Nagoya Day 12 Preview

We are in the thick of Act 3 mechanics, and the schedule shows rikishi paired together to ensure that the ones on the cusp of make-koshi have a chance to be pushed over the brink, and the ones near 50% win/loss are paired up so that only the strong survive. This will culminate with “Darwin matches” on the final day, where two 7-7 rikishi face off, with one getting a make and the other a kachi-koshi.

The big question now is if Hakuho can maintain any form of sumo as he gets progressively more sore from those arm injuries. His ego is driving him on, but one has to wonder if his body is going to cooperate. His fusensho on day 11 may have given him a welcome chance to get his body back together and ready to fight. For him to have a chance, someone has to put dirt on Kakuryu, and he will be the last man given that chance in the final match of day 15.

Nagoya Leaderboard

The leader board has narrowed with Takayasu’s kyujo, and Myogiryu loss on day 11. We are entering a period of time when it will become mathematically impossible for anyone other than Hakuho to catch Kakuryu, unless someone can put dirt on him prior to the day 15 finale between The Boss and Big K.

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Hakuho
Hunt Group: Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki holds a 5-1 career advantage over Kagayaki, and if he wins again today, he will achieve his kachi-koshi. In fact, Kotoyuki has not had a top division kachi-koshi since November of 2017.

Yago vs Nishikigi – Yago is already make-koshi, as is Nishikigi. So this is a match of the 8 loss club, and one of them will exit with 9. Both of them will be ok with Nishikigi initiating a mawashi battle, and that may in fact help Yago, who has seemed to have movement problems this July.

Kotoeko vs Sadanoumi – One of these rikishi exits this match with kachi-koshi, and it’s kind of an even toss up who will be the one to claim win #8. They have split their 4 previous matches, and are both fighting quite well this tournament.

Shohozan vs Enho – Everyone wants Enho to get win #8, including Shohozan. He just does not want it to be scored against him on day 12, which would give him his 8th loss. Shohozan needs to resist the temptation to grab a hold of that little sumo machine, but instead to use his preferred hit and move cadence. This is a rematch of what many consider the highlight bout of the Natsu basho. -lksumo

Onosho vs Toyonoshima – This match leads me to think the scheduling committee has a sense of humor. Both of these men are plagued by forward balance / momentum problems this tournament, and putting them head to head is kind of like testing which one is worse. Ideally they would both fall over helplessly moments after the tachiai, landing in unison and causing the longest and most puzzling monoii in the history of sumo.

Chiyomaru vs Okinoumi – Chiyomaru’s “cab forward design” gives him an edge in this match, where I am sure that Okinoumi will try to grab a hold of that Loch Ness Green mawashi and steer his roundness to a fall.

Myogiryu vs Terutsuyoshi – First time match, both of these rikishi are kachi-koshi, and both have had a great tournament. So this is to see who gets to run up the score.

Takagenji vs Shimanoumi – Takagenji went from a strong open to now teetering on the edge of make-koshi in his first top division tournament. Some of this seems to have come from easy to spot rookie mistakes against some seasoned veterans, and some of it may be a bit of a fade that started day 6, the last day he won a match.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – Two long-serving veterans going head to head, with 38 matches in their careers. I am sure both of them have an array of moves, counter moves and feigns they can and will deploy. I expect that it will come down to Kotoshogiku’s bad knees and Tochiozan’s bad back. Which one blows up first?

Daishoho vs Takarafuji – Another great first time match, Takarafuji is at the cusp of yet another make-koshi, where Daishoho still has a decent shot at his 8. But Daishoho is a excellent opponent for Takarafuji, whose skill will allow him to stay in the match until Daishoho presents an opening.

Tomokaze vs Ichinojo – What a great match! This is (to my mind) to see who is going to go where on the September banzuke. Ichinojo needs 1 more for his kachi-koshi, and he might get it today. Tomokaze has had a solid tournament, but there are some situations where size can win the day.

Asanoyama vs Daieisho – Asanoyama has only taken 1 of his 6 career matches against Daieisho, and he needs to get 3 more wins over the next 4 days. It’s a tall order, but possible. Step one – beat Daieisho.

Shodai vs Hokutofuji – Career record is 3-0 in favor of Shodai, and it seems he has a good recipe for shutting down Hokutofuji’s sumo. I expect Hokutofuji to get his 8th some time this week, and we will see him in a higher slot in the banzuke, which may be true for Shodai if he gets a bit of luck.

Abi vs Endo – Clash of styles, Abi will want to keep Endo dancing around avoiding his long-arm thrusts, but Endo will want to get inside and grab Abi’s belt. I expect Endo will succeed and we may see Abi-zumo 2.0 used again.

