Aki Day 4 Recap – Casualties and Bloodshed

aoiyama-hokutofuji
Aoiyama pushed by Hokutofuji – yet another casualty

Day 4 is the day where the injuries start to make appearances in the top division. While yesterday we had to bid goodby to Seiro from Juryo, today Kyokutaisei announced his kyujo, and Aoiyama may be the next one in line.

The bouts of the day start at the very bottom with Ishiura facing Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma lands a firm morotezuki on both of Ishiura’s shoulders, to keep the Miyagino man from trying to get to the front of his mawashi. He follows this with a quick pull for a hatakikomi. But Chiyoshoma being Chiyoshoma, he just can’t keep his hands to himself and as Ishiura starts to rise, adds a hearty slap to the little man’s back that nearly sends him off the dohyo. Because what’s the best way to celebrate an easy win if not a good dame-oshi?

Kotoyuki decided to wear his light-cyan mawashi again, saying that the purple one, which served him when his girth was greater, is now too long and doesn’t fit well. Apparently, with a mawashi that fits, winning is easier. Apparently, it helps when you are faced with Chiyomaru, who is looking out of sorts so far this basho. Kotoyuki finishes him off with a few thrusts. Oshidashi.

I don’t know what the cause of Yoshikaze‘s ugly rash is, but it appears to be a +2 Blessed Rash of Victory, because the berserker keeps winning this basho. His rival today is Takanoiwa, who looked good in the first two days of the basho, and is now 2:2. Takanoiwa is not bad off the tachiai, but Yoshikaze just starts his engine and steamrolls him out of the dohyo, making sure the Mongolian is out before rolling head over heels himself.

Nishikigi looks very good this basho. He overcomes Takanosho‘s nodowa, lifts his opponent and starts a convincing tsuppari that brings his opponent to the rim. However, Takanosho manages to grab his arm and pull him down, giving him his first loss, by tsukiotoshi.

At this point Ryuden gets his freebie in the bout he was supposed to have with Kyokutaisei.

Okinoumi seems to be in control of the bout with Daieisho from the tachiai. Kachiage, then some tsuppari, then he encircles Daieisho and walks him over to the rim. But in doing so, he shifts too much of his own weight to one leg, and Daieisho uses that to twist him and reverse the outcome, winning by makiotoshi.

Hokutofuji slams into Aoiyama at the tachiai with that iron right hand of his. It seems the Bulgarian had his breath knocked out of him –  he doesn’t even try to start his own tsuppari, just stumbles backwards and falls off the dohyo with little assistance from the astonished Hokutofuji. While falling, he somehow hurts his ankle and finds it hard to rise back. The kachinanori – calling of the winner’s name and awarding of kensho if any – takes place without waiting for him to come up the dohyo and bow first. He goes to the shitaku-beya on his own feet, and later leaves the Kokugikan entering the awaiting car on his own feet – but he refuses to answer questions from the press, who report he looks in pain. Keep your eyes on the kyujo lists tomorrow.

Daishomaru drives his head into Sadanoumi‘s chest. Sadanoumi is not impressed, and moves forward. Daishomaru tries to circle around, but somehow steps outside before Sadanoumi gets off balance and falls forward. Sadanoumi wins, not a quality bout.

But the next bout, between Kotoshogiku and Shohozan, is certainly worth viewing several times over. Shohozan leads with his head into the former Ozeki’s chest at the tachiai, and gains a morozashi. Kotoshogiku quickly performs a makikae (switch from overhand to underhand) and operates his pelvic pistons. Shohozan turns and twists, but Kotoshogiku does not let go, and continues the chugging. Eventually Shohozan uses those artillery-grade guns to pull the pump off his feet – uwatedashinage. Good entertainment.

Takarafuji looks a bit hesitant off the tachiai. Perhaps he thought it was a matta. Tochiozan takes advantage of this, takes control of the match and drives the Isegahama man out, securing his first win this basho. Not a good day for that heya, by the way. All three of its sekitori lost.

