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.
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.