Natsu Day 7 Preview

Are You Ready?

Fans around the world are ready to tuck in to a nearly endless buffet of sumo for the weekend, and readers of Tachiai are ready for more! I would like to give a shout out to some readers and friends of Tachiai who will be in the Kokugikan this very weekend, taking in live sumo in the flesh. No VPNs being blocked, no news highlight shows to step on the action – nothing but 10 or so glorious hours of sumo. So folks who are scanning the crowd during your favorite sumo show, look for friendly folks from around the world, wearing Tachiai T-Shirts, or maybe the long rumored bootleg “Wakaichiro Forever” shirts that seem to be in circulation.

Rumor has it we will see Takakeisho return on the middle Sunday of the tournament, just in time for the NHK World Japan’s live stream of the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi for the worldwide fans.

The big story is, of course, the yusho race. The view going into the middle weekend is that it will be between Tochinoshin and Yokozuna Kakuryu. Tochinoshin is pushing hard for 10 wins to take back his Ozeki rank, and right now he seems to be on track to hit that mark, needing only to win 4 of the remaining 9 matches. But it’s right to wonder if that enormous bear of a rikishi would ease up on the genki once he reaches his 10th, or is he going to take the fight all the way to the cup? From what we have seen thus far of Tochinoshin, he just may push it all the way to day 15. Kakuryu is another story. We expect to see defensive sumo from him for the duration of the basho. Tachiai assumes there is an undisclosed injury in effect in the Yokozuna’s body – his ankle or maybe his back – that has him limiting the amount of forward pressure he can generate. Contrast his day 6 match with that blast-off attack we saw day 1, and you can see what we are noticing. That being said, Kakuryu is a master of defensive / evasive sumo, and he just might be able to make it work for all 9 remaining matches. We wish him luck.

Who is waiting in the wings? Believe it or not, there are only 2 rikishi who have a single loss: Asanoyama and Enho! I would not give either a chance against a genki Tochinoshin or even an injured Kakuryu. But 9 days is a long time in sumo, and we will enjoy watching this one unfold.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura – Both of these henka connoisseurs have been fighting straight-forward sumo so far, and I love it. Ishiura’s day 6 match featured a chest to chest battle with plenty of misdirection and risky diversions, but it carried the day. Might really be some solid, action driven sumo to start the Makuuchi day.

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie Battle Royale! There’s magic in the air, and I think we might just see Tinkerbell show up to help referee this match, if we just believe! No, I won’t encourage people to clap, as that got Hakuho in hot water, but… for Tinkerbell? Seriously, Enho’s going to eat him alive. [Terutsuyoshi holds a 2-1 career edge. -lksumo]

Tokushoryu vs Daishoho – Tokushoryu has not looked certain about his attack plan as of late, and he’s going to get rolled by Daishoho if he can’t produce some offense early. Daishoho has been coming off the line very well, and as a bonus holds a 4-1 career advantage over the low-slung Tokushoryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – When Sadanoumi wins, he tends to do it by seizing the initiative early in the match, whereas Kotoeko has strength and mobility to wait for an opening and rally to great effect. Sadanoumi seemed to get back in his “fast to win” grove on day 6, and if we see it day 7, it may spell a welcome turnaround for his fortunes.

Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” Shohozan pulled one of his signature punk moves on day 6 against Nishikigi, so I hope he got that out of his system, because if you get Chiyomaru fired up, he may just fall on you. While everyone might laugh about that, consider the physics involved.

Yago vs Onosho – Yago has been focusing on hitakikomi for most of this basho, and he’s got a fine opportunity to continue that streak with Onosho as an opponent. Onosho has chronically been too far forward in his stance, and practically begs his opponents to swat him to the clay. Don’ get me wrong, I am an Onosho fan. But I suspect his surgery last year has made it tough for him to center his weight properly, and his sumo is suffering.

Kagayaki vs Shimanoumi – Mr Fundamentals needs something to prompt him to turn this basho around. With only one win, he is in a 3-way tie to the first make-koshi of Natsu. Not a fine distinction for a talented rikishi who has a lot of great, basic sumo to bring to the dohyo. If it’s any consolation, Shimanoumi has looked quite lost thus far, and while he may clean up in Juryo, he’s pants in Makuuchi. This is their first-ever match.

