Natsu Day 8 Preview

Welcome to Nakabi, the middle day of the basho. A reminder to fans around the world: NHK World Japan will be carrying the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live on their global streaming service. With Abema now a fading memory for many sumo fans, this is your ticket to live sumo action. So stay up, stay engaged and watch sumo!

The big news is that Ozeki Takakeisho is going to attempt to return to competition today. He went kyujo earlier in the tournament after day 4, when he strained his knee in a surprising yotsu match against Mitakeumi. Also on the hurt list is Kaisei, who seems to have suffered at least minor damage to his right arm in his loss to Ryuden. Word is he may go has gone kyujo from day 8 to give his arm a chance to recover.

Natsu Leaderboard

Time to dig into the yusho race for the Natsu basho. With only two undefeated rikishi on day 8, it may seem quite clear. But I am going to guess that someone gets dirt on both Kakuryu and Tochinoshin before Wednesday, and this one may come down to a closer race than it looks today.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Chaser: Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Abi, Ryuden, Tochiozan, Enho, Kotoeko

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyoshoma vs Daiamami – With Takakeisho returning, the imbalance in the torikumi returns, and we are once against having a daily Juryo visitor to the top division. Today it’s former Maku-man Daiamami, who does not seem to be on track to win back his top division slot this tournament. Chiyoshoma has never lost to him, either.

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi seemed to wake up in his day 7 match against Enho, and we do hope he can stay awake and fighting well. The two are fairly evenly matched, and I would expect that we may see Terutsuyoshi attempt more “stunt sumo” like that leg sweep he used day 7 that delighted everyone.

Tokushoryu vs Kotoeko – The NHK announcers keep pointing out how Kotoeko has not had a kachi-koshi in the top division yet, which was interesting but is now a bit stale. He is moving well, fighting well now, and dominating many of his matches. With 5 wins, we are likely to see him break that run of make-koshi, and find his place in the top division. Tokushoryu on the other hand seems to not really have a handle on his sumo right now, which is a shame.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – The ultimate big vs small battle—Chiyomaru is 2x Enho’s mass. Think about that – it would take 2 Enho units to make 1 Chiyomaru unit. But that being said, we are all really interested to see what kind of pixie magic Enho unleashes to send Chiyomaru tumbling.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – There are plenty of comments that Ishura’s sumo has morphed closer to Enho’s – to which I say “Good!”. The fact that Ishiura has returned to actual aggressive sumo is nothing but a plus all around, and I hope it’s here to stay. Shimanoumi fans are starting to hope that he’s got his sumo back in shape, and can at least make a fair try at a winning record.

Shohozan vs Yago – Both of these men have oversized heads. It’s as simple as that. I think Yago’s head is larger, and it’s certainly more conical than most. Shohozan’s is large and blocky, and seems to be permanently configured to scowl. Maybe we should call it “Resting Shohozan Face”. I think Yago wants revenge for that Osaka Oshidashi, so he will need to be more mobile than he typically is, as Shohozan refuses to stand still most days.

Sadanoumi vs Tochiozan – If Sadanoumi can get control in the first 5 seconds, he can limit Tochiozan’s sumo, which he must do in order to win. Tochiozan will, as always, play to stalemate and wait for an advantage to appear. The longer the match lasts, the better for Tochiozan.

Shodai vs Tomokaze – First time match between these two, and it’s got a lot of interest. The aspect is that both of them are very mobile, and tend to have good lateral motion. Tomokaze tends to employ it at the center of the dohyo, Shodai at the tawara.

Onosho vs Meisei – Onosho has yet to defeat Meisei in their 3 prior matches. The good news is that Meisei tends to win by grabbing Onosho and pushing him around for a loss, rather than by taking advantage of Onosho’s natural forward 10% list. Perhaps he should consult a naval architect after the basho and see if they can adjust his ballast tanks.

Takarafuji vs Asanoyama – Fans worried that Asanoyama’s day 6 loss would put him off his focus can rest easy—he returned to excellent form, and that brings us to a great pairing against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is also in the habit of exercising excellent form, coupled with excellent combination moves. I predict they go chest to chest early, and it’s a medley of move and counter move until Asanoyama wins.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – The battle of the broken toys. We see Mr. Fundamentals struggling with just one win, and Yoshikaze looking like his better days are past. Sadly, I think there is a good chance that Kagayaki will take his second win today.

Myogiryu vs Kaisei – Kaisei is kyujo to heal up his right arm, Myogiryu gets the fusen win.

Nishikigi vs Ryuden – Nishikigi has been breaking out that armlock and double armlock a lot this basho, and I can’t wait to see what happens to Ryuden when he has to break free. Ryuden is on pace to bid for a nice banzuke slot for Nagoya.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Time for Chiyotairyu to rehabilitate his record, and where better to start than with Daieisho, against whom he holds a 9-1 career advantage.