Aoiyama vs Ryuden – I am giving Aoiyama an edge in this one, as Ryuden is already make-koshi, and has struggled to overcome the beating he took from the rest of the San’yaku.

Meisei vs Tamawashi – A battle of the rikishi who can’t seem to win, I am going to give the edge to Meisei because to my eye he does not look as hopeless right now as Tamawashi does. I am not sure what is injured, sore or broken for him, but the effect is quite profound.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – In their 11 prior matches, Chiyotairyu has never once beaten Kakuryu. Given how well the Yokozuna is fighting this basho, I really don’t expect that to change on day 12. But should he surprise us, we would see the intensity of the remaining 3 days go through the roof.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – In general, Mitakeumi seldom gives Hakuho much trouble. But this Hakuho is not healthy at all, and has mechanical problems in both arms. Mitakeumi has a real opportunity to shape the yusho race and get his kachi-koshi at the same time. I am ready for whatever happens here, it will be good!

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

If you only occasionally catch video of sumo matches, today is the day to make a point of watching them. NHK video on demand, Kintamayama, Jason, Natto – hell, watch them all. It was a day of surprises and “did you see that” events. Well worth the time it will take to see it all.

One of the least enjoyable elements on day 9 is yet another Tagonoura top-ranking rikishi, with an injury to his left upper body, sent back to the dohyo to compete. To be clear I am not in Japan, or Japanese in any way—but I really have to wonder—is this a sumo cultural thing, or is sports medicine more or less nonexistent in Japan? Is Tagonoura Oyakata completely hands-off in managing the health of his men? I know that Chiganoura Oyakata gets it.

I hope Tagonoura realizes that Takayasu is an important “bridge” element between the current generation that is aging out of their top division roles they have held for so long, and the next generation who are forming up nicely. Someone has to rule the roost for a short while as the new crop get experienced enough to hold down the top ranks. Wreck Takayasu, and you lose that to his detriment and that of the sport’s future. Does he want to get 8 wins so he’s not part of an entry in sumo’s record books? Sure, but shut up Takayasu, and go see a doctor. Put his ass on the Shinkansen and get him to Tokyo to lower the temptation to get back on the dohyo.

With that rant of frustration complete, there are some bloody wonderful matches to talk about. Let’s get started!

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi defeats Kaisei – This is not a highlight; Kaisei is also too hurt to compete. It’s over good sir, you are make-koshi. Get medical attention now.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is really starting to fade out now; I think we are in a 2-4 basho period where a lot of these old mainstays are going to fade down to Juryo and quietly make their exits. Prepare for a rolling parade of intai ceremonies for some long-famous names of the sumo world. Terutsuyoshi’ sumo was dead solid today. He kept his attack on Tochiozan’s center-mass and just relentlessly drove forward.

Kotoyuki defeats Nishikigi – Kotoyuki’s tsuppari attack was especially effective today against Nishikigi, who has a tough time with a pushing fight due to his poor eyesight. Unable to grab a hold of Kotoyuki, Nishikigi was little more than practice ballast for the day.

Enho defeats Takagenji – Enho delivers the high intensity sumo again today. He was able to get enough exposed body on Takagenji to get to work, and finished it with a leg pick. The look of frustration on Takagenji’s face tells the story of his maddening inability to stand up to the Fire Pixie.

Kotoeko defeats Yago – I am going to assume Yago is headed back to Juryo after 4 tournaments in the top division. He’s clearly working through some manner of injury(s), and may need a period of recuperation to return to good form. Kotoeko’s relentless focus on center-mass left Yago unable to escape or respond.

Daishoho defeats Chiyomaru – Daishoho goes bowling, using Chiyomaru as the ball and the front row of the zabuton ranks as the pins. It’s a strike! Chiyomaru sometimes thinks his enormous belly is proof against a mawashi grip, but Daishoho fought for and obtained a grip that he employed with great effect.

Tomokaze defeats Kagayaki – Tomokaze met Kagayaki’s tachiai and raised Kagayaki up before immediately swinging his arms to bring him down with a lightning hatakikomi.

Myogiryu defeats Toyonoshima – I honestly thought Toyonoshima would bring more to this match, but Myogiryu rode him like a rented bicycle. This seems to be a good rank for Myogiryu, but it’s certain we will see him tested in the joi-jin in September.

Shimanoumi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan’s mobility-focused sumo takes a hit with the slick Nagoya dohyo robbing him of traction at the worst moment. It took a moment for Shimanoumi to realize that his opponent was starting to fall forward and shift his balance to assist Shohozan’s slide into defeat. Faster reactions Shimanoumi!

