Kyushu Day 9 Highlights

There was some first-rate sumo today, and as expected the match between Takakeisho and Hokutofuji was the barn-burner highlight of the day. But Mitakeumi also seems to be shaking off the fog of his earlier concussion, and getting closer to normal fighting form. Plus great moves from Shohozan as he shifts gears and decides that while hitting his opponent is fun and good cardio, sometimes you just need to give the other guy a brutal battle hug.

Highlight Matches

Tochiozan defeats Daishomaru – Welcome back Tochiozan, you can see the experience he brings to the dohyo giving him the edge in controlling this match. Take a look at who holds the center of the dohyo for most of the match. Tochiozan has solid offense, but his defense was nearly unassailable today.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi drove harder into the tachiai, and Ishiura was unhappy with his resulting hand placement. As he moved to get better position, Terutsuyoshi advanced with strength and was the winner. Ishiura had solid defensive footing, but Terutsuyoshi showed a lot of strength today, and kept low.

Shodai defeats Daishoho – Hey, Shodai had a half decent tachiai today! He had both hands inside within a blink of an eye, and advanced. Daishoho had no answer and took the loss after it was clear he was beaten. Not sure what injury is plaguing Daishoho, but he may be an early favorite for the barge of the damned headed to Juryo.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – I love that Kagayaki is getting comfortable fighting, and now winning chest to chest with his opponent. His oshi-zumo form has been pretty good, but if he can get even a few solid yotsu moves in his toolkit, I predict he will frequent higher spots on the banzuke. I always preach that his fundaments are very good, and you can see them on display. His upper body is a bit awkward, but his defensive foot placement is excellent. I love how low he keeps his feet as he steps forward. That man can transmit power to ground.

Takanosho defeats Yutakayama – Takanosho exceeded my expectations today, his tachiai took him inside, and he did not waste a moment of his superior position. Yutakayama had a good defense ready, but Takanosho was able to pin Yutakayama’s right arm against his body, and lift Yutakayama as he advanced. Unable to generate much forward pressure to counter Takanosho’s attack, Yutakayama stepped out and took the loss.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Wow! Look at that tachiai from Chiyotairyu. But even more impressive is Sadanoumi skids to a halt and drops immediately into attack position as Chiyotairyu rushes in. With an opponent like Chiyotairyu lumbering into him, Sadanoumi absorbs the second hit and rolls to his right, and no force on earth can slow Chiyotairyu’s advance. Down he goes. Great defensive gambit and execution by Sadanoumi today.

Kotoeko defeats Nishikigi – Kotoeko seems to finally be on a rally, and I am happy to see him fighting well at last. Nishikigi owned the first part of this match, and Kotoeko put all of his strength into slowing down Nishikigi’s attack, and keeping his feet in the ring, waiting for his chance. That chance came soon enough, as Nishikigi surged to finish Kotoeko, but Kotoeko evaded and send Nishikigi out. Defensive sumo done well, and a well earned win for Kotoeko.

Chiyomaru defeats Tsurugisho – I suspect the matta disrupted Tsurugisho’s battle plan, as the second attempt at the tachiai was all Chiyomaru.

Enho defeats Kotoshogiku – Watching Enho busily harry Kotoshogiku was kind of a wonder. I would guess that Enho was executing 2 moves to every 1 of Kotoshogiku, and it completely overwhelmed the former Ozeki. In typical Enho style, he grabs any stray body part that is closest to him and starts tugging with enthusiasm. Much like some over amorous terrier addressing your leg, the immediate reaction is “get that thing off of me!”. During this visceral, human reaction, Enho merrily defeats you. You can’t be too upset about it either, because let’s face it – he’s adorable.

Shohozan defeats Onosho – Wow! Big Guns starts his day with rapid fire double hand face massage to Onosho, and scales it up to volleys of haymakers to Onosho’s enormous head. In self-defense, Onosho closes the distance and goes chest to chest. Ever the full-service opponent, Shohozan obliges and gives Onosho a jolly heave-ho via an expertly delivered uwatenage, with a spicy leg lift to give it an extra flair. Great match.

