Nagoya Ozeki Report

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With just over two weeks until the start of the Nagoya basho, Sumo’s ozeki corps is under pressure to deliver wins all round. The two incumbent ozeki are both kadoban, and the shin-ozeki, Tochinoshin, comes in nursing a hurt wrist. As a zero-sum sport, each win that the ozeki need comes at the expense of some other rikishi’s march towards kachi-koshi.

First up is the likely Ozeki 1 East, Goeido. With only 3 wins at Natsu, it’s tough to think of this man as the top Ozeki in sumo today. After injuring his ankle during the Osaka basho in 2017, he underwent surgery to have his joint rebuilt with pins and a lot of luck. While it seems to have kept his foot from falling off, he has mostly struggled to execute the kind of sumo that gives him winning records. When he is on his game, Goeido is a fast, brutal rikishi of pure offense. But we suspect he is still trying to find a way to keep his injured ankle together by any means he can muster. He comes into Nagoya looking to overcome his 8th career kadoban. While a healthy, strong Goeido running GoeiDOS 2.X is more than up to that task, he will have to overcome some fierce competition from the rest of the san’yaku to get to the safety of 8 wins. Forecast – Questionable.

But then we come to Takayasu, the likely Ozeki 1 West. Takayasu did not compete at all during Natsu, citing upper body injuries that were likely sustained due to changes he made to his sumo following the injury of his training partner and companion Kisenosato. During the second half of 2017, Takayasu’s sumo increasingly relied on a wild, flailing style that incorporated-a maxed out kachi-age at the tachiai. Being enormous and as strong as a C53 class locomotive can take you quite far when you are willing to go brutal at the open. Sadly his body suffered and his injuries were too much for him to compete in May. Now he heads to the balmy basho in Nagoya trying to overcome his 3rd foreshortened tournament of his Ozeki career, and erase his second kadoban. Recent press reports have featured Takayasu and an injured Kisenosato practicing in front of hundreds of spectators, with good effect. Some of this may simply be PR for the Yokozuna, as it seems most of the san-ban had been prior to the past four basho. Forecast – Hopeful.

Shin-Ozeki is a great slot, especially if it’s apparent that you finished your Ozkei bid with increasing momentum and increasingly powerful sumo. Ozeki 2 East Tochinoshin comes to the Nagoya dohyo as possibly the most powerful man in the Ozeki ranks. He can easily carry either of his fellow ozeki around like furniture, planting them in harmonious spots outside of the dohyo for optimal feng-shui. The worrying aspect is his repeated reports of injury to his wrist sustained during the final week of Natsu. This, naturally, limits his “lift and shift” sumo by removing his ability to transfer his enormous strength to his opponents mawashi. However, it’s reasonable to assume that Kasugano will have him squared away in time for shonichi. I personally hope that a strong rivalry between Tochinoshin and Takayasu takes root, which could help propel both of them to higher performance. Forecast – Rather-genki.

With two kadoban ozeki, it’s going to be time for both Takayasu and Goeido to dial it up to 11, but there is also a very real risk of losing at least one Ozeki this basho. Goeido has been teetering on the edge for quite some time. Takayasu may still be injured, but feel he is out of options. But with Tochinoshin bringing fresh blood and fresh sumo to the Ozeki ranks, Nagoya promises to step up the intensity of upper rank competition.

Ozeki Goeido In A Perilous State

Exploding Robot

Long-serving Ozeki Goeido lost in a shocking match against Daieisho in day 8 action, dropping to 3-5. It was notable because while Daieisho is a solid rikishi, he should be no trouble for a man who is clearly capable of dispatching Yokozuna. Instead, the troubled Ozeki found himself stood upright, pushed around and thrust out on the east side of the dohyo. The sumo world is always very tight lipped about injuries to rikishi, especially during a basho, but I am going to assume that Goeido has re-injured his ankle. That injury limits the amount of offensive force he can muster, and the amount of lateral / shifting pressure he can maintain. This makes him weak going forward, and slow to turn or move side to side.

Goeido had his right ankle completely reconstructed with pins and screws last year, and returned to action possibly before the surgery could completely heal. This is, in part, driven by kadoban rules for Ozeki and the 60 day period between honbasho.

With this loss, Goedio now needs to win 5 of the remaining 7 matches. This may be impossible as he must still face Tochinoshin, Hakuho and Kakuryu. A make-koshi for Natsu would mean the Nagoya basho would once again feature both Ozeki kadoban, and facing a risk of demotion.

Before any readers assume too much, we cheer Goeido when he’s fighting well, and scold him when he takes short cuts or seems to just phone it in. In this case, it’s clear he’s not able to generate full offensive power, and we have to assume injury. A healthy Goeido is a terrifying rikishi of nearly pure offense. We wish him well and hope he can find some way to return to health.

Aki Story 2 – Goeido & Terunofuji Kadoban

Kadoban

A recurring theme in the past year has been the problems with the current crop of Ozeki, and their tendency to turn in losing records. Ozeki do not get demoted when they end a tournament with a majority losing record. It is, perhaps, a nod to the great difficulty required to rack up 33 wins over the course of 3 tournaments. Instead they get a “warning” that a second consecutive losing record will demote them to Sekiwake. An Ozeki in this state is declared “Kadoban”. This in fact happened to Kotoshogiku within the last year, and he was sadly unable to resurrect his Ozeki rank in the following tournaments. He continues to fade.

