Nagoya Day 12 Preview


Yoshikaze-wide

We Love Sumo Thiiis Much!

With just a few days remaining, the Nagoya yusho race came back to life with Mitakeumi’s surprise upset of Yokozuna Hakuho. Some Hakuho fans, like myself, had hoped that he could rack up at least one last back-to-back zensho run, but it’s clear that the new crop of rikishi are too competitive for that kind of dominance this year. The two rikishi who could challenge are both at least 2 tiers of skill below Hakuho on a bad day, so it’s clear that it’s still his yusho to lose.

A dominant Hakuho creates several effects on the upper ranks of sumo. For starters, it makes it practically impossible for anyone else to get close to a Yokozuna promotion. In order to even be considered, you have to beat the yokozuna with the most wins ever, who on an average day is unassailable and on a good day can find your sumo boring and uninspired. This has a knock on effect for Ozeki and San’yaku promotion slots too.

Watching Ura’s performance today, it’s evident that his injuries are limiting his performance now, and his ability to endure that damage for the remaining 4 bouts will determine a lot about the next 4 months for his sumo career. If he can win half his bouts, he will come away with a kachi-koshi, and likely be in one of the top 4 Maegashira slots in September. If we use Iksumo’s wonderful forecast, Ura is likely to face Kotoshogiku, Tamawashi, Yoshikaze, and Ichinojo. This would be a tall order if he was fully healthy, so my original prediction of make-koshi for him is looking like a reasonable outcome.

For Mitakeumi to get to 10 wins, and kick of a chance at an Ozeki bid, he needs two more wins out of a roster of Harumafuji, Tochinoshin, Ikioi, and Chiyoshoma. Not trivial but possible if he can stay focused and uninjured. Kotoshogiku is at the bottom of a deep hole now, and needs to win all 4 against a predicted schedule of Shodai, Ura, Tochinoshin, and Hokutofuji. While it is possible, his next defeat and he is out of san’yaku.

Heading to Aki, we already know that Terunofuji is kadoban, and if he is healed by September, he will easily shed that burden within the first 10 days. Goeido however is at real risk of being kadoban himself, in spite of some fairly good sumo this basho. He faces a predicted schedule of Tochiozan, Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Takayasu. He needs to win 2 of those to keep out of kadoban.

Nagoya Leader board

Leader – Hakuho
Chasers – Onosho, Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Tochiozan, Takarafuji

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Chiyomaru vs Daishomaru – Chiyomaru trying again for his kachi-koshi, which would also make Daishomaru make-koshi at the same time. This is their first match up ever, so it’s going to be interesting too see how this goes.

Aoiyama vs Takarafuji – Both having winning records secure, so this is more of a sparring match. Aoiyama looked off form on day 11, can he bounce back?

Nishikigi vs Ishiura – Both rikishi are struggling with a middling record right now, but Nishikigi will be on the fast train back to Juryo if he cannot lock down his winning record. Ishiura has a 6-1 advantage in their career match ups.

Chiyotairyu vs Onosho – Onosho is gunning for a second consecutive special prize, and Chiyotairyu needs one more win for kachi-koshi. Right now momentum favors Onosho, and he holds a 2-1 advantage in their 3 career bouts.

Ura vs Ichinojo – Traditional big man / little man sumo contest. Sadly Ura is looking hurt, but given the schedule above, it may his best chance to pick up a badly needed win.

Hokutofuji vs Takakeisho – Hokutofuji is working hard to avoid his second ever tournament losing record. He has to defeat the explosive Takakeisho to reverse course. Takakeisho is already in a majority loss record, but he’s still fighting hard. He has also won both of their prior matches.

Yoshikaze vs Tochinoshin – Winner gets kachi-koshi, with Tochinoshin leading their career match ups 14-7. Tochinoshin has Yoshikaze out gunning in height, weight, strength and reach. But don’t count out the superior athletics of Yoshikaze.

Shodai vs Kotoshogiku – A Kotoshogiku loss would mark him make-koshi, and ensure a demotion out of san’yaku for September. The good news for Ojisan is that Shodai has been horrifically inconsistent this basho.

