Day 15 Recap and Comments

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The sumo has ended, and the senshuraku parties are raging on into the night. It’s a celebration in Nagoya as a new rikishi has won his first yusho after a remarkable run of victories. Mitakeumi makes for a really interesting champion, in that he has been remarkably consistent for some time now, but like Tochinoshin was just below the threshold of contender. Then something changed, and he became the man to beat in Nagoya. Part of this is, of course, the natural reaction to the top men of sumo being sidelined. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of the Yokozuna, new champions will rise. The real fireworks begin when the new champion confronts the aging kings of sumo. This is just one reason I expect Aki could be the most exciting basho in several years.

Mitakeumi is clearly in an Ozeki campaign now, and with good cause. The two big wrinkles to any claim he might make have to be the questionable loss to Takayasu, and the fact that Yutakayama beat him today. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn impressed with the sumo on display today by both men. And the fact that Freshman Yutakayama was able to take the fight to Mitakumi and prevail speaks clearly to just how much competition there will be in the next two years. As sumo’s current mainstays all fade and move on, the new crowd are going to battle it out to see who gets to take the top spots. Frankly, I can’t wait.

There may be a pretty good churn between Juryo and Makuuchi for the fall. Takanoiwa won the Juryo yusho in a playoff, and finished with an impressive 13-2 record. The man was on fire, and much like Mitakeumi, seems to have had a breakout basho. In all there were 4 rikishi who finished Juryo with 10 or more wins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Yoshikaze picked up his second win on the final day, and by our sage’s predictions, this will possibly keep him in Makuuchi for the fall. Whatever ails Yoshikaze, I do hope he can heal up and overcome. A healthy Yoshikaze at the bottom of the banzuke is an unmitigated terror that I think every young rikishi should have the pleasure of encountering.

Some Match Notes

Ishiura resorted once more to solid “small man sumo” and used a leg pick to control Chiyomaru’s mighty bulk. By improving his make-koshi to 7-8, he has greatly cushioned his demotion for Aki. I also think that maybe Ishiura may have started a new chapter in his sumo.

Onosho finishes in double digits on his return to Makuuchi, and strongly repelled Myogiryu’s successful opening gambit. I am expecting some great things from Onosho in the fall. I think he will be just outside the joi, and will be “the cutter” of middle Maegashira.

Okinoumi was able to finish with a kachi-koshi as Chiyoshoma went kyujo on the final day. That means that yet another rikishi dropped from this torturous basho, and this broke Chiyoshoma’s near 500 consecutive match attendance streak.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu featured a false start that quickly devolved into a flurry of good manners and congenial behavior. This is one of the reasons I love sumo. Hokutofuji finishes with 11 wins and will be in a much tougher cohort for Aki.

Sadanoumi was able to overcome Daishomaru for his kachi-koshi, while his opponent Daishomaru dropped to 5-10.

Takakeisho went chest to chest at the tachiai against Asanoyama, and kept him there. I suspect Takakeisho is more versatile than assumed, and may be looking to broaden his sumo in wise preparation for maintaining higher ranks. Both rikishi finish in double digits. Asanoyama also picked up the fighting spirit prize (Kanto-Sho).

Abi’s long reach was equaled by Aoiyama, and it was quite the discovery process for both of them. I did like to see Abi do everything he could to try to keep Aoiyama from falling from the dohyo. But frankly Abi, there is only so much you can do when that much mass is in motion.

Then there was possibly THE match of the basho. Yutakayama gave his all against Mitakeumi, and beat him. Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but for some reason started trying to pull down Yutakayama. With these two so evenly matched, the pull attempt did little more than send Mitakeumi off balance and moving in reverse (not a good place to be). He eventually was able to recover offensive footing, but not before Yutakayama had chanced him around the dohyo. Now chest to chest, Mitakeumi advanced to deliver the yorikiri, but Yutakayama loaded and executed a rescue throw (kakenage) at the edge. Fantastic sumo.

Endo continued his fade, and delivered Ichinojo’s kachi-koshi for his final match. After trying to get some kind of offense going from the tachiai, Endo learns he cannot move the boulder. With one arm, Ichinojo lashes out and Endo goes flying.

Lastly, Ozeki Goeido finishes with double digit wins for the first time since Aki 2017 as Takayasu seems to be caught improvising into the tachiai. Both of you knuckleheads go back to Tokyo and get yourselves fixed up.

Thank you, dear readers, for once again sharing your love of sumo with us, and spending your time enjoying the sport on Tachiai.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

Endo-Badge

With Act 1 in the books now, we can start to look forward to Act 2, where we sort the strong from the struggling, and a lot of hopes and dreams get crushed. While it may seem brutal to put it that way, each basho is a clean slate, and each rikishi has a chance to be completely different than the time before, if they have the means to do so. I would say the biggest surprise for me thus far is Shodai. How or why Shodai is 5-0 at the end of act 1 is a complete mystery to me, but I congratulate him on the effort and the achievement. I have always maintained the man has seeds of greatness within him, if he could just fix some of the mechanics of his sumo.

A close second place would be Ikioi. He was a force of nature in Osaka, in spite of what looked like the kind of injuries that might require hospitalization. Nope! He’s at it again. He has one loss but he is in “badass” mode every day. Today he dismantled Kotoshogiku in a wild “kitchen sink” match that delighted and entertained. I swear he has decided that playing it safe is no way to close out a sumo career, and he’s just going to throw caution to the winds and fight like a angry swan. For those of you who have never had a swan attack you, let me tell you, don’t try it.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Takekaze – Uncle sumo finally wins one. It has been awesome to see him battle his way back up to Makuuchi once again, but he’s a poor broken fellow with more courage than fortitude remaining.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – The giant Bulgarian wins by getting an armpit grip on Nishikigi and forcing him out. It’s painful watching Aoiyama fight, as it’s clear he is in a bunch of pain, but pushing to keep himself in the top division. Nishikigi’s position is even more precarious, so any loss must be a worry for him.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama, featuring a massive elbow bandage, had the initiative for the bulk of this match. Tochiozan, to his credit, waited for an opportunity. Asanoyama continued to thrust against Tochiozan’s chest but eventually went off balance, and Tochiozan converted that quickly into a win. Experience pays.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Wow, what a match! The start out with some oshi, punctuated with Daiamami taking a round house slap to the face. Having had enough of that he latches onto Chiyonokuni’s mawashi. Chiyonokuni struggles for a bit, but responds in kind. At one point Daiamami gets the deep double inside grip, but Chiyonokuni blazes ahead, forcing his opponent backward and out. Great match.

Takakeisho defeats Arawashi – This was won at the tachiai. Take a good look at how Takakeisho lands his first thrust against Arawashi’s shoulders before Arawashi can finish lunging forward. There was no recovering from that.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Kagayaki’s battle plan was simple, powerful and effective. He got under both arms of Okinoumi and marched forward. This guy keeps reminding me at times of a young Kisenosato, and I think if he can keep working upward and stay free of injury, he may follow a similar trajectory. Never glamorous, just solid sumo fundamentals.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden picks up his first win, much to his relief. Chiyomaru really made him work for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to get hopeful. Yoshikaze looked stronger and faster today, and maybe a touch genki. The match was all about battling for grip, until Takarafuji lunged forward, and Yoshikaze instantly converted to exploiting his off-balance stance.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi comes in low and goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer straight out of the tachiai. When Kotoshogiku flexes to lift him up, Ikioi declares he will have none of that, and moves forward strongly, causing them both to lose their grip. After a failed attempt to throw Kotoshogiku, the resulting mess was completely off balance, but under Ikioi’s control, which he kept in motion until Kotoshogiku found the edge of the ring. Great work by Ikioi today, but once again post match he can barely walk.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Another mediocre to lame tachiai from Shodai, but then he takes over and just fork-lifts Chiyoshoma at the edge of the dohyo. Undefeated Shodai? I am going to make a bet that the scheduling team has some fun with him in act 2.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took a head butt as the price to get inside, but he got his preferred offensive stance and went to work. Tamawashi immediately gave ground, but rallied. In his aggressive forward attack, he put his balance too far forward and Mitakeumi pulled him forward. His own momentum carried him out. Tamawashi is looking poorly right now, and I wonder if he is hurt. Mitakeumi ended the match dripping blood from his right eye, ouch!