Headed into Aki, both Terunofuji and Goeido are at risk of demotion. Goeido was in this status last year entering the Aki basho, and responded by racking up 15 straight victories and taking the yusho. Sadly Goeido could not parlay this into a consistent elevation in performance, and has mixed results for the following tournament. His breathtaking Aki performance led us to coin the term “Goeido 2.0”, which described what seemed to be an entirely different rikishi. He was bold, committed and attacked with a ferocity that left no room for retreat. But Goeido suffered a significant ankle injury during Hatsu, and was forced to seek treatment that included steel pins and plates.

Similarly, Terunofuji underwent surgery in June to attempt repair on his knee, an injury that frequently kept him from top performance. Sadly it was not healed enough for competition when Terunofuji began the Nagoya basho, and he soon withdrew. Since going kyujo, he retired to his native Mongolia for recovery and training, and his working hard to be in condition for the basho.

Both of these men are fierce competitors, and we hope that both of them can clear their kadoban status with style. If reports of injury among the Yokozuna hold true, it may provide some relief to both men, who would find their schedules a bit easier, and their chances of a solid winning record increased.

Haru Day 9 Preview

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Tagonoura’s Untouchables

Today both Kisenosato and Takayasu achieved the Kachi-koshi. This matters not for Kisenosato, but for Takayasu it guarantees that he will stay in San’yaku and likely Sekiwake for the May basho. Thus far no one has been able to defeat either of these two rikishi, though Ikioi and Shohozan came terribly close today.

Shohozan had Kisenosato locked up with the double inside grip (moro-zashi), which usually indicates an impending loss. But somehow Kisenosato was able to overcome this advantage and defeat Shohozan. I really applaud Shohozan’s fantastic effort, as it was significant and well executed. Ikioi really put the pressure on Takayasu in an earlier bout, but he could not close the deal. In fact Takayasu seems to almost enjoy locking up someone like Ikioi in the center of the dohyo. If you re-watch that match, you can see Takayasu’s arm go limp, he does this when in this kind of bout. He forced Ikioi to support as much of Takayasu’s amazing mass as possible, wearing Ikioi down. Once he sensed that Ikioi’s strength was waning, he went into action and won.

Some things to look forward to in the Yusho race

  • Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – Oh yes, these two have not met yet this basho. With Terunofuji one off the leader pace, a win against Kisenosato would change the landscape dramatically.
  • Takayasu vs Harumafuji – If the Horse has the strength and health, he can and could defeat Takayasu with any number of his typical winning moves. I repeat that Takayasu’s mighty tachiai is just begging someone to throw in a henka
  • Kakuryu vs Kisenosato – If Kakuryu sticks to his reactive sumo, he can goad Kisenosato into over-reacting and then exploit his mistakes.

Any way you look at it, the chances of the two rikishi from Tagonoura remaining undefeated are still quite long.

On the other hand, Kotoshogiku does indeed have a chance of reclaiming his Ozeki glory. He only needs to win 4 of the remaining 7 matches. He has already faced 2 of the 3 Yokozuna.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Chiyonokuni, Chiyoshoma, Tokushoryu

7 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Myogiryu vs Ura – Ura is really struggling for a formula that is consistent for his Makuuchi matches, and he has yet to figure it out. Fortunately he is 4-4, for Kachi-koshi is not out of the question. His opponent Myogiryu tends to win against Ura, having defeated him 5 times in their prior 8 matches.

Tokushoryu vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan is not attracting much press, but he has only one loss thus far, and is tied for second place with Terunofuji on the leader board. I am going to assume at some point if he keeps winning, the schedulers are going to have Tochiozan face Terunofuji. But today he gets Tokushoryum whom he should be able to defeat easily. Tochiozan has won all 3 of the prior matches.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – In his third Makuuchi basho, Ishiura seems to be holding his own at last. He is fighting well, and he is finding a way to overcome and win. Kagayaki is struggling and needs to keep working on his sumo. Ishiura leads their prior meetings 5-0.

Endo vs Okinoumi – This is likely to be a highlight bout, as both of these men are performing well this basho. I expect a lot of mawashi action and maybe an attempt at a throw or two. Endo leads their career meetings 3-2.

Shohozan vs Kaisei – Shohozan is one loss away from Make-koshi, which is a shame given how well he has been competing. Today he faces hapless Kaisei, which should be an fairly easy victory.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – This was bound to happen at some point. I like watching Shodai, but he needs to fix his tachiai. If he can do that, he can be a contender. Mitakeumi has been fighting well, but is starting to suffer a string of losses. Both rikishi come into this bout at 3-5, Shodai leads their career match ups 4-2.

Takekaze vs Takayasu – Takayasu must be prepared for Takekaze’s henka. If he falls to it, he has no one but himself to blame. In a flat out fight, it’s Takayasu’s advantage, but Takekaze is well equipped with many really nice, unexpected moves.

Ikioi vs Terunofuji – Ikioi looked hurt after his bout with Takayasu. Now he is going to face a resurgent Terunofuji, and I am just hoping that Ikioi survives undamaged. If Terunofuji wins, which I expect, this will be his Kachi-koshi and his kadoban status will be erased. Ikioi has only defeated Terunofuji once in their prior 8 bouts, and it was during a basho where Terunofuji was clearly injured.