Myogiryu gets Onosho in a lengthy nodowa, which he then converts into a pull for a hikiotoshi. This is Onosho’s third loss, and he is doing a lot worse than most of us would have thought. Also, it doesn’t look related to his injury. His game is just not as sharp as we would have expected, especially given his pre-basho practice sessions.

Asanoyama has Kagayaki chest to ample chest very quickly. One would think, with Kagayaki being the oshi-man and Asanoyama a yotsu-man, that this would give the advantage to the Takasago rikishi. But Kagayaki is not fazed, moves quickly this way and that, and eventually gets Asanoyama off-balance and down with a kotenage. As the NHK announcers noted, this leaves only two Maegashira with a clean slate: Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze.

Yesterday, I was afraid Shodai will get back into his old tachiai habit. He did his “good boy” stance, with his weight on his fists, and was awarded with a win. But to my relief, today again he started his tachiai on his feet rather than on his fists. Abi started up with his usual morotezuki. Landed a few thrusts – or were they nodowa? – at Shodai, who knew the drill: wait for an opening, grab a long arm, then get into your own game. In Shodai’s case, his own game is a morozashi and a yori-kiri. NHK showed footage of Shikoroyama oyakata in his Terao days, in which he engaged in a beautiful yotsu bout with his sworn rival. Why doesn’t he teach Abi some of that, then?

Endo keeps Chiyonokuni at bay, tries once or twice to get a grip, but when that doesn’t work, simply pushes him out with an oshidashi. Not a spectacular bout, but at least Endo secures his first win.

Now comes what was supposed to be a big bout – two Sekiwake facing each other in the first week. But Ichinojo is like a box of chocolates (in more ways than one). He tries to do something at the tachiai, but from there he just goes backwards and backwards, and over the bales. Mitakeumi fans will put that down to the might of the future Ozeki. I just think Ichinojo woke up today with his lower back acting up.

Put up Tamawashi against Tochinoshin, and you know that trouble is brewing. Tamawashi denies Tochinoshin the belt. A wild exchange ensues, and eventually Tochinoshin tries for a pull down, at which point it’s not clear whether Tamawashi’s elbow or Tochinoshin’s heel touched first. A monoii is called. Somehow through all this Tochinoshin bruises his eye and starts bleeding profusely. By the time the shimpan conference is over, it seems that the bleeding has stopped (it wouldn’t do to bleed on the dohyo). The shimpan call for a torinaoshi.

The torinaoshi starts with a heavy slam, after which Tamawashi is the one leading the attack. But Tochinoshin takes advantage of his uncontrolled forward motion and finishes with a tsukiotoshi. Tamawashi still doesn’t have a win this basho. Tochinoshin’s eye starts bleeding again, and doesn’t stop as he steps down and waits to give the chikara-mizu. I hope all his facial bones are in one piece.

Takayasu wrecking-balls into Takakeisho at the tachiai, then holds the bowling-ball’s face in his hand for a couple of seconds, debating in his head whether to rip it off or just rattle him to death. Eventually he decides that murder will not be acceptable, and just dumps him. Takakeisho once again finds himself doing less than dignified splits on the dohyo. Easy one for the grizzly bear.

Goeido and Ikioi starts off with a mighty clash of craniums (ouch). Ikioi starts a tsuppari and Goeido retreats, then pulls sideways. Ikioi falls like a stone. Hikiotoshi for the Ozeki.

Kisenosato and Kaisei enter into a heavy yotsu battle. Neither seems able to get a full mawashi grip, though. They each hold one side, and do whatever they can to deny the other. Kaisei is the first to get a firm grip on both sides, but Kisenosato uses his experience to shake that hand off again. Kisenosato then achieves his own double handed grip, and starts pushing the Brazilian to the edge. He has to summon every ounce of stamina to push the heavy man out, but eventually he does so, and stays perfect – though, like Tochinoshin, bleeding. Kaisei, as he heads down the hanamichi, does this:

kaisei-after-kisenosato

“At least I am extending my record” he later responds to the press mentioning the fact that this is the 35th loss he has vs. a Yokozuna (0 wins).