Kagayaki vs Goeido – The last of the “easy” bouts for Goeido, he needs to pick up this win if he wants to avoid kadoban status for September. I expect Goeido will go for the lighting charge out of the tachiai. Kagayaki, ever consider a henka?

Takayasu vs Tochiozan – You would think the Ozeki would have the advantage here, but Tochiozan leads their career match ups 18-6! In addition, Tochiozan has been fighting well this basho, and will likely give Takayasu a hard fight.

Hakuho vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi has never beaten Hakuho, and I don’t expect Hakuho’s day 11 loss to Mitakeumi to have any carry-over effect for today. This is likely the day that Hakuho ties Kaio.

Mitakeumi vs Harumafuji – I really want Harumafuji to win this one, but he is clearly suffering with problems in multiple joints. So I am going to say that Mitakeumi has a decent chance here. Their career record favors Harumafuji 3-2.

 

Nagoya Day 10 Preview


Giant-Sumo-Macaroon
Behold! The Giant Macaroon of Victory!

Closing The Second Act

My template for any basho is a series of 3 acts, with the second one being focused on trimming the field to a handful of rikishi who will compete for the cup. For Nagoya, we have slim chance of anyone other than Hakuho winning this one. The only credible rikishi is Aoiyama at 8-1, and there is little hope that he could best Hakuho in any kind of head-to-head match should it come to that. Right now it’s Hakuho’s basho to lose.

The strong story of this basho, as we outlined in the weeks leading up to Nagoya, is the strength of the new blood that had entered Makuuchi since the Kyushu basho in November. Up to that point, the upper ranks were largely populated by men who had been Sekitori for more than 4 years, many of whom were getting a bit long in the tooth. It was clear that we would have a cull as soon as a strong class of men were able to fight their way past Juryo, and into position to dethrone the old guard.

Today we see that outcome beginning to manifest itself, with the startling surprise that in spite of injury, surgery, hospitalization and a brutal road to recovery, Hakuho one again sits atop the sumo world. For fans who are new to sumo, or those who cannot recall, with Hakuho Genki, the chances of anyone being able to reach Yokozuna are very close to zero. It’s one thing to win two yusho in a row when you have fierce men holding down the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks (such as a healthy Terunofuji or Kisenosato), and another matter entirely when you have to overcome Hakuho.

What’s in store for act 3? I suspect the Nagoya basho has a few more tricks up its sleeves, and we are likely to see at least one more crazy day before the winner can claim the coveted giant macaroon of victory.

Nagoya Leader board

Leader – Hakuho
Chaser – Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Takayasu, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takarafuji

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Takarafuji vs Gagamaru – Takarafuji going for kachi-koshi, while Gagamaru is praying he can stay out of Juryo for another basho. Sad news for Planet G, Takarafuji has won all 6 of the prior bouts.

Nishikigi vs Takekaze – After a strong start, Nishikigi is on a 3 bout losing streak. He has never won against Takekaze, so this could be an inch closer to the edge of make-koshi and an unfortunate return to Juryo. Time to gamberize!

Aoiyama vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu pushing for kachi-koshi against the man mountain today. I will be curious to see if Aoiyama will back off the throttle now that he has secured a winning record. He has to know that a trip to the upper Maegashira is now likely, and it brings plenty of pain. Aoiyama leads the series 6-2.

Tokushoryu vs Onosho – Onosho has a shot at kachi-koshi today too, but he needs to overcome the man with biggest overhang in sumo, none other than Tokushoryu. only 3 prior matches, and Tokushoryu has taken 2 of them.

Tochinoshin vs Ichinojo – Big and strong takes on strong and huge. Tochinoshin is back in fighting form, and could be headed for San’yaku if he can get his last 3 wins. Tochinoshin leads their series 8-4.

Kagayaki vs Hokutofuji – Nice match between the fresh rikishi. Both of them have losing records at the moment, but a lot of that is due to their tours through the upper ranks. Kagayaki has never won against Hokutofuji, but today could be his day.