Hokutofuji vs Abi – The brotherhood of the flailing arms is in attendance; let the ceremony begin! The only prior match it was all Abi, but I think we may see more from Hokutofuji this time.

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – The enigma that is Ichinojo continues to befuddle. He’s hot, he’s cold, he fights, he loses. His fans want him to get it together, but something prevents it.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Cue sky crane in 3… 2… 1…

Takakeisho vs Aoiyama – Why you crazy Ozeki? I get it, hold up the tradition of Ozeki, the whole gaman thing, but Japan needs you to not wreck your body just yet. Okay, well, Aoiyama only looks to be operating on one reactor right now. You might be okay. Just no more yotsu until you are healed up.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs to rack a few more wins before the “tough” part of his schedule, and we hope his 12-3 career edge over Okinoumi counts as an advantage in this match.

Goeido vs Mitakeumi – Probably the big match of the second half, although the returning Takakeisho will get the hype. These two are actually fairly evenly matched, and I am less sure today that Goeido is fighting hurt. I know Mitakeumi can smell a return to Sekiwake, and it would be great for him to go into his Nagoya with double-digit wins at Natsu.

Tamawashi vs Kakuryu – Tamawashi’s run-and-gun sumo is not overly effective against Kakuryu’s reactive style. I think this one goes to Big-K and he stays unbeaten.

Ozeki Takakeisho To Return Day 8

Courtesy of Sponichi news in Japan – Ozeki Takakeisho expects to return to the basho on day 8, to resume competition. He has stated that after using oxygen therapy on his knee, he feels ready to return to the doyho, prior to the 3 weeks recuperation directed by the doctor.

While it will be exciting to see Takakeisho unleash his trademark wave-action sumo, we hope he is recovered enough to ensure he does not compound any problems to that injured knee.

Good luck, tadpole!

Natsu Day 4 Highlights

The Tadpole War Took An Unexpected Turn

A surprising match that came late in the day’s torikumi – we got to see a pair of tadpoles go chest to chest, with a unexpectedly good yotsu-zumo battle from… Takakeisho?

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi comes in low, but can’t generate any forward pressure against Chiyoshoma, who grabs a shoulder and swings him down to the clay.

Tokushoryu defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a hit-and-shift mini henka, and Tokushoryu is having none of it. After Ishiura’s opening gambit fails, he spends the next few moments dodging Tokushoryu who runs him down and tosses him out.

Kotoeko defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage took the tachiai, and got inside to take initiative and dictate the match. But he took too low of a body position, and while Kotoeko’s attempt at a pull down failed, it did disrupt Wakatakakage enough for Kotoeko to go on offense. Kotoeko kept his head, stayed focused and seized his chance.

Enho defeats Daishoho – It looks like Enho attempts another leg-pick, but Daishoho keeps moving, and so Enho settles for a unique shoulder-to-mawashi hold that he converts to a shitatenage. It’s almost an entirely different form of sumo that most of the giants are completely helpless to stop.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi continues to struggle, to the dismay of his fans. Although Shimanoumi seems to get the better for the tachiai, Sadanoumi gets a shallow left hand inside grip that he uses to carry the match.

Yago defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru picks up his first loss after Yago puts him on the clay. Chiyomaru had a number of problems this match, including a soft tachiai, an inability to finish Yago once his heels were on the tawara, and getting that giant belly too far forward to enable Yago’s slap down.

Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Tochiozan was the model of calm efficiency in dismantling Kagayaki in this match. He kept pushing inside Kagayaki’s defenses and driving forward. Mr Fundamentals defeated by excellent fundamentals from Tochiozan.

Shohozan defeats Onosho – Shohozan went chest to chest with Onosho, and rolled him around with great effect. The biggest knock against Onosho is that he focused his osha-attack against Shohozan’s head and shoulders, rather than center-mass. When they grapple, Shohozan had the superior body position with his hips lower and primed for offense. Onosho had only a tentative grip on Shohozan’s mawashi, and there was little he could do to prevent the throw.

Kaisei defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze wisely tried to get Kaisei off-axis, and succeeded. But the Brazilian was low enough and stable enough that the attempt to convert that body position to a throw failed, and Tomokaze attempted to pull Kaisei down. It was successful, but Tomokaze fell / stepped out first, handing Kaisei his second win.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Watching Asanoyama today is a great visual study in excellent sumo mechanics. This version of Asanoyama is strong, confident and winning without fail. With his brother from another mother, Yutakayama, in the Juryo bush-league getting rebuilt, Asanoyama has stepped up and started to shine.

Meisei defeats Takarafuji – Meisei picks up his first win of the basho with a tottari, sending Takarafuji sliding belly first.

