Aki Day 2 Preview

The scheduling committee has no business drawing up a day 2 card this compelling with a typhoon raging in the streets of Tokyo. But they did, and now I would gladly rather be standing in the driving rain to get a “day of” ticket in the upper reaches of the Kokugikan than spending a week at work.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Yutakayama vs Takagenji – Takagenji sputtered a bit on day 1, and he’s got to turn that around. But he’s facing down Yutakayama, who I would guess is on a mission to catch up to Asanoyama sooner rather than later and battle him for the lead of the Freshmen.

Daiamami vs Tochiozan – Daiamami is up from Juryo for the day to fill in the banzuke hole left by Takayasu. Tochiozan holds a 2-0 career lead over the Oitekaze man, and is not looking at all sharp to start Aki. He is another on my “watch list” of beloved veterans who might leave us in the near future.

Tsurugisho vs Ishiura – Ishiura suffered from being too low on day 1, and ate some Tokyo clay. Tsurugisho has gotten a formula for beating Ishiura (3-1) from their days in the lower divisions, so let’s see if Team Hakuho can pull out of the ditch on day 2.

Azumaryu vs Toyonoshima – A pair of storied vets go head to head? Oh do sign me up! Toyonoshima has not fared well in the past (1-3), but the typhoon may be blowing new atmosphere into the basho.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – This makes 2 basho in a row where Kagayaki comes in encrusted with thick, heavy ring rust. Will we see the highly mobile combat style of Shohozan today, or will he continue with his new love of yotsu?

Nishikigi vs Daishoho – Nishikigi: living, walking proof that in sumo, you don’t really have to see your opponent to be victorious. Or even make it to the joi-jin it seems. He holds a 2-0 advantage over Daishoho. so maybe he squints out another win today.

Sadanoumi vs Onosho – Onosho’s red mawashi needs wins to power itself, and having failed to feed it on day 1, he tries again against Sadanoumi, whom has an 0-3 record against Onosho. We want that blazing belt of fire do its work. Let’s see some tadpole sumo!

Enho vs Meisei – Oh I am just very excited for this one. Something lit in Enho day 1, and it was magic. Maybe he is just racking wins in week 1 before everyone comes up to full basho level, or maybe he’s over that shoulder injury. What makes this great is that Meisei is no push-over, and seems to be bouncing back from his 4-11 make koshi in Nagoya.

Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – As we saw in Nagoya, when Okinoumi fights a pixie, the normal mechanics seem to break down. This is his first ever match against Terutsuyoshi, and I think the young powerhouse is going to give the veteran a hard match.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – I can’t believe that Kotoyuki is mid-Maegashira. If he somehow manages to kachi-koshi at this rank, it may be a sign of some sort. Kotoyuki has cut back on his crowd surfing, and it seems to have helped his sumo. Takarafuji will, of course, execute his excellent technical sumo.

Shimanoumi vs Kotoshogiku – I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by how long Kotoshogiku has been able to persist in the Maegashira ranks. He has somehow manage to keep his banged up knees in just good enough condition to rack up 8 wins when he needs them. Today he’s got newcomer powerhouse Shimanoumi.

Kotoeko vs Myogiryu – A pair of strong, heavily muscled, compact rikishi who love to grab a hold of an opponent and toss them around. I am hoping we don’t get some kind of cheap slap down action from these two, and instead its a battle of stamina and guile.

Tamawashi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu let himself get locked up, boxed up and shipped home to Arakawa on day 1. Day 2 it’s toe to toe against skilled pugilist Tamawashi in a battle that may feature a tachiai detectable on seismometers.

Ryuden vs Shodai – Shin-Ikioi takes on Shodai, who in spite of his soft, flaccid tachiai, can actually produce some effective sumo if he can survive the first step. Ryuden needs a bounce back, as all of the “cool kids” are going to vie to stuff the San’yaku party bus to Kyushu.

Tomokaze vs Endo – A first time meeting between two high skill rikishi who both tend to come into a match with a masterful battle plan? This one is either going to be an epic war of warriors, or end in a blink. This match just oozes potential.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – Mitakeumi spent too much time with Ryuden on TV eating the contents of various fields around Japan just prior to the basho. As a result, I think Mitakeumi is still trying to digest all of that daikon, and may feel much better soon. In the mean time, we may see Daieisho dredge him in potato starch and deep fry him for 90 seconds, before serving him on a bed of cabbage.