Yoshikaze vs Takakeisho – Yoshikaze completely dismantled Takayasu on day 9, and being a fan of both, it was glorious to watch. As some of our readers have mentioned, Takayasu has gotten a bit one dimensional in the past 3 bouts. Compare his sumo for Aki 2016 to today, and you can see the change. Now, he did what he needed to do in order to reach Ozeki, but he is clearly getting easier to read and counter.

Shodai vs Mitakeumi – I am guessing no henka today. Shodai’s tachiai may be high and sloppy, but he keeps his eyes center-mass of his opponent. I expect he is going to try to get inside on Mitakeumi fast before Mitakeumi can get the tsuppari torrent running. Shodai leads their series 5-3

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Kotoshogiku wants to set up for his hip-pump attack, it’s his one thing. Goeido needs to keep this a run-and-gun match, which the Goeido 2.0 software is actually tuned for. These two have met 43 times in the past, but Goeido is the clear winner of their matches.

Takayasu vs Ura – Over to you Takayasu, can you handle this guy? He seems to command the fabric of the universe at times, if you let him. I am hoping that rather than his ordinary shoulder blast, he goes for a strong left hand inside at the tachiai and brings Ura in close. Ura will not last long trying to support the burly bulk that is Takayasu. This is their first bout.

Hakuho vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma is actually fighting pretty well this basho, and if he did not have to fill in for some kyuju talent at the top end, would likely be in for a nice kachi-koshi. But instead he gets to be cannon fodder for the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps in the final days. Only their second meeting, with Hakuho taking the last match.

Tamawashi vs Harumafuji – Let’s watch them trade choke holds! Bring it on, who can hold their breath longest while man-handling 300+ pounds of rikishi on a slippery clay surface? Yeah, Harumafuji for sure because he has been known to hold his breath for a hour while engaging in Butsukari with Terunofuji.

Nagoya Day 8 Highlights


Hakuho-Salt

Simply, Some Fantastic Sumo!

This is one of the days that I wish the NHK show was more than just highlights. There was a wide variety of great sumo, from the first Makuuchi matches all the way up to the Yokozuna finals.

The young crop of rikishi who are competing at the very top of sumo for the first time are really recusing themselves well. We are not seeing waves of upset wins, that was never in the cards. But we are seeing young men with skill and a lot of determination going into matches they will not win with a plan to compete hard, and delivering a challenge to some of the best sumo has ever seen.

It should be noted that Aoiyama lost his match today against upstart Onosho, breaking his really fantastic unbeaten streak. I don’t really cover Aoiyama much, because he is a very one dimensional rikishi. He will execute his bouts in a given manner, and will rarely stray from that plan. This used to be Mitakeumi’s problem too, but he managed to expand his sumo, and as a result he is consistently fighting at San’yaku level now. Is it possibly for Aoiyama to be viable at higher ranks? I hold dear the notion that any person can adapt, survive and overcome. So for Aoiyama, I think it’s going to be about setting a goal and working hard to attain it.

Hakuho is now one win away from tying Chiyonofuji’s all time win mark of 1045. Short of an asterioid strike or a tragic injury, we will see Hakuho take out Kiao’s (yeah, that guy in the picture) all time high of 1047. It’s difficult to review the entirety of Hakuho’s career without devolving into a rolling mess of superlatives, and this additional record heaps those superlatives ever higher.

Highlight Matches

Takekaze defeats Chiyomaru – Huge effort from Chiyomaru here, really stood up to a pounding delivered by Takekaze at first, then Chiyomaru locked up the veteran to wear him down. They stood chest to chest for an extended period and it was Takekaze who broke the stalemate with a last ditch hip pumping attack. Great great sumo here.

Chiyonokuni defeats Gagamaru – So happy that Chiyonokuni has overcome whatever had him lethargic and losing during the first week. The battle with Planet Gagamaru was excellent effort from both rikishi, and it could have gone either way. Watch this one if you can find it! It’s not common to see Gagamaru this active and committed to battle.