Endo defeats Ichinojo – The big outcome of the day, and it was not an easy match for either man. Ichinojo gave Endo the inside grip immediately and went chest to chest, I am going to assume that his superior size and strength would carry the day. While Endo latched his right hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi, Ichinojo could not find a reciprocal grip. Finally getting deep with his right hand over Endo’s back, Ichinojo tried repeatedly to load an uwatenage, but Endo countered with some very impressive footwork. Stalemated, Ichonojo locks up Endo and works out a stage 2 plan, but Endo lands a left hand frontal grip for his third attack. Ichinojo realizes that his size is not going to stop this onslaught, and he is too high, with Endo buried in his chest, he has no room to lower his hips. Endo gives it all he has, and advances, winning a fantastic match. Complements to both rikishi on some outstanding sumo. The roar in the Kokugikan must have been deafening.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was completely out-classed. No one can match the intensity of Tochinoshin right now, it’s a think of beauty.

Goeido defeats Yutakayama – Goeido almost attempted a pull against today. Someone fit that guy with a shock collar and give his oyakata the button to set it off.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am going to assume that Hakuho is bored right now. No one has really given him even a decent warm up.

Kakuryu defeats Abi – Much as I assumed, Kakuryu found those long arms a bit of a problem, but they also are great leverage if you can grab one. Big K pulling again, but he got the win.

Natsu Day 3 Preview

Natsu Day 3

A bit abbreviated tonight due to urgent circumstances. Sheltering here in the wilderness of Texas, it’s become apparent that my means of watching sumo have all given out on the same day, and I am eager to return to troubleshooting my wiring. So let’s crack on. But first… Something I noticed today……

Abi-Tochinoshin

The above screen grab is from Jason’s YouTube channel today. Yes, Tochinoshin tore Abi up and fed him to the cameramen in the corner of the dohyo. Abi is young, he’s been oshi-zumo forever, and is now finding out that you can’t usually push your way to a joi win. But that’s not the point of this.

I saw a potential for something amazing. Granted its probably at least a year from now, but I think it could be damn impressive. Tochinoshin is a big, big man. He’s about maximum of what Northern Europe can produce as far as a powerful, well muscled battle wagon. Sure there are variations on that theme, but he is close to an optimum. But look at Abi. He has Tochinoshin high, head back with a powerful nodowa. That reach.. that reach..

The situation is would be more extreme against Asian opponents. If that young man can train, practice and fight on the mawashi, there could be big things for him in the future. Able to achieve a grip in situations that many others could never negotiate, he could be one of the greatest yotsu-zumo men ever.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – This should be a chance for Aoiyama to pick up a much needed win, but I think instead it’s going to be further validation of the theory that he’s having a lot of problems with his knees, and it is genuinely impacting his sumo. As a large fellow, and damage to his undercarriage compounds quickly, as the stress his body is already under trying to support his incumbent enormity.

Daiamami vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is still not looking 100%. This guy was the meanest tadpole in the puddle for about a year, and many were talking (justifiably) about him as a San’yaku feature by mid 2018. But like so many promising rikishi, and injury has left him adrift, and the sumo world has figured out his schtick, so now he’s not the threat he used to be. Interestingly enough, this is the first time these two have fought.

Yoshikaze vs Kagayaki – This should be a straightforward Yoshikaze win. However I fear that will not be the case. Kagayaki does not get a lot of attention because he is quiet, workman like, and very steady. He has been mid-Maegashira quite a bit, and he seems to be comfortable here. Yoshikaze won their only prior match.

Ryuden vs Ikioi – Ryuden needs to turn things around. It’s clear he is struggling, and finding his new rank a challenge. But I think given how Ikioi has been performing he is not going to find relief on day 3. Frankly, I am thrilled to see Ikioi looking genki for once, after many basho where he seemed to just be trying to survive.

Chiyotairyu vs Shodai – Can Shodai complete his Chiyo collection? The big problem here will be Shodai’s weak tachiai, and Chiyotairyu’s habit of launching like a 450 pound cannon ball at his opponent. If Shodai can survive the impact, and if the sideburns don’t grab a hold and pin him to the clay, he will have a narrow window to try to do something effective. I can’t wait to see what that is.

Mitakeumi vs Abi – Sucks to be Abi this week. Next up is King Tadpole. I know he’s going to deliver a lot of oshi to Mitakeumi, but I also do think Mitakeumi is going to let it bother him too much. Fans who are curious as I am, let’s see what kind of impact Abi’s superior reach has on the early moments of Mitakeumi’s battle plan.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – Daieisho has been fighting well, not winning much, but putting a lot of effort into his matches. But the bad news for him is the appearance of Ichinojo on the west side of the fight card. Right now the Boulder looks to be in charge most matches, and as long as they keep the ice cream flowing, he might just keep winning.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – The Ozeki hopeful will work to get a shallow belt grip against a Mongolian hitting machine. And he hits HARD when he can set up his offense. So Tochinoshin’s going to take a couple of angry blows on his way to his 3rd win.

Endo vs Goeido – Great test for Goeido 2.1. Endo is happy to find ways to stalemate his opponents, much as Kakuryu does. I heard there is a new feature that takes care of this logic loop in the prior Goeido version. If Endo wants to hold a San’yaku slot, he needs to surprise a couple of top men with a visit to the zabuton.

Shohozan vs Hakuho – Shohozan is no easy mark, but we may see him surprise a Hakuho that looks increasingly out of his comfort zone. Money on the toes or that right knee. Any way to goes, I have confidence he will pull out of the tournament if things get too serious. But like the other Yokozuna match, Shohozan has yet to find any way to defeat Hakuho.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – Not sure what kind of offense Kaisei can produce here. Kakuryu has 12-0 against him. Possibly a snooze fest.

Natsu Day 2 Preview

Natsu Day 2b

After re-watching day 1 matches several times, an idea comes to mind. On the day 1 recap, there is some discussion about Hakuho. Some of our readers think he was pure Hakuho, arrogant, brash and in command. Herouth, myself and a few others are worried that he’s not quite 100% at the moment. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section. I also note that Aoiyama looked a fraction of his normal self. There are some reports that he has damage to his undercarriage, and that could explain a few things. With his rank (M13w), he would be at real risk of a return to Juryo if he were to be kyujo without at least a few wins first.

I have to note, the NHK world broadcast has replaced many of the rikishi head-shot photos with a set of images that range from hideous to laughable. Please folks, consider a bit of color correction on those things.

A number of sumo fans, including the great Kintamayama, found day 1 unsurprising and perhaps a bit plain. I was just happy to have sumo back for a couple of weeks, even if all of the matches turned out as predicted. But in Act 1, we find out who is hot, and who is not. The only two I would cite as bringing a lot of “fire” to the dohyo on day 1 were Ichinojo, Tochinoshin and (surprisingly), Shodai. Let’s see what kind of fun day 2 can bring. It appears the schedulers have a real “folks with 1 win face off, folks with one loss face off” theme at work today.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Myogiryu looked fairly solid day 1, but he comes up against Nishikigi who has a career 3-1 record against Myogiryu. Myogiryu like the belt throws, so this will be all about footwork and grip. Could be a good match.

Aminishiki vs Kyokutaisei – Uncle Sumo has only taken 1 match from Kyokutaisei, and word is that Aminishiki’s already questionable knees are recovering from strain or injury during the April jungyo tour. Everyone hoping for a storybook kachi-koshi for sumo’s most beloved uncle will need to temper their outlook. I just hope he can make it to senshuraku without going kyujo.

Takekaze vs Aoiyama – This will be a good test for how banged up Aoiyama actually is. Takekaze will be using every move in his considerable, judo-inspired inventory to best the big Bulgarian who holds a career 13-7 advantage.

Asanoyama vs Chiyonokuni – Both men won their first day matches, but they have never faced each other. Chiyonokuni is an absolute explosive powerhouse of oshi-zumo, and I am curious to see if he completely overwhelms Asanayama.

Okinoumi vs Takakeisho – Okinoumi have never won against Takakeisho in their 2 prior matches. In addition I think Takakeisho, who is normally set to 11, has found a way to reach for 11.5, as he wants to regain his position near the top of the banzuke. Okinoumi is very hit-or-miss, and its unclear how healthy his is this basho.

Daiamami vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji continues to look energetic but vague. His day 1 match was a sloppy mess that he let Takakeisho control, missing at least 2 opportunities to make the bowling ball with legs eat clay. To his advantage today is the 3-0 career lead he has over Daiamami.

Yoshikaze vs Daishomaru – I saw a glimmer of Berserker mode on day 1. After two tournaments where Yoshikaze looked like he had been coming to the dohyo straight from his sick-bed, it was refreshing to see him fight with vigor. As a bonus for day 2, Daishomaru has not ever won against Yoshikaze.