Aoiyama defeats Takarafuji – As happens most times these two match, Takarafuji suffers terribly and gets a trip to the clay at the hands of Big Dan and the V-Twin attack.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei expertly deployed a hard tachiai, a quick thrust combo into a side step at Myogiryu charged to take advantage. Exquisitely timed by Meisei.

Asanoyama defeats Daieisho – Daieisho tends to dominate his matches with Asanoyama, I think in part because Daieisho can really move hard into the tachiai. Today Asanoyama was able to get a workable outside grip and focused on getting Daieisho off balance, and succeeded. Asanoyama stays 1 behind Hakuho.

Okinoumi defeats Endo – Another great match, both of these rikishi are master technicians, and they brought out their extensive sumo toolboxes today, and put it all into the match. Feel free to watch it a few times, because it’s a guidebook on attack, counter-attack and improvisation.

Abi defeats Ryuden – As predicted, Ryuden was struggling, and by the time Abi landed the second volley, he was completely disrupted and headed for the clay. You can see him using his best counter-attack strategy, lifting Abi’s elbows from underneath. This has managed to shut down Abi-zumo a couple of times, but Ryuden can’t make it stick today.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi expertly closed the distance to Tamawashi, and used his massive body as both a shield and a plow to contain and eject Tamawashi. Given that Mitakeumi still seems to be suffering from the effects of that blow to the head, this was a simple, and quite effective plan.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – We thought this might be a barn-burner, and indeed it set the dohyo on fire. Both men through everything they could muster into this fight, and I was quite impressed by Hokutofuji’s speed and combination attacks. Takakeisho knew he could not out-reach the Komusubi, or out maneuver him, but focused on what he does best, overwhelming force applied center mass. Hokutofuji landed solidly, but left his chest wide open. Good match, and I dare say that we sumo fans can look forward to these matches for years to come.

Hakuho defeats Kotoyuki – Points to Kotoyuki for taking the fight to Hakuho, but The Boss is not even susceptible to this kind of sumo. Right now The Boss looks a bit bored. Sadly none of his usual challenges are around this November.

Kyushu Day 3 Preview

Image Courtesy Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

It’s only day 3 of the basho, and already Kyushu is loaded to the fill line with oddity. On day 2, the higher ranked rikishi in nearly every match lost. The only named rank athlete with a perfect record is Asanoyama. We have lost 3 (soon to be 4) rikishi to injury, and we have not gotten out of the first act. Sorry readers, but something is wrong in sumo land, maybe a few somethings.

But do keep in mind, sumo is a often brutal sport. It’s a combat focused zero-sum game, with a winner and loser in each match. The 6 basho + 4 jungyo schedule is merciless, and with the average weight of top division men climbing every higher, the risks for injuries compound.

But in the midst of this carnage, we are starting to see some of the future of sumo, in the fast approaching era when the current Yokozuna are both retired, and the young cohorts finally come into their own. But we have to wonder, how many of them can stay healthy to ascend the ranks when the promotion lanes open?

What We Are Watching Day 3

Wakatakakage vs Tokushoryu – In addition to having a 7-1 career advantage over the veteran, Wakatakakage seems to be on a opening hot streak. Will it be 3-0?

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishoho – His day 2 loss to Chiyomaru not withstanding, I think Terutsuyoshi is on a “recovery” tournament, to bounce back from his disastrous 4-11 score at Aki. I am looking him to make his 8, and maybe a few to spare.

Daishomaru vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki brings a 9-3 career advantage to this match, so I think he may get his second win on day 3. Daishomaru was bamboozled by Wakatakakage and let Nishikigi win in blind man’s bluff, so he has to get his act together or figure out what he is going to wear in Juryo in January.