Aoiyama vs Takakeisho – Folks, each one of these is going to be a nail-biter. Although he holds a 3-1 advantage over the man-Mountain, Takakeisho is clearly only about 80% right now. We have yet to see a proper wave-action attack. Aoiyama, I am confident, is going to bat Takakeisho around to see if Weebils really can fall down.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – This should show us how sturdy Goeido’s injured ankle is. If he blasts into Ichinojo and can beat him moving forward, Goeido may be tough to beat this time. Ichinojo, I predict, will use his enormity to his utmost.

Tochinoshin vs Asanoyama – I am going to assume both men go for yotsu, with Asanoyama spending a lot of attention keeping Tochinoshin from landing that left hand grip to set up the lift-and-shift. Look for Asanoyama to go right-hand outside at the tachiai if he can.

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji already had one Yokozuna scalp. If Kakuryu can prevail, that may in fact be the deciding difference in the last 5 days, when I expect both Yokozuna to be contending for the yusho. Handshake tachiai to be certain, but I expect Kakuryu to give ground and let Hokutofuji’s natural inclination to get too far forward do most of the work.

Abi vs Hakuho – I an going to guess Hakuho is pretty wound up after day 1, and Abi may be the discharge path for all of that coiled up sumo aggression. Will we see “The Boss” give our favorite sick-insect a flying lesson?

Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

It’s the middle day of the glorious Nagoya tournament, and NHK World Japan will be live for the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi across their global streaming platform. Sadly I don’t think we will get to hear John Gunning, who was doing commentary with Ross Mihara for day 7, but the NHK Grand Sumo crew always do a fantastic job. If everything goes well, both Yokozuna could make kachi-koshi today, as they are unbeaten going into day 8.

Also with day 8’s preview, we take a look at the basho leader board. Act 2 is doing its job remarkably well – shaping the yusho race. There are 4 rikishi in numerical contention, with 3 actually likely to battle it out for the cup. But until someone starts putting dirt on the Yokozuna, it’s theirs to lose.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chasers: Takayasu, Terutsuyoshi
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, Myogiryu, Tomokaze, Enho, Kotoyuki

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Kotoyuki vs Azumaryu – Azumaryu is up from Juryo to fill the Tochinoshin gap, and he draws against a surprisingly genki Kotoyuki who somehow is part of the leaderboard. Ok, fine – Mr 5×5, please take it into week 2. I would love to see you make a case for the cup.

Chiyomaru vs Enho – They don’t come much bigger than Chiyomaru, and they don’t come much smaller than Enho. If you wanted a bout of contrasts, here it is. Enho will need to find a way to get under that enormous belly in order to get to work.

Yago vs Sadanoumi – The series favors Sadanoumi 2-0, and Yago fans are hoping he can win his first today. I don’t have any news on what manner of malady is plaguing Yago, but it has to be something. You don’t go from a decent battler to someone squeezing by without an injury.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kagayaki – Terutsuyoshi would love to hang on to his slot in the chase group, but he has never won against Kagayaki (0-2). Kagayaki suffered a horrible case of ring rust in the first week, but seems to be back on his sumo. This will be a pivotal match.

Kaisei vs Nishikigi – Two sumo nice guys go head to head, but the outcome is fairly certain. I am sad for Kaisei. He’s hurt and not doing well, but he seems intent to solider on.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan continues to be a half step behind his normal level of sumo, and that might not be good enough to defeat Kotoeko this time around.

Toyonoshima vs Takagenji – Toyonoshima opened Nagoya losing 5 straight, and has now won the last 2. Did he learn from the prior 2 days matches against Takagenji? Lets see if Toyonoshima goes chest to chest and waits him out.

Myogiryu vs Daishoho – First time meeting between these two, but frankly I expect Myogiryu to put Daishoho without too much trouble.

Chiyotairyu vs Shohozan – Oh good, two heavily armed battle boys here to slug it out. If Shohozan can keep his balance and survive the first 10 seconds, he has a good chance of winning this one.

Okinoumi vs Shimanoumi – Another great first time match between an veteran Makuuchi mainstay who is holding his own this tournament, and a young, hard charging rikishi who seems to have some good upside potential. I give experience a small advantage here.

Kotoshogiku vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze won his first 5, and has dropped the last 2. The main weakness of his opponent today is poor strength from his lower body. If he can overpower Kotoshogiku after the tachiai, the veteran may not have enough strength to slow him down.