Chiyoshoma vs Ryuden – Ryuden got disposed of like a bad sandwich at Lawson’s on day 1. On day two he faces the always unpredictable Chiyoshoma, and I would guess will hold the advantage of guile over the Freshman.

Takarafuji vs Ikioi – These two have a 17 match career history, that favor the neckless rikishi 11-6. But does Ikioi care? Of course not! I am beginning to think that Ikioi has reached the point in his career where he is saying “Oh, F’ it all!”, and just using his mass and willingness to damage himself to overwhelm his opponents. Takarafuji is a careful and skilled fighter, and is no easy opponent. Could be a solid match.

Daieisho vs Shodai – So the day 1 Shodai was fun to watch. This is the kind of stuff that we used to see from Shodai much more frequently, and frankly its why some fans thought he was going to be a staple of the top of the banzuke for some time to come. Can he keep that going? Let’s see him take down the even match up he has with Daieisho.

Yutakayama vs Endo – Endo gets a bit of a breather after falling face first to Kakuryu. Their only prior match went to Endo, but Yutakayama seems to be in his groove these days. I would expect Endo to win this one, but it is my hope that Yutakayama really makes him work for it.

Tochinoshin vs Abi – Well, Abi gets a traditional Tokyo welcome to the joi. Smacked around, tossed to the grannies and generally made to question his own sumo to the point of worry. Day 2 he is cannon fodder to a brute on a mission to higher rank. I am pretty sure Abi will try something insightful and clever, and I am equally sure it will come down to Tochinoshin picking him up and tossing him to the cheering little old ladies, who will smother him with adoration. Everybody wins…

Kaisei vs Ichinojo – This much Waygu in motion is always cause for a safety briefing and careful evacuation drills on the part of the Kokugikan staff. Both men prefer big, slow and forceful, but I would give a distinct edge to Ichinojo, who may have promised himself story time with his favorite pony if he wins. The career record shows a 7-2 advantage for the Boulder.

Shohozan vs Goeido – We may have seen the first use of Goeido 2.1 on day 1, and it looked really good. Sharp, fast, no thought of defense. But then again, Shohozan and Kaisei are worlds apart. No one leaves a match with Shohozan without getting sore, and Goeido tends to react badly to being pounded. Like many gadgets, percussive maintenance could void the warranty. Even so Goeido holds a 11-7 career lead.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Hopefully this match is less bizarre than day 1’s Hakuho “gimme a hug” posture mid-fight. People knocked Kakuryu for pulling Endo down, but Big K’s style is to stalemate his opponent and wait for his opening. What kind of opening Tamawashi is going to give him will be interesting to watch, but as Tamawashi is a brutal tsuppari practitioner, we may see the Yokozuna moving backwards again.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – This match might settle questions about Hakuho’s condition. Mitakeumi will come straight at him, no doubt about it. I am going to say that we may see a Harumafuji style mini-henka here.

Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Natsu Day 1

No Surprises

The Natsu basho got started on form, with no real surprises, but some good sumo. Fans, do keep in mind that for the first few days, many of your favorites will be working to find their groove, and we may see some “ring rust” as John Gunning puts it. Most basho follow a 3 act process. Act 1 is all about finding who is hot, and who is not. Act 2 is all about who can compete for the yusho, and Act 3 is where we separate the winners from the losers, and crown the champion. In the early stages of Act 1 (the first few days), you are likely to see some unexpected events. Today was not populated with the unexpected, but keep your eyes open.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo ups the record as the oldest man ever to start a Makuuchi bout, and we salute him. But Nishikigi dispatched him with little trouble.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – This match had one of everything, a Monoii, a Matta, and a Torinaoshi. The first version of this bout was an excellent mawashi match, with both men working hard to set up a throw, and each move being countered expertly. Both men hit the clay at the same time, so the Shimpan signaled a rematch. The second try saw Kyokutaisei try a henka, but Myogiryu landed a belt grip and controlled the match for the win. Nice sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama started strong, pounding away at Sadanoumi, who endured the blows and pushed to get inside. He achieved that, and then proceeded to move Aoiyama backwards and out. Aoiyama (in my guess) suffered some severe ring rust today, and will likely bounce back by day 3.

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts to step to the left, but Asanoyama’s wide-armed tachiai traps him, and they grapple. At this point Asanoyama’s superior mass and better body position allows him to dominate the match.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – New sea-foam green mawashi for Takakeisho, perhaps it will change his luck? Takakeisho took the match to Hokutofuji’s face and shoulders early, and nearly overwhelmed him. But Hokutofuji rallied at the tawara, and counter-attacked. A deft side step by Takakeisho left Hokutofuji, and gave Takakeisho the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – Yoshikaze launched low and hard against Chiyomaru’s chest, standing the hungry-man upright. From there Yoshikaze drove him back. Chiyomaru was never able to regain balance or set up a proper defensive or offensive stance, and it was all Yoshikaze.

Takarafuji defeats Ryuden – Ryuden came straight at Takarafuji, perhaps hoping to overpower him, but found that Takarafuji was in a firm stance, and had the power to resist his attack. Ryuden never was able to recover, Takarafuji took him back and out.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – I am sure they heard that tachiai at the adjacent Edo museum! Both rikishi bounced back after that mighty collision, and went straight for competing throws. In Ikioi’s favor, Chiyoshoma landed first, but a monoii was called and the win went to Ikioi.

Shodai defeats Kotoshogiku – An impressive win by Shodai. Maybe he is genki this time? His tachiai looked decent, and he kept Kotoshogiku of being able to square his shoulders and begin the hug-n-chug. The Kyushu Bulldozer tried it anyhow, but Shodai deftly used the uneven thrust to maneuver Kotoshogiku, get him off balance and thrown. Nicely done!

Chiyotairyu defeats Yutakayama – Chiyotairyu has a favorite opening – blast off the line with the force of a freight train, lock up his opponent and just keep moving forward. Yutakayama give him the opening, and it was over fast. Please note the kati-infused sideburns are in full effect on Chiyotairyu, and there were plenty of sumo-grannies who received a Yutakayama visit, as it looks like Chiyotairyu put him in the 3rd row of zabuton.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – A whiplash tachiai from both, but Mitakeumi pushed ahead with fierce vigor, and Daiesho never really had a chance to set up any offense or defense. Solid fundamentals from Mitakeumi this time.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – I will compliment Abi on coming up with a plausible battle plan. He went for a neck attack at the tachiai, and while Ichnojo pushed forward to attack, Abi shifted right and tried to grab the mawashi. Sadly he missed, and ended up chest to chest with the boulder. It only took 2 ½ shoves from the 225 kg Ichinojo to propel Abi down range.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – I was impressed by Shohozan’s lightning fast tachiai, closing the distance to Tochinoshin before the big Georgian could finish standing from his starting crouch. In a move that showed a lot of moxie, he took a hold of Tochinoshin’s mawashi and started pivoting for a throw. He almost go away with it, but Tochinoshin rallied and started to work Shohozan’s rather lose mawashi, marching forward. Shohozan was able to stop him, so Tochinoshin simply lifted Shohozan (twice) and placed him out.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Goeido lands a shallow left hand straight into the tachiai, and uses that to control Kaisei completely. The Brazilian could never find his footing and was sideways to Goeido’s continued attack. Clean, easy, fast.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Another of Hakuho’s strange pseudo-butsugari matches. Hakuho kept going for the mawashi, and Tamawashi kept landing blows to the Yokozuna’s shoulders and face. The Boss wins, but it was weird. Note that Hakuho reverted to deploying his left-hand face slap at the tachiai.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Classic Kakuryu sumo. He stalemated Endo in the early phase of the bout, which was all tsuppari, and waited for Endo to get too far forward, and pulled him down. Kakuryu’s reactive sumo is at times almost it’s own unique form, and I think a few decades from now, sumo scholars may study how he conducts his matches.

Natsu Day 1 Preview

Sumo-Evolution

Yes, dear readers, it is time! We have waited long enough. In the next few hours, set aside your worries about your favorites being hurt: It’s honbasho time! It’s a full day of raging action for day 1 at the Kokugikan, and frankly I can’t wait for all the amazing stories that are about to unfold. Many folks will be focused on the top of the banzuke as the drama there plays out, but I find myself increasingly draw to Josh’s “Ones to watch”. This series has proven remarkably insightful while educating and entertaining. Most folks in the US (and other parts of the world) don’t even get to see all of Makuuchi, let alone all of the great action in Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme and Jonidan.

Just as it was in Osaka, my favorite stories are likely to be at the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Nishikigi continues to refuse to ever give up, and somehow holds onto the last Maegashira slot at the edge of the earth. Aminishiki may have nothing more than courage and gristle left in his knees, but he will mount the dohyo today and give challenge. Kyokutaisei somehow adapted to life in the sumo heya, and excelled. Now he’s in Makuuchi and Hokkaido can finally represent once more. Go Hams!