Hakuho starts for the third day in a row without any tricks or shticks. No harite in sight, just goes straight in for a grip. Only, he can’t get that grip on the bulky Chiyotairyu. He gets inside, but it’s a hidari-yotsu (left hand inside), and he is a migi-yotsu man. For a few moments he tries for the mawashi with his left hand, the right hand hanging in the air above Chiyotairyu’s arm. Then he gives up, slips out, catching the mawashi with his empty right hand, then executing an uwatenage. There is always a plan B. And a plan C.

Kakuryu and Yutakayama clash heads (oof, again), and the Yokozuna doesn’t give Yutakayama much time before he grabs his mawashi with his right hand, pulls aside and spins him around, then pushes him outside the dohyo. Nothing that Yutakayama tries to do makes any difference.

 

Aki Day 3 Preview

Kisenosato - Takakiesho Aki 2018

For anyone who has been a sumo fan for the last couple of years, Aki 2018 is a welcome departure from the normal. It has been along time since this many of sumo’s top competitors were all present at the start of a tournament. Given that some of them are in less than perfect health, we may not see them at the end of act 3, but this is a great and exciting way to start a basho. The Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have not only shown up, they are competing with vigor, energy and skill. Sadly for the Komusubi and Sekiwake (as well as Maegashira 1-3), this means that they take the full brunt of being warm up cannon fodder for the Yokozuna and Ozeki. Excellent rikishi like Takakeisho and Tamawashi will find it hard to reach kachi-koshi, let alone some of the 10 win figures seen earlier this year. That spells trouble for Mitakeumi’s Ozeki bid, as we will likely see him face all 6 of the Yokozuna and Ozeki starting soon.

The other thing that has caught my eye is just how well the “Freshmen” are fighting this tournament. This is the cohort that includes Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Kagayaki and Abi. Sure, Yutakayama is winless so far because he is a Yokozuna chew-toy. But he is moving well, putting together excellent matches and generally showing some solid sumo. It’s going to be a while before we see these rikishi make their way to being headliners, but it’s great to see them showing a lot of promise early on.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Kotoyuki vs Yoshikaze – Kotoyuki has looked a half step behind both days, and we can’t help but wonder if he is going to snap out of it and present a credible challenge in any of his matches. Yoshikaze, however, seems to have recovered a great deal of his genki, and has been back to his old power levels thus far. Kotoyuki holds a 6-3 career advantage over Yoshikaze, so maybe today is the day “Mr 5×5” recovers.

Takanoiwa vs Nishikigi – If you did not see Nishikigi’s day 2 match, go watch it now. Nishikigi is the poster boy of calm and polite. But on day 2 he was positively aggressive – kind of a shock, but a welcome one. But speaking of aggressive, lets see what he does with Takanoiwa! Both men come into the match with 2-0, and tied career wise at 2-2.

Kyokutaisei vs Daieisho – Kyokutaisei seems to be stuck right now, and he has nothing but kuroboshi to show right now. Fans will recall he started Nagoya the same way, taking it to 5 straight losses. He holds a career 4-2 lead over Daieisho, so maybe today is the day he gets into the win column. It could also be the case that he has family in Hokkaido, and the disaster there may be occupying his thoughts.

Aoiyama vs Sadanoumi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama is also in the winless column, and I think he may be feeling the pain of injuries. We have yet to see him unleash his overwhelming upper body strength, and he has been even slower than normal moving around the dohyo. Sadanoumi comes in straight from giving Okinoumi a good fight.

Daishomaru vs Kotoshogiku – One of the strange results of Kotoshogiku being this far down the banzuke is that he is fighting some familiar rikishi for the first time. Today it’s Daishomaru. Thus far Kotoshogiku has been moving well, and seems to not be in pain. His motions are smooth and efficient, and he would seem to be locked in to his sumo.