Kotoshogiku vs Kisenosato – This is actually a big challenge for Kisenosato. Kotoshogiku has a habit of beating him, especially when Kisenosato needs to win. Kotoshogiku actually leads their career series 33-30. If he lets Kotoshogiku land a solid grip, like he allowed Shohozan to do on day 7, this will get ugly. Kisenosato needs to keep things moving and not let the human bulldozer get to work.

Goeido Withdraws From Haru

Goeido

As reported on the NSK official web site, Ozeki Goeido has withdrawn from the March tournament in Osaka. This development should surprise no one, as Goeido was recovering form orthopedic surgery, and had only practiced for four days prior to the start of the basho. Frankly, he was putting his health and future at risk by trying to compete.

As reported in the Japanese sumo press: “about five weeks of treatment with right leg joint lateral ligament injury”

It has been obvious over the past few days that Goeido could not put power to ground through his damaged and re-constructed ankle. Tachiai is grateful that Goeido decided to withdraw before anything horrific took place on the dohyo, and we hope to see him back in action once he is fully recovered.

Hatsu Recap 4 – Kotoshogiku Kadoban

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Injured, Defeated, Demoted

Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku has been a concern of ours for several tournaments. His injuries are chronic and their impact icreasing. In fact he can seldom muster the strength to really contend at a sanyaku level at times, let alone perform his duties as an Ozeki.

During Hatsu, Kotoshogiku was the sad spot to every day. Here is a great rikishi, although he is kind of a one tactic guy, he does it better than anyone, and he won and won and won with it for a long time.

In fact, it was last year at the 2016 Hatsu basho that Kotoshogiku broke the unending string of Mongolian Yusho winners when he took the Emperor’s cup going 14-1. In the year that followed, his injuries plagued him, and his performance suffered. He turned in a weak showing for Haru/Osaka 2016 (Andy might say had a foul ordor), a strong showing for May and then sat out most of Nagano after going 1-6 to start. His record in Kyushu was 5-10, which made him Kadoban once again, and he repeated at Hatsu going 5-10, securing his removal from the Ozeki rank.

Now he heads back to Osaka as one of a crowded Sekiwake field. His goal will be to secure 10 wins and return to Ozeki, but frankly there are only 2 paths to that achievement. 1. Medical treatment. He could undergo treatment for the problems in his hips and knees, of there is anything left to save. Though it is doubtful that he could be healed by early March. 2. A lot of people do very big favors for him by making sure he wins matches that he might otherwise lose.

There has been some speculation among sumo fans that Kotoshogiku will retire before then. He has a Kabu, and secured a place in the senior ranks of the sumo business once he leaves the dohyo. But thus far he has made no announcement. Other fans (myself included) believe he will give it a try, and go down fighting.

Goeido’s Nearly Impossible Challenge

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Can He Repeat His Perfect Record and Become Yokozuna?

The Aki basho was all Goeido, his sumo was superb, and not even the Yokozuna could stop him from achieving a perforce score, the much coveted Zensho Yusho. Harumafuji and Hakuho have achieved a few of these in the last decade, but for an Ozeki to score a perfect record in the Hakuho era is rare.

As a result, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council declared that should Goeido repeat his performance during the upcoming Kyushu basho, he would be promoted to Yokozuna. For more than a decade, Japan has been waiting for a Japanese rikishi to join the elite rank, and break the Mongolian monopoly on the Yokozuna rope.

During the summer break between Nagoya and Aki, it was clear that Goeido trained like a man possessed. He went into the fall tournament in Tokyo with the ignominy of being “Kadoban-Ozeki”. A loosing record in Tokyo would have demoted him to the lower ranks. The results of his intense training and re-dedication to his sumo was clear. Not only was he physically more powerful, his attitude was remarkably changed, and each bout saw him attack with total commitment to winning. In reviewing his matches, it’s nearly all offense;  offense that left no room for him to defend. His commitment to his skill and ability to prevail was total.

As a result, he became a hero. He has been on countless television shows, he has been a star attraction at the fall Jungo tour stops, and pretty much every distraction you can throw at a sumotori has been levied upon him.

The natural question comes about – how much has this degraded his sumo?

With just under 2 weeks to go before Kyushu starts, Tachiai suspects Goeido is training like a man possessed, knowing full well that this time, the final exam is Hakuho.

Sumo fans everywhere are wishing Goeido a good basho.

 

Goeido – Redemption

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From Kadoban to Yusho – Zensho Achieved (First in history)

Before the start of the Aki basho two weeks ago, I mockingly referred to Goeido and Kotoshogiku as the “Kadoban Twins”. Frankly both of their performance had been spotty and uneven, and I frankly predicted at least one of them would fail to achieve a winning record and would be demoted.

I was wrong

In one of the great redemption and come back stories in sports, Goeido came into Aki in danger of losing sumo’s second highest ranking, and drove himself relentlessly in every match. As noted before in Tachiai, his all out commitment to his offensive moves was dramatic, more like Hakuho, than what has been typical for Goeido of late.

On his march to total victory, he has shown surprising versatility in his winning moves, and an absolute fearless approach to sumo. The fans have loved it, as it was clear that Goeido was going to settle for nothing less than a win on every day.  I sincerely hope that Goeido can maintain this level of sumo, as it is really quite thrilling to watch. After so many years of the Japanese sumo fans yearning for strong performance from someone other than Mongolians, they may have finally found a worthy champion.