Fans, keep in mind it will take a few days for everyone to settle into the tournament, so you may see some favorites looking like they are not quite their normal genki selves, and some great surprises. So expect anything!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Hell, I am going to watch all of it. But I am sure you don’t have the time to read everything I might write up about the outstanding fight card we have to start the basho. I will do my best.

Nishikigi vs Aminishiki – Nishikigi will never make San’yaku. He’s kind of blind as a bat without his specs, but even blind he’s good enough to find a way to stay in Makuuchi. Now he’s up against Uncle Sumo on day 1. I am sad for folks who are going to view the highlights, as you are not going to believe the roar that will rip through he Kokugikan as the yobidashi sings out his name. People LOVE Aminishiki. To many folks who might struggle with some challenge in their life, he is a reminder that “Nana korobi ya oki” can always apply! (Fall down seven times, get up eight)

Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei’s first match in the top division is against Myogiryu, a solid veteran who has been drifting between the top of Juryo and the bottom of Makuuchi during the past year.  These two are no strangers to each others’ fighting style. I will be curious to see if Kyokutaisei has any top division jitters.

Tochiozan vs Takekaze – I am very glad to see Takekaze back in the top division after a brief tour of Juryo. For reasons that I can’t imagine, all of the Oguruma upper echelon has been on the skids as of late. I have to wonder if maybe they are having problems with their Chanko supply… Tochiozan, on the other hand, has been reported to be ripping through folks during joint training in the past week. We know Tochiozan is capable of some explosive and powerful sumo, it would be acres of fun to see him have a great basho this May.

Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – The Bulgarian man-mountain is back for more, like a giant angry dollop of sour cream with the reach to slap you from across the dohyo. Sadanoumi is a seasoned veteran who is probably happy to be pulling down Makuuchi pay again. My bet is on Aoiyama, who always seems to start tournaments strong. With Sadanoumi preferring the belt, he will have to survive the withering rain of blows from Aoiyama to get there.

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – The happy rikishi goes up against Ishiura, whose sumo seems a bit lost these days. He opened big a bit over a year ago, but his limited arsenal of moves has left him in something of a corner. I think he has amazing potential if he can find his sumo again. We can count on Asanoyama being happy just to get to do sumo today, even though he really likes to win.

Arawashi vs Chiyonokuni – As discussed in the podcast, both of these rikishi are tremendous fighters. They bring huge energy and go flat out with nothing in reserve. Both of them deserve a good, turn-around basho this May, but first they need to beat the daylights out of each other.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – One of my highlight matches. Hopefully both men are healed up from the injuries that have left them underperforming. With significant changes at the top of the banzuke anticipated this year, now is the right time for both of them to press hard for the top ranks. We have not seen Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari in several basho, and we need him to bring it back with gusto. Likewise I want to see Hokutofuji channel Kaiō again. There is a big role that may open up for a huge, powerful rikishi who moves low and balances offense and defense.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – Another match where the fans are going to erupt when the yobidashi call the rikishi. People adore Yoshikaze, in part because he never ever gives up, and is always bright, witty and a gentleman. And people love Chiyomaru because who the hell can hold a grudge against a guy like that? Word on the street is that with Yoshikaze getting free meals anywhere in Sumida, they are going out for supper afterwards. The same rumor cites Chiyomaru for a spate of early restaurant closures in the area (they run out of food), as well as a rash of missing house plants, vending machines and even a pair of manhole covers. Listen for him to clank suspiciously as he mounts the dohyo.

Ryuden vs Takarafuji – One of my freshmen takes on the highest ranking man remaining at the once-mighty Isegahama beya. Both men are going to go for a mawashi grip early, but I would give Takarafuji a slight edge.

Chiyoshoma vs Ikioi – Only question to ask here – is Ikioi healed up? It was painful to watch him walk the hanamichi in Osaka. We can only hope that he was able to heal fully. This is two seasoned vets going head to head, so I am sure it’s going to be a solid match.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – Well, Shodai is probably going to get owned. Mostly because he tends to let Kotoshogiku do whatever he wants, and he wants to give you a sweet, passionate battle hug.

Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Another of my freshmen, Yutakayama, is going up against Chiyotairyu, who had BETTER HAVE HIS SIDEBURNS! Seriously, the kami that inhabits his sideburns is the source of his sumo power. Granted the kami is some kind of sprit of a smelly mountain aesthetic from the feudal period who never ever washed, and ate nothing but fermented sardines, but we take what we can get in life, right?

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – The King of the Tadpoles needs to make a comeback. The big jump ball at the top of the banzuke is coming, and if Mitakeumi wants a ticket to that dance, he needs to be producing double-digit wins every basho from here on out. He has the body, the skill, the heart to do it. But I suspect he doubts himself just a tiny bit. That’s all it takes at the top of this sport to keep yourself from greatness. Daieisho, however, is point man on team Oitekaze. I can’t wait to see if he starts Natsu as genki as he ended Haru.

Abi vs Ichinojo – Could be the match of the day. We get the lead Freshman against The Boulder. Large, tough as granite, and when roused, quite dangerous. He has added an astonishing 20 kg to his already ponderous bulk, and rumor has it, two new cuddle-ponies at Minato beya. Much to the chagrin of his tsukebito. Abi has to stay mobile, and use Ichinojo’s mass against him.

Tochinoshin vs Shohozan – If you wanted cake and ice cream for Mothers Day, here we go. Big guns goes up against unstoppable strength. Win or lose, nobody leaves a match with Shohozan without being sore. But Tochinoshin’s fantastic strength will likely carry the day, provided his upper body is healed.

Kaisei vs Goeido – I think this one is all Goeido. Goeido is lightning fast, and Kaisei seems to be huge, powerful and kind of slow. Andy thinks that he’s been upgraded to GoeiDOS 2.1, so we will see what shows up tomorrow.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – It’s Hakuho time! It will be good to see The Boss back in action. But Tamawashi is a tough first customer. As long as Tamawashi is not psyched out by facing the dai-Yokozuna, I think he will give him a good, if brief, fight. Boss all the way on this one. [Past history is 10-0 in Hakuho’s favour. –PinkMawashi]

Kakuryu vs Endo – Woo! Saving the best for last, and what a match-up. Endo is a very technical rikishi, I have heard that he studies video of his opponent before each match. He looks for habits, things they like to do. He comes up with ways to counter strong moves and attack weak ones. He starts against Kakuryu who is the master of “reactive sumo”. He loves to stalemate an opponent and wait for them to make a mistake, which he turns against them in a blink of an eye.

Pre Natsu News Round Up – May 7th

Kisenosato-Salt

*Thanks to Herouth for scouting much of this content via twitter.

Across Tokyo, inter-stable training sessions are increasing as the rikishi continue to hone their preparations for Sunday’s start of the Natsu basho. While everyone is training hard and engaging in multiple test matches, it’s the top men who are getting the headlines.

Yokozuna Hakuho participated in the Isegahama Ichimon joint training session, going up against Kaisei, Takarafuji and Kyokutaisei, finishing with a 13-0 record. He is looking strong and confident going into Sunday’s tournament start, and will be a strong contender for the yusho. Observers noted that his tachiai no longer featured his usual face-slap, as requested by the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee.

Injured Yokozuna Kisenosato trained at the Nishonoseki joint training, held today at kaze-land (Oguruma). Kisenosato went against Yoshikaze for 9 bouts and won all of them. It should be noted that something has robbed Yoshikaze of most of his overflowing genki fighting form as of late, and today his right shoulder was heavily taped. One notable from the Nishonoseki rengo keiko was the early departure of Ozeki Takayasu, who complained of pain in his left arm. Previous training sessions featured the big Ozeki suffering pain in his right shoulder in between bouts.

Meanwhile, Yokozuna Kakuryu looked strong and dominant in joint training Monday at Tokitsukaze beya. He faced Endo, Abi, and Yutakayama, finishing 18 and 1. Yokozuna Kakuryu has stated his absolute goal is to score a back-to-back yusho, overcoming everyone including Hakuho to maintain his lock on the top spot in sumo, Yokozuna 1 East. Going into Sunday’s start, he is the man to beat, with his health seeming to be good, and his body in excellent condition, he is possibly in his best form ever.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Chiyomaru
If I win, yes, that big meaty leg is mine!

It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.

What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.

Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!

Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.

Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.

