Aki Day 2 Preview

Kisenosato Aki 2018

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

What We Are Watching Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aki Day 1 Preview

Mitakeumi - Kakuryu

Its sumo time once more, and everyone is ready to see their favorites battle it out in Tokyo. For the first time in a long time, everyone in Makuuchi will be present day 1. Many of them are in less than excellent health, but ever last one of them is going to gamberize as much as they can and push. This could be one of the better tournaments in the past 18 months, and I suspect fans are in for a treat.

All eyes will be on Yokozuna Kisenosato. I expect the Kokugikan to erupt in a joyful noise when the yobidashi calls out, “Yokozuna Kisenosato, dohyo-iri masu!”. In spite of a permanently degraded left pectoral muscle, he has somehow gotten himself genki enough to give it a try. Of course this may in fact be the execution of a planned exit strategy. Prior to his injury, Kisenosato was Mr. Sumo. Missing a day of practice, let alone a day of honbasho was simply unthinkable to him. Such a competitor would not sadly fade into the background, but would likely go out “guns blazing”, delivering as much fierce competition as he could muster for as long as he could stand it.

Any way it plays out, the fans are in store for some fine sumo.

Everyone keep in mind as we start Aki act one. The purpose of act 1 is to see who is hot, and who is not. Everyone works to shed any ring-rust and get up to full basho combat power. For day 1, everyone outside the joi-jin is paired up east-west.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Note – we are watching everything, as we are live blogging..

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze fans have been worried about “the berserker” for the past few months. He hit some kind of medical / mechanical wall, and his sumo has been without power and stamina. Everyone dearly hopes that he is in better condition now, and this will be an early indication. He holds a career advantage of 4-2 over Chiyoshoma, who has been struggling as well.

Takanosho vs Chiyomaru – Everyone’s favorite party balloon squares off for the first time against newcomer Takanosho. Takanosho existed Juryo after a fantastic 13-2 record in Nagoya. Will he have the kind of “hot basho” that many top division debutants enjoy? Chiyomaru ponderous bulk seems to have robbed him of all stamina as of late, and his many fans want to see him get his sumo back. Good ‘Maru!

Ryuden vs Takanoiwa – Ryuden, what are you doing down here at Maegashira 13? Oh, that’s right. You had your ass handed to you at Natsu and then struggled at Maegashira 15 in Nagoya. Takanoiwa returns to his rightful place in the top division at long last after recovering from cranial injuries sustained in an after-hours beating by Harumafuji. Welcome back, and get cracking. Sumo needs you.

Aoiyama vs Daieisho – Aoiyama is my pick for “sleeper” this basho. He has never lost to Daiesho, and I am going to guess he won’t today. Aoiyama does tend to suffer from quite a bit of “ring rust”, and he may be slow and vague on day 1. Daieisho needs to bounce back from his disappointing 6-9 in Nagoya. But I don’t see him getting inside Aoiyama’s outrageous reach.

Hokutofuji vs Daishomaru – Its about time that Hokutofuji got back in gear, after an injury during Hatsu in January, he has struggled significantly, but his firestorm 11-4 in Nagoya seemed to announce his return to full combat power. He is 3-1 over Daishomaru, who has been losing ground since Osaka. I am going to look for a low and brutal tachiai out of Hokutofuji, and it should be straight yorikiri from there.

Kagayaki vs Onosho – Kagayaki is mister deliberate. He is going to go in with a plan to negate all of Onosho’s favorite moves (aka “his brand of sumo”) and dismantle him a piece at a time. Onosho is going to come in there and just blow Kagayaki into the zabuton. I am eager to see if Onosho returns to the red mawashi.

Myogiryu vs Asanoyama – Getting up to Maegashira 5, we have a match with a lot of potential. These two are quite evenly matched, and will likely got at it with vigor. A longer match favors Asanoyama, who will likely try to keep Myogiryu from getting low.

Chiyonokuni vs Abi – Yes yes! My guess is this is where NHK will pick up the live broadcast, and it’s a perfect spot. Chiyonokuni is high energy and high intensity from the shikirisen. I am hoping we see a new move or two from Abi, as everyone in Makuuchi have decoded his double arm shoulder brake move, and most are now countering it well. Abi will try to keep Chiyonokuni’s whirlwind attacks back and away, and Chiyonokuni is coming in low and going for center mass every time.