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Ok, this has my interest. I would think this series should favor Chiyomaru, but in fact Nishikigi tends to dominate these matches. Sure, Nishikigi can land his arm lock hold, but Chiyomaru has that giant belly as some sort of deflector shield.

Ishiura vs Chiyotairyu – Another match with odd history. I would assume that Chiyotairyu would overpower and dominate the smaller Ishiura, but it seems that with a 4-2 lead, it’s Ishiura who tends to give Chiyotairyu the business. That’s good news as Ishiura needs to find some wins starting now.

Takanosho vs Shodai – I know long time readers are going to assume this is a coded cry for rescue, but I think Shodai is going to run up the score this basho. At Maegashira 10, he’s going to out-class most of his opponents if he is healthy and in a good frame of mind.

Kotoshogiku vs Shimanoumi – It will be sad if Shimanoumi dealt local hero Kotoshogiku his 3rd consecutive loss. But lets be honest, as banged up ask Kotoshogiku is, it’s only a matter of when his next notch down the banzuke will happen. I love me some Kotoshogiku, but its kind of sad to watch him struggle.

Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – Shohozan was a brawling demon on day 2, even if he did go down to a loss. Will we see the same head pounding, face bashing sumo today? Sadanoumi has 13 career matches against Shohozan, so I am going to assume he knows how to avoid getting into a street fight.

Yutakayama vs Kotoeko – Oh I think this is going to be a good one. Both are strike-and-move oshi-rikishi, and so this may be a balanced fight. Yutakayama will have superior mass and defense, and Kotoeko may edge out in maneuverability and agility. Readers know I have Yutakayama earmarked to be Asanoyama’s rival, so lets see if he can stay healthy.

Onosho vs Enho – The lowest ranked of our tadpoles draws a match against power-pixie Enho, and this as “melt down” written all over it. Onosho has always had some balance issues, which got worse following knee surgery. If you fight against Enho, you had better watch your balance, as he can and will defy expectations of where and how the attacks will come.

Tsurugisho vs Ryuden – I am serious worried that Tsurugisho may have picked up some kind of concussion in his day 2 match with Shohozan. Maybe he’s kyujo today (1 in 6 chance, I would say). I think if the match goes on, Ryuden will have his hands full. While Ryuden racked up a 5-0 advantage from their time in Juryo, this version of Tsurugisho is bigger, stronger and possibly a bit pissed off.

Tamawashi vs Kotoyuki – We have not seen Kotoyuki crowd surf in a while, and given Tamawashi’s habit of sending opponents on orbital trajectories, we may get our first meet-and-greet for the zabuton crew today.

Aoiyama vs Tomokaze – This had better be a fusensho for Aoiyama. If Tomokaze shows up today, I am going to lose all hope.

Abi vs Myogiryu – Abi’s mental state may be poor right now. His Instagram antics got all rikishi everywhere thrown off of all social media, so I am guessing some of his fellow sumo men are disappointed in him. Even though he won day 2 against several parts of Takayasu, Abi is clearly not yet dialed in.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – Oh good! Strategist and technician Takarafuji against both upper and lower parts of Hokutofuji, in seemingly good working order. I am going to look for Takarafuji to stalemate Hokutofuji as long as possible, looking for a mistake or opening. Hokutofuji is good at over-extending and over-committing, so lets see if “Not Kaio” has improved his discipline.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – A battle of excessive sadness. I now fear that Tochinoshin won’t make his 10, in fact I worry he may not even make 8. Endo will come in with a masterful plan, and I hope to see Tochinoshin pick him up and carry him around for 30 seconds like a box of green glass headed for the curb on Tuesday in Sumida.

Mitakeumi vs Meisei – Common wisdom might assume that the longest serving tadpole, Mitakeumi, would be the favorite, but Meisei is fighting very well this November, and I would not be surprised to see him take a few more scalps in the named ranks.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – I think everyone knows that Takayasu is unable to generate any forward power on his left. The solution for any competent Makuuchi rikishi is fairly straightforward. I fear that we are going to be treated to a series of increasingly sad and depressing losses by the Ozeki as his injury compounds, and he gets even weaker on his left.