Haru Day 6 Highlights

bow twirling

The second act gets off on the right foot, with several of the undefeated picking up their first loss, but not (so far) Yokozuna Kakuryu and Kaisei. Both men remain unbeaten, with a growing crowd at one loss.

Point two – Who turned up the sumo to awesome mode today? Lots and lots of good matches from Osaka, so you may want to consider watching Jason’s channel and Kintamayama to get a broader look at all of the excellent sumo action that I am sure won’t fit into NHK’s highlight reel.

Highlight Matches

Sokokurai defeats Meisei – Meisei is in his first ever Makuuchi bout, and he puts up a valiant effort against Sokokurai, who manages to pick up his second win. This ends up a yotsu-zumo match, with both men working hard for a winning grip on the other’s mawashi.

Daiamami defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu looking like he has run low on fuel (quick, someone go to Hiroshima and get some okonomiyaki!), while Daiamami turns this into another yotsu-zumo match. Daiamami shows off some truly classic sumo form delivering a yorikiri.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Keep in mind, Ikioi is fighting hurt. Yes, he went on a 4-0 tear to start the basho, but it seems his pain is taking over. Daishomaru, with only a single loss, continues to look strong. I am going to watch for his upcoming match against Aoiyama.

Aoiyama defeats Asanoyama – Unlike some of his prior opponents this tournament, Asanoyama gave the man-mountain from Bulgaria a good fight. But let’s keep in mind that Aoiyama, in spite of his 5-1 record, is, in fact, undefeated so far this basho. He’s like some overflowing dollop of belligerent sour cream out there.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Are you sitting down? Ishiura brought his real sumo today, and it was awesome. Chiyoshoma may have been expecting a henka, and when none appeared, he unleashed a frenzied series of blows on Ishiura’s shoulders and head. Then… what’s this? Ishiura initiates yotsu-zumo? Why yes he does! The two men go chest to chest, and Ishiura is getting the job done. The crowd loves it, and so do I! More of this please, Ishiura.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki returns after taking a day off to nurse injuries suffered from (surprise surprise) falling off the dohyo into the random “lap of the day”. So Chiyonokuni does his best grumpy badger, flailing away at Mr 5×5, who withers under the attack. Chiyonokuni turns him around, and into today’s lap in the front row, which may or may not have been a stable master. Okinoumi is inches away from the impact zone, but looks completely un-phased, as it’s just another day at the office. Someone get Kotoyuki a towel and a coke.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to be getting tired of losing, as we have yet another yotsu-zumo match break out, with Yutakayama clearly dominating. Ryuden battles strongly, and flatly refuses to be pushed over the bales. Yutakayama tries twice for a leg trip, ultimately succeeding, and has the presence of mind to make sure he falls on top of Ryuden. I like the “help the man up” we see from Yutakayama following. This group I am calling “The Freshmen” really are a breath of fresh air into the top division.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – An odd little match, the kimarite is listed as oshidashi, but really Daieisho falls over at the edge while Kaisei is about 3m away.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match, notable because Hokutofuji actually won.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t know what is plaguing Yoshikaze, but it’s sad to watch. Yoshikaze was in charge at the start, but Chiyomaru got him off balance and out. Yoshikaze looked a bit hurt getting up. Ugh.

Shodai defeats Abi – Abi loves to start a match by leaning forward and smacking the dickens out of his opponent’s upper body. Shodai, being Shodai, absorbs a bit of it, seemingly waiting for inspiration. Abi is relentless, backing Shodai up. Then, much like his match against Hokutofuji, he decides he has had enough and hurls Abi to the clay. Ok, win #3 for Shodai!

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis blasts out of the tachiai and delivers a tsuppari salad to Ichinojo. Ichinojo laughs to himself, “Silly pony! I don’t like salad…” And puts his arms around Chiyotairyu, whose arms continue to work by their own purpose to continue the slap-fest. Now flailing like a trout, but completely ineffective, Chiyotairyu can do nothing but obey as the giant marches forward and delivers him to the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – In this basho’s ultimate tadpole throw-down, it’s Takakeisho who comes out on top. Mitakeumi never really got his offense started, and could not counter Takakeisho’s attack. This is one of the reasons you see Takakeisho competing near the top: His sumo technique enables him to usually get the first hit in, and from that moment, his opponent is reacting.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Good golly miss Molly! What a bout! Endo sacrifices his face to Tochinoshin’s shoulder blast to land a morozashi double inside grip from the tachiai. While the Hatsu yusho winner continues to work on his head, Endo is getting ready to deliver some doom. Tochinoshin realizes he’s been had as Endo rotates him, threatening to send him out. In a hurry, Tochinoshin lands his lethal left, but Endo is not going anywhere. Tochinoshin cocks a throw as Endo rotates to take him to the clay. Tochinoshin’s superior strength carries the day, but it was a clear display of how far Endo has come from being injured and weak. Damn, that man has some sumo moves.

Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – It is at this point I feel really bad for Takarafuji. He’s given each opponent a solid match, and he is just always an inch short of the win. His match against Takayasu devolves into a chest-to-chest contest of strength and endurance, and he gives the Ozeki a run for his money. There was a moment early in the match where Takayasu attempted a pull-down. More rikishi should be looking for that, and make him eat it.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Hometown Ozeki Goeido hands Kyushu’s Shohozan his first loss of the basho. As always, Goeido’s sumo is wild, chaotic and prone to pulling, but Shohozan fell for it… literally.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kakuryu has managed to keep his sumo rolling for 6 days so far, and it’s great to see him win. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest early and launched him hip-pump attack. Kakuryu times it beautifully, waiting for a forward thrust from his opponent and converts that push into a flying trip to the clay.

Haru Day 5 Highlights

Makuuchi Dohyo iri

Act one comes to a close, and we had a number of undefeated rikishi pick up their first black stars. As guarded as everyone was about how the lone Yokozuna would do, Kakuryu is thus far warming up nicely against lower ranked rikishi.  I am even starting to have hope he may deliver some good sumo in the second week when he faces higher ranked rikishi.

Act two starts tomorrow, and this is where we separate the good from the great for Haru. Even the rikishi who have one loss may hold their ground in the second act, and we will be hard-pressed to see anyone exit act two undefeated with the current banzuke.

But day 5 was a great day of sumo, and as expected we had some great matches from Kagayaki, Shohozan, and Ichinojo.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aoiyama – I completely do not agree with this call. All the replays show Myogiryu down before Aoiyama stepped out. So one undefeated rikishi gets his first black star…

Sokokurai defeats Hidenoumi – Sokokurai gets his first win of Haru, and actually looked fairly good doing it. I guess going chest to chest with someone roughly his own size was the key to getting his sumo running.

Daiamami defeats Ikioi – Ikioi also picked up his first loss for Haru. Daiamami chose a hit-and shift tactic from the tachiai, and it worked against Ikioi. This is the danger of a shoulder-blast tachiai. It leaves you off balance and committed to a direction, which leaves you open for an immediate slap / thrust down from the side.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a “hit and shift” from the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni recovers and launches his frantic thrusting attack. In an instant, he is behind Ishiura and pushing him out.

Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looking surprisingly lost this basho, with only a single win. Tochiozan is competing hurt, but I marvel at the efficiency the veteran brings to this match. Every move has a purpose and a flow to it. Great sumo from Tochiozan.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to be slowly, day by day, regaining his fierce energy. Today’s match against Daieisho began with high-velocity oshi, but quickly went to Yoshikaze grabbing a thigh for a leg trip. Daieisho had the presence of mind to keep moving backward while Yoshikaze held his leg, bringing him to the clay.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – As anticipated last night, this turned out to be a great contest of clashing sumo styles. Abi tried for a henka, but there was no way Kagayaki was fast enough into the tachiai for that. Kagayaki seems to have styled himself on Kisenosato’s younger days. He is careful, deliberate and moves with purpose. So he turns and persues Abi, who is now retreating and using his superior reach to land blows to Kagayaki’s neck and head. Kagayaki gives ground and endures Abi’s attacks. But of course, Abi over-commits, and Kagayaki throws him to the clay. Nice sumo here.

Kaisei defeats Chiyomaru – Chest to chest from the start, Kaisei’s long arms are enough to go around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly. Kaisei lowers his hips and advances, but Chiyomaru shuts him down. Kaisei’s strength seems to be back, and he digs to find the energy to back Chiyomaru up and then lifts him over the tawara. That’s 5-0 for the Brazilian.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – A battle of the “Should have been” rikishi, Hokutofuji unleashes a fierce tachiai, which Shodai absorbs. Pushing Hokutofuji back, Shodai then turns his opponent, who rockets out and over the edge of the dohyo. It’s over in a flash.