Tokushoryu defeats Sokokurai – Although Sokokurai put up a great fight, Tokushoryu just kept moving forward. This is a fundamental principle of sumo that every Takakeisho learns, but many don’t always put into practice. As my readers may have guessed, I am a big fan of the fundamentals, and when I see them executed well, I call it out.

Takanoiwa defeats Okinoumi – At the bleeding edge of make-koshi, Takanoiwa pulls out a win. It did look like Okinoumi lost his footing and fell, but it was still a win.

Ishiura defeats Ichinojo – Yes yes yes! Sumo has these great big man / little man bouts, and this was about as large a difference as you might ever muster. Ichinojo really had Ishiura on the defense from the start, and it’s fun to see Ishiura deploy his take on Hakuho in a bout like this. Ishiura has now pulled even to 4-4.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – I am starting to think that Onosho will get to have the “Takakeisho experience” next basho, as this young rikishi keeps turning up the power. The bout was mostly Onosho driving forward after finding a way to get Aoiyama off balance. Very nicely done.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – Crowd favorite Ikioi has been sucking wind this basho, I hope that whatever has him underperforming can be resolved. Tochinoshin took a side step at the tachiai and got behind Ikioi to take control, but Ikioi recovered well enough to put up a bit of a struggle.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – Shodai was high again in the tachiai, but was able to take charge of Tamawashi and defeat his offensive strategy. Very good effort from Shodai, and I hope we see more from him like this.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – This match was a joy to watch. We already know that Mitakeumi will be a San’yaku fixture for the next several basho, but it’s great to see just how much effort Takakeisho can bring to a match like this. Turns out, quite a bit! Watching these two with the same build, the same height and the same mawashi color is a bit unsettling. Well done lads!

Goeido 2.0 defeats Hokutofuji – I love me some Hokutofuji (Kaio Edition), but this was Goeido 2.0 time. He exploded off the line and blasted Hokutofuji out. When I talk about Goeido 2.0, it’s this total commitment to his attack plan, with no chance or hope of a defensive move anywhere along the way. Just overwhelm your opponent and accelerate to victory.

Takayasu defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma decides to grab Takayasu’s mawashi, and sumo nerds crack a smile. Yeah, let the big man hug you to victory. Thank you Chiyoshoma for doing that.

Hakuho defeats Ura – As foretold by our readers and the Tachiai team, it was all Hakuho. But damn Ura, that was a strong game plan, and I think you actually made the boss work for his win. I am not sure about Hakuho, but I was impressed that Ura was able to operate effectively. Hakuho is, essentially, unstoppable at this point. Yes, the crowd went bannannas.

Harumafuji defeats Kagayaki – The young Kagayaki really did not have much of a chance, but he put up a fantastic fight. As with the Hakuho-Ura match, he made him work for it. Kagayaki is still too inconsistent to be much of a fight, but sumo fans can see that he’s got the spark of potential to be great.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview


Battle Circle Day 8

Our First Look At The Leaderboard

With the middle weekend of the basho upon us, it’s time to start thinking about who will take home the Emperor’s Cup from Nagoya. Right now anyone who thinks it’s Hakuho is probalby right. Although it’s quite possible that Takayasu might challenge, first someone has to beat Hakuho. What about Aoiyama you might ask? Yes, it’s most impressive that he has gone to day 7 without a single defeat, but week 2 will likely see him fight higher up the banzuke, and he may not dominate those matches. Then there is the idea of Takayasu himself beating Hakuho. I anticipate that match comes late in week 2, possibly on day 14.

With much of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps kyujo, there are few who can give Hakuho a vigorous match. Today’s bout against Ikioi is a great example. For The Boss it was formulaic, and he cracked a big smile at the end. He is, in fact, having a great deal of fun. If he should be able to achieve another perfect yusho, it would open serious consideration that he might be able to campaign again for Futabayama’s record for consecutive wins. It’s a record we know that in the past, Hakuho has said “I was born to break that record”. A tough mountain to climb, even for the Michael Jordan of sumo.