Onosho vs Takarafuji – I am looking for Takarafuji, who has excellent mobility, to take full advantages of Onosho’s apparent balance problems. Onosho will be well served to keep Takarafuji in front of me, and to overpower him early and keep moving him back.

Asanoyama vs Endo – Both are going to go yotsu, and it’s going to be fantastic. Endo is the far more versatile rikishi, and I expect that he will set the tone of the match. Asanoyama will try to keep it in his comfort zone, but I expect Endo to try for that shallow / mae-mitzu straight from the tachiai.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – Although Hokutofuji holds a career 7-1 advantage over Aoiyama, I am expecting this to be a real brawl. Hokutofuji is looking more composed and more on point than he has in a long time, but Aoiyama has upped his sumo prior to Nagoya and is showing excellent balance and ring sense.

Abi vs Ryuden – At some point Abi-zumo is going to come roaring back, and this might be the day, as Abi holds a 3-1 career advantage over Ryuden. Ryuden has been leading with his head the past two days, and maybe that might be slowing him down.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Both are in the hunt group, both are fighting well, and both are my favorite to win this match. Mitakeumi does hold a7-4 career advantage on the Boulder.

Goeido vs Meisei – If Goeido loses to Meisei, he’s really really hurt his ankle. This is like a bait minnow you feed to your bigger, fancy fish. You feel a bit sorry for it, but you know your fish needs to eat.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two used to beat each other senseless occupying the Sekiwake ranks, and their career record is 12-12. If Takayasu is going to contend for the cup, he needs this win.

Kakuryu vs Daieisho – I am expecting a straight-forward win for the Yokozuna.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Given how much I deride Shodai, you would think I am going to make some quip about The Boss catapulting him back to toon town. But this is a very serious, very important match that I think is a must-win for Hakuho. Not only because he wants “yet another yusho”, but I think he may be near the limit of what his body can support for this basho. He needs his 8th win before he starts knocking heads against Takayasu, Mitakeumi and Tamawashi. So he’s got to beat Shodai, and I expect him to use every psych-out and mind game in his considerable arsenal to make sure Shodai defeats himself before the tachiai. Bonus points to Kakuryu if he can give his tachi-moshi one hell of a pep talk today.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview

Hey, Shin-Ikioi… Get Ready

We are only up to day 4, and we already have some very interesting developments in the basho. Ryuden is up today vs The Boss, and while I don’t expect him to beat Hakuho, I am curious to see how much of a challenge he presents. His sumo has taken on some great techniques that I think are going to cause all kinds of havoc in his lower ranking week 2 matches.

We also seem to have a switch in Takayasu’s sumo to a more deliberate, powerful style. I suspect this was forged in endless practice sessions with Araiso Oyakata, and it seems to still be settling in. We might see some very nice results in September, and better still in November if he can stick with it, and make it work.

Tomokaze is showing fantastic sumo, and I think he has a lot of potential. As we have been communicating at Tachiai, we are in an evolving transitional period in sumo, and it’s starting to become clear who some of the stars of the next era of sumo are likely to be, and I think Tomokaze could be a star.

Last but certainly not least, even though he comes to the dohyo heavily bandaged each day, Enho is a force in sumo at this rank. The question remains open as to what happens to him once he is placed higher up the banzuke. He is so amazingly fast, and never ever gives up. The crowd loves him, and so does Team Tachiai.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Toyonoshima vs Kaisei – Kaisei is finally done with those pesky short guys and their hyper-speed sumo. That right arm looks like it is a constant bother, so we know he is competing at less than genki levels. Toyonoshima needs a win in a bad way, and he holds a 6-2 career advantage over Kaisei, though their last head to head match was 2016!

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie fight! This should be a giant pile of ultra awesome early in the top division day. I expect a lot of action, a lot of changes in who is dictating the match, and possible a few “did you see that” moves.

Chiyomaru vs Yago – While I have confidence that Chiyomaru can get his sumo in gear by the middle weekend and still end up with 7 or 8 wins, it seems something has broken lose in Yago-land, and his sumo is suffering. The guy has all of the tools needed to dominate this low in the banzuke, so I am going to assume its mostly some undisclosed injury.