Shohozan defeats Arawashi – Excellent opening from Arawashi, who nearly gets Shohozan out immediately after the tachiai with an armbar throw. But “Big Guns” is not to be denied today, and pivots to return the attack. He grabs a handful of Arawashi’s belt and marches forward, tossing him aside at the tawara. 5-0 for Shohozan, 0-5 for Arawashi.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Ichinojo decides to unleash his battle-cuddle for a second day, this time tasking Endo to support his quarter-ton bulk until he gets tired. After an initial drive by Ichinojo that almost takes Endo out, the two lock up in the center of the dohyo, chest to chest. There they stay for a minute or more, Ichinojo calmly resting, and daydreaming of eating ice-cream with his favorite pony, while Endo is losing stamina. Endo rallies first and digs deep to raise the Mongolian giant up and start moving him back. But there’s just too much Ichinojo to move. Sensing Endo had reached the end of his endurance, Ichinojo returns the favor and finds Endo light enough to lift and push. Yorikiri. I firmly think Endo is going to be a san’yaku regular before long. He will need to find a way to deal with Ichinojo’s mass.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Quick bout, after the tachiai, Tochinoshin circles around Chiyotairyu in a blink of an eye, and pushes him out from behind. Done and done.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s tachiai delivered his skull squarely into Mitakeumi’s face with a wet sounding crunch. I am going to guess that hurt. The match goes oshi-pushy, but Mitakeumi is able to give as well as he gets from Tamawashi. Already close to the edge of the ring, a well-placed shove at center-mass moves Tamawashi back over the bales for Mitakeumi’s 4th win.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Quite straight forward Goeido 2.0 bout. He stays stable, and apply wax on / wax off thrusts to keep Takakeisho moving backward and off balance. Still no “wave action” from Takakeisho? Nicely done Goeido.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to be hurt, drained and on his last legs. We love the guy, but enough already.

Kakuryu defeats Takarafuji – I like how low Kakuryu was at the tachiai, and he moved forward strongly. His nodowa keeps Takarafuji high and moving backward. With his heels on the tawara, Takarafuji mounts his counter-attack, thrusting Kakuryu to the side. Takarafuji lunges and drives Kakuryu backward towards a loss. With his heels on the bales, the Yokozuna pivots and brings Takarafuji down. But a monoii declares the touched down at the same time, it’s a rematch!

The second bout started the same as the first, Kakuryu low and strong at the tachiai, into a nodowa. But this time he kept driving Takarafuji back and out.

Haru Day 5 Preview

Tochinoshin Flying Lesson

We come to the end of the first act, and it’s clear that there are a few “sleepers” in the ranks. Rikishi who have been ranked higher who have returned to their previous, genki ways. They are now ripping their opponents apart and having marvelous runs. The pace and rhythm of a basho takes this into account. The first act is all about seeing who is hot, and who is not. Starting on Friday, act two will take the hot, feed them into increasingly difficult bouts, seeking to winnow the great from the good. This should include Aoiyama, Kaisei, Shohozan and oddly enough, an injured Ikioi.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – The big Bulgarian will likely continue to act as a massive, flabby wrecking ball at the bottom end of the banzuke. Myogiryu has split their career record 9-9, but right now Aoiyama seems to be a man possessed, and he is giving everyone black stars as prizes.

Ikioi vs Daiamami – How long can Ikioi keep winning? He has only faced Daiamami once, and he won that match. So far the Osaka native has had a very good run, and he is halfway to a kachi-koshi. His key to winning has been moving fast and low out of the tachiai and for most of his opponents that has left them reacting, usually poorly, to his authoritative opening moves.

Nishikigi vs Asanoyama – Both men are fairly safe in Makuuchi if they can get at least 6 wins, but both are struggling to get past two. Asanoyama showed a lot of potential during his debut tournament, Aki 2017, but seems to have lost the throttle on his sumo. He faces off against Nishikigi who is working hard to keep himself at or above 50%.

Ishiura vs Chiyonokuni – In his 5 prior matches against Chiyonokuni, Ishiura has not found a way to beat the Grumpy Badger. Like many of the younger rikishi, they seem to have hit some kind of wall and are struggling to move to higher levels of performance. Ishiura at 2-2 could get his “go ahead” win on day 5 if he can stand up to Chiyonokuni’s typically frantic attacks.

Tochiozan vs Ryuden – The first match between the two, and Tochiozan is looking questionable already. I would give a definite advantage to Ryuden.

Daieisho vs Yoshikaze – Also a first-time match, we saw some small amount of fire from Yoshikaze on day 4, and fans can begin to hope that he will return to his high-energy sumo. But then again, he does turn 36 next week. Sumo life likely takes a heavy toll on his body.

Abi vs Kagayaki – Both are tall, Abi is lanky, Kagayaki is deliberate. Abi seems to jump about and attack with rapid blows, Kagayaki plans and moves with care and power. Could be a good match, or a complete snore fest.

Chiyomaru vs Kaisei – I love me some Chiyomaru, but I am not sure if anyone is going to slow down Kaisei during week one.

Arawashi vs Shohozan – Arawashi holds a 5-3 career advantage over Shohozan, but right now “Big Guns” is on a tear, and I don’t think the winless Arawashi will have any mojo to slow him down.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Oh you wonderful schedulers. It’s time to take a couple of hard-charging, genki guys from the joi, and face them off. I could say Ichinojo holds a slight 3-2 career advantage, but that’s not going to matter this time. The Boulder has outrageous mass, love of ice cream and no fear of wolves on his side. Endo has his enchanted golden mawashi, a legion of swooning little old ladies and some kind of bionic foot it seems. Who’s going to win? Maybe Endo shows up Thursday leading a horse to the dohyo. Ichinojo loses focus and it’s easy from there. I am hoping Endo is watching Mitakeumi’s day 4 bout.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Sumo Elvis against the Yusho Man. I am going with Tochinoshin, as I think day 4’s loss really motivated him.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – The thing to note, Mitakeumi leads their career series 9-2, so in this case, that’s a clear advantage. Tamawashi is looking “good enough” to handle Mitakeumi this time around. I would be interested to see if we get a Henka here, it is almost begging for Mitakeumi’s cannonball tachiai to meet thin air.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – Takakeisho steps onto the dohyo with a plan to dismantle nearly everyone he might face. You can see it in the way he conducts himself, and how he fights. Goeido, sadly, is riddled with doubts and worries. I think Takakeisho will psych out the Ozeki, and that we are going to see a fast match, one way or the other. Slight edge to Goeido here, as he is in his hometown, and he’s not happy about his loss to Endo.

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – the match of great sadness, We have an Ozeki who discarded his excellent sumo form to become a street fighter, facing off against a broken wreck of a former Ozeki who’s body can no longer support his favorite technique. Someone please just let them toss a coin and go drinking.

Kakuryu vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has only won a single time in 13 matches against Kakuryu. So my hope is that their match does not result in further injury to the surviving Yokozuna relic.

Haru Day 4 Highlights

 

Takakeisho Extra Point
Sadly, No Extra Points In Sumo

 

Absolute blockbuster day of sumo, as the cobwebs of the early days are almost all swept away, and we race towards the end of Haru’s first act. Today we saw some of the best sumo thus far from Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, with Takakeisho and Tochinoshin a close second. In fact, I would say that both of those matches are worthy of study in sumo school, as each show an opponent going against a larger, strong rikishi, and finding a way to win.

Apologies for the late highlights today, much insanity has broken loose in life. I will gamberize for Thursday.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Hidenoumi – Aoiyama to gut and fillet everyone who stands against him. Hidenoumi had no chance as his tachiai hit a wall of flesh, and then the nodowa landed on his throat. Aoiyama finished with him and tossed him aside like a bag of rotten miso. With Aoiyama back to genki status, I predict he is going to inflict a lot of pain at the bottom of the banzuke.

Kyokushuho defeats Myogiryu – Visiting from Juryo, Kyokushuho takes a bite out of the struggling Myogiryu. Both men started with thrusts, and then went chest to chest. The closing kotenage looked on the painful side, but Myogiryu seemed ok afterward.

Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The injured Ikioi remains unbeaten at Maegashira 14 and is managing to best his opponent each day, no matter what. He is already halfway to a kachi-koshi. Today it was Asanoyama. Ikioi absorbed a fury of blows, then drove forward. Asanoyama seemed ill-prepared to shift to defense, and Ikioi applied a yoritaoshi for a rapid win.

Tochiozan defeats Kotoyuki – Fusen-sho, Kotoyuki has withdrawn from Haru. Possibly too many air-express trips into the front row.