Takarafuji vs Hokutofuji – Today’s fight of the fujis, what I am going to look for is Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, and Takarafuji to take it chest to chest. Takarafuji is a great technical wrestler, and seems to always have a careful plan of how to win. Hokutofuji seems to be more of a “hold my beer” kind of rikishi, who decides he is going to try something fast and violet and work with whatever emerges.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Both of these guys are zero wins? Strangely enough, yes. Onosho especially has looked to be only about 80% thus far. I am going to assume that at some point his sumo will click and he will pick up a good number of wins, enough to remain in the top division anyhow. Tochiozan’s matches have boiled down to a few choices that did not break his way, so I am expecting him to leverage his 3-1 career advantage and possibly rack his first win.

Kagayaki vs Shohozan – Big Guns will take his daily brawl to Kagayaki’s school of sumo. Both of them come in 1-1, but out of their 8 prior matches, Kagayaki has won 6 of them. I am going to be watching to see if Kagayaki can set up his preferred thrusting position center mass, inside of Shohozan’s wood-chipper style tsuppari.

Asanoyama vs Abi – Both men with 2 wins, career series tied at 1-1. What’s going to be the edge here? Lord knows. First off Abi is tough to handicap. As Herouth pointed out, everyone knows about his “One Weird Trick”, but he is still getting away with it. Asanoyama has brought a lot more speed to his sumo this year, but it’s nothing compared to Abi’s stick-insect inspired sumo.

Chiyonokuni vs Myogiryu – Another fun match for day 3, two very high intensity rikishi are going to try to move up from their 1-1 records. I am going to look for Chiyonokuni to surge early, and try to close the match before Myogiryu can set up his offense. Chiyonokuni will want to stay mobile and use his superior reach. Should be a slap fest worthy of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Shodai vs Endo – Another great enigma, at least we know that one of these two deserving rikishi will exit the match with a win. Both of them are fighting well, but have lost their first two. Shodai may have been robbed on day 2 when the fact that his tachiai has improved resulted in a matta. I want to see Shodai do it again, be fast and low. Don’t worry about your score today, get the mechanics right.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Tamawashi will try a kotenage. The big question being, will Mitakeumi fall for it? Career advantage is 12-2 in Mitakeumi’s favor, but to me his sumo has looked a bit tentative thus far. We are still in act 1, so there is plenty of time for him to dial it up.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – This will likely be a very sloppy battle of the bellies, starting with an earth-shattering tachiai. In spite of the pain and injuries, Takayasu is managing to rack the shiroboshi so far. His sumo is still wild and chaotic, which is just begging for another mechanical injury. Chiyotairyu struggles this high up in the banzuke, where it’s tougher to win matches just by being enormous and smashing into people at the tachiai. Takayasu leads their career series 8-3.

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Well, Ichinojo tried the “Bad Pony” technique again on day 2, but it fell flat. Goeido managed to win one, but he still looked a half step behind. It will be easy to get the jump on Ichinojo, but I like how he is not giving up at the tawara right now. They are more or less tied over their career.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – Takakeisho was fired up day 2, and nearly overwhelmed Kisenosato. He is a terrifying ball of energy in a compact spherical package, which may be trouble for Tochinoshin. Thus far the injured kadoban Ozeki has been fighting well, and has been very careful with his overwhelming strength; enough to win, but just enough. Interestingly enough, Takakeisho leads their career matches 3-1.

Kaisei vs Hakuho – Day 2 Kaisei took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, and Kakuryu showed him how well tended the east side hanamichi is. He has never defeated Hakuho, who is hiding whatever pain and stiffness he might have well. I am predicting a return voyage to the lap of someone in the front row.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi is strong, and seems to be willing to sacrifice his body to do what it takes to win. But Yokozuna Kakuryu is the master of reactive sumo, so he will play with Ikioi, stalemating him until he makes a mistake. Kakuryu may be the one to beat this tournament.

Kisenosato vs Yutakayama – Last match of the day features Kisenosato taking on the head of the Freshman class. Each basho Yutakayama shows up bigger, stronger, and with improvements in his sumo. He is winless right now, but I view him as a formidable opponent. This is their first match, and I am (as always) just hoping no one gets hurt.

