goes. This is the first time these two have fought.

Hokutofuji vs Kisenosato – The final match of the day, it it carries a lot of weight. Kisenosato needs wins on the board. But in their only prior match, Hokutofuji won convincingly. On day 1, Kisenosato let Takakeisho dictate the match. I am hoping to see him control the bout like his 2016 self would do with such calm and effortless power.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

battle formation

Top headline of the day: Kisenosato drops his match against Takakeisho. There are two things to learn from this: First and foremost, Takakeisho is gunning hard for Sekiwake and above. I slight him for his oshi-only approach, but he is making it work for him. He looked strong, fast and relentless today against the struggling Kisenosato.  The second thing of note is that Kisenosato looked much better than I had feared. He moved well, he attacked with strength, and kept moving forward. Fans who fear the Great Pumpkin being on the ropes should keep in mind he has not really had matches in a while, and will be rusty for a few days. If he walks out with 10 wins, he’s good.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Decent throw that took some time to set up. Moving much better than he was in Kyushu. The happy rikishi has a long path ahead of him, and to reach his potential, he must stay healthy.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden looked strong in his first Makuuchi bout, easily dominating Nishikigi. Ryuden kept his eblows tight, and prevented Nishikigi from establishing a grip, while Ryuden set up for a well executed throw to end the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – A flurry of activity in which Ishiura was everywhere at once and overwhelmed Yutakayama. He was able to get his head against Yutakayama’s chest a couple of times, which helped him keep the larger rikishi’s center of gravity high.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Massive oshi fest as Abi took the initiative and was landing tsuppari with purpose. But he over committed, got too far forward and Daieisho brought him forward and down.

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Kagayaki was very high at the tachiai, but managed to get Takekaze off balance and moving backwards. His excellent sumo instincts took over and he kept moving strongly forward. Good, solid win.

Kotoyuki defeats Aminishiki – Not quite the battle I was looking for, it was over in a blink of an eye as Aminishiki slipped trying to find his footing. Kotoyuki recognized this quickly, and finished what gravity had started.

Chiyomaru defeats Terunofuji – In spite of Chiyomaru’s enormous belly, Terunofuji was able to land a mawashi grip. But without abilty to transmit power through his legs, he was unable to halt Chiyomaru’s counter attack.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Massive tachiai, with Ikioi taking the early initiative, but Chiyoshoma pulled out a win at the edge thanks to excellent ring sense and a great deal of balance.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Keep your eyes on Endo! He wants back in the upper ranks, and he seems to finally have his body in order. This fight saw both rikishi try to establish an offense only to be countered quite effectively, but Endo kept working forward. Fantastic effort from both.

Arawashi defeats Okinoumi – In spite of Okinoumi showing some solid sumo moves, he let Arawashi land a deep left hand grip right away, and from there Arawashi kept working Okinoumi towards being thrown. 800th bout for Arawashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai, for once, had a solid tachiai, but he immediately went chest to chest with Tochinoshin, which had to delight the big Georgian. In spite of Shodai’s right hand mawashi grip, Tochinoshin out-matched him in strength and power.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi has a very sloppy start, he was high and immediately off balance. Kotoshogiku was able to set up a solid defense, and as Mitakeumi was struggling (more than he should) to finish him, Kotoshogiku apparently stepped out. The match was stopped by the shimpan.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Takayasu still working that forearm blast into the tachiai, but it seems to leave him high and forward. Yoshikaze could not exploit it, and was moving backwards in a hurry. Both men re-engaged, and kept the battle running, with Yoshikaze pushing to land a mawashi grip. Takayasu prevailed and Yoshikaze took a slow motion roll to the clay. Hopefully he was ok.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – As predicted, Goeido came in fast and low, but Inchinojo’s mass and forward momentum was too much for Goeido to simply power out. Goeido 2.0 is all about keeping up the pressure, and he did eventually get Ichinojo to step out, but Goeido was on the verge of falling down as it happened.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – This was classic Kakuryu, letting his opponent open the offense, then making him pay. I am thankful that Kakuryu was able to open strong today.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Wow, what a battle! Twice, Kisenosato let Takakeisho set up his “wave action tsuppari”, with devastating effect. But twice the Yokozuna was able to escape. The match ended when Takakeisho grabbed a hold of Kisenosato’s right arm and twisted, bringing the Yokozuna down. Kisenosato looks worried, but it may take a few bouts for him to hit his stride.

Hakuho defeats Onosho – The boss made short work of Onosho, who once again over-committed and was too far forward.