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Fresh from a Hakuho kinboshi, Daieisho comes to call on a battered Takakeisho, who has yet to convince anyone that he’s got his sumo dialed in, let alone that his left pectoral muscle is fit.

Asanoyama vs Hakuho – Hakuho has stated that he is a fan of Asanoyama – “A new generation guy who can do yotsu-zumo”. So now we get their second meeting, and I suspect that Hakuho has a foot problem either because of that odd day 2 match, or revealed by it. Asanoyama is fighting in great form for the first act, and I think that he’s going to have a strong showing.

Kyushu Day 2 Highlights

Ugly, brutal day in the top ranks as day 2 shows that in transitional eras, you can’t count on rank to indicate how a match is going to play out. Furthermore, we saw two big men stunned or injured in their matches today. But it was a feast of great sumo, and I credit the new generation of rikishi for really knowing their craft and executing it with skill, strength and purpose. While there is still plenty of ring rust hanging around, its clear that some of the “double wide” Komusubi corps are going to be contenders at least until day 10.

I note with great sadness that Goeido did in fact go kyujo from that ankle twist on day 1. While normally this kind of injury might be ranked as minor, given the amount of medical reconstruction he has had on his ankle, this might be the kind of injury that puts Goeido in a position to retire. While I do give Goeido a hard time, please note its mostly because we know he can be a complete badass, but many times he can’t quite bring himself together enough to do it. I hope his injury is not serious, and he can make a return.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Daishoho – Wakatakakage shows some fine form as he grabs Daishoho’s right arm and takes him for a spin. I am still trying to put my finger on why Wakatakakage’s sumo seems to be higher energy than most of the other top division rikihsi.

Nishikigi defeats Daishomaru – Straight ahead match where Nishikigi got the better of the tachiai and just kept advancing. We are still deep into ring rust territory it seems.

Chiyomaru defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi does literally bounce off of that enormous beach-ball belly of Chiyomaru, and never really recovers control over his feet. Chiyomaru’s thrusting technique is good enough that he can keep you moving off balance if you ever lose your footing.

Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Kagayaki keeps his hands low at the tachiai, which makes it look quite odd, but it seems to work well today as he briefly establishes a right hand inside grip. While Kagayaki is not intent on a yotsu match, its enough to make Takanosho react to the situation, and just like that Kagayaki is controlling the match.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – High marks to Ishiura’s evasion techniques here, but it’s not fooling Shimanoumi for a moment. In spite of getting maemitsu, Ishiura can never get his feet set, and Shimanoumi wears him down.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – No cartoon sumo today, just solid defense. Shodai absorbs Chiyotairyu’s big tachiai and gets to work. Still encrusted with ring rust, Chiyotairyu’s follow on attempt to pull him down goes nowhere, and its Shodai’s match.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku tries again and again to set up the hug-n-chug, but Yutakayama’s defensive form is excellent. He keeps his hips lower that Kotoshogiku’s, and continually deflects to Kyushu Bulldozer’s forward thrust away from center.

Tsurugisho defeats Shohozan – “Big Guns” Shohozan starts a brawl, delivering blow after blow to Tsurugisho’s face. But Tsurugisho keeps backing Shohozan up, until he can finally interpose his enormous fleshy chest to stop the pommelling from Shohozan, and forces Shohozan out. Tsurugisho did not look quite right following, and took a moment to get his wits back.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoeko – Sadanoumi kept pushing straight ahead and gave Kotoeko no room to set up any kind of thrusting attack. This was probably the way Sadanoumi had hoped the match would go.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama tried for some kind of haymaker blow during the tachiai, and it left him hideously off balance. Onosho took the gift that was offered and helped Aoiyama continue the motion all the way to the clay.