Nagoya Leader board

Leaders – Hakuho, Aoiyama
Chasers – Takayasu
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Mitakeumi, Ura, Tochiozan, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Arawashi, Takarafuji, Nishikigi

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Chiyonokuni vs Gagamaru – Time to see if Chiyonokunin can continue his renewed focus on winning. Today he takes on Planet Gagamaru, who is having a terrible basho. In their three prior bouts, Gagamaru has won two of them, but that’s not really indicative. Gagamaru holds a huge mass advantage.

Nishikigi vs Daishomaru – Nishikigin dropped his second match of the basho on day 7, and I am looking for him to return to being dominant on day 8. He has a nice winning run going, and he is 3 wins away from kachi-koshi. Daishomaru is holding a steady course with nearly equal wins and losses. He also holds a 5-1 career advantage over Nishikigi.

Chiyotairyu vs Arawashi – Arawashi racked up 2 kinboshi in the New Years basho, and since then has been on a steady downward slide. But thus far he has a strong winning record. Chiyotairyu looked excellent on day 7 against Sadanoumi, and he will try hard to continue his winning run. 3 prior matches with Arawashi taking 2.

Ichinojo vs Ishiura – Another classic sumo big man / little man bout. This time the big man is about as big as they come, and the little man can bench press a small block V8. Ishiura took their only prior meeting, so lets see if he can continue to turn his record around.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – The Man Mountain goes up against one of the hard charging up and comers in the person of Onosho. This is their first meeting, and we can count on Aoiyama to try to pummel Onosho into defeat. His best hope is to get inside, grab a double handful of moob meat and start pushing.

Yoshikaze vs Kotoshogiku – Ojisan Kotoshogiku takes on the Berserker, who has looked muted since his loss to Hakuho via a Henkaho. Kotoshogiku is mostly out of gas, but he showed great fire against Harumafuji day 7. Kotoshogiku leads the series 20-5, so this may be loss #4 for Yoshikaze.

Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Could be the highlight match of the day, a first meeting, it pits future Ozeki Mitakeumi against Nagoya 2017 punching bag Takakeisho. Seriously, Takakeisho – it’s nothing personal. Everyone’s first ride at Maegashira 1 is a blood bath. It means you are going to be somebody one day, and the sumo world loves you.

Hokutofuji vs Goeido – Oh yeah! Another first time match up. This time we get to see which version of Goeido boots up, as I think Goeido 1.0 is going to taste clay and 2.0 is going to have a fun match. Hokutofuji is taking his share of lumps in the joi now, but he is giving almost as good as he gets. And he does not lose either his cool or his manners. Ladies and Gentlemen, the future of sumo is here.

Hakuho vs Ura – Yet another first time match! This one is going to be a crazy one, and I am just hoping that Ura does not get hurt. Sumo fans have been wondering what this meeting will look like, and now we all get to find out. Will Hokuho use the same approach he used against Takakeisho? I think he will engage Ura.

Kagayaki vs Harumafuji – Last of the wonderful first time meet ups for Sunday, I think that Kagayaki will probably be quickly and ultimately overwhelmed. But will Harumafuji give him a trip on the death-spin?

Nagoya Day 6 Highlights


Takayasu

There’s a First Time For Many Things

We enter the middle weekend of the Nagoya basho missing 3 rikishi from the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks. It is actually somewhat unremarkable in that we have seen similar problems for most of the last year. As we have written about frequently on Tachiai, the current crop of Ozeki and Yokozuna have all faced significant physical challenges in the past 18 months, and none of them, except maybe Hakuho and Takayasu, would be considered fit for action. For sumo this can quickly turn into a brand and marketing problem, as these top names are what bring in the bulk of the fans. Even in Japan, there are only a limited number of hard-core sumo followers (like the people who read this site), and that hard core group is not enough to really carry the sport.

