Natsu Day 2 Preview

I am trying to not think about the creepy silence during this basho, but instead look forward to the new camera angles that give me new ways to appreciate the mechanics of sumo. I talked about getting a new view of how some of the better rikishi of the day conduct their matches in the day 1 highlights, and to me its a big deal. I am sure for sumo fans in Japan and specifically in Tokyo, watching practice at the heya would provide some of the same insights. But for a yank watching from afar, it’s really quite engaging.

It was almost a clean sweep for the named ranks on day 1, with Daieisho being the only one of the clan to hit the clay. But even he looked sharp, and nearly gave the lead Ozeki a loss on opening day. At least one of the named ranks will take a loss again today, as Takakeisho faces off against the original tadpole himself, Mitakeumi. Expectations are low on Mitakeumi this tournament, so I think the pressure is off and we may see some really solid sumo from him. At least during week 1.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura can struggle with much larger opponents – with his day 1 loss to Kaisei being a great example. He does have a solid formula for winning against the bulbous Chiyomaru, with a near even 8-9 career record. A word of caution, he has not beaten the spheroid man in the last 5 attempts.

Akua vs Chiyotairyu – Oddly enough, these two veterans have never had a match before. Let’s fix that at once! Akua has a bit of a rusty start day 1, but he will break into fighting form within the first act. Chiyotairyu’s day 1 fight with Daiamami was near perfect form for him, and I doubt that we will see Akua give him the same opportunity.

Kaisei vs Daiamami – This really comes down to what kind of condition Kaisei’s body is in this May. If he’s reasonably healthy, I can see him using his enormity and power, this far down the banzuke, to dominate most of his matches. There are actually several high-skill vets clogging up the bottom ranks, and it will start to get brutal, I predict, some time in week 2.

Kotoeko vs Akiseyama – Akiseyama’s sheer bulk tends to be a foil for Kotoeko speed and compact strength. Kotoeko has taken both prior matches this year, for an overall 4-5 record. I Akiseyama, to my eye, did look a bit rusty day 1 in his loss to Okinoumi.

Kotonowaka vs Okinoumi – Speaking of high-skill veterans, Okinoumi might possibly be able to pretzel Kotonowaka within the first 5 seconds of a match, provided that the surprisingly low ranked Sadogatake heyagashira continues to look like he did day 1 against Terutsuyoshi. I don’t think Okinoumi will use the same level of maneuver and evasion, so maybe this match may be more to Kotonowaka’s liking.

Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Two fast, nimble rikishi who are willing to pull slippery moves out of the bag and deploy them from the tachiai? Why, yes please! They have a 3-3 career record, and this match offers a slim chance of the elusive double-henka.

Shimanoumi vs Tamawashi – Shimanoumi has not lost to Tamawashi, ever. He holds a 2-0 advantage, but looked really shabby day 1 against Endo. By contrast, Tamawashi seems to have shown up dialed in and ready to dominate. This could be the day their career record flips to 2-1.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Long time readers know I do enjoy Kagayaki’s sumo when he’s fighting well. Which as not been since January of 2020. How he has managed to end up as Maegashira 9 after going 5-10, 6-9 and 6-9 from M3e, I will never know. But today he’s going to get spanked by Endo, I think.

Tochinoshin vs Tsurugisho – First time match between to big, big guys. Both of them lost day 1, and both of them are certainly focused on turning that around. It’s kind of early to pair up the zero loss crowd, but hey – why not.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – This is always a fun match, because Takarafuji usually tries to wear Ichinojo out. Which only happens once in a while. So instead you get Ichinojo accepting the defend and extend match format, and going all boulder against the man with no neck. Suddenly forced to cope with nearly half a ton of Mongolian granite, even the mighty Takarafuji will begin to question is choices. Then, Ichinojo wakes up and the match ends. He holds a 12-3 advantage over Takarafuji.

Hoshoryu vs Hidenoumi – This one has some nice potential, though I think due to the banzuke train wreck coming out of March, both men are a bit over ranked. They have matched twice before, and split the two. Hidenoumi took the match last tournament, and may have a slight edge on day 2.