Chiyotairyu defeats Okinoumi – Hit and shift, followed by a push from behind. Simple, elegant and effective.

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – Once again, check out how poor the traction is on that dohyo. I think we are going to see more injuries as people slip and fall. Kotoshogiku takes full advantage of Onosho’s balance problems and drops him face first to the clay after a pushing match.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Daieisho spent half the match circling away from Takarafuji, working to ensure that Takarafuji never put a hand on his mawashi. The tactic worked, leaving Takarafuji only really able to work defense, but with poor ring position.

Endo defeats Aoiyama – The part where Endo plants his face in Aoiyama’s pendulous man-boob for the win demands some kind of special prize for Endo. The only thing worse than watching it in real time was the slow-motion replays. At least they did not try to interview him about it following the win.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama continues to shine, and prevails after almost losing traction on that dohyo and falling for a loss. He keeps Ryuden moving in reverse and keeps his hips surprisingly low. If he can stay healthy, I think he is going to be a big deal. His sumo looks better every tournament, and his confidence keeps going up. Perhaps a little statement from Asanoyama to the banzuke committee about which of the two should have been ranked Komusubi. -lksumo

Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – You may not have realized how satisfying it might be to see Tamawashi go flying off the dohyo, but I am thankful that Hokutofuji was thoughtful enough to take the time to create this masterpiece and present it to the fans.

Abi defeats Mitakeumi – I jumped up and shouted. We knew that Abi-zumo 2.0 has been under construction for at least a year, and when he finally pulled it out and fired it, it was as glorious as we all hoped. It started with the traditional double arm thrust to the upper body, but he immediately released pressure and landed a deep right-hand outside grip while his left took a hold of Mitakeumi’s neck. In a blink of an eye Abi executes a flowing uwatenage that had a bit of Harumafuji spiciness to it. I kept rewinding, and watching it again. Watch out sumo world, now that there are two attack modes, you may not quite know what’s coming.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – There has been no word on Takayasu’s condition since the bout on day 8. Many of us expected him to go kyujo, but for some daft reason, here he is on the dohyo, barely able to move that left arm. Shodai is no fool, and attack hard against the Ozeki’s damaged left side, and Takayasu could only respond. Shodai’s sumo is highly chaotic at times, and when you think you have him beat, you get the surprise that he was in fact setting you up. This happened to Takayasu. With Shodai at the bales, I am sure the Ozeki was ready to win, but instead he took a roll off the dohyo. I am equal parts outraged and sad. Takayasu is in no condition to compete, and he’s out of the yusho race as certain as I am writing this from Texas.

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – But the Great Sumo Cat was not done with us today, dear readers. Member in good standing of the damaged elbow club, Hakuho, found out just how powerful Ichinojo can be. After Hakuho tossing a few humiliation elements into their past matches, the Boulder reduced the dai-Yokozuna to an ineffective, struggling mess. The zabuton fly as a well-earned kinboshi is minted in the Nagoya heat. Will this loss be enough for Hakuho to recognize the limitations his injury has imposed? Perhaps. He faces “arm breaker” Tamawashi day 10.

Kakuryu defeats Meisei – I give a lot of points to Meisei: he put in an enormous effort against Kakuryu. But Big-K is dialed in and contained his wildly shifting and twisting opponent. Kakuryu takes sole possession of the lead, and I would think he is genki enough right now to keep the lead.

Nagoya Day 9 Preview

The drama playing out in Makuuchi has been covered in glorious detail by lksumo in his story line post, but to round things out, lets look at the leaderboard and the matches for day 9. Everyone’s waiting for word from Tagonoura Oyakata on Takayasu’s disposition. I think the smart money says that he’s in for at least 8, and if he’s any kōhai of Kisenosato, he’s in it to win it. That may be horribly foolish, but given the way sumo works, they will probably encourage him to do it.

A chance at his first yusho is not entirely far-fetched, if he has mechanical use of that left arm. Hakuho is actually beatable by Takayasu right now, in my estimate. I am pretty sure The Boss knows this, too. We should know in the next few hours.

Meanwhile, that dohyo is going to be a bit more hazardous each and every day that ticks by. This is traditional for Nagoya, but it’s tough to watch people slip and slide in so many matches.

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Hakuho
Chaser: Takayasu
Hunt Group: Mitakeumi, Myogiryu, Tomokaze, Terutsuyoshi

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Kaisei vs Sadanoumi – Come on, Kaisei. You are in no condition to fight. Take your ticket to Juryo and work your way back once you are healthy.