On the up side, we had some fantastic matches today, including a couple of first time wins. Rikishi finally defeating a foe they had not been able to best in all of their prior matches. It is clear that both Mitakeumi and Ura are still ascendant, and along with Hokutofuji, and probably Takakeisho in a year or two, there is a core group of sumotori for the future.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – Nishikigi improves to 5-1, but he looks very stiff today for some reason. With 9 bouts remaining, he has a very strong chance of kochi-koshi, and solidifying his escape from Juryo.

Shohozan defeats Daishomaru – Really a great bout! Both rikishi were on pushing / slapping attack mode, and twice Daishomaru had him in trouble. Shohozan battled back strongly and and prevailed. For whatever reason, Shohozan has been looking really sharp this basho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting because Tokushoryu attempted a henna, but Chiyotairyu saw it coming and made Tokushoryu pay. Note how Chiyotairyu keeps his eyes on the center of Tokushoryu’s chest during the tachiai. That’s how it’s done, lads!

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – So good to see signs of life from Okinoumi! For those of you who may not know, Okinoumi has a significant lower pelvic injury, the repair of which would end his career. When it is acting up, he competes weakly. When it does not, the man can really deliver some great sumo. This bout ended with a Monoii, and the shipman determined Ishiura stepped out first.

Aoiyama defeats Takanoiwa – For reasons that defy my mind right now, Aoiyama remains undefeated, and tied with Hakuho for the lead of this basho. Takanoiwa really seems to have nothing to offer this tournament, so this was hardly a tough contest. I would expect the schedulers to give Aoiyama some more challenging opponents soon.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Onosho continues to excel, and he dispatched Daieisho without much work or fanfare. Unless he suddenly chokes, I would expect Onosho to be ranked much higher in the fall.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ichinojo – Another excellent match, Chiyoshoma threw everything he had at Ichinojo in a bout that raged across the dohyo for a decent amount of time. Lots of good “distraction slaps” from Chiyoshoma helped keep the Mongolian giant reacting instead of winning.

Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Tochiozan is another veteran rikishi who has been doing very well this tournament. Today he dominated Kagayaki, riding him around the dohyo like a rented mule. Tochiozan improves to 5-1.

Ura defeats Takakeisho – The first time in his career, Ura wins a match against Takakeisho. He did it by employing a henna, which Takakeisho swallowed whole. Guidance to Takakeisho, study what Chiyotairyu did today. Ura executed that really well – being small and incredibly fast, I do hope he does not become a henka artist.

Mitakeumi defeats Yoshikaze – Mitakeumi continues to impress. Yoshikaze gave him the full measure, including a mini-henka at the tachiai, but Mitakeumi stuck with it and prevailed. This was the first time in 4 matches that Mitakeumi was able to win one from Yoshikaze.

Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Tamawashi really dialed it up to 11 in his match against Goeido, starting with a tachiai so strong it rocked the Ozeki onto his heels. Impressively, Goeido escaped from Tamawashi’s attempt to finish him and battled back strongly. This was a solid match, and a really nice win by Tamawashi.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu is at his best (in my opinion) when he engages in a battle of strength and endurance. He is better at this than anyone in sumo today. The man has the endurance to power a small city for a week. To be honest, an epic match like this would not have happened if Tochinoshin were not nearly his equal. But Takayasu, when faced with a bout like this, wears his opponent down – as long as it takes, and once they tire, still has plenty left to take them out.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Not really anyone left who can credibly stop the boss. Match was notable by yet another display of Hokutofuji’s outstanding etiquette. More of this please. sumotori!

Harumafuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is really looking like he is at ⅔ normal energy. I hope whatever is ailing him, it can be resolved by Aki. Harumafuji appears to have found the means to keep his obvious pain under control long enough to win a match.

Nagoya Day 6 Preview


Kisenosato-Dohyo-iri

Who Will Sit, And Who Will Fight?

Word just as this was going on the blog is that Ozeki Terunofuji has wisely decided that his newly repaired knee is not ready for combat, and he will sit out the remainder of the Nagoya basho. Though he will be kadoban (he was going to be anyhow) for Aki, if his knee is healthy he is more than capable of fixing that situation in the first 10 days.