Onosho vs Myogiryu – For Myogiryu to come out of this match the winner, he needs to not let Onosho bracket him, or allow him to lean in. We all know that Onosho has basically one fight plan, and by golly he is going to run it no matter what. When it works, is hard to stop him, but the trick is to make sure he never gets that far. Onosho holds a 6-3 career lead.

Kiribayama vs Daieisho – I kind of think that Daieisho should have put the doom on Asanoyama day 1, so I am looking for him to make it up against Kiribayama on day 2. Kiribayama has taken their last 2 matches to hold a 3-1 career record against the Hatsu yusho winner. II expect that Daieisho will open strong as is his custom, so Kiribayama will need to steady his balance at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Chiyonokuni – I would guess Takayasu is healthy enough he is back to his wild-man sumo. This is a perfect match for Chiyonokuni’s brand of sumo. The career record reads 5-1, but these two have not fought since 2018, and a lot has happened since then. I look forward to seeing what Chiyonokuni can do today.

Tobizaru vs Takanosho – It’s flying monkey vs onigiri-kun. Takanosho looked brutally focused day 1 against Chiyonokuni, and Tobizaru may get run down and tossed away without ceremony. Takanosho holds a 5-2 career advantage.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama did look a bit rusty as Daieisho nearly took him out on day 1. Hopefully he has dialed up his intensity quite a bit, and is ready for what Meisei is going to unleash on him day 2. True, Meisei has only taken 1 of their prior 6 matches, but if Asanoyama wants to remain the top Ozeki, he needs to dominate these week 1 fights.

Hokutofuji vs Terunofuji – It’s early to say it, but each tournament I look for signs that Hokutofuji is hot on the trail of achieving “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo”, which seems to be his forte. Today we get to see what he can do against a kaiju with no knees. All joking aside, Terunofuji did look a bit creaky on day 1, and I am just looking for him to get his 8.

Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is good enough, and fast enough that he can help Shodai taste-test this tournament’s dohyo. He just needs to remove any chances that Shodai can reach into his Acme bag of cartoon sumo and deploy the unexpected or the unlikely counter-move to a well crafted attack. Shodai needs 7 more to remove kadoban and retain Ozeki.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – This first big tadpole fight of the tournament, pits two rotund examples of the amphibian sumo in the final match of the day. They come in with a 9-10 career record, but I am going to give a slight edge to Takakeisho today. He has clearly lost a good amount of flab since last year, and I think it’s been at least that long since he has been able to show as much power as he did day 1 when he sent Wakatakakage down to visit the shimpan in a heap.

Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

With a thunderous kyujo, act 2 comes to a close. I do mean Takakeisho, yes. While he has had poor performance from the start, he was was the center of attention in the days before the basho, as he had taken the cup in November and had an opportunity to make a bid to be promoted to Yokozuna. It seems at some point early in the tournament he injured his ankle, but frankly I think there may be more than that. He has looked unwell since the joint practice in the basement of the Kokugikan. I hope that he can get his body together a bit later this year and try again.

In the rikishi still active, there was no change at the top of the leader board as both Daieisho and Shodai won their matches today, and remain #1 and #2 respectively. This only gets interesting if someone can drop Daieisho at least once during act 3, which starts tomorrow. Personally I like the chances of another loss (at least 40%) due to the mental pressure of considering the yusho may cause some loss of focus during the daily bout. The chance is high we won’t know who will take the cup until day 15, and that is how it should be.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Akiseyama – Akiseyama has now lost 4 in a row, and is on a genuine cold streak. He had been tied for the lead at one time, and is now struggling. Is it a cold streak, or did he pick up an injury? Either way, Azumaryu picks up a much needed win to improve to 3-7.

Hoshoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Ok, Hoshoryu seems to have found his sumo for real! He beats Kotonowaka for the first time in 4 attempts by slamming him to the clay after a leg trip attempt. He has won the last 5 in a row after losing the first 5 from opening day.