Tochiozan vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi dropped his second match on day 8, but he is only 2 away from a kachi-koshi in the top division (his first ever). He defeated the hapless Tochiozan the last time they met (May).

Kotoyuki vs Nishikigi – This match comes down to Nishikigi being able to get a grip on the mobile and maneuverable Kotoyuki. Nishikigi holds a career lead of 5-2, but I think Kotoyuki is very genki right now.

Enho vs Takagenji – We all want Enho to rally, yes we do! Takagenji has been fighting well, but I think Enho has enough room to submarine in and get to work. This has the potential to be an excellent and exciting match. Enho took their two prior meetings, both in Juryo. -lksumo

Kotoeko vs Yago – Both of these rikishi are struggling heading into the second week. Yago is having undercarriage problems, and Kotoeko is still struggling after a cold start.

Chiyomaru vs Daishoho – For myself, Chiyomaru has exceeded my expectations, and I think this is probably a good rank for him. Of course that brings up the question of a kachi-koshi, and how much trouble he would have at Maegashira 8 or 7 in September.

Kagayaki vs Tomokaze – This has my attention in a big way. I think both are doing well going into the second week, and they are fighting using similar styles. From the 2 prior matches, Tomokaze has won them both via hatakikomi.

Myogiryu vs Toyonoshima – 7 ranks divide these two, but this is not quite the lopsided fight that banzuke rank might indicate. True Myogiryu looks ready to kachi-koshi at Maegashira 7, but Toyonoshima seems to finally have shed his ring rust, and may be on a winning streak. Toyonoshima brings enough experience to match what Myogiryu will have at his disposal, which is what I hope this will be an even match.

Shohozan vs Shimanoumi – Both men will want this to start and probably stay mobile. If Shimanoumi yields the inside track to Shohozan, the match will probably go to “Big Guns” in short order. Slick dohyo alert for this bout.

Chiyotairyu vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi will bring finesse, Chiyotairyu will bring power. I can’t find a way to see which one prevails. I think the slick dohyo may play a role in this match, too.

Kotoshogiku vs Onosho – Did you see a flash of the earlier, genki edition of Onosho on day 8? Will we see that again? I am assuming that Kotoshogiku is back to having knee problems, as his ability to generate forward thrust is bad, and further hampered by the traction problems with the dohyo.

Takarafuji vs Daieisho – Both of these rikishi are struggling right now, and it’s only fair that one of them gets a win from a pairing of these two. I think Daieisho is slightly less worse than Takarafuji right now.

Aoiyama vs Endo – Both of these rikishi are probably hoping they are done touring the upper ranks, and can focus on getting their win count to #8. Both of them need to win 5 of the next 7 to make it there, so this match may be critical. They have yet to face the two Komusubi, but otherwise are out of high-rankers to fight. -lksumo

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Heaping spoon fulls of excitement over this match. I know that Ryuden tends to prevail in their head-to-head matches (5-3), but Asanoyama’s sumo has made a bit of a step change in the last 6 months. Like the Aoiyama vs Endo match, both of these 3-5 rikishi need to win 5 of their last 7 to reach the safety of 8.

Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – Word to Hokutofuji, watch for the “arm breaker” hold that bit Takayasu. This will be a high-intensity oshi match, no matter what. But Hokutofuji seems to be operating at “Ludicrous Speed” this tournament.

Mitakeumi vs Abi – This will probably be a pickup for Mitakeumi, as he seems to have the antidote for Abi-zumo at the ready (3-0). Like all of the other 3-5 cohort, Abi needs 5 wins out of the next 7 to reach 8.

Shodai vs Takayasu – If this match happens, this will not be an easy ride for Takayasu. I bust on Shodai pretty hard most days, but if he can survive his dreadful tachiai, he is surprisingly flexible, clever and unpredictable. Takayasu’s best strategy may be speed: dispatch Shodai before he can cook up something unexpected. The career record favors Takayasu 8-5, and the two have met and alternated victories in the last 6 tournaments. -lksumo

Ichinojo vs Hakuho – Hakuho needs to be careful here. I am sure that he will try hard, and possibly succeed, in defeating Ichinojo before the tachiai. The primary threat is that injured arm, and the physics of a 212kg Ichinojo in aggressive motion against an injured man.

Kakuryu vs Meisei – Meisei has very little to offer right now, it seems. He may be over-ranked for this basho, and I think he may have physical problems as well. The main hope for Kakuryu is to not take any odd falls, or pick up any injury, in this first-time meeting.

Nagoya Day 8 Preview

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

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

Nagoya Leaderboard

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

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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