Osaka Day 8 Preview

With more sporting events canceled across the globe, allow me to give thanks that the Sumo Kyokai found a way to let the basho go forward. With Sunday, we come to the middle day of the basho. NHK World Japan’s Grand Sumo team will be streaming live for the final hour. For fans who are in a time zone where it’s not the middle of the night, this is a great hour of sumo every time it’s on.

With nakabi upon us, we start our look at the yusho race, and there is one man who owns the road to the Emperor’s cup yet again—Yokozuna Hakuho. Unless someone can put dirt on the dai-Yokozuna, it is yusho 44 for The Boss. But this day 8 feast of sumo set before us is full of rich and spicy sumo morsels to enjoy. Let’s dive into the buffet, but first—I bring you our first look at the Haru yusho race!

Haru Leaderboard

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

8 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Meisei vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru is fighting very well this March, and his speed and ferocity are at a level I have not seen from him in some time. Even though Meisei has never lost to him, I think today is the day that Chiyomaru can change that.

Kotoshogiku vs Shimanoumi – Kotoshogiku has won his last 3 in a row, and I would almost say he has grown more genki. Maybe those knees are not ready to head south for sun and surf just yet. Sunday will be a good test, as Kotoshogiku has never beaten Shimanoumi in 4 tries. Go get ’em, Kyushu Bulldozer!

Daiamami vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama took his first loss on day 7, but his history underscores that he is not prone to giving up his fighting spirit after a single loss. I expect he is going to carry forward strong and violent against Daiamami today. Their career history is 3-2 in favor of Aoiyama, but I should also note that Aoiyama has won the last 3 of their contests.

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – It pains me to say this, but I am expecting a continued slide from Nishikigi, until such time as he has such a deep make-koshi that he self-isolates in Juryo for at least 1 tournament. He and Ishiura have a 15 match history, with Ishiura holding a 9-6 advantage. In addition, Ishiura is really fighting well in Osaka.

Azumaryu vs Ikioi – After Ikioi got knocked around by Chiyotairyu, I am looking for him to bounce back against Azumaryu, whom Ikioi tends to dominate. Ikioi will need to keep Azumaryu from closing in and getting a mawashi hold, and stay mobile.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotonowaka – Both rikishi are thus far having a good tournament, and this first-time match is probably going to be strongly biased towards the surprisingly genki 6-1 Chiyotairyu. When Chiyotairyu is dialed into his sumo, it’s really tough to overcome his size, strength and speed. Good luck, Kotonowaka!

Kaisei vs Terutsuyoshi – I would love to see Terutsuyoshi run the same battle plan he used against “Big Dan” Aoiyama on day 7, but I think that as big as Aoiyama is, the less mobile but highly stable Kaisei presents a different puzzle to the lead Isegahama rikishi. They have split their prior 2 matches, with both of them ending with oshidashi.

Shohozan vs Tochiozan – The battle of ultimate sadness. Two storied veterans who are having an absolutely miserable tournament are meeting head to head to see who can be the most miserable. Their career record is 13-13, meaning that the misery should be fairly well balanced, and no matter what happens, everyone will be sad and a touch disappointed.

Takarafuji vs Sadanoumi – On a happier note, Takarafuji holds a 13-5 advantage over Sadanoumi, whose lightning fast moves are not quite effective over the careful, measured approach preferred by Takarafuji. Sure, sometimes Takarafuji fights less well, but he seems to be in good health and has plenty of fighting spirit.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – Ah, back to a battle of the battered. This time it’s a former Ozeki and a former Sekiwake, both of whom have been quite limited in their sumo this March. Both come into the match with 2-5 records and a long list of aches, pains, miseries, maladies and injuries. Tochinoshin holds a 19-11 career record, but I think that in a battle of the walking wounded, it comes down to who has the higher pain tolerance.