Ichinojo defeats Midorifuji – You have to admire Midorifuji’s courage, he has to have seen Kiribayama’s day 9 attempt to grapple Ichinojo, and he somehow said to himself, “I am going to try that too!”. Well, it was just as pointless as once you get a hold of Ichinojo, he gets a hold of you, and you realize you have no way to let go. So you try to bide your time, but Ichinojo is quite comfortable and possibly napping. You then realize that you are simply going to have to make it look good. Ichinojo advances to 7-3 to remain at the edge of the group chasing Daieisho.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama had the early advantage, and fired up his thrusting attack. Sadanoumi took the punishment and got inside and them got Aoiyama moving back. I notice that Sadanoumi’s leg was not as heavily wrapped today as it had been in earlier matches. Maybe that gave him some of his speed and mobility back. Both end the day 5-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Myogiryu – Well, they traded push back mattas, and it was clear they were annoyed with each other. When they got underway on the 3rd attempt, Myogiryu attempted a double hand slap down, but could not make it stick. Myogiryu found himself without any defensive elements to the match, and Terutsuyoshi blasted him out to improve to 4-6.

Akua defeats Tokushoryu – Sharing is caring, they say, and today Akua gave Tokushoryu the gift of make-koshi, which he received on day 9 from Tobizaru. This was another extended chest to chest match, though nothing on the scale of Ichinojo’s long duration endurance challenge. I did not like the way Tokushoryu’s left knee / leg collapsed at the end. I hope he is not injured. Both end the day at 2-8.

Meisei defeats Kiribayama – It was a battle of the slap / pull down attempts, and while it was not pretty, it all worked out for Meisei. Meisei tried one first, giving the advantage to Kiribayama who responded moments later and that loss of forward pressure was all Meisei needed. Why do these guys try to respond to a dumb move with their own version of the dumb move? I see it far too much in sumo. Meisei improves to 7-3 and stays 2 behind Daieisho.

Kotoeko defeats Tobizaru – Another day with a flying hands of fury match involving Kotoeko. He has the right partner for that activity in Tobizaru, and they two went at it like a pair of tabbies jacked up on catnip. Sometimes I do love a good “kitchen sink” match, and this was pretty close to that, with Kotoeko ultimately giving Tobizaru a powerful shove over the bales for the win. Both end the day 4-6.

Ryuden defeats Yutakayama – Ryuden did a fantastic job of robbing Yutakayama of his offensive tools. He locked him up early and drove him back and out within 5 steps, leaving Yutakayama no room to maneuver, and no room to push back. Ryuden has won 3 of is last 4 and improves to 4-6.

Kagayaki defeats Shimanoumi – Possibly the best sumo from Kagayaki so far this tournament. He stayed low, kept his stance wide, kept his feet heavy and his shoulder square. Shimanoumi battled back well, but once Kagayaki gets into this mode, he’s quite powerful. Kagayaki improves to 5-5.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho continues his relentless drive toward a 0-15 result, which is slightly easier to obtain than a zensho result. Its heart breaking, as the guy really has some excellent sumo. Kotoshoho came close today when Takarafuji fell out of the ring with Kotoshoho, but it was clear that Takarafuji’s hand touched down after Kotoshoho’s foot it the janome. Takarafuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with (once again) The Most Powerful Make-Koshi in Sumo! Hokutofuji had a couple of good hits, but this was all Daieisho, and he improves to 9-1 and maintains sole possession of the lead.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu had some great hand placement, catching Tochinoshin under the armpits with a meaty shove that ruined his balance and left him wide open to be attacked and moved out. Takayasu improves to 6-4.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Ok, maybe Mitakeumi has his act together now. He takes down fellow tadpole Onosho and knocks him out of the group 2 losses behind Daieisho. Mitakeumi guessed that Onosho would bring his center of balance as far forward as he could, and timed his release of pressure and pull down superbly. He improves to 5-5.

Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – I am gobsmacked by this one. On what planet was Takanosho the winner. Oh well, anyone surprised that Terunofuji got the short end of another monoii? I sure am not. Takanosho’s gymnastics to stay airborne as they both went out were spectacular. Both end the day 6-4.

Asanoyama defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi opened with a powerful combo, which Asanoyama absorbed well, got his hands around Tamawashi and took control of the match. He improves to 7-3 to remain 2 behind Daiesho.