Aki Day 2 – Recap

Another excellent day has rolled out of the Ryogoku Kokugikan. I’ll refer to Ura’s revival bout and Enho’s survival bout in my separate lower division post (if I succeed in writing it – I have a family dinner this evening…). But for the time being, here is what the top division provided us with.

tochinoshin-yutakayama

Kotoyuki starts with a morotezuki (thrust with both hands off the tachiai), but Chiyoshoma is already to his left, and gets him going, gone, gone. Kotoyuki says Chiyoshoma employed a henka. Chiyoshoma says he didn’t, and he is happy with his own sumo. It was a hit and shift, I would say.

Ishiura plants his head, securing his left hand on Yoshikaze‘s mawashi. But while doing so, he  loses ground, and Yoshikaze quickly disposes of him. It looked like Ishiura was trying to imitate Enho’s earlier bout vs. Hakuyozan.

It’s Takanosho and Ryuden‘s first meeting. Takanosho blocks Ryuden from getting his famous morozashi (grip with both hands inside), but that doesn’t disturb Ryuden’s thrusts. Takanosho says he concentrated too much on his ottsuke and failed to move forward.

Chiyomaru can hardly move this basho. Takanoiwa is unmoved by his morotezuki, quickly secures his favorite grip, then starts a low gaburi (hip pump).

Okinoumi doesn’t give Sadanoumi any opening. A couple of tsuppari, then secures a morozashi, and yorikiri.

Nishikigi seems to be posessed. He begins with a not more than decent tachiai and a bit of tsuppari, then suddenly shoves Kyokutaisei all the way to the third row. Where is Nishikigi-mama? Who is that murderous bully in the green mawashi?

There’s not much to say about Hokutofuji vs. Daieisho. Daieisho’s foot slipped on the layer of salt. 

Daishomaru does a half-henka, and Aoiyama finds himself biting dust.

Takarafuji determined to win, even though he doesn’t get his favorite grip. He does manage to keep Shohozan from executing his killer tsuppari with a right ottsuke, and pushes him away.

Kotoshogiku slams into Tochiozan, and gets him out without leaving him any breathing space. It’s the best Kotoshogiku has looked in a long time.

Kagayaki and Myogiryu are stalemated in the first few seconds of the match, when Myogiryu manages to pierce Kagayaki’s left side, pushes forward, adding a hazu attack on the other side, and disposes of the golden boy.

Asanoyama‘s bout with Onosho was hot. They clash mightily at the tachiai, with Onosho slapping at Asanoyama’s face, floating way above his head. Onosho tries to pull and thrust Asanoyama down. Asanoyama keeps his balance and momentarily gets Onosho into a grip. Onosho releases himself, at least partially, but Asanoyama stays close and keeps the pressure all the way to the rim. Exciting sumo.

Konosuke calls a matta that didn’t look like a matta in the Chiyonokuni vs. Shodai bout. Perhaps one of Shodai’s hands didn’t quite touch but…

I think what threw Konosuke off was the fact that Shodai changed his tachiai. Shodai used to always have his fists on the ground like a good boy, waiting for his rival to quickly imprint his – which is why he would take ages to get into a fighting stance. And here we have Shodai waiting, hands in the air, his weight on his feet rather than on all four of his limbs. I think in the second time his hands touched even less than in the first. But anyway, Konosuke let it continue.

Chiyonokuni throws some of his signature tsuppari, goes in, goes out, Shodai’s forward inertia makes him fall forward, and Chiyonokuni wins. Huge bandaging on his left arm, remnant of his encounter with Tamawashi in the previous basho.

Shodai must be frustrated – here he goes and fixes the one thing that was really wrong in his sumo, but he still can’t manage to win. I hope he sticks to it, though, because once he adjusts he could finally level up to his real potential.

Who said that everybody has figured out Abi‘s single weird trick? Endo apparently hasn’t. Abi with a morotezuki. Abi with fierce though slow tsuppari making use of his immense reach. Abi wins.

Chiyotairyu nearly gets Mitakeumi with a fierce kachiage followed by heavy tsuppari. Mitakeumi manages to slip a hand in and slide sideways, buying time. Chiyotairyu attacks again, but this time Mitakeumi is stronger and sends him outside. Mitakeumi said that he kept his cool on the dohyo, but his matta prior to the bout kind of belies that.