Tochiozan vs Tomokaze – Both rikishi have a 4-2 record, and are thus far beating the average. With any luck this will be a solid “learning match” for the youngster Tomokaze, as Tochiozan has a lot he could teach. This is another first time match.

Shodai vs Nishikigi – Sad news Nishikigi, Shodai is your day 7 opponent. This is sad news because Shodai holds a 4-1 career advantage over Nishikigi, who has had a hard time putting his sumo in gear. The biggest problem for Nishikigi is Shodai’s mobility, which prevents Nishikigi from clamping him down and pushing him out.

Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – We are working on the assumption that Yoshikaze is nursing some kind of injury that has left him unable to move with his normal blinding speed, and unable to produce forward pressure that is the foundation of his long successful sumo career. What he is left with is a mismatched collection of gambits that have thus far only squeezed out 2 wins. Asanoyama had an unbeaten record until day 6 when Onosho took him apart at the tachiai, and we hope this is not the start of any kind of losing streak.

Kaisei vs Ryuden – Kaisei is generally not prone to much in the way of lateral movement. With his current condition limiting that further, he should be a fairly workable target for Ryuden, who specializes in applying lateral force to his opponents. Ryuden also holds a 4-1 career advantage over Kaisei.

Myogiryu vs Meisei – Both rikishi at 2-4, both rikishi struggling this basho to find their groove, and stuck too many times responding to their opponents’ sumo.

Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – Two more solid technicians face off, and I am going to predict they keep the battle going for a while. Takarafuji especially likes to wait for an opening and then attack.

Endo vs Abi – Hopefully Endo was watching Takarafuji dismantle Abi on day 6, because it worked brilliantly. If so, we will get to see Endo shut down the obligatory Abi-zumo attack, and Endo’s obasan army across Japan will swoon.

Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has been looking very sharp off the shikiri-sen so far, and Aoiyama has looked, for lack of a better term, like he is suffering. Hay-fever? A cold? Not sure, but he’s down at least 2 notches in intensity. Mitakeumi seems to be working carefully to line up for Tochinoshin’s soon-to-be-vacated Sekiwake spot.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – If anyone can put a hole in Tochinoshin’s recovery run, its going to be Kotoshogiku. Tochinoshin will man-hug any rikishi, and Kotoshogiku has a special battle-cuddle ready to go. In fact, in the 33 prior matches between these two, its 24-9 in favor of the Kyushu Bulldozer. But I will footnote that by saying that Tochinoshin has won the last 4 meetings.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a lot of work to do to nominate himself for a return to San’yaku, which for him would be a simple majority of wins. The career record with Ichinojo shows them evenly matched, so this will come down to Ichinojo getting the high-intensity attack ready for the opening seconds of the match, and not letting Hokutofuji land his nodowa.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – While Tamawashi won’t be pushing for the cup this time, he seems to be in better form than he has been for a while, and we think Goeido’s ankle is back to being in poor shape. As a result, you can expect to see Goeido focusing less on a strong attack at the tachiai, and more on evading and waiting for a chance to slap or pull down his opponent.

Daieisho vs Takayasu – This should be an easy walk over win for Takayasu, but with the Ozeki’s sumo in the first week being as ragged has it has been, you have to consider Daieisho a legitimate threat. I am guessing Takayasu will attempt to take Daieisho off of his attack with an all-or-nothing shoulder blast at the tachiai. [Daieisho pulled off the upset when the two last met on day 3 in March. -lksumo]

Chiyotairyu vs Kakuryu – In 10 matches, Chiyotairyu has been unable to beat Kakuryu. As a master of evasive and reactive sumo, it’s tough to get him to stay put long enough to be on the receiving end of one of your buffalo stampede charges. So I think we won’t see dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna today.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.

Natsu Day 4 Highlights

The Tadpole War Took An Unexpected Turn

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

Highlight Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natsu Day 3 Preview

It’s fair to say we have had a solid start to the Natsu basho in the first two days. The lone surviving Yokozuna, Kakuryu, has won both of his opening matches convincingly in a manner that is an aggressive adjustment to his normally reactive style. He has shown power, guile and no shortage of excellent sumo in the first two wins, with his dispatching of Hokutofuji quite impressive. Hokutofuji blasted his way into another attempt at a handshake tachiai, but Kakuryu was faster still, and just denshamichi’d Hokutofuji half way back to the shitaku-beya.