Shodai defeats Endo – Endo is a master tactician, and had a great formula for today’s match against Shodai. He had the Ozeki off balance and dancing around to maintain footing, and then the cartoon sumo kicked in. Shodai’s in the middle of being thrown, and suddenly he pivots and its Endo thats off balance. Shodai continues the rotation and they both crash over the bales. The gumbai goes to Shodai, and I am left wondering what I just saw. Of course there was a monoii, as they all say in unison “What the hell was that?” But no, the cartoon sumo worked once again, and Endo lands first, and it’s kachi-koshi for Shodai.

Osaka Day 13 Preview

We go screaming into the final weekend of this tournament with the very real possibility of a double-digit Maegashira taking the cup on day 15. As has been said by sumo luminaries much more accomplished than myself, in this day—everyone is a contender. As lksumo has assured me many times, the schedule mostly goes by a well-understood formula, and that means that a lower-ranked rikishi can catch fire and run up a score high enough to take the cup, having never really been tested against the top-ranked men. This is also a function of the top-ranked men being too evenly matched to produce a score high enough to ensure that the cup remains in the named ranks.

As we set up for the last 3 days of this basho, it’s time to start trying to wonder who will suffer through the 7-7 matches on the final day. I call these “Darwin matches”, because only one survives with a winning record. Quite a few rikishi are on the perilous path that leads to a Darwin battle, so let’s see who can evade that outcome.

Haru Leaderboard

Aoiyama has sole possession of the lead in the race for the cup. He faces Takanosho on day 13.

Leader: Aoiyama
Chasers: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Asanoyama
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi ,Takanosho

3 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Kotonowaka vs Ikioi – The winner here picks up kachi-koshi today. Both have fought well, and both deserve it. I think whoever loses today is possibly going to find themselves in a Darwin match on day 15. Please, don’t let it be you, Ikioi.

Ishiura vs Shimanoumi – I am sure that Ishiura is quite happy to be going into the final weekend with 8 wins locked up. The question is, at Maegashira 12, does he really want to push for a big boost up the banzuke? He seems to do well around this rank, and running up the score enough to get him at the bottom of the joi-jin might not be a wise idea. Luckily, Shimanoumi has never lost to Ishiura, so maybe he can end up in a Darwin match on day 15.

Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – Chiyotairyu needs just one more win to get his 8. He has faded into week 2, losing 4 of his last 5. He has only fought Meisei once before, and he took the match. Good luck, Chiyotairyu!

Chiyomaru vs Tochiozan – Chiyomaru is very much on the Darwin path, but he has a chance to add a white start to his tally when he faces the miserable wreckage of Tochiozan. Normally, Tochiozan gives Chiyomaru the business (6-1), but he’s too beat up and injured now to pose much of a threat.

Sadanoumi vs Daiamami – Sadanoumi can dispense some sumo doom today if he can hand Daiamami his 8th loss and a make-koshi for Haru. He won their only prior match, and still seems to have some fighting spirit left.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – Battle of the battered and broken former Ozeki. It’s like if your two favorite stuffed animals as a child got mangled in a horrific laundry accident, but hung around your bedroom anyhow because you were too sentimental to toss them out. A Tochinoshin loss today is make-koshi for him.

Takanosho vs Aoiyama – It’s a lot of weight to put on Takanosho—shutting down the yusho juggernaut that is Aoiyama. But that’s exactly who has gotten the nod to try his mettle on day 13. He and Aoiyama have a 3 match history that favors Takanosho 2-1. But right now, Big Dan’s V-Twin seems to be set to take him far, and I am not sure who might stop him from lifting the cup on Sunday with those enormous, pale, meaty arms.

Kaisei vs Kiribayama – The last time that Kaisei beat Kiribayama was in the multi-way playoff for the Juryo yusho during November of 2019. Ah, the good old days, when there was no plague loose in the world, and people got to go to the venue to watch sumo. But it may come down to Kaisei having his 8, and not wanting to run up the score, or risk injury. A win today would keep Kiribayama on track for a Darwin match on Sunday.