List Of Victories – Aki Basho

  • Day 1 – Tochinoshin
  • Day 2 – Shodai
  • Day 3 – Tochiozan
  • Day 4 – Takanoiwa
  • Day 5 – Takarafuji
  • Day 6 – Takayasu
  • Day 7 – Okinoumi
  • Day 8 – Yoshikaze
  • Day 9 – Aoiyama
  • Day 10 – Terunofuji
  • Day 11 – Kisenosato
  • Day 12 – Kakuryu
  • Day 13 – Harumafuji
  • Day 14 – Tamawashi
  • Day 15 – Kotoshogiku

Some facts about Goeido’s win, harvested from nikkansports.com:

  • Only the 8th time in history and kadoban Ozeki has won a tournament
  • First time ever a kadoban Ozeki has won undefeated – zensho yusho
  • First time in 86 years a rikishi from Osaka has won a tournament.
  • Only Harumafuji, Hakuho and now Goeido, out of the current sekitori, have won with a perfect record.

The video below of his win day 14 over Tamawashi, and the reaction of the crowd says it all. Congratulations to Goeido, your performance during Aki has been incredible.

 

Aki Day 8 Preview – Can Yoshikaze 嘉風 Equalize?

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Goeido Remains Undefeated – For How Long?

Undefeated: Goeido
Chasers (6-1): Harumafuji, Okinoumi, Endo
Hunt Group (5-2): Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Ikioi, Kotoyuki, Kyokushuho

Greetings dear sumo fans, followers of the glorious Tachiai web site, and to all the ships at sea. After spending the day returning to the glorious US West Coast, I am ready once more to bring you a peek at what is about to happen in Tokyo. Sadly I missed most of the thrills of today’s amazing day 7, but thanks to Andy who gave us the specifics.

With Okinoumi dealt his first defeat, he will likely continue the chase, now tied with the great Harumafuji (The Horse) for the second tier. Kisenosato is 2 wins behind Goeido, but unless someone stops Goeido, it might as well be 0-7 in terms of The Great Pumpkin’s dream of yusho and ascendancy to Yokozuna, sumo’s highest and most exalted rank.

As many (including myself) have commented, if Okinoumi had won, it was likely he would win the basho, and was quite possible he could do it undefeated, including earning the coveted and exotic zenyusho. But when Goeido twirled him out by the mawashi today, the sumo deities chose a more complex and interesting path.

From here on out, Okinoumi faces primarily lower ranked wrestlers. Goeido faces the bulk of the raging san’yaku battle fleet. But first, Goeido faces the Mad Max of sumo, Yoshikaze. As readers of Tachiai would know, I have my concerns about just how healed up he was able to be (and trained up) given the last basho sent him to the hospital. Clearly he has been capable but less impactful than the Nagoya basho. But tomorrow Yoshikaze can play the role of equalizer. If he can manage to defeat Goeido, it will even his win / loss ratio, but it will toss the entire basho back up in the air.

With a Berserker win, suddenly now your leaders are: Goeido, Harumafuji, Okinoumi, Endo. With Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, and Takayasu one behind and suddenly in contention. Kisenosato’s yokozuna campaign becomes possibly once more, Harumafuji is in position to capture back-to-back yushos and everyone has to sweat Okinoumi’s easy second half.

Suffice to say, it would be one of the more compelling moves that could take place in this tournament.

Notable Matches, Day 8

Amakaze v Daieisho – I want to see the big “Kaze” at least make kachi-koshi, so I am hoping he wins a few more soon. I will not be surprised if he floats back down to Juryo for another basho or two, but as he has shown with some of his surprising athletics, he will be a full time Makuuchi rikishi soon.

Gagamaru v Chiyoshoma – Gagamaru looking highly upset following his day 7 match with Ikioi, and we hope the Georgia satellite was not injured in the match. I give a slight advantage to Chiyoshoma, who in spite of losing to Shohozan on day 7, is looking very strong.

Kyokushuho v Sadanoumi – 5-2 is a great record at this point of any basho. 5-2 in a basho where you are Maegashira 15 astounding. Day 8 he faces Sadanoumi, who is going to present some challenge, still I think advantage Kyokushuho.

Nishikigi v Tokushoryu – Nishikigi gets a fairly easy bout, I think the Isenoumi beya wrestler will win and even up his record.

Endo v Ikioi – It’s Elvis and Buddy Holly going at it, sumo style. Seriously, I love both these guys, but they had to match at some point. Slight advantage to Endo in my book. But my biggest hope is neither get hurt.

Chiyonokuni v Kotoyuki – Wow, going to be a mad cap war for about 15 seconds. I give a slight advantage to Kotoyuki, if no other reason I have seen him “Hulk smash” twice already this basho. He seems to be getting bigger and greener each day.

Tochinoshin v Daishomaru – I hate to say this, but Tochinoshin – would you consider going kuyjo? Clearly you are at about 80%, and your competitiveness is driving you into the ring. Your fans (like me) want to see you healthy. Think about it, sir.

Shohozan v Shodai – While I am dispensing advice, Shodai – you need a vacation sir. You have been folded, spindled and mutilated. Shohozan won’t provide a face saving win to Shodai, I expect

Takayasu v Takarafuji – YES! Sekiwake throw down coming on Day 8! Pulling for the mighty Takayasu on this one. But what makes this so great is that Takarafuji, who every time I look at him I think of the “muscle” teamster that they use to make sure everyone behaves, is not going to give it up easy.