Endo vs Ichinojo – We saw some fire from Ichinojo in the practice sessions leading up to Aki, in stark contrast to his passive sumo at Nagoya. Endo still seems to be struggling to get his sumo into a stable san’yaku class category, and he heads into this match with a 3-5 disadvantage against the Mongolian behemoth. Great test match for Ichinojo’s resolve and Endo’s speed.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Shodai is a mawashi-clad enigma. He presents himself as a bumbling Gomer Pyle style rikishi, who somehow can defeat some very serious opponents. His tachiai is terrible, and many times he wins because his opponents make horrible, stupid mistakes. Amazingly, he tends to beat Mitakeumi more often than not. He tends to get Mitakeumi disrupted, off balance, and then he throws him around like a stress relief ball. If Mitakeumi wants to make the case for Ozeki, he needs to rack wins early.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshi is looking for a quick and decisive 8 wins, coming off of a foot injury in Nagoya. His typical attack mode is left hand driving a “lift and shift” offense. That will be tempered by the sheer size and diameter of Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu has been focusing more on bulk than stamina, and this will likely be the decider as even if his foot were missing, Tochinoshin’s endurance is second to none.

Yutakayama vs Takayasu – As the leading man in the cohort I refer to as the “Freshmen”, Yutakayama comes into his day one match with a surprising 1-0 advantage over Takayasu. Takayasu has been nursing multiple injuries and miseries, and may be hard-pressed to present much offense during the second act. This match will be an excellent gauge of just how hurt Takayasu is, and how hungry Yutakayama has become. I will be watching to see if Takayasu unleashes his ridiculous shoulder blast, which I maintain is the source of his injuries, and should be put in a “seldom used” status at once.

Goeido vs Kaisei – Some sumo fans love mysteries, and we all know who the mawashi man of mystery is – Goeido! Which one is going to show up? The unstoppable sumo machine that dominates practice and could not be defeated during Aki 2016? Or the hesitant, vague and un-genki Goeido that frustrates everyone? Kaisei comes into the match at the bottom of a 4-14 hole against the Ozeki, so I am expecting that Goeido is going to give us a bit of a show.

Kisenosato vs Ikioi – What great way to start this basho for Kisenosato. He holds a career 15-1 advantage over Ikioi, and “by the numbers” should dispatch Ikioi with flair. But Kisenosato is no more than 75% of his old self, and Ikioi of late has been an unstoppable, armor plated sumo machine. No injury, pain or distraction stops him from mounting the dohyo and delivering powerful sumo. This one, in my opinion, is going to be a real fight. I am looking for Ikioi to try to get the Yokozuna high and moving backward straight from the tachiai. Kisenosato needs his low, crab-walk attack that overcomes Ikioi’s power-based offices.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – A fun match, Hakuho is undefeated against Tamawashi. But Hakuho has undercarriage damage this tournament, and many learned fans think he won’t last all 15 days. I look for Hakuho to go left and throw in the first few seconds.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Probably the most genki man in the top ranks, Kakuryu brings his reactive sumo up against Takakeisho’s “wave action tsuppari”. My instinct is this one is all Kakuryu.

Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

The-Boulder

Great day of sumo… Our operatives inside the Kokugikan report that the Great Cat himself was well pleased with today’s activities, and blessed sumo fans with some fantastic matches. Find a way to watch all of day 14.

Nagoya has enormous potential, given today’s results. I will discuss more in the day 15 preview. The Natsu yusho is for Kakuryu to lose now, and his sumo was absolutely amazing today. Many sumo fans had dismissed Kakuryu in the prior year, perhaps thinking he was lazy, or would rather not compete. His style of sumo is rather unique, and it’s quite difficult to watch at times. Many fans want to see an all out, guns blazing battle. Where the best attack wins. Sometimes, the best attack is not to try and overpower your opponent, but rather to keep your opponent from winning. It’s somewhat alien in western sports, but it’s amazing to see Kakuryu use it with such great effect.

In Juryo, we are indeed going to have a final day barnyard brawl for the yusho. There are 3 Juryo rikishi with 11 wins at the end of day 14: Onosho, Kotoeko and Tsurugisho. I urge you to find and watch Kotoeko’s day 14 match – because he is bringing that kind of sumo to Makuuchi in Nagoya.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – Ishiura wins doing actual sumo. This is noteworthy.