Both Goeido and Takakeisho have opened strong as well, each day delivering a powerful reminder of why they hold the Ozeki rank. The upper ranks will get their “tough” matches in week 2, whereas this week they are culling the upper Maegashira.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daishoho vs Takagenji – Takagenji brings his 2-0 Juryo record to the top division, looking to remain in the undefeated cohort. He and Daishoho are quite evenly matched, having battled each other in the lower divisions multiple times. Though Takagenji has added mass over the past 2 years, I think he would still qualify as a member of the “Pixies” group of smaller rikishi. (Hmm, not at 191 cm and 172 kg. -lksumo)

Enho vs Sadanoumi – First time match between these two, with Enho fresh to the top division, and Sadanoumi a long time dweller in upper Juryo and Makuuchi. Sadanoumi is happy to engage in a mawashi battle, but letting Enho get a grip has proven to be a surprisingly challenging event. The edge probably goes to Sadanoumi, as Enho seems a bit jittery still.

Shohozan vs Shimanoumi – When Shimanoumi posted to Maegashira 12 for his Makuuchi debut, I had my worries. Rather than easing him into the top division, he was landing in the middle of banzuke chaos, given the bizarre collection of bad to awful records that came out of Osaka. Now he is 0-2 going into his match against an 2-0 Shohozan, who does look to be in fairly good form.

Onosho vs Tomokaze – Dare I hope that Onosho has gotten his sumo back in tune? So far he has not gotten overly forward over his toes, and has kept his force center-mass against his opponent. Tomokaze is big, strong and will take your mawashi and make you suffer. It will be a race to see who can set the tone of the match out of the tachiai. This is my favorite bout for the first half of Makuuchi on day 3.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama has really been showing some speed and strength in the first 2 days of the basho. Readers know I have had my eye on him since he showed up in the top division, mostly because his attitude is one of the best I have seen. He works hard, he keeps himself positive and always takes each day as a chance to win. While his brother from another mother Yutakayama is regenerating himself in Juryo, we can enjoy all this great young rikishi has to offer.

Shodai vs Kaisei – It seems Shodai has gotten re-charged during some off-season visit to Toon Town, and his uncanny cartoon sumo is running well again. Today he has Kaisei who seems more frustrated and rusty than doing poorly. Fans around the world love Kaisei, as he is one of the most good-natured folks in sumo.

Yoshikaze vs Ryuden – Yoshikaze has been executing very minimalistic sumo for the first 2 days. The win on day 2 over Meisei was surprisingly un-energetic, but got the job done. This probably won’t work with Ryuden / Shin-Ikioi, who seems to be continuing his good performance from Osaka, where he was one of the few Maegashira who was able to post double-digit wins.

Chiyotairyu vs Abi – Chiyotairyu is off to an 0-2 start, and I think he will continue to struggle day 3. His tachiai is just as formidable as ever, but he seems to have challenges with his second step. When Chiyotairyu is in a winning grove, he flows smoothy out of his brutal tachiai into an all out assault. Both day 1 and 2 he seemed to lack that intensity.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – Some fans were a bit unhappy that Tochinoshin unleashed the sky crane against Daieisho, but I am going to assume that he finally feels healthy, strong and it’s more of a jubilant celebration that he is back to his sumo more than anything else. I am going to watch him land that shallow left again day 3, and help Okinoumi keep reaching for the stars. (Their head-to-head matchup only favors the Sekiwake 7-5, with Okinoumi taking 3 of the last four, so this is another must-win bout in Tochinoshin’s quest for 10. -lksumo)

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – Hey, Tamawashi – get it together man! You have an 0-2 start, and you are a better rikishi than that. Hell, you won a yusho a few months ago. The good news is that Ichinojo is not quite dialed in right now, so he might be able to get some attack in against the Boulder. (The head-to-head is even at 6-6, but has favored Tamawashi recently, so we could be in for a good bout. -lksumo)

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – Both of these burly men are fighting hurt. Takayasu with a bad back and Mitakeumi with a gimpy knee. Both of them see to be a half step slow, so this will be match of attrition: whose pain will lose first? Takayasu holds a clear (12-5) career advantage.