Goeido v Yoshikaze – Not the final match of the day, but one that everyone will be riveted on. Right now I am just pulling for Yoshikaze to make his kachi-koshi and take a couple of months to train up and heal. But this one has the possibility of being the great equalizer for the entire basho. As every time Yoshikaze steps to the dohyo this tournament, I pray he is not injured. He seems to be taking a lot of blows to the face and eyes.

Kisenosato v Myogiryu – Not a lock, Myogiryu had a great tachiai against The Horse, and for a moment really brought the fight to the champ. If Kisenosato can get his right hand mawashi grip, he wins.

Takanoiwa v Kakuryu – Takanoiwa (Maegashira 3) will likely lose to the Yokozuna, but I hope he gives Kakuryu a good fight. I want to see a stronger, more aggressive Kakuryu soon.

 

September Day 7 Preview – Okinoumi faces Goeido

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There Can Be Only One

These are the days that sumo fans dream of. The Aki basho (September tournament) started off strange, The Boss (Hakuho) was benched with a busted toe, most of the favorites had a cold start, and the first weekend was chaos on the leaderboard. From that emerged two great story lines. First, a pair of undefeated rikishi, one a rank and file Maegashira (Okinoumi) who had fought well, but was not overly remarkable. The second a kadoban Ozeki who looked to be ready for demotion. The second story line – the “always a bridesmaid” Ozeki who dreams of his Tsuna, but never has the mojo to pull it off.

Now at the middle weekend, we see both stories in full display. On Saturday, the 7th day of the tournament, we will see the two unlikely leaders of this basho face off. Two undefeated underdogs, each of which is poised to make sumo history. In the week following, bridesmaid Kisenosato will face his toughest opponents, with only wildly unlikely scenarios able to take him to victory, and his long desired elevation to Yokozuna.

Notable Matches, Day 7

Endo v Kyokushuho – Both men at 5-1, this is the battle for supremacy at the lower echelons of Makuuchi, both have been fighting well, this could be a moment for some great power sumo.

Amakaze v Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki looked strong on day 6, even though he lost Mitakeumi. Meanwhile Amakaze surprised everyone, most especially his opponent Shohozan. I look forward to this match, and the chance that we see more Amakaze maneuvering.

Gagamaru v Ikioi – Well, it had to happen. Planet Gagamaru faces off against the Elvis of sumo, Ikioi. Ikioi looks to possibly have hurt himself at the end of his day 6 match, and he will need to be fast and heavy to contend with The Planet. I predict Planet Gagamaru puts the doom on Ikioi, who I hope is not further injured.

Tamawashi v Shodai – Look, Shodai, they are throwing you an easy match. Please win one, just grab Tamawashi and push him out. Everyone in sumo is feeling kind of bad for you, and we want you to at least save face.

Tochinoshin v Chiyonokuni – You would think this would be an easy victory for the big Georgian. But with Tochinoshin flagging and Chiyonokuni looking very sharp, I would have to give the edge to the smaller, faster Chiyonokuni.

Kaisei v Tochiozan – In the Kokugikan’s scratch and dent bin, we find these two capable Komusubi who are having just a terrible tournament. Komusubi is the worst rank in sumo, and I swear it is a rough translation of some ancient tongue for “punching bag”. Slight advantage to Tochiozan, whose one win was against Kakuryu…

Kisenosato v Takarafuji – We start the tougher part of Kisenosato’s schedule. First up the only Sekiwake he will face (Takayasu is from the same stable). Takarafuji has been fighting better than his 3-3 record would describe, and I expect that the Great Pumpkin will finish him off, but not before a whole lot of man-hugs and pushing.

Yoshikaze v Kotoshogiku – Ouch, ouch, ouch. This could be a brutal slap fest. If Kotoshogiku can tie up the Berserker, it will be over quickly, if not there is likely to be a lot of pain and bruises before one of them hits the clay. While I am a huge Yoshikaze fan, I give an edge to Kotoshogiku, who seems to be in his groove. Yoshikaze seems to be taking additional damage to his face, which I am sure is bad.

Goeido v Okinoumi – The other matches will provide a fair chance of some good sumo. This match, even if it’s over in 5 seconds, will be historic sumo. Only one of these undefeated men will carry the day, and emerge as the clear leader. If Okinoumi prevails, he may well be unstoppable. He will have faced and defeated all Yokozuna, and all Ozeki. The remainder of his schedule are other Maegashira and San’yaku ranks. From this match forward, Okinoumi has the easier path to the end of the basho. Goeido will face the other Ozeki and both Yokozuna in week two, making the likelihood of him remaining undefeated should he win much lower.

Takayasu v Kakuryu – If it were not for the high stakes of the prior match of the undefeated, this would be the one to watch. Takayasu is looking very good thus far, and is clearly warmed up and in his element. He now has a chance to square off against Yokozuna Kakuryu, who also seems to have regained his rhythm. A great technician, he will face a much heavier and more powerful Takayasu. Advantage Kakuryu.

Harumafuji v Myogiryu – Easy bout for the Horse, try not to hurt him, champ!