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – A large man oshi-matsuri, with Aoiyama once again focusing on his opponents head. This is not really working for him, and then he decides, “Yeah, let’s put some force center-mass!”, and shifts to Daiamami’s chest. Hey! Look, out goes Daiamami! Aoiyama gets his 8th win and his kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Chiyonokuni takes it to 11, and hands Tochiozan his make-koshi. I would guess we may see Chiyonokuni pick up a special prize, and that would be his first! If he can stay this genki, he is going to be a lot of fun in Nagoya.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu having a great basho, but Takakeisho seems to have snapped back into his sumo finally, and he’s on a mission. I am so eager now for Nagoya, as Takakeisho will be in the top half of the banzuke, Onosho will be back, and it’s going to be tadpole time.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – First match resulted in a monoii, and a re-match. Second match was a clear Yoshikaze win. It’s still possible for him to pick up a kachi-koshi on the final day, when his opponent will be Abi. That, dear readers, could be a wild and chaotic match.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama failed to get his kachi-koshi today, and will have to hope for a win on the final day. Kagayaki continues to execute solid, basic sumo, and has been winning with it. Any hopes Kagayaki has for double digits are going to be tempered by his final day bout against Chiyonokuni. Yikes!

Aminishiki defeats Ryuden – Ryuden (now 2-12) in a world of hurt with the Nagoya banzuke now, as Uncle Sumo uncorks some kind of magic genki sauce and blasts him out of the ring after some preliminary struggle. As always, the crowd in the Kokugikan goes nuts whenever Aminishiki is on the dohyo, and goes double nuts when he wins.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Sadanoumi somehow survives a really powerful osha-battle with Chiyomaru to pick up his kachi-koshi. To me it looks like Chiyomaru had a tough time getting into basho mode, and is struggling with his sumo. Maybe a bit too much mass from the bulbous one? Sadanoumi lands his 8th win and can take comfort in his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Daieisho – This one was another in a series of Shohozan brawls disguised as sumo matches. Both men were going for some kind of painful death grip on the other, and the winning move was a nicely executed watashikomi thigh trip. Shohozan can still finish kachi-koshi if he wins day 15.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Tamawashi switches to freight-train / densha michi mode and runs Ikioi down the tracks, improving to 7-7 going into the final day.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kaisei – Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi!!! The two go chest to chest straight away, and the enormous mass of Kaisei is clearly near the limit for the Kyushu Bulldozer. But he revs up, engages his tracks and lowers his blade.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell Shodai? Again, his mechanics are abysmal, but his instincts are dead on. Big outcome of this match may be the fact that Shodai seems to have crushed Mitakeumi’s right ankle when they both went to cuddle the kita-kata shimpan.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Watch this match, maybe a few times. Tochinoshin really puts a lot into this match, and Kakuryu does some of his best “Big K Sumo” ever. Kakuryu is a reactive sumo expert. His plan is to stalemate Tochinoshin until he makes some kind of mistake, and then use that mistake to finish him. Tochinoshin immediately goes to land his left, and Kakuryu shuts that down, opting for a palm to the face. Tochinoshin tries to go left again, and gets a bit of a grip, but Kakuryu shifts his hips and denies him leverage. Tochinoshin now has a double outside grip on Kakuryu’s loose mawashi, and can’t find a way to keep the Yokozuna from shifting around, robbing Tochinoshin of his ability to lift and shift (his primary weapon). Kakuryu is deep double inside, and leaning in at 45 degrees, stalemate for the Georgian Ozeki hopeful. Tochinoshin tries to pull out a leg trip, but Kakuryu is too far back for the trip, shifting his hips again as Tochinoshin is now dangerously unbalanced. Kakuryu advances, and Tochinoshin tries to pivot for a throw, further impeding his defensive stance, Kakuryu has his opening now, raises his foot and pops a trip against Tochinoshin’s left knee (the good one), and collapses the Georgian at the tawara. Holy smokes! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – Sumo fans could have ended their day with the Kakuryu v Tochinoshin match with satisfaction, but the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had one last treat in store for us. The Boulder squared off against the dai-Yokozuna, but this was not the passive version of Ichinojo today. Huge, powerful and motivated, Hakuho, who is clearly not quite at full power, had his hands full with 500 pounds of pony tossing, ice cream eating behemoth. Hakuho unleashed a pair of his usually disruptive moves at the outset, but Ichinojo must have gone into the match with the intent to endure the Yokozuna’s initial attacks however he could. It seems he wanted to play a longer game. With Hakuho’s initial gambits exhausted, they spent a moment leaning chest to chest in the center of the dohyo. As Ichinojo moved to advance, Hakuho timed a weight shift to load a throw against Ichinojo. Ichinojo sensed the Yokozuna shifting for leverage, and took advantage of it, pivoting into the uwatenage as the Yokozuna went to the clay. Kokugikan erupts, cushions fly and it’s ice cream and ponies for everyone.

