Osaka Day 9 Preview

Time for day 9, the day I originally predicted might be the final day of this basho. Given the slow forward grind of COVID-19 in the world, there was a brave attempt made to conduct this Osaka tournament, in spite of the risk to the over 600 men competing. A number of new rules were put in place to keep everyone as safe as they could, and allow the competition to go forward. There have been a few withdraw with fevers, the most high profile of which is none other than Chiyomaru. Is it influenza? a cold? the dreaded doom virus? Well, we won’t know any time soon. So let’s just wish him well and press ahead. I am sure there will be plenty of time later to worry about it once the tests are back.

It’s time to start week 2, and our march toward next Sunday’s awarding of the Emperor’s Cup. In spite of the concern and lack of crowd, the sumo will go on. During the second week, some of the veterans may run low on stamina, and some of the rikishi with a lot on the line may lose their mental edge. It’s a fascinating time to be a sumo fan – who has the steel to accelerate into the final weekend?

With Chiyomaru out, we get a Juryo rikishi visiting to fill the torikumi. No, not Terunofuji, none other than Kise heya’s Hidenoumi, who was last seen in the top division at Osaka 2018, where he finished with a pride obliterating 3-12. Still, it nice to see him, even if just for a day, and we hope he has a good match.

High interest matches today? Asanoyama has to beat Shodai in the Sekiwake battle, Takakeisho needs to gamberize and win against “Big Unit” Yutakayama, and Hokutofuji takes on Mitakeumi in a match that may feature a lot of action.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunter Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Ishiura, Kotonowaka

8 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Kotonowaka vs Hidenoumi – Welcome back for the day, Hidenoumi. We know it’s been a while, so with any luck you will rally and make a return to the top division this year. Kotonowaka as split the series 1-1 with you, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen today.

Azumaryu vs Daiamami – Daiamami has lost 2 of the last 3, and Azumaryu has lost 3 of the last 4. It’s a battle to try and save a kachi-koshi for these two today.

Kaisei vs Meisei – After a terrible start, Kaisei has won 4 of the last 5, and I think his Newtonian sumo is going to continue strong today in his first ever match against struggling Meisei, who clocks in with an astonishing disadvantage of 70 kg. Advice to Meisei – go find a music store and spend a couple hours bench pressing whatever pianos they have in the showroom.

Ishiura vs Ikioi – In spite of his age, and apparent bodily damage, Ikioi has been doing well. He has split the prior 6 matches with Ishiura 6-6, but I hope his normal high-energy tachiai is tempered today, as Ishiura may be feeling henka-envy from his stable mate Enho.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi come in with 4-4 records, and are looking to get closer to the magic 8. Both can work in high-mobility matches, so I expect this one will be a running fight that will come down to who loses balance first.

Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Oh my this is a good one. Both of them big, strong and quite genki this March. Both have solid winning records, and if Aoiyama wins today, its his kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – These two have met 41 times over the years, and Kotoshogiku holds a 1 match edge after all of that. But today is not a good day to put that rivalry to the test. Its clear that Tochiozan is a shade of his normal self, and will offer only token resistance to Kotoshogiku, provided the Kyushu Bulldozer has any mojo left in those knees.

Shohozan vs Nishikigi – A loss today, and Nishikigi is make-koshi. Sad though it is, its pretty obvious he too is hurt.

Takanosho vs Tamawashi – Also prominently featured in the “likely damaged” list is Tamawashi, who comes into day 9 with just 2 wins. A Takanosho victory would be kachi-koshi for him. This is their first ever match.

Takarafuji vs Kiribayama – Another glorious first time meeting, veteran and patience sumo master Takarafuji will take on Kakuryu’s stable mate Kiribayama. Both are in good shape to make their 8 wins this March, and I am interested to see if Takarafuji’s defensive style is less effective against Kiribayama, given his training sessions with Yokozuna Kakuryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – One day, maybe today, Sadanoumi’s speed sumo is going to be the deciding factor in a match. He has to win 5 of the next 7 matches for a kachi-koshi, where Kagayaki only needs 3.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – 24 career matches between these two, and where did it get them? Even at 12-12. Both of them are having terrible tournaments, with Tochinoshin one bad fall from a extended outage with that gamey leg, and lord knows what is hampering Myogiryu. Should Myogiryu lose today, that would be his 8th and a make-koshi.

Onosho vs Tokushoryu – Much as we have loved the Tokushoryu Cinderella story, a loss today and the Hatsu yusho winner will be make-koshi. He seems to have reverted to mostly Juryo class sumo, rather than his winning style in Tokyo. Onosho is still on a solid path for a kachi-koshi, which might put him closer to the named ranks. I am eagerly hoping for Onosho – Takakeisho battle in week 2.

Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Both of these rikishi have managed to keep a respectable record through the first half of the basho, and both have a kachi-koshi in reach. If Okinoumi can make it to 8, it would be his highest ranked kachi-koshi since 2016. He leads their career series 10-4.

Enho vs Endo – Its the Ishikawa home town battle of the cutest, and which one will end up the most kawaii? Their only other match up (Hatsu), Enho was declared fairest of the land.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – I expect Hokutofuji to continue to work on “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” today, although I have to ask what the hell happened to Mitakeumi on day 8. They are evenly matched, but right now Hokutofuji needs to win 6 out of the next 7 to save his position at a named rank.

Asanoyama vs Shodai – The Sekiwake fight we have anticipated. Shodai shrugged off his his losses on day 5,6 and 7 to bounce back against Ryuden. He could well and truly destroy Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid for March with a win today. I am sure Asanoyama knows this, so this is a great test of how he performs in the clutch.

Takakeisho vs Yutakayama – These two oshi-zumo hard hitters are going head to head, and they have only met once before (Takakeisho win). Given some of the visuals from day 8, Takakeisho might not be quite alright. I am going to guess Yutakayama will go low and inside at the tachiai and try to shut down the tsuppari machine before the first wave.

Abi vs Kakuryu – Is Abi even healthy enough for this match? He looked a bit shattered at the end of his match with Hakuho on day 8, and I have to wonder if that knee is going to make it the final 7 days. Fingers crossed.

Hakuho vs Ryuden – Calling it now, Ryuden gets a flying lesson. Hakuho continues his march towards 15.

Ozeki Train Wreck, Part 7, Takakeisho

Image From The Japan Sumo Association Twitter Feed

The last of the Ozeki corps facing a tough November tournament is none other than the grand tadpole, Takakeisho. After a string of dominant tournaments and a yusho, Takakeisho has found himself bouncing from injury to unfortunate injury since achieving Ozeki. A lower body injury in May sidelined him for most of the Natsu basho, and completely out of Nagoya. He returned to competition in September as an Ozekiwake, needing 10 wins to return to rank, which he picked up easily, finishing 12-3, securing his 3rd jun-yusho and competing in a senshuraku playoff for the cup. Sadly during that final playoff match against Mitakeumi, Takakeisho suffered a muscle tear to his left pectoral muscle and has been working to recover since.

Though not as severe as the tear that ended Kisenosato’s career, the extensive bruising left sumo fans worried that he might never return to good health. Skipping the fall jungyo tour, Takakeisho focused on healing his body and keeping his sumo sharp. He did not return to practice until November 1st, a short 8 days before the start of the tournament.

Since then, he has been fighting well, but not without concern to the ichimon Oyakata. He began by fighting the likes of Takanosho, Kagayaki and Onosho, winning more than he lost. His training sessions have been punctuated by bouts of pain in his left pectoral muscles, causing him to sit out on some practice matches. In recent days, Takakeisho has resumed matches against the likes of Maegashira 1 Daieisho, finishing 10-3. While the sumo elders overseeing the work up to Kyushu are starting to be more optimistic about Takakeisho, he is clearly going to need to nurse his left side in every match.

Team Tachiai loves that compact powerhouse of an Ozeki, and hopes he can come through at Kyushu in good form with no new injuries or physical problems. With both Yokozuna looking healthy, Takakeisho will face strong competition on his way to 8 wins.

Aki Jungyo: Absent Sektori

The Nihon Sumo Kyokai announced eight wrestlers will not participate in the upcoming Fall tour (Jungyo). The tour is scheduled to begin on 10/5 in Ishikawa prefecture and end in Hiroshima prefecture on 10/27. Several popular top wrestlers will not participate due to injury while Takanofuji is listed as well, due to the ongoing bullying drama, in spite of his refusal to submit his resignation.

Aki Jungyo Injury Update

From the top division, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, and Tomokaze will be absent, and sorely missed. It’s a bit of a surprise that Tochinoshin will participate in the tour and not focus on recuperation. When the tour hits Kyushu, he will need to repeat his feat from this summer where he won 10 bouts as Sekiwake to reclaim his Ozeki status. Kadoban Takayasu will need to win 8 with his seriously damaged arm to avoid a similar fate in January.

From Juryo, there will be several missing wrestlers, including the fore-mentioned Takanofuji. Two Kokonoe wrestlers, Chiyoshoma and Chiyonoumi will miss the tour, along with Kyokushuho and Seiro. As Leonid mentioned in his Aki Wrap-Up article, Seiro and Chiyonoumi are headed back to Makushita.

Tachiai wishes all of the injured rikishi a full recovery and an awesome Kyushu.

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?