Enho defeats Ryuden – Enho’s low tachiai folded straight into a circle to the left, and Ryuden tried to meet him head on. This left him balanced on only his right leg, and an easy pick off for Enho, as Ryuden had very little distance to get his footing.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Like so many of his matches where he is out gunned, Takarafuji’s approach seems to be to stalemate, absorb the attacks, but stay upright and in the ring. This was working very well until Tamawashi lost his balance and Takarafuji went in to finish him. No longer focused on defense, Takarafuji was not able to square his hips, and Tamawashi pushed him out.

Kotoyuki defeats Tomokaze – Again we see Tomokaze work almost exclusively for a pull, and Kotoyuki knows its coming. But Kotoyuki focuses center-mass and just keeps attacking in the face of Tomokaze’s focus on Kotoyuki’s neck. Sadly Tomokaze may have injured his knee in the bout, and we saw him taken back to the dressing room in that giant wheelchair.

Meisei defeats Endo – Endo twice put everything into landing a shallow right hand grip on Meisei’s mawashi, both times he missed. But his left him wide open to Meisei’s counter attack, sending Endo out and into the zabuton. Solid sumo from Meisei to score his first ever win against Endo.

Hokutofuji defeats Mitakeumi – This match did not disappoint. Mitakeumi opened strong with a rapid thrust combo that had Hokutofuji turned to the side an off balance. Hokutofuji unwisely went for the neck and a pull down, but had no room and no leverage. But it did leave him with a solid grip opportunity, and Hokutofuji took it. Mitakeumi pushed with everything he could muster, but Hokutofuji held his ground. If you can freeze-frame this match, you can see the point where Mitakeumi is pushing so hard he lifts himself up against Hokutofuji’s iron strong defensive footing. This is what makes me think Hokutofuji has a lot of room to move higher on the banzuke. Some of his sumo is just wonderful to watch. Mitakeumi continues to push, but Hokutofuji just keeps nibbling away, and it’s working; Mitakeumi starts yielding ground. Mitakeumi realizes he’s losing ground, and rallies directly into a second Hokutofuji pull down attempt, which finishes the match. Nice sumo from the Komusubi.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – Once again we see Tochinoshin set up the left hand outside “Sky crane” grip, but unable to square his hips for set his feet. Myogiryu slowly duck walks in reverse, denying Tochinoshin to platform to lift him, but keeping the former Ozeki increasingly off balance. A twist to the right and Tochinoshin is on the clay, with a heartbreaking 0-2 start to a basho where he needs 10 wins.

Asanoyama defeats Takakeisho – The clash of styles payed off as Asanoyama is able to set the terms of the match, and Takakeisho is unable to delivery any meaningful offense. Once Asanoyama had a hold of Takakeisho’s body, the Ozeki was solely focused on escape while Asanoyama put him on the clay. I still have hopes that Takakeisho will make his 8, but Asanoyama once again shows why he’s a rising star.

Abi defeats Takayasu – Day 1 Takayasu looked like Takayasu from a year ago. Day 2 Takayasu looked like Takayasu from last week. Disorganized, right hand only sumo that Abi dismantled and sent packing. Bad day for the Ozeki corps.

Daieisho defeats Hakuho – Sure, it can work on the Yokozuna too! I am really not sure what happened here. Hakuho had a solid start, but he bared his chest to Daieisho, and Daieisho obliged by applying a surprising amount of force, knocking the boss back to the tawara. To me it looked like Hakuho decided that was it, and stepped out. Most unusual. Congratulations to Daieisho for the kinboshi! I hope this is not an indicator that Hakuho’s gamey big toe is acting up again.

Nagoya Day 3 Preview

Bruce is working a tough programming gig, far away from home. So some of the reporting this week will be foreshortened, full of typos, and generally as genki as Yoshikaze’s sumo. You have been warned.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – Kaisei has suddenly been beset by a swarm of tiny, fast moving rikishi. After experiencing first hand Enho’s unique take on the “Death Spin”, he has to be wondering what manner of fresh hell Terutsuyoshi brings to day 3.