Goeido tries a harizashi, but he doesn’t have Hakuho’s speed. Tamawashi starts a fierce tsuppari attack, and Goeido defends, finally finding an opening for his left hand, whereupon it’s his game.

Yutakayama manages to deny Tochinoshin his grip for a few seconds, but he keeps going backwards all the time. Eventually Tochinoshin secures his grip, and from then it’s just a question of time – though he does let go of one of his hands to give Yutakayama the final push, as the latter has very strong toes holding on to the tawara.

Ichinojo is not moved by Takayasu‘s kachiage. Neither can land a grip and instead go for a pushing attack, which goes wilder and wilder until the Ozeki has his entire body driving the Sekiwake out. I’m sure the yobidashi will have to do something about the depression left in the floor next to the shimpan.

Kakuryu splashes into Kaisei‘s big body at the tachiai, easily grabbing his mawashi with his left hand, then shifts to the left, using the Brazilian’s own inertia as well as that mawashi grip to get behind him, and then carefully leads him out. Kaisei simply wasn’t in this bout, and really seems to always forget to take his talent out of his akeni when he is matched with Kakuryu.

Takakeisho is totally fearless. Starts with a murderous tsuppari attack, then tries to get the Yokozuna off balance. He grabs the Yokozuna’s left arm and tries to hurl him across the dohyo. Then when that fails goes for another attack. But this basho, Kisenosato is a lot more calm and collected than he was in previous basho. First, he defends against that hurl by a well positioned foot against the tawara. Then when Takakeisho tries his next attack, he spots the overcommitment – ever the bowling ball’s problem – and lets him fly outside with an expression on his face of “Boy, I’ve dealt with worse”.

Hakuho gets a grip quickly, but Ikioi actually has him moving backwards, being able to transfer power through the ground better than the Yokozuna. He even lifts him somewhat and shifts him sideways, when the dai-yokozuna employs plan B, wriggles away and throws his mimic to the ground. 900 bouts as a Yokozuna, 794 wins.

 

Aki Day 2 Preview

Kisenosato Aki 2018

Day 1 gave us great sumo, but few surprises. With plenty of ring-rust left to shed, fans can expect some of the unexpected in the first 5 days. Will day 2 deliver?

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ishiura vs Yoshikaze – Tough to believe, but it seems this is the first time these two have fought. Ishiuran is still struggling to figure out what his kind of sumo will be, and Yoshikaze looks like he just wants to go sit in an onsen until that rash clears up.

Ryuden vs Takanosho – Takanosho looked fresh, eager and genki in his day 1 debut match, just as much as Ryuden looked vague and stale. Ryuden is at real risk of returning to Juryo, and needs to find the sumo that took him to mid-Maegashira levels earlier this year.

Chiyomaru vs Takanoiwa – I suspect we are going to see some fierce sumo from Takanoiwa. He has been very eager to return to the top division, and resume his push for higher rank. Everyone loves Chiyomaru, but I think he will need to do something new to overcome Takanoiwa today.

Nishikigi vs Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi’s day 1 match against Okinoumi showed that Nishikigi seems to have made a step-change improvement to his sumo. He holds a 7-3 career advantage over Kyokutaisei, but as a long time follower of Nishikigi, I have to wonder if he is starting to put together a successful campaign towards a steady Maegashira 6 level ranking. Kyokutaisei still seems to be struggling to find his Makuuchi footing.

Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – Daieisho won their only prior match, and I am eager to see if we get to see Hokutofuji’s “Handshake” tachiai again today. It establishes Hokutofuji with an inside position that he can use to control his opponent. Daieisho will be working to raise Hokutofuji as best he can out of the tachiai. I am expecting a real battle here.

Aoiyama vs Daishomaru – After his day 1 match against Daieisho, Aoiyama is looking to bounce back against his stablemate Daishomaru, who has not yet been able to overcome the “Man-Mountain” in the 3 prior attempts. Daieisho did a masterful job of boxing in Aoiyama on day 1, perhaps Daishomaru can do the same.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – Kotoshogiku looksd smooth and in total control of his day 1 match, but day 2 he faces another long serving veteran in Tochiozan. They two share a 17-20 career record: thats 37 matches over more than a decade of sumo.