Myogiryu vs Takanosho – Takanosho picked up a bit of a scratch on the right side of his head on day 7, but I would guess that this will not hamper him today as he faces off against another veteran rikishi who seems to have run out of juice, Myogiryu. Takanosho won their only prior match, and I am looking for the Chiganoura man to improve to 7-1 today and remain in the yusho hunt.

Kiribayama vs Kagayaki – Another first time matchup. It’s Kagayaki going up against Mongol Kiribayama in a contest that will pit mass (Kagayaki) vs. agility (Kiribayama). Kagayaki really needs to bounce back from his day 7 loss to Takanosho, where he lost before he really had a chance to fight. Both men come into the match with 4-3 records.

Enho vs Onosho – The first tasty morsel of the feast! We have the normally dangerous and high-energy Enho entering this match with an uncharacteristically dismal score of 2-5 at the midpoint. In fact, the Miyagino power pixie has lost 4 of his last 5 matches, and needs to rally. Oh but look, he has to fight Onosho, who is doing a bit better than his normal this March. They have a 2-2 career history, and if that teaches us anything, we will see Onosho load up a throw, and we will see Enho try to evade and get behind Onosho.

Daieisho vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu still has a single win to his name—a day 6 surprise kinboshi against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Of their 10 prior matches, Daieisho has taken 7, so I would guess that nakabi is not going to be kind to Tokushoryu.

Okinoumi vs Endo – Another nice morsel! In spite of Okinoumi’s height and mass advantage, Endo holds a 9-6 career lead over the the man from Shimane-ken. Both of them prefer to engage in yotsu battles, so I expect a strength contest between two high-skill veterans.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – I have been waiting for this match since the banzuke was published 3 weeks ago. We get to see two power players of the “Freshmen” cohort battle it out. Yutakayama has the mass, Asanoyama has the moves, and I think it’s going to be a contest to see who can set the tone of the match. A yotsu battle favors Asanoyama, but if Yutakayama can keep mobile and keep hitting center mass, he could prevail against the Ozeki hopeful, and possibly derail his bid.

Ryuden vs Shodai – I never thought I would write this, but I want Shodai to shake off his nerves and confidence problems today, and rally to put Ryuden face-first into the clay. He holds a 4-1 career advantage over Ryuden, so I know he has the recipe to win. Pull yourself together, man!

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – It just keeps getting better! Takakeisho has been lacking a fair amount of fire this March, and his middling 4-3 score shows it. As always, Hokutofuji fights with brutal, wild energy, but has just 2 wins to show for it. I am thinking of labeling him “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” because he always fights with vigor but can’t be counted on to produce a winning record. I think this bout may come down to that first step, which Hokutofuji does better than almost anyone.

Hakuho vs Abi – In spite of his challenges this March, Abi still has a 4-3 record, and is on track (at least today) for a kachi-koshi. Well, now he gets to fight Hakuho, who is so dialed in that he is unbeaten—without using his dominant hand. I should note that Abi has beaten Hakuho. Just once, in their first match during Natsu 2018.

Mitakeumi vs Kakuryu – These two are surprisingly well matched, with Kakuryu holding a narrow 7-5 career lead. Some sumo commentators have already raised the specter of retirement for Kakuryu if his performance in this basho continues to disappoint. That raises the stakes for this match considerably, given that Mitakeumi has been fighting very well, and comes in with a 6-1 record, having lost only to Hakuho so far.

Osaka Day 6 Preview

Everybody here? Good! Nobody with COVID-19? Good! Rikishi ready to start act 2 of Haru? Very nice!