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempted a mini-henka, but Yutakayama was ready. Following that, Ishiura could never set his feet at all, and it was a bit of a dance/chase routine that had Ishiura out in a hurry.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Chiyoshoma gets his first win, in a thrusting battle with Ryuden that left the Freshman unable to find his balance or set up for any kind of stable offense. Chiyoshoma uses this with great skill and keeps him unsteady. Ryuden was a bit slow to get up, hopefully, he is ok.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Once again Abi plays the part of the bull fighter. He uses his superior reach to goad Daieisho into a fierce forward charge, then steps out of the way as Daieisho launches out of the ring. We like to make fun of Abi and his long limbs, but watch this bout in slow motion, Daieisho can’t even really touch the man.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – Yoshikaze looked a bit better today, but nowhere near full berserker strength. Kakayaki was unable to cope with the raging chaos that is Yoshikaze, and he was overwhelmed. Both men are now 2-2.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyomaru – Great to see that Hokutofuji finally picked up his first win. He has been turning in poor performances for a few months, and fans have to wonder what problem is plaguing him. Chiyomaru was soft at the tachiai, while Hokutofuji launched with abandon. Strictly a thrusting battle, Hokutofuji focused on pushing Chiyomaru from center mass, and it worked.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – The worst part of this match? A moment before he steps out, you can see Shodai visibly give up. Can we please find some way to put Shodai through whatever self-help session fixed Ichinojo? Maybe some time with a couple of nice ponies, or maybe chasing down wolves in the streets of Sumida? Kaisei looking quite genki, and picks up his 4th straight win.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Damn, Shohozan is looking quite fierce so far. Kotoshogiku is a fraction of his former self, and he tried to rush forward and go chest to chest. But Shohozan gave ground under his control, and Kotoshogiku could never plant his feet and bounce forward. Shohozan picked up a nice win, also 4-0 to start.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Chiyotairyu also picking up his first win of the tournament today against Takarafuji. It was clear from the start that Chiyotairyu was going to make this an oshi-battle, and Takarafuji planted his feet and dug in. But the more massive Chiyotairyu took control, got Takarafuji off balance, and slapped him down.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Now we start the really GOOD stuff. Wow, very impressed with Mitakeumi this fight. Ichinojo was going to once again apply the “I’m incredibly large, deal with it” strategy, but I think he was unprepared that yes, Mitakeumi was ready to deal with it. From the start, Ichinojo is just physically much higher than Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi works with that. He gets inside of Ichinojo, but rather than going for the belt, he puts his hands on the giant’s chest and starts pushing. Ichinojo thinks to himself “silly pony!”, and leans forward. The weight is clearly taxing Mitakeumi, but he dials up the pressure. 500 pounds of Mongolian is crushing down on Mitakeumi, but he’s not going to relent. Ichinojo moves to shift his grip, and Mitakeumi takes Ichinojo’s armpits. He lifts and pushes hard. There was no recovery, and Ichinojo could never again plant his feet. Fantastic win by Mitakeumi!

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Day 4 was not done giving us things to cheer about. A fantastic match between Hatsu Yusho winner Tochinoshin, and the grumpy tadpole Takakeisho. You know, of course, that Tochinoshin wants to get his left hand on the Bowling Ball’s mawashi. And he gets it. But rather than shock or defeat, a look of intensity and motivation sweeps across Takakeisho’s face, and he drives forward, lifting Tochinoshin’s left arm with everything he has… and breaks the grip! This leaves Takakeisho off balance and stumbling, but Tochinoshin pursues. They continue to stagger like drunken Tanuki across the dohyo, with Takakeisho doing a pirouette as Tochinoshin takes in a mouth full of clay. Nicely done to Takakeisho! The crowd cheers as both men bow, what an effort!

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Kind of boring oshi-fight, with Takayasu delivering his now obligatory shoulder blast. He does manage to out slap Tamawashi, which is quite an accomplishment. Bout ends with a hatakikomi. Kind of boring… but hey, Ozeki got his second win, now 2-2 for the basho.

Endo defeats Goeido – Endo has a sequence of moves he has used a few times now at Haru and Hatsu. He employed it again today against Goeido, and shame on the Ozeki for falling for it. He meets the tachiai low and strong, makes sure his opponent ramps up the pressure to full power, and then while keeping his hands on his opponent’s upper body, steps aside and releases. Worked again today. Everyone, keep an eye on Endo!

Kakuryu defeats Arawashi – Very straightforward match. Big K meets Arawashi at the tachiai and marches him straight backward. Very happy that the lone Yokozuna is doing well this basho. Perhaps his detractors will gain some respect for him?

Haru Day 3 Highlights

Kakuryu

It seems the top division is starting to clear the cobwebs of two months without sumo and get into fighting form. Already there are a number of great surprises and some expected outcomes that are nice to see.

I have to give massive respect to Yokozuna Kakuryu. On the final day of the Hatsu Basho, he took a fall off the side of the dohyo in his match with Goeido, and in the process injured several fingers on his right hand. He is right-handed, and this has kept him from generating much – if any – grip strength. For whatever reason, he decided not to go kyujo, but instead gamberized and entered the competition. It’s quite early in the basho, but I am impressed that he has managed 3 consecutive wins. If you watch carefully, you can see him wince when he employs that right hand.

Then there is the case of Ichinojo. I know I had a bit of fun with his interview during last night’s preview, but if this giant of a man really has gotten his sumo back in fighting form, everyone is going to have to step up their game. He weighs over 500 lbs in the US system [over 225 kilos –PinkMawashi], yet he does not suffer from some of the mobility issues that plagued the Great Konishiki towards the end of his career at a similar weight. There are practical challenges with combating an opponent who is north of a quarter ton, as very few things will actually impact that kind of mass. The downside is that he is one ungraceful dismount from a career limiting mechanical injury. We wish him, his opponents, the shinpan, and everyone in the zabuton zone good luck and safety.

There was a LOT of good sumo on day 3, as everyone is starting to get their basho-grade sumo on.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Aminishiki – Aminishiki seems to put up some resistance, but this match is 100% Daiamami. I am glad that Uncle Sumo was able to push to return to Makuuchi earlier, but I fear he’s not got the mojo to compete at the top division level.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Very quick win for Aoiyama, who pulls Nishikigi down straight out of the tachiai. Aoiyama seems in better condition than he has been for a while, and may be well on his way to returning as a fixture of Makuuchi.

Ikioi defeats Hidenoumi – In spite of his injuries and pain, Ikioi keeps finding ways to win. Granted, Ikioi competing at Maegashira 14 is a bit silly, but he seems to be able to survive down here in his injured state.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoyuki – Once again, Daishomaru focuses on this opponents center of mass, applies pressure and marches forward. This guy has an excellent command of the fundamentals, and I like it. Of course, Kotoyuki goes airborne off the dohyo. I may give Kotoyuki a nickname – “The Porg”

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – What a match! Neither man was willing to give an inch in this battle. No henka from Ishiura today, thank goodness. Asanoyama found himself challenged to get Ishiura under control, as Ishiura kept pressing inward and moving forward. Ishiura landed a left-hand grip, and try as he might, Asanoyama could not break it. The match was not so much won as lost, as I think Ishiura lost his footing, and Asanoyama let him drop.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ryuden – Chiyonokuni had a game plan, and he was able to execute it well. Ryuden over-committed at the tachiai (which he is inclined to do). Chiyonokuni gave token resistance, then allowed Ryuden to follow through all the way to the clay. Nicely done to Chiyonokuni, who has started this basho 3-0.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – Okinoumi finally picks up his first win. Daieisho was on the attack from the tachiai, but Okinoumi was able to shift his forward motion downward and to the right for the win.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – I know Kagayaki does not attract much attention, as he is quiet and composed, but this guy is showing steady improvement. He’s off to a solid start, and I would guess this may another basho where he shows incremental increases in the power and skill of his sumo. Much like Kisenosato, he is not a gifted rikishi like Hakuho or Enho, but is willing to work himself endlessly to improve.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Abi pulls up early for a matta, but they get underway with reckless abandon on the second try. Hokutofuji is working with everything he has, but Abi’s freakishly long reach is giving him the advantage. Hokutofuji is relentlessly moving forward, but Abi plays matador and sends the charging Hokutofuji down and out.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Not sure if this is “What happened to Yoshikaze” or “What happened to Kaisei” question. Yoshizake is clearly a fraction of his normal attack power, while Kaisei seems to have decided to dust off his sumo and win. As a Yoshikaze fan, I would rather see him dominate, but it’s nice to see Kaisei running up the score for a change. Kaisei lands a deep left-hand grip early, and Yoshikaze seems to have no counterattack available.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – As predicted, Shodai was beaten up and lost his lunch money for a week. Shohozan applied a rotating “slap, slap, shoulder blast” program, and kept Shodai reacting to his sumo. Shohozan even landed a nice slap to Shodai’s face in there. Match finished with Shohozan applying a rolling sukuinage, with Shodai tumbling to the clay. Please, Shodai – get it together man!