Day 6 Results – Unbroken & Undefeated

day-6

Okinoumi Refuses To Be Lose, Will Face Undefeated Goeido Saturday

As outlined in last night’s preview of the day 6 matches, the schedule took both undefeated Sumotori into matches with opponents with the skill and strength to end their run. But the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had other plans, both Goeido and Okinoumi emerged from today’s bouts undefeated.

In other news, Osunaarashi did not make it to his Makuuichi match today, an injury suffered on day 5 was enough to have him withdraw, at least for now, from the September tournament. Tachiai wishes him a speedy recovery. As he stated in an interview last night – if he does not try to plow through the tournament, it could be next year before he rejoins Makuuchi, and that would be a devastating blow to his promising career.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – About time ‘kigi got back to winning. Nice Kotenage throw to put Kagayaki out of the ring.

Endo defeats Takekaze – I love me some Takekaze, but it is magical to see Endo back to strength and confidence. This bout was quick, with Endo putting some kind of Superman push-down / tsukiotoshi on Takekaze just a few seconds into the match.

Shohozan defeats Amakaze – Dear Amakaze is probably one of the most gracious men in all of Sumo. Today’s match with Shohozan showed that he loves Sumo, but never takes himself too seriously, and seems to truly enjoy himself each and ever bout. This match should have been over a couple of times, but Amakaze show amazing “think on your feet” reflexes and tactics, escaping a finishing move the first time by a pirouette that could never be expected by a man his size. Shohozan was finally able to chase him around and get him off balance, and down – thought Amakaze took the wrong spot on the dohyo at the end of the match to bow. Ah well! I am sure the “no fun” crowd at the Sumo Association will talk to him about being more stoic.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – A resurgent Ikioi was stopped, and possibly injured today. As he has been nursing more than a couple mechanical problems. Ikioi tried a throw against Chiyoshoma, who countered with an amazingly athletic move and put Ikioi on the clay. Watch closely at the end of the match – Chiyoshoma has some real skill.

Daishomaru defeats Chiyootori – Daishomaru finally gets a win, I am happy to report.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyonokuni – I like both these rikishi, but Yoshikaze made quick work of Chiyonokuni. I worry that Yoshikaze took a hit or thumb to his left eye in that bout. After a terrible start, Yoshikaze is 3-3, so kachi-koshi is still within reason for him.

Kisenosato defeats Shodai – Shodai cannot catch a break, and Kisenosato has remembered his sumo skills. Today’s match Kisenosato wrapped up Shodai, then put his right hand outside magic to work on the mawashi. At that point, if your opponent is Kisenosato, you are probably headed out of the ring. He is 2 wins behind the leaders now, but the leaders showed no sign of giving ground today. His Yokozuna hopes for September are well and truly behind him now.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku opened strong, and stayed heavy. Like some maniacal human bulldozer he relentless grabbed hold of Okinoumi and began to push him around the ring. In a display of skill and acumen I have never seen from Okinoumi before, he stayed calm, and steered himself round and round the ring, wearing the Ozeki down. With a quick weight shift, Okinoumi had Kotoshogiku off balance and threw him to the clay. A great match, and Okinoumi looked every bit a champion in that bout. He has now defeated both Yokozuna, and 3 Ozeki. Truly breath taking performance from a rank and file Maegashira.

Goeido defeats Takayasu – I am a big fan of Takayasu. In this match he was hell bent to get Goeido down, but the Ozeki showed a lot of patience. and waited for his moment to strike. It seldom goes well when a strength rikishi like Takayasu engages in a slapping match, as it’s far to easy to get off balance. The win came when Goeido wrapped up Takayasu at the edge, and gently “escorted” him over the bales. Goeido remains undefeated with Okinoumi. Saturday they face off, and only one will remain.

Terunofuji defeats Tochinoshin – The big Georgian tried once again to wear down his opponent, which he was doing, but lacked the power to finish Terunofuji. One can assume his knee injury is impacting the big man’s performance.

Harumafuji defeats Takanoiwa – Fairly standard beat-down by Harumafuji, but if you can see the replays – watch him grab for Takanoiwa after he is out and the match is over. Takanoiwa was in real danger of going head-first backwards off the dohyo, and it was clear Harumafuji was eager to prevent that. For those out there critical of Harumafuji’s rough and rowdy sumo style, I offer this as evidence of the “Yokozuna Attitude” that he has been displaying with great effect this basho.

Kakuryu defeats Kaisei – Points to Kaisei for trying to take this the endurance route, and play to his superior mass. But it looks like Kakuryu is back in Yokozuna form and waited for his opening, then moved swiftly to end the match. Textbook power sumo from two great practicians, a very satisfying conclusion to day 6

September Day 6 Preview – Osunaarashi Injured?

day-5

The Undefeated Shall Be Tested

We enter day 6 with two rikishi still undefeated (5-0): Goeido & Okinoumi Following on their heels are 7 rikishi with only one loss (4-1): Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu, Ikioi, Kotoyuki, Endo and Kyokushuho

When the scheduling masters of the Sumo Kyokai looked upon this, they must have thought that heading into the middle weekend of a fairly exciting tournament, it was time to see if the undefeated could be challenged, this brings us to the schedule for day 6. I suspect this may be quite a bit more exciting than either of the weekend days, but time shall tell.