Natsu Day 12 Preview

Natsu Day 12

The yusho race is down to Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin, and both Yokozuna. Faced with a lack of San’yaku rikishi, and possibly a desire to have a three way yusho race going into the final weekend of the basho, the planned match between Hakuho and Tochinoshin has been scheduled for day 12. Sure we can talk about other matches of note, but this one is going to be pivotal for several reasons.

Firstly, we can think of it as Tochinoshin’s final exam for his Ozeki bid. Many would successfully argue that he is the only rikishi in this tournament who is performing and Ozeki levels, and they would certainly not be wrong. But beating the dai-Yokozuna would dismiss even the most negative decision maker’s concern.

We can also consider that a loss by Hakuho here would possibly knock him out of the yusho race, and it would be the strongest signal yet that his days are waning. Given how fierce a competitor Hakuho is, and how ruthless he is when the chips are down, I think he will bring everything he has to this day 12 match.

At this point, the topic of a Tochinoshin yusho is front of mind as well. He is looking as least as good as he did in January when he took the Hatsu yusho, and many of the weakness in the upper San’yaku ranks persist today. Simply put, the promotion lanes are wide open. Some rikishi who have been wanting to get in position for some time, Mitakeumi and Tamawashi, appear to be missing their chance as a tougher, stronger, more dedicated man beats them to the prize.

In the rest of the matches, the schedulers are starting to give us huge leaps in the banzuke, with mid-Maegashira taking on men at the bottom of the roster. Many of these are simple “gimme” matches, others are fun examples of testing out the lower ranked men against their possible slots in Nagoya. Others represent the problems in the torikumi due to kyujo, dominant heya and other factors that impinge on rank-appropriate matches.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho

4 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 12

Daishomaru vs Nishikigi – Daishomaru has a legitimate chance to pick up kachi-koshi, as it’s possible that Nishikigi will succumb to the 9-2 career advantage, and huge difference in the banzuke between M9 Daishomaru and M17 Nishikigi.

Takekaze vs Kagayaki – M14 vs M8 with Kagayaki needing 2 more wins for kachi-koshi. Takekaze in converse is 1 loss away from make-koshi. The career records favors Kagayaki 5-2.

Ryuden vs Sadanoumi – M7 vs M14, with Ryuden already make-koshi and Sadanoumi having a legitimate shot at kachi-koshi. They have fought 3 times before, with Ryuden taking 2 of them. Having watched Ryuden the last few days, he seems genuinely dispirited at this point, so the outcome is very much in play.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – A battle of the big’uns, we get M13 Aoiyama vs M7 Chiyomaru, both of whom are within reach of a kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru has shown some glimpses of sharp sumo in the last few days, including his day 11 match with Asanoyama.

Chiyoshoma vs Takakeisho – M10 Takakeisho is a fierce competitor who has displayed overwhelming tenacity thus far. His sumo may appear to some as “run around crazy and get the other guy to fall down”, but his oshi-style sumo is quite distinct, and in some ways more effective than the rest of the army of pusher-thruster rikishi. He holds a 4-2 career advantage over M6 Chiyoshoma.

Shohozan vs Shodai – Even though Shodai lost his day 11 match with Yokozuna Hakuho, he once again produced a slapstick result, with Hakuho somehow bumbling his face into Shodai’s shoulder. This leads me to consider if Shodai is actually some kind of cartoon character, and will manage to drop an anvil on Shohozan. Surprisingly, out of their 9 prior matches, Shodai has won 6 of them.