Azumaryu vs Tamawashi – Can Tamawashi muster enough genki energy to hand fellow Mongolian Azumaryu his make-koshi? Maybe…but an Azumaryu win today sets him on the path for inclusion in the round of Darwin matches we eagerly await on Sunday.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – These two miserable sots just need to hug it out. Luckily, Nishikigi’s sumo seems tailor-made for such a format, even if Myogiryu may find it distasteful. Both are already make-koshi, both need to just get past this basho, and for Nishikigi, he’s likely once again captain or at least boatswain of the Juryo barge of the dammed.

Terutsuyoshi vs Onosho – After a long and withering stretch of depressing matches, we get this lovely gem. One of these fine rikishi will exit the dohyo with a freshly minted kachi-koshi, and both of them deserve it. The loser is probably headed for Darwin with the rest of the condemned souls that are slated for the day 15 bloodletting. I expect a lot of intense action that will favor Terutsuyoshi early, and Onosho the longer it goes.

Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Both are kachi-koshi, but frankly, I really want to see Mitakeumi run up the score. At least 1 san’yaku slot will be open, and I would love to see the original tadpole return to the named ranks, and perhaps restart a bid to ascend to Ozeki this year.

Shohozan vs Tokushoryu – Another dry husk of a match between two grizzled veterans sporting deep losing records before the final weekend. Sure, Shohozan has a 6-3 career lead, but this one is just more misery.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama has never beaten Okinoumi in 3 attempts, and a win today would be yet another marker that the early leader of the Freshman cohort is back in business. He shares Maegashira 3 with Mitakeumi, so if there ends up being only 1 San’yaku slot, he may have to settle for a modest bump up the Maegashira ranks.

Daieisho vs Enho – Daieisho need just 1 more win to get his 8th, and Enho is looking hurt and dispirited now. Clearly he is headed back down the banzuke to calmer waters, but how far will he drop? They have split their prior 2, and with the abundance of rikishi now shutting down Enho’s pixie magic, there is ample footage of Enho losses for Daieisho to review.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Both of these mainstays are dangerously close to the Darwin path, with Endo serving as vanguard of the Darwin sacrifices marching toward day 15. They share a 5-5 career record, so this one is going to come down to Endo getting his frontal grip at the tachiai, and Kagayaki’s sometimes impressive footwork.

Hokutofuji vs Ryuden – Another match of disappointment: both of them are solid fighters, both are make-koshi, and both just need to finish the tournament without additional injuries. I am sure Hokutofuji will show up with more fighting spirit (he always does), but it’s a mystery if it will do him any good.

Abi vs Shodai – In spite of beating Hakuho on day 12, Shodai has to pick up 2 more wins for a kachi-koshi at his highest-ever rank. More likely, he too is on the Darwin path, and we may see him face off on day 15 in a 7-7 battle to survive. A loss today would be make-koshi for Abi, and a further slide down the banzuke.

Takakeisho vs Kakuryu – Takakeisho starts his tour through hell. Needing 2 wins to escape kadoban, he comes up against Yokozuna Kakuryu, who honestly is fighting better than Hakuho right now. He has beaten the Yokozuna once in their 4 career matches, but Takakeisho’s injuries may mean that Kakuryu makes fast work of the Grand Tadpole today.

Hakuho vs Asanoyama – I can’t even tell you how eager I am for this match. To make the score for Ozeki promotion, Asanoyama needs to beat a Yokozuna. Given the baloney sumo from Hakuho on day 12, I expect him to be brash, hasty and probably careless on day 13. That gives Asanoyama a sliver of an opening. We know Hakuho loves to fight high skill yotsu-zumo rikishi, and Asanoyama is that in spades. But if he gives Asanoyama his chance, he may find himself surprised. Good luck, Asanoyama!

Osaka Day 12 Highlights

Photo once again shamelessly stolen from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed, to whom we sincerely apologize.

In the topsy-turvy world of the Osaka basho, it seems nearly anything can and probably does happen. Today’s action left a single man atop the leader board, and the scheduling committee’s efforts to keep another double digits ranked Makuuchi rikishi from taking the cup may have problems. Sure, once you set up a tournament like we have done in Osaka, you are just asking for the unusual. But is it now a valid career move to try and reduce your rank as low as possible, softening your schedule, to roar back the next tournament and take the cup? That is not to say that Aoiyama did any such thing, he is clearly having one of his better tournaments in a while, and has been in contention for the cup in tournaments past. But we now run the risk of a “two track” tournament, given how equally beat up the joi-jin has become, that it makes more sense to campaign for the yusho from the bottom half of the banzuke?