Late news – it seems that Osunaarashi was injured in today’s bout. It’s not sure if he’s going to be able to make day 6: He apparently cannot crouch at all, “I heard a ‘crack’ in my hip joint after beating Sadanofuji. I’m not going to hospital. I don’t have a choice but to be unreasonable..”

Now confirmed in the Japanese press: Osunaarashi Out

Notable Matches, Day 6

Osunaarashi v Kyokushuho – With Kyokushuho on a winning streak, this may be a tough trip to Makuuchi for Osunaarashi. But it will be welcome for the US folks to get to see him on the “highlights only” reel.

Endo v Takekaze – The veteran will possibly school Endo, who is on a bit of a hot streak for the past few days. Endo is in great form, but I would put the advantage on Takekaze for this bout.

Shohozan v Amakaze – After being Okinoumi chew-toy on day 5, Shohozan takes on the lower ranked Amakaze. Experience advantages to Shohozan, size to Amakaze. If Shohozan is not completely demoralized by the Torinaoshi, he should defeats Amakaze with little ceremony.

Chiyoshoma v Ikioi – Ikioi is in much better form this tournament, I really like how he is moving for most of his bouts. He should be able to handle Chiyoshoma.

Chiyonokuni v Yoshikaze – Two speed sumo practitioners will enter the dohyo, while I would expect Yoshikaze to win this one, Chiyonokuni thinks on his feet and improvises well. Advantage Yoshikaze – but this may be one to watch. The Berserker is eager to get back above .500, after a demoralizing start to this basho.

Kisenosato v Shodai – Nothing says softball like putting Shodai up against the Great Pumpkin. Shodai has really struggled this tournament, and this is going to be an easy win for Kisenosato, who still seems off his normal sumo.

Okinoumi v Kotoshogiku – While not the musubi no ichiban (結びの一番) – the final match of the day, it will for many fans hold far more excitement than day 6’s Yokozuna match. Undefeated Okinoumi vs the master of the Hug & Chug. Kadoban Twin Kotoshogiku is storming the gates of redemption, and shall not be denied. Against him is Okinoumi possessed with an undefeatable spirit. I can’t wait to see this one.

Goeido v Takayasu – If you wanted to possibly top the Okinoumi v Kotoshogiku match, this could do it. Takayasu has his rhythm running, and is thinking fast and moving strong in the last 3 bouts. Against him is a tough, strong Ozeki who has defeated all opponents to this day. Can Takayasu once again play giant killer? Is this his first audition for a future Ozeki slot?

Tochinoshin v Terunofuji – Tochinoshin is looking really off stride, this may not be much of a match against a fairly sharp Terunofuji. Tochinoshin seemed to have found new vigor on day 5, maybe he can translate that into a win on day 6.

Harumafuji v Takanoiwa – Easy call, Takanoiwa lands in the gift shop to the surprise of the spectators.

Kakuryu v Kaisei – The Brazilian is not really connecting, in spite of some great action on day 5. With any luck he will add some maneuver warfare to his tactic of being large and difficult to move. Kakuryu is back in focus now, and is dispatching everyone after a very rocky start to this basho.

September Day 5 Preview

kensho

Goeido, Kotoyuki and Okinoumi Enter Day 5 Undefeated

Deeper into the tournament schedule, the higher ranking rikishi are facing lower level opponents, and sekitori on winning streaks are now facing lower ranked opponents. This means it’s getting tougher to derail the undefeated, at least until they return to tougher bouts.

On day 4, Homarefuji withdrew due to torn muscles in his right calf, likely from that fight with Planet Gagamaru, when he received a rather forceful pushdown. In his following matches he was clearly hurt, and I am glad he is not going to risk further damage. As a result, Ura is coming to compete in Makuuchi! Yes, we will see him face Daieisho (Maegashira 16e). Hopefully it will make the NHK highlight reel!

Notable Matches, Day 5

Daieisho v Ura – As Andy pointed out, Ura’s kryptonite has been discovered. He is a wily and cunning sumotori, so I am eager to see if he changes up going up against Daieisho, who has only 1 win. Prediction – Ura via a nice yorikiri that is executed while falling backwards and winning the Nobel prize in chemistry.

Endo v Kotoyuki – Even though Endo is ranked Maegashira 14, he has more than enough skill and strength to defeat the undefeated Kotoyuki. Can we get the good Endo two days in a row?

Amakaze v Daishomaru – How is it that Daishomaru is winless on day 4? I want Amakaze to stay above 500, but I sure hope that Daishomaru is not skunked the first week out.

Chiyonokuni v Sokokurai – Chiyonokuni looked really good on day 4, where he kept fighting even past the point where most would have given up, and he did in fact carry the day. Prediction – win for Chiyonokuni.

Aoiyama v Ikioi – The brutal Bulgaria delivered the “Slap heard round the world” on day 1 against Chiyootori. Both he and Ikioi head into this match at 3-1. Prediction: a great deal of slapping and ugly wobbling of man-boobs, followed by a Bulgarian over the edge of the tarawa.

Mitakeumi v Yoshikaze – I am really starting to worry that Yoshikaze was not healed enough to participate in this tournament. The guy puts it all out there each time in the ring. Mitakeumi is doing much better than Nagoya, but I am going to go with the Berserker again.

Takayasu v Kaisei – Takayasu had a great bout against Tochiozan on day 4, and just kept wearing the Komusubi down until he had nothing left. I predict he will have a similar outcome with Kaisei, who seems to be struggling.