Goeido vs Endo - ENDO EJECTION PROTOCOL ACTIVE. WEST SIDE I/O PORT AVAILABLE. APPLY 12 METER/SEC FORCE LATERAL TO ENDO-UNIT TO ACHIEVE WIN STATUS. ENGAGE.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s bag’o sumo has worked pretty well on the upper Maegashira, but for the named ranks it seems to be quite ineffective. I love that this is happening, as I see quite a bit of potential in Hokutofuji, but he needs to get a winning formula together against these rikishi, and that comes by continued beatings at the hands of the upper echelon.

Kotoshogiku vs Kakuryu – Are we going to see hypersonic doom Kakuryu again on day 3? Kotoshogiku’s sumo relies on him grappling his opponent and hopping like an aroused Mastiff to propel himself to victory. Should Kakuryu once again launch of the shikiri-sen, we might be left with only blurry, smeared images of a blue mawashi and bouncing thighs launched in a high, arcing track towards a throng of excited fans. Each of them hoping that the Kyushu Bulldozer lands nearby. (This is the 50th meeting between the pair! -lksumo)

Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Did you cheer when you saw this? Skycrane ahoy!

I found myself headed for bed at a surprisingly early hour for the first day of a basho. With AbemaTV now lost to me, and no real way to watch the lower divisions, I decided it was better to just pack it in, and enjoy the DVR’d NHK-G two hour top division program in the morning. While I wish I had seen the lower division matches, Makuuchi featured some absolute gems. With Hakuho out, the stage is set for some surprising story lines, and the possibility of a new champion for the new era.

A note to regular readers, highlight posts may come later this basho, due to changes in how we source our information. If we are late, never fear, Team Tachiai is just forwarding through video…

Day 1 Highlights

Toyonoshima defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, who chose to meet Toyonoshima head on and fight. Chiyoshoma got a decent right hand outside grip, and tried to use it for an Uwatenage. Although this failed, it left Toyonoshima out of position and off balance. Chiyoshoma lunged to push his opponent out, but Toyonoshima managed to step aside and send him into the front row.

Daishoho defeats Ishiura – Ishiura also forgoes elusive sumo, meets Daishoho head to head, and applies some effort to the match. Ishiura does well by staying mobile, and works to stalemate Daishoho. Ok, good, but that’s not winning. Ishiura’s gambit to get inside and drive forward results in Daishoho applying an arm bar and winning the match by kimedashi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – I suspect we may be glad that Terutsuyoshi managed to stay in the top division, in spite of a horrible score at the end of Osaka. Kotoeko took control at the tachiai, and was driving Terutsuyoshi around the dohyo like he was the boss. But Terutsuyoshi loaded and executed a tsukiotoshi while in reverse gear, taking the match. Great sumo!

Enho defeats Tokushoryu – Enho takes his first match as a Maegashira in solid Enho fashion. Tokushoryu had the size and reach advantage, but Enho took him for a ride on the tiny-town express. While Tokushoryu was working to lock on to Enho’s shoulders, Enho was on the mawashi, turning the larger rikishi and escorting him to the tawara. Enho gives his 2 kensho envelops to his mother for a Mother’s Day gift. She is even smaller than he is!

Chiyomaru defeats Sadanoumi – Blink and you might miss it. Chiyomaru is getting better milage with Akua’s green mawashi than Akua ever did. A very simple stand him up, slap him down win for the man in green.

Yago defeats Shimanoumi – Yago won the match, but to my eye Shimanoumi had better sumo today. Yago repeatedly worked to pull or slap Shimanoumi down (and eventually succeeded), but the shin-Maegashira was focusing center-mass and moving forward with power. After taking two consecutive Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi has the skill to succeed in the top division. Let’s hope he can settle into a working rhythm.

Shohozan defeats Tochiozan – It looked like Tochiozan’s battle plan was to stalemate Shohozan and look for an opening. He executed that with his expected top-level skill, until Shohozan lost his patience and drove in for an atypical combat-hug. Tochiozan moved to win in the blink of an eye, but could not finish the rotation to execute his throw.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – My candidate for “ring rust match of the day”. Mr Fundamentals, Kagayaki, gets taken to the wood shed by a rather genki Onosho. Hard core sumo fans, you know, the ones who pine for AbemaTV access, are hoping that Onosho can get his body back to good form, and we can see some Takakeisho – Onosho Ozeki rivalry in the future. Onosho had the full happy meal today: Hips low, thrusting strongly against center mass, and strong forward movement.