Yoshikaze defeats Myogiryu – Yoshikaze is finally showing some offensive sumo and forward pressure, though the start was quite tentative. The match was mostly fought chest to chest after a separation following the tachiai. Fans hope that Yoshikaze brings more vigor to his sumo for the rest of the basho.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Once again Ryuden can’t seem to find a way to beat Shodai, even though Ryuden seemed to have superior body position, foot placement and higher energy. Shodai’s sumo somehow took over and carried the match. I have watched it three times and I am still not sure what happened.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Traditional Abi-zumo match here, but ended with a ballet pull-down kimarite that was listed as uwatenage. In spite of his fairly one dimensional sumo, Abi is tough to beat at this rank and when he is on his game.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – A surprisingly soft tachiai from these two, I think both suspected the other of a henka, or side-step. But once Aoiyama pushed forward, Chiyotairyu’s side-step took place sending Aoiyama diving for the west side clay. Chiyotairyu’s first win of the basho.

Ichinojo defeats Okinoumi – Ichinojo’s hiji-yotsu (elbow lock out) really paid off as Okinoumi found himself unable to do anything offensive or defensive. Is Ichinojo’s ring rust fading yet?

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Great hazuoshi (armpit attack) from Tamawashi shut down Tochinoshin’s early efforts to get his left hand grip in place for the sky crane. But land it he did, although Tamawashi continued to dance around, not letting the Ozekiwake plant his feet for the lift. Tochinoshin kept tight cover and moved forward, getting the white star to reach 4-0. If he can stay healthy he is on course to re-take his Ozeki rank.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – Some readers may have noted that I pointed out that in the run-up to Natsu, there was video of Takakeisho going chest to chest with Ozeki Takayasu, and winning. Some folks on Twitter tried to downplay this video evidence that the tadpole was at least trying to diversify, but here we are again. This may be the most interesting match in the next few months, so let’s break it down. Takakeisho tries to start the wave-train at the tachiai, but loses traction and falls into Mitakeumi’s chest, and finds he cannot push. Much to the crowds surprise, Takakeisho settles into yotsu fighting position and proceeds to get to work. I am sure Mitakeumi is surprised at this point, and they stand leaning on each other for a moment as if to say, “ok, this is odd – what do we do now?”. Takakeisho takes the initiative and lifts Mitakeumi from the clay, the crowd loses its mind, but Takakeisho can’t find any advantage. The two continue to dance atop the shikiri-sen, and Mitakeumi seems to decide to lean in and make the shin-Ozeki support his massive body. Again Takakeisho lifts, and advances – to win! But immediately following he drops to a crouch, and it’s clear that the effort caused at least a minor injury. But yes, Takakeisho won via Yorikiri, and did it well, and made it work. I think this is only the 3rd or 4th time in his sumo career he has done that. I am even more impressed with him now.

Late word is that Takakeisho did in fact strain his knee, and that Chiganoura Oyakata is saying that they will decide Thursday morning if the shin-Ozeki will go kyujo.

Takayasu defeats Hokutofuji – Takayasu seems to have recovered his sumo. He gets a thrusting attack going against Hokutofuji’s chest while Hokutofuji is still trying to get his hands on the Ozeki. Hopefully Takayasu’s ring-rust is under control now.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – With 30 wins over Kotoshogiku, Goeido has a formula for shutting down the Kyushu Bulldozer, and he employed it with great effect on day 4. That shallow right hand grip was the key, as it gives Goeido leverage right at the focus point for Kotoshogiku’s “Hug-n-chug” attack.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Reactive sumo strikes again. The pull down attempt against Endo fails but the Yokozuna follows up against Endo’s disrupted balance and gives him the propulsion needed to exit the dohyo. Not the best sumo from Kakuryu, but his 4th white star to remain undefeated.

Takakeisho Ozeki Promotion Video

Takakeisho Promotion – Courtesy of NHK’s Twitter Feed

Through the magic of the internet, we bring you a brief clip courtesy of NHK of the actual ceremony where the sumo elders delivered the good news that Takakeisho had been promoted to Ozeki. Rather than deliver any kind of yojijukugo acceptance phrase, Takakeisho stuck to literal Japanese to express is commitment to sumo, to his new rank, and his stable. As per Herouth’s translation:

  • “Not to shame the title of Ozeki”
  • “Respect the spirit of Bushido”
  • “Always remember to be thankful and considerate”

While not compact, pithy and represented by 4 lovely characters, I do like the intent of his words. I hope he reigns well and long as an Ozeki, and extracts a never ending stream of white stars from everyone around him.

Folks are already wondering if he is on track for some kind of Yokozuna billet, and I will just say that these discussions are extremely premature. While I truly enjoy Takakeisho’s sumo, and I think the whole tadpole concept is interesting, he need to greatly diversify his sumo to be able to be a dominant Ozeki, let alone consider advancement.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I am keen to see what he comes up with. I think Takakeisho would very much like to try for higher rank, and he may find ways to surprise us.