Tochiozan v Kotoshogiku – The Kadoban Twins are really just having a glorious first week, with nothing able to stand in their way. I think Tochiozan is bringing some great sumo this week, but nothing seems to stop these two Ozeki, hell bent to secure their rank.

Goeido v Takarafuji – Takarafuji won against Kaisei day 4, but for whatever reason, Goeido is unstoppable. I will have to go with the Kadoban Twin on this one.

Kisenosato v Takanoiwa – What universe do we live in where this is even a question. The Great Pumpkin has dispatched so many Maegashira 3’s with a push and a snort in the past, you could build a bridge to Miyajima out of them. This tournament, it’s anyone’s guess. I hope Kisenosato can get his grove back. He is better than this.

Tochinoshin v Kakuryu – The big Georgian is clearly hurt. I just hope he comes to a decision where he knows if he is better of taking kyujo rather than making a show and risking greater injury.

Harumafuji v Shodai – I am starting to feel sorry for Shodai. This guy actually is a decent sumotori, with actual skills. None of that will matter with The Horse. Taking wagers on which row Shodai ends up in, and wether Harumafuji gets a spiral on him or not.

Goeido and Okinoumi Still Undefeated

day-4

Some Hot Streaks Quenched

The Sumo in Tokyo overnight supplied great equalizing force in the September basho, with quite a few rikishi going to 2 wins 2 losses. For most men in sumo, the great drive each tournament is to end with a winning record, even by 1 bout, in order to not be demoted.

Goeido, Kotoyuki and Okinoumi remain undefeated.

Some notable results:

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – Glad that Kakuryu has a recovered from his rocky start, but really Shodai is not worthy of an 0-4 record.

Kotoshogiku defeats Myogiryu – Mr Back-stretch is now 5 wins away from clearing his kadoban status. In spite of some tough falls he is still looking good.

Kisenosato defeats Yoshikaze – I am now worried that the Berserker is going to struggle to make kachi-koshi. It was a close one against Kisenosato, but Yoshikaze is facing a harder set of opponents this tournament. Everyone in Japan (and many parts of the world) wonder if Kisenosato can still make a strong run after a 2-2 start. Something is not right in the pumpkin patch.

Okinoumi defeats Terunofuji – Called this last night in the predictions post. What sort of magic force is driving Okinoumi? He is strong, confident and is dominating every opponent. It would be really neat to see a rank and file Maegashira finish near the top. Maybe he can keep this rolling.

Goeido defeats Takanoiwa – Goeido is somehow on fire. He is now 4 wins away from clearing kadoban, and is really doing well.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Good to see Takayasu winning. I still think he is a strong contender for the next Ozeki. Tochiozan reminds us once again how Komusubi is the toughest rank in sumo.

Sadanofuji defeats Ura – Can’t wait to see the video for this one. Ura now drops to 2-2

Osunaarashi defeats Chiyomaru – Sandstorm back on track, he is now also 2-2.

September Day 4 Preview

dohyori

Of Course You Know This Means War…

More chaos in the matches as we go skidding into day 4. It’s still early, and it’s really up for grabs. Even the research staff here at Tachiai are confused (and possibly drunk) given all of the twists and turns thus far. Day four now approaches, with calamitous intent!

Endo v Chiyoshoma – Really now, Chiyoshoma is still undefeated? Can we have the good Endo please, to bring maximum parity to the dohyo? Prediction / wish-casting: Endo

Sokokurai v Kotoyuki – The next undefeated Rikishi will go against Sokokurai. I predict that Sokokurai will not be kachi-nokori

Takekaze v Mitakeumi – That guy Mitakeumi is actually good enough to win this thing. I wonder if the veteran Takekaze can furnish a speed bump on his road to victory.

Ikioi v Chiyootori – Much as I love watching Ikioi win, he was hurt on day 3. I really don’t want to see Chiyootori go 0-4. Ikioi was limping bad enough on that bad ankle I worry about him going kuyjo. So far no word in the sumo press on that.

Takayasu v Tochiozan – I think the Takayasu sumo machine finally has his boiler up to temp, so this will be a good match. I hope to see Tochiozan make kachi-koshi when all is done in 11 days.

Goeido v Takanoiwa – Great sumo cat of the Kokugikan! If either of the Kadoban Twins win this basho, i am honor bound to eat both my own buttocks. Not an easy task. Takanoiwa has been on a hot streak, my backside prays he can slow down Goeido, it’s not like we can count on Kakuryu to do it

Okinoumi v Terunofuji – Wow, you know Terunofuji is worried, right? What happened to regular Okinoumi? I expect that he will one day peel his lifelike skin away to reveal Hakuho inside there operating him like a robot.

Kisenosato v Yoshikaze – The Great Pumpkin is off his game. He is at his best when he is straight ahead hug-and-chug mawashi sumo. I don’t even see him getting a grip on these bouts. Good luck trying to touch Yoshikaze’s belt. I predict (as i always do) the Berserker. He’s kind of the Mike Ditka of sumo. Yeah, that slipi-toshi loss to Kakuryu? We still love you Berserker!

Juryo

Ura v Sadanofuji – Sorry Sadanofuji, it’s time for more Ura goodness

Chiyomaru v Osunaarashi – I worry the Sandstorm is not healed up yet. Anyone’s guess on this one as Osunaarashi is hit or miss