Tomokaze defeats Nishikigi – Special mention in the “ring rust” category goes to Nishikigi, who seemed to change his mind about opening attack midway through the tachiai. Tomokaze works him hand to hand like he is pulling an enormous ball of taffy, and Nishikigi really can only struggle to stay on his feet.

Asanoyama defeats Kaisei – Closing our trifecta of ring rust, Kaisei did not fail to deliver on his expected oxidation. I really liked Asanoyama’s drive after the tachiai, and that shallow left hand grip was solid. Kaisei struggled to get a throw going at the bales, but Asanoyama just used the Brazilian’s balance shift to deliver a yorikiri.

Shodai defeats Meisei – Those of you wondering why so many fans think Shodai has a lot of potential, watch this match. He is sky-high at the tachiai. He’s practically trying to lose here. But following that, look at his agility, his ring sense, and the fact that even in defensive action, he maintains an element of offense. Could we please get Araiso Oyakata to teach this guy how to come off the line?

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yeah, Yoshikaze knows he’s beat about 5 seconds into it, and decides not to risk injury with a tawara defense. For fans of one of the most intense rikishi in many years, this match is tough to watch.

Ryuden defeats Myogiryu – Shin-Ikioi (Ryuden) continues to shine. Today’s match showed really outstanding patience, and top level balance as Myogiryu changed offensive plans at least twice. Ryuden waited them out, and took his opportunity to get Myogiryu turned around and propelled him out.

Abi defeats Okinoumi – The double arm attack was shut off fairly early, but Abi was able to convert it to a powerful two hand nodowa, which he withdrew suddenly to perform a pull-down. Points to Okinoumi for shutting down the typical Abi-zumo offense (and to Abi for having a plan B –PinkMawashi).

Aoiyama defeats Tamawashi – This anticipated slug-fest did not fail to deliver. Tamawashi took command at the tachiai, and backed Aoiyama to the east. A massive shove from Tamawashi, intended to send Aoiyama out, only stood the Mongolian up as he slid back. Aoiyama cocked that meaty right arm and delivered a blow that made the crowd gasp, then took control.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not muster enough force at the tachiai to effectively disrupt Tochinoshin, who waded into the slap fest with gusto. In spite of Chiyotairyu focusing well on keeping Tochinoshin away from his mawashi, the Georgian found his mark. You can hear the crowd rally as both hands find their grip. We all know what’s coming. Hell, Tochinoshin has been waiting to do this for a couple of months. You can hear the motors roar as he lifts Chiyotairyu, who obliges by pedaling his legs in free air like some cartoon character, suddenly finding himself over a cliff. Let’s admit it, we all want to see him get his 10 and take back his Ozeki rank.

Daieisho defeats Ichinojo – Runner up in the ring rust prize is Ichinojo, who clearly struggled to execute his planned attack strategy. Multiple times he tried to pull down Daieisho, who evaded well. This left Ichinojo high, off balance and fairly easy pickings. A solid win for Daieisho.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – The thing that is really striking is that Takakeisho has gotten better at initiating the wave-action attack earlier and earlier in the match. Endo has no time to even begin any offense. Endo foolishly tried to match the shove, aiming for Takakeisho’s head and neck. This gave the shin-Ozeki a open lane straight to Endo’s center-mass, and it was over. 41 kensho banners. Wow.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takayasu – I can’t recall how long its been since I have seen Kotoshogiku at this level of intensity. For recent fans, this was what Ozeki Kotoshogiku looked like at his peak. Granted, Takayasu is nursing a bad back right now, but that was awesome.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – I love this match because it shows Goeido’s speed. Hokutofuji likes to set up a nodowa at the tachiai, and take control before his opponent can do anything other than react. But Goeido is so fast and so low, you can see the surprise in Hokutofuji’s reaction. I am so very happy that Goeido seems to be healthy and on his sumo.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi could not generate forward pressure against the Yokozuna, who executes a textbook oshi battle plan. This was interesting to me in that Kakuryu is usually going to start a match and react to his opponent. Today he took charge and dictated the win. This shift may have surprised Mitakeumi. It sort of surprised me!