Kotoyuki vs Enho – I this “Penguin meets Fire Pixie” story, we will see how far Kotoyuki makes it into the crowd today, after he only made it to the area just beside the dohyo on day 2. Enho is fighting hurt, but he is fighting well. They met twice in Juryo, splitting the pair.

Toyonoshsima vs Yago – Both are solid rikishi who have started 0-2, and now one of them will have started 0-3. Talk about pulling an Ikioi…

Chiyomaru vs Kagayaki – The key to defeating Chiyomaru is lateral motion. Kagayaki likes to move forward at almost all times, so it’s straight into the fire for Mr Fundamentals.

Tochiozan vs Sadanoumi – Two technical rikishi, with 1-1 records, coming in with a 5-5 career record. Could we be any more symmetrical?

Kotoeko vs Takagenji – This is probably the highlight match of the first half, Takagenji has opened strong, and Kotoeko has shown excellent mobility and stability in his first 2 matches. I expect Takagenji to open strong, and Kotoeko to react today.

Nishikigi vs Daishoho – Nishikigi appears as lethargic and uncertain as his bad days of yore, clinging tenaciously to the bottom scrap of the banzuke. This guy kachi-koshied in upper Maegashira. Please the genki version of Nishikigi back!

Onosho vs Okinoumi – I am going to dare to say that maybe Onosho is getting some of his sumo back. We will know more following day 3 when he faces Okinoumi, who has yet to score his first white star.

Shohozan vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze has actually won both of their prior matches, and I have to wonder just how well Oguruma’s new top rikishi is going to do in July. Shohozan should be almost done removing his ring rust.

Chiyotairyu vs Shimanoumi – I don’t know what Shimanoumi is going to do about the cannon ball charge. Shimanoumi is not large, though he is fairly stable. If ever there was a time for a Henka or near-Henka, this might be it.

Myogiryu vs Takarafuji – Both of these guys are in the middle of the banzuke, and need to really crank it up. Both are capable of great sumo, but seem to have fallen into a middling rut.

Meisei vs Ichinojo – Fans are still wondering which version of Ichinojo is active right now. We want the powerful giant who tosses 150kg people around like straw. This is the first time Meisei has faced, “The Boulder”.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – I expect that Kotoshogiku’s stamina is going to give out some time in week 2, but until then I am enjoying the genki, bouncing, throwing version of the Kyusho Bulldozer.

Abi vs Shodai – Someone probably said, “Let’s give Abi a bit of a break. I know… Shodai!”. But as we all know, once Shodai gets besieged by an oshi practitioner, random things tend to happen, and usually to Shodai’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Maybe a bit early for the traditional Sekiwake brawl, but we will take it. This should be a big running battle if Tamawashi does not blow Mitakeumi up at the tachiai.

Endo vs Takayasu – Takayasu dropped a match in week 1, and everyone who hopes he will one day actually win a yusho has to just shake their head and hope for “next time”. As a life long Cubs / Bears fan, I know how this works. Now he has Endo, and Endo is full on heck’n an bam-boozl’n these days.

Goeido vs Aoiyama – When I see the 21-3 career advantage Goeido has over the Man-Mountain, I have hope that we will see some real sumo from the Ozeki today. I know Aoiyama would love to start Nagoya 3-0, but he will have to survive Goeido’s all out offensive.

Ryuden vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is doing so poorly right now, that I am sort of worried to even watch this match. Ryuden already has one Ozeki scalp, and if he can shut down Tochinoshin’s battle for that left hand outside grip, he may get another.

Hokutofuji vs Hakuho – We know what is going to happen here. We love you Hokutofuji, please don’t get discouraged.

Kakuryu vs Asanoyama – Last chance for an Asanoyama kinboshi, so lets see what Kakuryu will do against the Natsu yusho winner. This is their first ever match.