Myogiryu vs Kagayaki – Great match here. Myogiryu brings intensity to his matches, Kagayaki brings structure and discipline. Which force will prevail on day 2? I give a slight edge to Kagayaki right now. He seems to be aware but not worried about rank, he is simply looking at every match as a chance to improve.

Onosho vs Asanoyama – Rusty, rusty Onosho will try to apply some steel wool before his match with Asanoyama. Asanoyama seems to have genuinely settled into his sumo now, and is a solid mid-Maegashira entrant for now. Time will tell us if he can make the step change to the joi-jin. Onosho has the skill and the drive, but I am going to guess his body is not quite back to being ready, yet.

Shodai vs Chiyonokuni – Both had disappointing day 1 losses, both put forth some solid sumo, but came up short. I would give the edge to Chiyonokuni, but I will be closely watching Shodai’s tachiai. His first step against Mitakeumi was something new, and if it was not a happy accident, it could mean that we are going to see much better sumo from Shodai soon.

Abi vs Endo – Endo got the rag-doll treatment from Ichinojo on day 1, while Abi-zumo prevailed. Abi’s stick-insect proportions seem to give many rikishi fits, so Endo may be in for a rough start for Aki. Abi – get some different sumo, or you are going to end up like Ishiura, with your magic trick expected and defeated.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – I am expecting a thunderous tachiai from Chiyotairyu, followed by a lightning fast drive to the bales. If Mitakeumi runs the same plan as day 1, he will only have seconds to arrest his backward motion and counter-attack. Chiyotairyu is faster, stronger and much more massive than Shodai. They are evenly matched at 4-4 over their career record.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Both men will launch hard off the shikiri-sen, and both men are brawlers. Goeido looked good on day 1, but simply could not carry the match against the enormous Kaisei. His record against Tamawashi shows them to be quite evenly matched (9-8).

Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – I think Tochinoshin will once again go for a fast left, but we may see some good evasive sumo from Yutakayama, possibly a nodowa or other counter-attack move meant to keep Tochinoshin from getting his favored left hand grip.

Ichinojo vs Takayasu – Will we see the “bad pony!” kimarite again on day 2? Takayasu tried to use his brutalist tachiai on day 1 and it got him stalemated by Yutakayama. Ichinojo is larger and stronger, but Takayasu seems to be in the habit of doing that every single match. This could and should be a great strength sumo match.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – Kakuryu won’t repeat Goeido’s mistake. 500 pounds of Kaisei is a lot to maneuver, but Kakuryu’s reactive sumo style means he will let Kaisei do most of the work for him, then the Yokozuna will finish him off. Kaisei has yet to be Kakuryu, but Kaisei does not seem to be the kind to let that discourage him.

Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – This will be their 4th match, and Takakeisho actually leads 2-1. So this will be a great test of how dialed in the Yokozuna really is. Both men looked like they had quite a bit of ring rust day 1, so both may stumble through this match. Kisenosato will try to keep Takakeisho from moving too far to his right, blunting the use of the left hand. Takakeisho will try to keep some daylight with the Yokozuna so he can apply his tsuppari. Please, nobody get hurt.

Ikioi vs Hakuho – Hakuho will again try for speed. If he is still nursing his need, long power matches are not in any of his plans right now. Ikioi will need to shut down the Yokozuna’s rapid advance, and ignore the face slap at the tachiai. There are some indications that Ikioi is having knee / foot problems, so this may be another quick win for Hakuho.

Aki Day 1 Comments & Highlights

Aki Day 1 Toys

My thanks to Herouth and Josh for their excellent discussion and commentary overnight for day 1. It was a great day of sumo, that included a lot of intense action, and brilliant moves. I continue to believe that we are in a sumo “golden age” for at least a little bit longer, and I will savor every match that features such long-serving talent and such bright new skill. You can find the full live-blog transcript here.