In the other big story thread, Ozeki hopeful Asanoyama continues to win, now at 10-2, but about to enter the hardest part of his schedule. He has to beat 2 out of Hakuho, Kakuryu and Takakeisho. This is a tall order, and I don’t want fans or even Asanoyama himself to become discouraged should he not be up to the task. There is already a weakness in his March bid – one of his current 10 wins is by fusensho over Takayasu. For the scoreboard, that still counts as a win, but it the team that decide his promotion may not see it that way. Prepare yourself to hear that he has done well, but needs at least one more basho of good performance to qualify.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Kotoshogiku – I am sure that Nishikigi is happy for the win, but simply put, Kotoshogiku fell down following a strong push-off against Nishikigi. Shame really, as Kotoshogiku could have used a win here. He is headed perilously close toward a Darwin match on day 15.

Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka looks like he wanted to keep his options open at the tachiai, not knowing what Ishiura was going to open with. Kotonowaka worked hard to keep Ishiura away from any kind of grip, and in response Ishiura decided to grab and tug any body part he could latch onto. The two grappled briefly, and then it seems that Kotonowaka may have lost his footing and hit the clay. Ishiura picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for March.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Meisei – Terutsuyoshi executes a great Harumafuji mini-henka, getting a grip on Meisei’s purple mawashi with Terutsuyoshi right hand all the way back on the knot. There was no way to defend that position, so Terutsuyoshi just rushes ahead, and bucks Meisei over the bales to improve to 7-5.

Sadanoumi defeats Azumaryu – Sadanoumi sacrificed a bit of power at the tachiai in order to get inside, and set up shop with a right hand inside position. I think Sadanoumi’s speed caught Azumaryu by surprise, and as they grappled, Azumaryu had no space to lower his hips. Low on options, Azumaryu tried an arm-bar throw that Sadanoumi completely shut down, and rushed Azumaryu out for a much needed win.

Daiamami defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan drops his 11th match to Daiamami, who staves off make-koshi for another day. Tochiozan has no ability to transmit power to ground right now, due to multiple injuries, and is really just going through the motions.

Chiyomaru defeats Tochinoshin – Chiyomaru improves to 6-6 following a 3 day fever kyujo with his win over hapless former Ozeki Tochinoshin. Chiyomaru was invited to use his preferred form of sumo – to lift up at the tachiai, pull back to unbalance his opponent, and then slap him down. I am sure Tochinoshin was well aware of this, but simply did not have the lower body health to prevent it. This marks the first time that Chiyomaru has ever beaten Tochinoshin, and it’s indicative of how hurt the former Ozeki is.

Kaisei defeats Shohozan – Newtonian sumo expert Kaisei picks up his 8th win, for a well deserved kachi-koshi in Osaka. As with Tochiozan, Shohozan seems to be so banged up that his sumo no longer has any real power or force to move ahead. We hope he can recover before the next tournament.

Kiribayama defeats Shimanoumi – Kiribayama took control of this match at the tachiai, coming in lower and stronger, and quickly moving around the right side of Shimanoumi. While Shimanoumi shut down any pivot for a throw, he was also completely unable to generate any offense, or escape the awkward posture Kiribayama had stuffed him into. Both men end the day 6-6.

Takarafuji defeats Chiyotairyu – Great example of how clam and patient Takarafuji is during most matches. Chiyotairyu brings a lot of power early, but Takarafuji maintains control and gives up position. The winning move is a brilliant shove from the left to bias Chiyotairyu onto his right foot, then Takarafuji shifting to his right to release pressure that Chiyotairyu was using to keep himself upright. Down goes Chiyotairyu, and its kachi-koshi for Takarafuji. Technically brilliant.