Daieisho vs Abi – Abi’s day 11 match was a fine example of how to dismantle his offense, and if Daieisho was watching, I hope he spends the morning practicing with his tsukebito. Otherwise his short reach may be to Abi’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – A Mitakeumi win here would give him a kachi-koshi and Chiyotairyu a make-koshi at the same time. Chiyotairyu is looking dispirited in the past few days, as it seems everyone has his number right now. His biggest issue is lateral movement. He’s very strong forward. His balance is also hampered by his belly.

Kaisei vs Endo – Now that he is make-koshi, perhaps Endo will win a few to cushion his fall down the Banzuke. I am sure the NSK would like Endo healthy, genki and back in the San’yaku for September in Tokyo. So I am going to guess they want him as close to 7-8 as he can manage.

Kotoshogiku vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo pushing for kachi-koshi here. Kotoshogiku will try to go chest to chest right away, and I am sure that Ichinojo will give it to him for the asking. The Kyushu Bulldozer holds a slight 5-4 advantage over The Boulder, so this match is far from certain.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi limps around and is in pain, but he’s also kachi-koshi now. Kakuryu needs to dispatch him to keep 1 behind Tochinoshin. Ikioi has won 3 of their 11 career matches, but with his injuries and Kakuryu’s focus on staying in range for the yusho weekend barnyard brawl, I am guessing Ikioi is going down.

Tochinoshin vs Hakuho – Tochinoshin has never beaten Hakuho. If that changes today, it will (as described above) mark a fundamental shift in sumo. Welcome to the final exam, Tochinoshin. We are eagerly waiting your outcome.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

Tochinoshin-salt

Day 11 presented no surprises, but had some solid sumo for fans to enjoy. Thankfully Hokutofuji is kyujo, and hopefully any injury to his skull or brain will be addressed before he bouts the dohyo again. The Ozeki bid by Tochinoshin is about to enter its final stage. He has 11 wins now, which is numerically sufficient for promotion. But the elevation to sumo’s second highest rank is not simply a numbers game. It revolves around the NSK and to a lesser extent the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee deciding that the performance period in question meets a threshold for promotion.

Tochinoshin’s 11 wins have all be impressive, overpowering wins. He is clearly one of the most genki or possibly THE most genki man in sumo right now. But his 11 wins can be minimized by members of the NSK or YDC citing that they come in a tournament with no Ozeki, and should he fail to defeat either Yokozuna, the raw numbers may be deemed insufficient. Please keep in mind, I don’t get to make this decision, I am not a member of the NSK or the YDC. I am just some guy in Texas who loves sumo.

For myself I think he will beat at least one Yokozuna, and he may end up with the Yusho, which would eliminate all reservation by the NSK and YDC, in my opinion. At the larger scale, sumo needs a more stable Yokozuna / Ozeki corps, and this is how that rebuilding starts. If Tochinoshin can maintain this level of performance, he will make a fine Ozeki, and sumo will be the better for it.

Highlight Matches

Kyokutaisei defeats Gagamaru – Planet Gagamaru was his traditional, lethargic self. He put forth some effort, but he lived up to his current 2-9 tournament score. This match is notable not just because of the gravity waves that disrupted LIGO observations of colliding black holes as the shitatenage took him to the clay, but Shin-Maegashira Kyokutaisei scored his kachi-koshi, and will be in Makuuchi for Nagoya.

Arawashi defeats Takekaze – Both rikishi put a bunch of effort into this. Both are at the make-koshi line now, and for Takekaze, there is a real desire to not be considered for Juryo in July. The saving grace is that there is not a huge cadre of Juryo men who are beating down the door to Makuuchi.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi, and it really looks like Chiyonokuni may have decided to coast to the finish this time. I can understand why. He is at a good rank, and he may not be genki enough for a full cruise through the joi. He’s done that a few times and he ends up getting pounded. His sumo is improving, but I am going to guess he wants to hit around Maegashira 6 or so for Nagoya. This will let him figure out if he has advanced enough to possibly accomplish anything in joi.

Nishikigi fusensho over Hokutofuji – With humble gratitude to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, Hokutofuji is kyujo for now, hopefully getting that head scanned and any sort of medical treatment needed. As a result, the man who never gives up, Niskikigi, gets his kachi-koshi at the very bottom of the banzuke, and will be Makuuchi for Nagoya. He really has put forth a lot of effort to hold on by his fingertips, and it’s great to see it pay off.