First and foremost, let’s clear the decks and say that Kisenosato won his first match of Aki. It was fairly straightforward sumo. He landed his left hand and drove forward. Ikioi put up a good fight, and frankly Kisenosato was quite a bit higher than we might expect to see him, but the Yokozuna had enough power to make it work. He did not look good, but he did look good-enough for now. I expect him to have quite a bit of ring rust to blast away before we see anything approaching his prior form.

The Yoshikaze / Chiyoshoma match was a stunner. Chiyoshoma had the upper hand and was driving Yoshikaze back and out, when the Berserker rallied and delivered an unbelievable utchari at the edge. Chiyoshoma was looking for a monoii, as was I, but none was called and the results stood. Look at that left foot as he swings Chiyoshoma up and over. The man has the strength, skill and ring sense to inch it back forward to keep his heel inside until Chiyoshoma becomes a “dead body”. One thing was clear from the HD feed coming from NHK-G, Yoshikaze has a hideous rash all over his body, leading me to wonder if cause of his impairment might be a painful case of adult chickenpox (shingles).

Takanoiwa looked like he completely out-matched Ryuden. Ryuden’s gambit utterly failed, and Takanoiwa took command and disposed of Ryuden like a spent takoyaki tray outside of Lawson’s.

I continue to like what I see from Hokutofuji, watch that tachiai! Notice how he leads with his right hand out from the tachiai. Even if he is a half-step behind for some reason, that right hand is already inside. He has been refining this move for a while, and he’s just getting better and better at it. It also acts as a counterbalance that allows him to get very low off the shikiri-sen.

Kagayaki seems to have tweaked him mawashi color, and it’s almost iridescent now. Kagayaki picked up right where he stopped in Nagoya. He continues to become more calm, refined and operating strongly on fundamentals. Onosho is, in my book, still recovering from surgery, and is looking a bit chaotic. I am chalking it up to ring rust.

Abi seems to have pulled Chiyonokuni down twice, which means that Chiyonokuni bounced off the clay. Abi did a minor variation of his two-hand tachiai. Ok, so he’s getting creative, but I think that’s not quite what is needed. But this was 100% Abi-zumo.

The EndoIchinojo bout is a study in Ichinojo. It gets underway with Endo being very busy, attacking Ichinojo more or less at will. Ichinojo ends up with his heels on the tawara. This is where he usually gives up, but instead something flips in his sumo and he turns into this monster. He had Endo in an off-balance grip and simply flexes his enormous muscles and flings all 150 kg around and then pushes Endo down by the neck. I could see an expression flash across Ichinojo’s face that translates to “Bad Pony!”.

I am delighted to report that Shodai’s tachiai was not a train-wreck on day 1, and had Mitakeumi struggling to recover. But recover he did and sent Shodai packing. Once again it looks like Mitakeumi phones in the practice matches and brings the actual sumo out for honbasho. Mitakeumi stayed glued to Shodai’s center-mass, and that is what won that match.

The ChiyotairyuTochinoshin tachiai registered as a Hokkaido aftershock, as it was loud and painful. Tochinoshin was able to back Chiyotairyu up, and apply a lift-and-shift finish, but it looked like it hurt him to do so. We know Tochinoshin is going to gamberize like mad, so we just hope he can hold it together until he can rack his 8th.

Freshman class leader Yutakayama effectively stalemated Ozeki Takayasu, who once again used that terrible shoulder-blast tachiai. But after going chest to chest, Yutakayama could not keep the Ozeki from advancing and simply plowing Yutakayama out.

Kaisei was not in the least bit intimidated by Goeido, and put his massive body to good use: driving forward with so much force Goeido was powerless to do anything other than lose.

Hakuho’s match? Pure speed. Blink and you miss it.

Takakeisho looked vague and rusty against Kakuryu, who stayed calm and kept the match on his terms.

We end day 1 with all of the Yokozuna and Ozeki winning, except for Goeido. Order and balance is established in the basho, and the young up-and-comers are going to have their hands full this time. With the senior ranks out in full, the score inflation of the Maegashira and lower san’yaku will be curtailed. This will be a great basho to watch as I still think the new forces are continuing to pick apart the old guard.