Ikioi defeats Tamawashi – Ikioi inches a bit closer to kachi-koshi with this win over Tamawashi, like so many other of the 30+ Maegashira club seem to have severe join problems this March. Both of these rikishi can deliver a lot of punishment in a match, and they were out to prove it. Tamawashi now down to 3-9.

Yutakayama defeats Abi – Abi gets the double arm thrust going early against Yutakayama’s chest, and he succeeds in focusing Yutakayama on breaking Abi’s attack. Moving back it looked like Yutakayama was in trouble, but managed a nice combo to Abi’s chest to first unbalance him, then send him to the clay. Yutakayama improves to 7-5, and can hit his highest ranked kachi-koshi ever with a win over Okinoumi on day 13.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Original Tadpole gave Big Dan Aoiyama a solid fight, but the V-Twin attack was more than Mitakeumi could absorb. Aoiyama’s sumo was dead on, and he kept the pressure running hot all the way to the finish. Mitakeumi’s only escape lasted for just a heartbeat before Aoiyama closed the gap and finished him off. Aoiyama takes sole possession of the lead with 11-1.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi was faster at the tachiai, but Kagayaki was lower. Both of them had great body position, and excellent foot placement. Okinoumi too him to his chest, but Kagayaki managed to get a double inside grip, and went to work. If you watch the match in slow motion, or a frame at a time, just look at Kagayaki’s foot work. That guy has some of the heaviest feet in the top division right now, just amazing and quite reminiscent of Kisenosato in some ways.

Tokushoryu defeats Myogiryu – It was nice to see Tokushoryu use his power weapon that took him to the Hatsu yusho, that pivot right and thrust down. It’s like some kind of magical super move when he can set it up. Sadly both he and Myogiryu are 3-9, so this was just for fun today.

Onosho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho really comes into the tachiai with power, lower and more forceful than Onosho, he plants a right hand under the chin and lifts. By the second step, Daieisho is completely overwhelming Onosho, and he switches to plan 2. Grabbing Daieisho around the chest he uses his natural tendency to overbalance forward as an asset, and lunges. Daieisho near the salt basket and Onosho improves to 7-5. I expect both of these guys to finish kachi-koshi, and try this nice head to head match up at the next tournament.

Hokutofuji defeats Enho – Enho opts for the submarine tachiai, and Hokutofuji wisely slow-rolls his initial charge. Enho can’t quite get low enough to really employ his tool kit, and ends up with Hokutofuji double arm barring him ala Nishikigi. Hokutofuji marches his around the dohoyo, but Enho is too low to the ground to go down. Out of options, big Hokutofuji simply falls over on top of Enho for the win, handing Enho a very painful looking make-koshi.

Asanoyama defeats Takanosho – Takanosho’s tachiai was excellent, and it drove Asanoyama back. Everything about Takanosho’s tachiai was great, foot placement, hand placement, that guy has a strong future if he can stay healthy. He followed that up by shutting down all of Asanoyama’s attempts to set up his preferred yytsu-zumo grip and stance. Clearly Takanosho did his homework, and was ready. Takanosho tried to break contact, and lost his footing, sending him to the clay for an Asanoyama win. I look forward to these two fighting again soon.

Takakeisho defeats Ryuden – Takakeisho has a very narrow, very steep path to avoid kadoban for the next basho. He needs two more wins, and one of those must come from a Yokozuna. But today he was able to take care of business, even winning in spite of going chest to chest with Ryuden. Takakeisho improves to 6-6.

Shodai defeats Hakuho – Well, Hakuho, we had hoped after your match with Onosho that you were done with your occasional jack-assery. But here you brought it out to play again, and look at what happened. While you were busy slapping Shodai’s face, he kept his cool and focused on winning. You showed a fundamental lack of respect for Shodai’s sumo, which once you get past the tachiai, is quite effective. You were hitting his face, he was driving inside. You let him get morozashi, and only then did you figure out that you were completely out of control and not focused on winning. Enjoy the loss, Yokozuna, that one was absolute crap. Big Dan Aoiyama is now sole leader in the yusho race.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Nice iron grip there, Endo! Kakuryu again very serious about his sumo, and showing Yokozuna composure and style. Kakuryu hits 10 wins for a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, and safety for a good time to come.