Kotoyuki vs Sadanoumi – Kotoyuki went back to the shitaku-beya following his match, feeling like something was missing. Yes, he was unable to great the fine people who had made it to the venue to watch sumo. He had not been able to land his large, sweaty form in the middle of well connected ladies and high ranking corporate executives, and this left him feeling down. Today will be the day, Kotoyuki let your dreams take flight!

Kagayaki vs Nishikigi – I am sorry, but this match has me really interested. Nishikigi has been strong but slow since May, and Kagayaki was a dumpster fire for all of Natsu. Now Kagayaki seems to gotten most of his sumo back, and is ready to fight with limited gusto. I am sure Nishikigi will hug the nearest blurry object, and pin their arms to his body, then walk forward. I want to see Kagayaki do something unexpected here.

Tochiozan vs Takagenji – As Tochiozan ages out, his “hot” streaks are fewer and further between. Takagenji seems to be on a hot streak of his own right now. and his sumo looks better than I have recalled seeing it in over a year.

Shohozan vs Kotoeko – A’slappin and a’poundin and a’smackin and a’shovin. This match has all of the goodies one hopes to see on a day at “The Sumo”. Shohozan is eventually going to get it in gear. Maybe today is the day.

Daishoho vs Okinoumi – Also in the “aging out” group we find Okinoumi. This is his first ever match against the winless Daishoho. I would expect that the man who put Shimane-ken in the sumo lexicon will dominate over the hapless Mongolian.

Myogiryu vs Onosho – Career favors Onosho 3-1, but Onosho can’t keep his weight centered since his knee injury. Unless he gets his balance down, its going to be face plant after face plant. Oh, and bring back that red mawashi. Whatever kami was in that thing was a real fighter.

Tomokaze vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi has yet to take one from Tomokaze, who I am thinking will be a force for the future. Hell, Shimanoumi might be too, but he needs a bit of seasoning.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyotairyu – Oh goodie, this one is lopsided for the Kyushu Bulldozer, as Kotoshogiku leads the career series 13-1. Not that Chiyotairyu lacks any power or fighting spirit, but Kotoshogiku seems very dialed in right now.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – Bruce want monster-Ichinojo to pick up puny Takarafuji and take him home to meet the pony. (11-2 carer favors Ichinojo)

Aoiyama vs Meisei – I was not expecting Meisei to open Nagoya 0-3 (I am sure neither was he). Save for the one match with Goeido, Aoiyama has looked in form and powerful. I don’t expect Meisei to correct the slide today.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Readers of Tachiai know how I feel about Shodai. He’s nearly as annoying as Endo in the breaks he gets, but without the good looks or technical sumo chops. But he does tend to blow Mitakeumi up. I am sure this really annoys Mitakeumi, too.

Endo vs Tamawashi – I think this is the match where Tamawashi overcomes his extensive, explosive and crippling ring-rust. 0-3? Come on! Go smack Endo the Golden around, I am sure he does not want another interview this basho, so help him get a make-koshi, if you would.

Daieisho vs Tochinoshin – A sumo fan using the wonderful sumodb might assume that the schedulers had given Tochinoshin a lovely cupcake with his match today against Daieisho. But I am going to assume that Tochinoshin’s injuries are performance limiting enough that this is more or less a bit of a “decider”. If you can’t overcome Daieisho, maybe you need to go kyujo. Let’s see if Tochinoshin can rally.

Asanoyama vs Takayasu – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, than you for blessing your humble sumo fans with this match. We hope that it involves two burly men grabbing each other bodily and trying to toss the other one around. Grant us our pleas that we might see yet another Takayasu rematch, and an endless shimpan parade.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – Both of these men like to blast off the line with the subtlety of a bowling ball to the crotch. What he hell happens at a quantum level where these two guys slam into each other? I do expect that yet again, Hokutofuji will fight brilliantly, but lose. This seems to be the stage he is in right now with his sumo career.

Kakuryu vs Abi – Kakuryu is looking really good right now, and I am eager to see him play with Abi before he puts him into the clay. But you have to love Abi, the guy really gets pumped when it’s time for his match, and it’s really clear that he has a lot of fun with the sport.

Ryuden vs Hakuho – Oh good heavens! This has the potential to be quite the battle. Hakuho seems to only be about 80% genki, and that may be degraded enough that Ryuden can put him in that pain-pose that he has been using for the last dozen or so matches. Of course we have all seen Hakuho use it in the past, so I am hoping he has some special magical moves to counter it with a flourish and a thud.