Chiyomaru defeats Takakeisho – A surprising mawashi battle here, as both men are so rotund that their belts could be considered unreachable. Takakeisho is clearly looking to improve his yotsu chops, but in this bout, Chiyomaru comes out on top. Much respect to Takakeisho for working to expand his attack repertoire.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Over the past 24 hours, we have come to find out more about Ichinojo, including the fact that he used to wrestle small horses when he was living on the steppes of Mongolia. So now we will forever try to visualize what kind of pony he imagines each opponent to be. In the case of Takarafuji (aka, treasure-fuji), it’s better not to consider. Takarafuji, as always, gives it everything. But he is attempting to overpower a 500-pound mountain of Mongolian beef. With both men latched on to the other’s belt, there was only one way this was ever going to end. We can assume that Ichinojo routinely sleeps standing up against various fixtures and support beams, so leaning against the comparatively tiny and lightweight Takarafuji was unlikely to tire him. I do like the fact that when it came time to finish Takarafuji, Ichinojo was both careful and gentle. Neither man faced injury. Well done.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin got his left-hand grip early, and no matter which way Kotoshogiku rotated, the Georgian stayed with him. Solid win for Tochinoshin using his preferred form.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Still sticking with my pre-basho proclamation: Keep an eye on Endo. Today he handed Mitakeumi his first loss of Haru, and he looked solid in the process. Mitakeumi launched low and compact into the tachiai, and once again Endo read the situation and reacted in a blink of an eye. He collapsed into Mitakeumi’s charge, turned him and got out of the way. Endo has always had outstanding ring sense, and split-second reactions. If he has resolved his health and injury issues, we could be seeing a new contender for a long duration San’yaku slot.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Don’t blink or you will miss it. Goeido delivers a face slap at the tachiai and then steps to the side. Chiyotairyu’s massive forward momentum does the rest.

Takayasu defeats Arawashi – Shoulder blast again from Takayasu leaves him dazed and off balance for a split second, but Arawashi does not notice or cannot capitalize. From there it’s a ragged chase scene that sees Arawashi step backward out of the ring. Kind of a dud match.

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – No complaints about that pull, as we all know Big K is hurt, and that right hand is the worst part of his body right now. Quite impressive that he beat Tamawashi off the line – that’s hard to do. Tamawashi once again came in strong, but Kakuryu was just enough ahead that he could force him back and up. From there the pull-down worked, and the Yokozuna had a victory before anyone got hurt.

Haru Day 3 Preview

Ichinojo

We are only on day 3, but it strikes me that we are back to a roster very similar to Hatsu, with a somewhat injured Yokozuna Kakuryu really the only upper ranked rikishi who seems to be delivering wins. Takayasu is all over the map and looking out of control. Goeido is working to settle down and focus on his sumo. Much as we suspected leading up to this basho, it’s going to be a free for all, and we may, in fact, see another Maegashira win the yusho this time, too.

This is all part of the transitional period that is natural after we have had a dominant cohort who have been able to hold on to and maintain the top slots for 10+ years in many cases. Much as I love Yoshikaze, Ikioi, Shohozan and all of that crowd, they are in their final tournaments of the top division, and we should enjoy them. They have an important and useful function – knock the youngsters around enough to make them proper sekitori.

Then there is Ichinojo (whom we affectionately call The Boulder); rarely have I seen a better return from a moribund state in any athlete. He seems strong, confident, poised and clearly benefiting from the lack of wolves prowling Japan, which allows him ample rest.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daiamami vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo once again returns to the upper divisions. Sadly he enters with zero wins and is in fact not looking very genki at all this time around. He and Daiamami are evenly matched with a 4-3 career record in Daiamami’s favor.

Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Bulgaria’s own self-propelled man-mountain is eager to defeat everything so he can earn his stay in Makuuchi. Nishikigi is likewise focused on survival but may have problems with Aoiyama’s superior reach, and impressive bulk.

Ikioi vs Hidenoumi – It was clear following day 2 that Ikioi was injured and in pain. He is clearly on the bubble this tournament, and a losing record or kyujo might put him in Juryo for a while, or for keeps. Hidenoumi has never found a way to beat Ikioi, but with Ikioi hurt, this may be his change.

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – Ishiura’s henka dispenser is getting boring. Sadly there is a good chance that Asanoyama will buy it at full price. Ideally, we would see these two scrap it out, but Ishiura seems to be very worried about his height disadvantage these days. It’s a far cry from his sumo during Kyushu 2016.

Chiyonokuni vs Ryuden – Maegashira 10 seems to be a comfortable rank for Chiyonokuni, who has always fought well no matter what rank he holds, but at this point, he is (so far) winning. Chiyonokuni delivers frantic, high energy action on the dohyo, and I am expecting he will overwhelm Ryuden.

Abi vs Hokutofuji – It makes me sad to think that Hokutofuji seems to have become the Eeyore of the sumo world. There is always some sort of negative outcome for him, no matter what. He can’t seem to muster a winning record these days, and his sumo is just not cutting it, even down at Maegashira 6. Abi gets his first meeting with him on day 3, and he is eager to bounce back from being Kaisei’s toy on day 2.

Kaisei vs Yoshikaze – Kaisei seems to be back in the groove with his sumo. It’s odd because he was doing poorly for a while, clearly fading out from his heights in 2016. But he rallied during his time in Juryo and seems to be on the march now. Sadly Yoshikaze has yet to look genki or even really at 80% of his normal crazy levels. Is time finally nipping at the heels of our favorite berserker? Yoshikaze fans may want to look away, the big Brazilian holds a 10-4 career advantage.

Shohozan vs Shodai – Oh lord. Shodai continues to be reactionary rather than dictating the match. When you are reacting, Shodai, you are like the worm waiting for the hook. Now he goes up against a resurgent Shohozan. Let me guess, more round-house slaps inbound to Shodai’s face. Interestingly enough, Shodai holds a 6-2 career advantage.

Chiyomaru vs Takakeisho – Chiyomaru has yet to take a match from Takakeisho, and the fact that it’s day 2 and the angriest tadpole in the squadron has already dusted off the “Wave Action” attacks may indicate that he’s looking to do more than an 8-7 kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo vs Takarafuji – Ichinojo seems mega-genki right now. That’s a lot of genki. Today, Tachiai’s own Herouth found an article on him in the Japanese press where he actually talked about tossing young horses about in his native Mongolia. Takarafuji is going to put up a good fight, he always does, but Ichinojo holds a 10-2 advantage over the man with no neck.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – Kotoshogiku seems to be undergoing a gradual mummification process, where he had large amounts of his right abdomen and hip covered with flesh colored tape. Tochinoshin’s fans know that he’s only a fierce competitor when he’s not hurt, and we are all dreading the haunting possibility that one of these matches could see him hurt. Over their career, Kotoshogiku holds a 24-6 advantage over Tochinoshin, but with Kotoshogiku hurt, and Tochinoshin looking to move past his day 2 loss, that trend may have no meaning.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – Endo wants to recover from his hasty leap to take Kakuryu’s bait on day 2, which cost him the match. Mitakeumi pushes to do well the first week, knowing that many times he fades against the more senior rikishi. They are evenly matched 2-2 over their career, but I would give a slight edge to Endo this time.

Chiyotairyu vs Goeido – Goeido, look past the fact you have a losing record against super-sized-sumo-Elvis. Just plow him over. Takayasu is in trouble this time, and we need you to carry the Ozeki banner. Should Kakuryu get (more) hurt, you could end up the senior man for the rest of the basho.

Takayasu vs Arawashi – Oh Takayasu, please get your sumo under control. I think I know why Kisenosato was winning practice matches against you. You may have gone a bit off the rails with your technique. Arawashi’s dismounts are usually high on drama, and he has given Takayasu an excellent 2-3 career run. Pooh-bear, you don’t want to go into day 4 with zero wins.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – This one may be the match that puts Kakuryu out of action for the basho. Tamawashi has not been really genki for a while, and he is no joke this basho. I expect Kakuryu to attempt a pull or two, and he may not have much power from his primary right hand. Tamawashi, of course, is going to try to slap the Yokozuna into a mistake, and then make him pay.