We still away the “day of” decision on Kisenosato, who seems to have really damaged his ankle as Ikioi launched him from the dohyo into the Tate Gyoji. Right now, Kisenosato is a sports medicine superfund site. I would almost suggest that he just give up until Kyushu, develop and execute a complete rebuild plan. Yes, it would be a let down to the fans, but I think it would be less of a let down than seeing their hopes dashed by an increasingly crippled Japanese born Yokozuna.

Matches We Like

Sadanoumi vs Nishikigi – Although he suffered his first defeat on day 5, Nishikigi is already half way to his kach-koshi. Today he faces Sadanoumi, whom he leads on the career totals 6-4. Sadanoumi is fighting well this tournament, and this could be a really vigorous battle.

Takarafuji vs Chiyomaru – Another Juryo escapee, Chiyomaru, is fighting hard to ensure he’s not relegated back to the farm league any time soon. Today he faces Takarafuji whom he has never beaten.

Takanoiwa vs Aoiyama – Unbeaten Aoiyama faces a rikishi with zero wins so far. Aoiyama has a limited range of sumo, but at this rank he is able to fight with great effect. Right now he is tied with Hakuho for the leader position of the basho.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho shows no sign of slowing down, and in fact is looking sharper every day that he is on the dohyo. He has a slight career edge of Daieisho. Both of them are avid oshi-zumō disciples, so the blows will fly in their bout. Look for Daieisho to try to win the tachiai and keep Onosho outside and on the move.

Tochiozan vs Kagayaki – Tochiozan is quietly racking up an impressive score so far, and seems to be very effective at taking control of the bout and imposing his plans on each match. Kagayaki is a young up-and comer, and may not have much to counter the veteran’s battle plan. This is a first meeting between these two.

Ura vs Takakeisho – Ura has never beaten Takakeisho. In their 6 prior matches, he’s not been able to overcome Takakeisho’s blistering attacks. Typically Takakeisho begins with a massive tachiai, and then rains blows down on Ura until he crumbles. Maybe Ura will take a page from Hakuho and offer him the chest?

Yoshikaze vs Mitakeumi – Match with one of the highest potentials for awesome on day 6. Although common sense would be to vote for the Sekiwake over the Komusubi, Mitakeumi has lost all 3 of their prior bouts. I am sure Yoshikaze is looking for some actual sumo after day 5’s Hakuho Henka (Henkaho? Hakukaka?).

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Please oh please let Goeido 2.0 come out to play today. If we can get that this could be a huge brawl between two practitioners of sumo at lighting speed with overwhelming amounts of aggression. Just what we need to start the second act.

Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Big and strong meets big and strong. Time fans to find out not only what kind of condition Tochinoshin’s knee is in, but also how lose both rikishi’s fillings are. I predict a monster collision at the tachiai followed by a burly man mega brawl. But be on the look out for a Tochinoshin henka. He uses it sparingly, and with Takayasu’s tendency to rush forward strongly, it would be highly effective.

Hakuho vs Hokotofuji – Hokotofuji will get a very different reception, I would guess, than Takakeisho did. Where Takakeisho is kind of small and almost like a capsule toy, Hokotofuji is a lumbering hulk who spends a lot of time studying his opponents. Hakuho will likely try to nullify him at the tachiai and blast him out early. To have any chance, Hokotofuji will have to sacrifice everything, and endure a torrent of tsuppari to get inside. Without that, it’s all Hakuho.

Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these two wrecks should be in dry dock, not on the dohyo. Not that it really matters much given both of them would qualify for wheel chairs, but Kotoshogiku has a slight career edge at 34-31.

Ikioi vs Harumafuji – I am sure Ikioi is happy his only win is a kinboshi. So I am sure that Harumafuji will pommel him around a bit before he takes Ikioi to the clay.

Nagoya Day 3 Highlights


Hokotofuji

The Ozeki Recover.