Takakeisho defeats Takarafuji – As expected, this was a fascinating match to watch. From the tachiai, Takarafuji is working to get control of Takakeisho, with Takakeisho constantly moving about and landing blows. If you have a chance to watch this on replay or YouTube, watch their feet! For whatever reason, I think a rikishi’s feet say more about what they are doing than their arms or heads. Takarafuji keeps being forced to give up his defensive footing and retreat. As soon as he is moving backwards, Takakeisho matches the timing of his steps to land thrusts when his feet are not planted. This just accelerates Takarafuji’s movement. When Takakeisho makes a mistake and pushes too high (as opposed to center mass of the chest), Takarafuji deftly moves inside and rushes forward. Takakeisho is not even slightly phased by this, and sets up a finishing move at the tawara. A ballerina pirouette later and Takakeisho’s won! Great great sumo from these two!

Ikioi defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru launches into the tachiai with gusto, and it puts Ikioi into a defensive mode straight away. Ikioi circles away and breaks contact, then attacks. Again, watch Daishomaru’s feet at the moment Ikioi starts to press his offense. His feet are not set, his balance is not over his hips. Ikioi exploits this and rushes forward for the win. Ikioi with a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Both are make-koshi, and possibly deeply so by the end of Natsu. But you would never know it looking at these two members of the Freshman team go at it with vigor. If you like yoritaoshi wins, do watch this one.

Shohozan defeats Abi – As pointed out in last night’s preview, Abi tends to get his arms up and stop his opponents tachiai. Today Shohozan countered that with pure speed. Robbed of his disruptive opening move, Abi did not have time to reset, and Shohozan attacked like a hangry bison in a fresh alfalfa field.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Looks like Endo’s return may not have been a good tactical move. Tamawashi uses his face for a slapping target. As we learn in the Marines, you can have a great battle plan, but as soon as someone is punching you in the head, it’s tough to keep on plan. Endo make-koshi now.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Not one, but TWO loud belly blasts from these two men of girth. After the second one, it seems that Chiyotairyu’s sideburns were bereft of their power inducing kami, and Ichinojo more or less walked him out.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – I think the scheduling team moved Tochinoshin’s match with Hakuho up to day 12, because they wanted a chance to have a 3 way yusho battle set up for the final weekend of the basho. Points to Kotoshogiku for giving him a good fight, but Kotoshogiku got off balance, and Tochinoshin did not let that opportunity escape. I truly hope Kotoshogiku can get his kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – About as minimal as a match could get, Shodai offered no resistance to speak of.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – There we go! That’s Kakuryu sumo to be certain. Mitakeumi gave him an excellent match, and it was touch and go for most of it. But as has been typical for Kakuryu, he likes to win in the last 3″ of the dohyo. Why rikishi don’t ease up as they get him close to the tawara is beyond me, as Kakuryu loves to use the tawara.

Natsu Day 11 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

Ready or not, here comes act 3! This is where we sort the winners from losers, and hand some hard-working rikishi the Emperor’s cup. Right now the cup is Tochinoshin’s to lose, and the only way this is competitive is if someone gets dirt on the undefeated man on an Ozeki run. That Ozeki run is looking more likely from a numbers standpoint. The only question so far is the “quality” of the wins.

Some fans and readers have very passionate positions on this, so I will mention up front that I am an armchair sumo fan living in Texas. I am not a member of the YDC, I don’t look like Colonel Sanders, and I have never been a holder of elder stock in the NSK. So my opinions count for exactly ZERO in the sumo world.

As I mentioned in the podcast, there is a means by which Tochinoshin might reach double digits, but be declared “not quite there yet” in terms of Ozeki. It all comes down to who he beats. He has yet to face any Ozeki this tournament (sorry, fresh out) or any Yokozuna (they are on the plan). But a shiroboshi from either of them would likely remove that as a possible criticism. Of course a yusho win would assure promotion.

I would also point out that to this date, Tochinoshin has never beaten Yokozuna Hakuho. Were he to accomplish that (and Tochinoshin is looking mighty genki right now), it would mark a turning point in both men’s careers, in my humble opinion. Tochinoshin is also 2-21 vs Yokozuna Kakuryu. One of those wins came last tournament, and was Kakuryu’s only loss. Clearly Tochinoshin as a big wall to climb, but I think at this point, he is at peak performance and more than ready to challenge the top men in the sport.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho
HunterChiyonokuni

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Gagamaru vs Kyokutaisei – Planet Gagamaru orbits into Makuuchi for a day. He is already make-koshi so this match may just be some kind of battle-reunion for Kyokutaisei, who needs one more win for a kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei holds a 4-2 career lead.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Honestly, what the hell sumo world. Hokutofuji is hopefully going to get completely checked out by a neuro-medicine specialist and cleared for combat before he returns to the dohyo. If the sumo world thought there was trouble with a medical incident on the dohyo during jungyo, let there be some poor fellow have a stroke, a seizure, and aneurism or even convulse and die right there on the dohyo. No amount of salt will purify it again. I want to see Nishikigi go kachi-koshi by fusensho, thanks.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both men still within reach of a winning record for Natsu, both of them fairly evenly matched. Sadanoumi looked very good in his day 10 match against Arawashi, and Kagayaki looks like he might be losing focus / running out of steam. They are 4-3 career, with a slight edge to Sadanoumi.

Yoshikaze vs Tochiozan – Both of these storied veterans have seen better days, both come in in some state of disrepair. Both of them 5-5, both of them wanting to secure a winning record. For some fans, it’s kind of a tough match to watch. We hate to see our heroes fade.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – Takakeisho is starting to look a bit better as the tournament goes forward, and it’s a great time to pair him up against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is very careful, forceful and under control. Takakeisho, when he is on his sumo, is a rippling vortex of conflicting force vectors, most of which he is going to transmit through your body. I am eager to see what he does with the very stable Takarafuji. Takakeisho won both their prior matches, but Takakeisho is not quite up to full power.

Daishomaru vs Ikioi – Winner gets kachi-koshi. Ikioi has had a bit of a rough ride with Mitakeumi on day 10, but I think he is a good match for Daishomaru right now. Ikioi still seems to be very stiff, in pain and moving with difficulty every match.

Shohozan vs Abi – Shohozan has a pair of massive arms. But note they are actually a bit short. Abi on the other hand has shown just how useful his near cartoon like reach can be. This is underscored that Shohozan has yet to win a match from Abi. It’s just possible that Abi might go kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, which would mean a second basho in the job for Abi, and frankly would further elevate his profile to his growing base of fans around the world.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Loser of this one make-koshi. Tamawashi and Endo are very evenly matched across the board, and this has the potential of being an outstanding bit of sumo. Tamawashi will try to stay mobile, and I would look for Endo to go for a shallow grip straight off the tachiai. He will take a couple of fierce blows to get his grip, but if he can hold, he will control the match.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – Day 10 saw Ichinojo once again summon overwhelming strength against Shodai. So much so that he seems to simply push Shodai away like an empty udon bowl that could no longer hold his interest. Chiyotairyu likes to win at the tachiai with speed, force and power. Frankly Ichinojo might actually feel that, or he may be focus solely on checking the crowd for wolves. History for the two of them is an even split of 2-2.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku, aka the Kyushu Bulldozer, has a lot of frustration to discharge. He faces off against the man who would be Ozeki, who is looking like the strongest, most energetic man in sumo today. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 advantage over Tochinoshin, but in the last few tournaments, it’s been Tochinoshin who prevails. Tochinoshin will try to go chest to chest early, and that is just fine with Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku is looking stronger and healthier this tournament than he has in a while, so the hug-n-chug might actually overpower Tochinoshin. We know that Tochinoshin is strong enough to lift Kotoshogiku over his head and twirl him like a button, but Kotoshogiku has a surprising portion of his body weight below his mawashi, making his center of mass difficult to manipulate. This will either be a roaring match of the day, or a complete snooze fest. Double points if Tochinoshin pulls a henka.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Shodai is having a good basho, but Hakuho is getting himself amped up to stop Tochinoshin, and claim his 41st yusho. So Shodai is a bit of a warm up. But just a bit. There is that nagging problem of the one time Shodai beat him, so Hakuho will be on his guard, and hopefully not do anything too exotic just for the fun of it.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Not really sure what to say here. Kakuryu and his henka on day 10 was a ridiculous surprise, which he beclowned himself. I am sure he has and will catch a lot of grief over that. He is 3-3 against Mitakeumi, who copes well with Kakuryu’s reactive style.