The Nagoya basho has a reputation for being a wild and bumpy ride. With the large number of young rikishi in the top half of Makuuchi for the first time, each day’s torikumi is loaded with potential. Only 3 days into the tournament, the amount of upsets and unexpected results continues to climb. It makes for a huge amount of fan interest because we literally do not know what to expect. I love it.

One thing that is starting to become clear is that some of the Yokozuna and Ozeki remain injured and are not up to the level of performance that they would want. But even so, they are still giving everything they have. In some past basho, you could expect Hakuho to steam-roll everyone, and whoever was injured could gamberize and get by. This works best when the rikishi know each other fairly well, and can assume what kind of sumo they will bring to each match.

Today was the first time that Kisenosato saw purple rain. In his loss in the final match of the day, the fans threw their zabuton at the dohyo. During the basho in Tokyo, Kisenosato racked up several losses, but the fans did not send their cushions sailing. Perhaps it was because they understood how banged up he still was. That consideration seems to be over, and his loss triggered a flurry of purple zabuton floating skyward. Interior decorating choices aside, Kisenosato has little hope of ever recovering to Yokozuna level without surgery on his pectoral. The sooner they get him under the knife the better. Even then, it’s not a sure thing that he will ever be back.

Selected Matches

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Nishikigi remains undefeated. He has really found his motivation after his demotion to Juryo. This rikishi has a lot of potential, and I am glad to see him engaged and winning.

Chiyonokuni defeats Okinoumi – Chiyonokuni finally wins one against hapless Okinoumi. For this first time this basho, Chiyonokuni actually looked solid and on his game.

Aoiyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to look lost and helpless, which is amazing given the strength of his debut basho in January. Aoiyama seems to be at a nearly perfect rank this basho, where his ponderous bulk allows him to slap his way to victory most of the time.

Onosho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo is looking really lack luster again this basho, and Onosho seems hungry and aggressive. The match was quick and very one sided, Onosho just moved Inchinojo out in a hurry.

Kagayaki defeats Ura – This was all Kagayaki, and he countered Ura quite well. Ura seemed to have not really found his footing from the tachiai on. Kagayaki finally picks up his first win.

Yoshikaze defeats Tamawashi – This is the best I have seen Yoshikaze fight since Nagoya last year. In his day 3 match against Tamawashi, the big Mongolian came on strong, and had Yoshikaze off balance for a moment but could not finish him. Yoshikaze battled back fiercely and was able to lock up Tamawashi’s belt. From there, Yoshikaze took charge and won.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Great to see Goeido back in a 2.0 boot up again. Also Mitakeumi seems to have decided he stepped out and accepted defeat perhaps a moment early. Either way, Goeido finally gets his first win.

Terunofuji defeats Ikioi – Monster effort here by Ikioi, and it’s clear as glass that Terunofuji is injured once more. In spite of this, and Ikioi’s fantastic sumo today, Terunofuji found a way to pick up his first win. Frankly it could have gone either way.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – It’s really sad to watch a former great like the Kyushu Bulldozer go 0-3. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to have nothing left of his legs, which was the heart of his sumo.

Harumafuji defeats Takakeisho – Very happy that Harumafuji was able to finally pick up his first win, though for a moment Takakeisho had him on one leg and in perilous position. Harumafuji recovered well and took over effectively.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – Now at 1039 wins, Hakuho dispatched Shodai to remain unbeaten. Hakuho delivered a slap at the tachiai, and it seemed to make Shodai collapse. Not sure what happened there.

Hokutofuji defeats Kakuryu – Big K started strong, but an amazing rally from Hokutofuji results in his first kinboshi for his very first match with a Yokozuna. We keep seeing really impressive sumo from Hokutofuji, and he will be a big deal in the not too distant future.

Tochinoshin defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato is still quite injured, and not performing well. It’s sad, it’s depressing, the NSK would rather nobody notice, but it’s there for all to witness. Prior to his injury, Kisenosato went left, always. Now with his injury, he seems to have no power on his left, and is almost helpless on the dohyo. Please, Great Pumpkin, only medical intervention has a chance at putting you back together. Kinboshi for Tochinoshin.