Act 2 is where we start to shape the yusho race, and we begin to sort the triumphant from the damned. It contains the middle weekend, which will feature NHK World Grand Sumo going live for the final hour of day 8, in their now customary fashion. It’s clear that both Yokozuna are running well, and at present Hakuho is the man to beat for anyone presuming to lay claim to the Emperor’s cup. Looking down the list of who is in position to consider a run at it on day 6, two prior winners: Mitakeumi and Asanoyama, are in the thick of it. I would expect to see both of them rotate through the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps in act 2, and that should make for exciting sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Kotonowaka vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru has dropped his last 2 matches, suddenly looking less genki than he did for the open. His advantage in today’s match is I am sure that Kotonowaka has not really faced anyone or anything configured like Chiyomaru ever before. Sure he fought Gagamaru once, but Chiyomaru is a whole different manner of bulk.

Kaisei vs Azumaryu – Speaking of the “Incredible Bulk”, one of our favorite mega-fauna looks to extend his 2 match winning streak against veteran Azumaryu. Kaisei holds a 3-1 career advantage, and as long as he keeps fighiting the way he has been, he should be able to use his ponderous body to dampen and nullify most offensive moves Azumaryu might attempt.

Shimanoumi vs Nishikigi – Readers probably assume I have a soft spot for Nishikigi. By all accounts he is a humble, mild mannered nice guy, who once escaped his lower Maegashira comfort zone and ascended to the joi-jin. And actually did ok. Well, he has ZERO wins for March right now, and does not look to have much going for him. Shimanoumi won their only prior match, and I am going to guess he may very well take this one, too.

Kotoshogiku vs Daiamami – Daiamami completely overwhelmed Chiyomaru day 5, and frankly that’s the genkiest I have seen Daiamami in a while. He does have a tendency to go chest to chest with his opponent, and that plays into Kotoshogiku’s sumo. He took their only prior match, and Kotoshogiku is looking quite iffy right now.

Meisei vs Aoiyama – Can anyone, or anything stop “Big Dan”? We have seen Aoiyama catch fire before, and really run up the score with powerful sumo. In fact he has been in contention for the yusho in tournaments past. True, he is fighting toward the bottom of the banzuke, but I am enjoying him dominate daily. He comes into today’s match with Meisei holding a 3-1 career record, and a perfect 5-0 record so far in Osaka.

Ikioi vs Terutsuyoshi – Ikioi’s sumo is large and strong, and that may explain to some extent why he struggles against Terutsuyoshi. The Isegahama power pixie does not present enough body for Ikioi to work with effectively. In spite of his banged up condition, Ikioi seems to be holding his own against his peer group in middle / lower portion of the Makuuchi banzuke.

Sadanoumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu showed no sign of injury in his day 5 match against Takanosho, in spite of a brutal fall day 4. He comes into day 6 with a 7-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi, who has been unable to use his typical speed to much effect during the first 5 days in Osaka. I expect him to turn things around before senshuraku, so keep an eye on him.

Takanosho vs Tochiozan – I keep hoping that “today” will be the day that Tochiozan breaks out of his torpor and starts to fight with some kind of energy. But I think this first time match is likely to go to Takanosho, who has only 1 loss so far.

Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Much as I would love to think that Tochinoshin could pick up Ishiura and throw him around like a sack of rice, there is no strength left in that right knee. His day 5 match against Terutsuyoshi fell apart when the former Ozeki could not maintain the “sky crane”, and dropped his pint sized foe. Ishiura brings a somewhat bigger body, and quite a bit more power than Terutsuyoshi did, and I expect that Tochinoshin might eat his 5th loss of this Haru basho.

Shohozan vs Kiribayama – First time match, and we took at Shohozan who also falls into the category of long serving journeyman Makuuchi rikishi who is really struggling this March. With only a single win, this match, which he should dominate, is a big question mark. Can Shohozan bring his sumo back?

Myogiryu vs Kagayaki – Interestingly enough, Kagayaki has never been kachi-koshi above Maegashira 8. Currently ranked at M6w, he is on track for a winning record in the early third of this basho. Can he keep this up, or will he suffer a week 2 fade? His match today against Myogiryu will be the tie breaker in their 2-2 career series.

Ryuden vs Tamawashi – Sadly, Tamawashi is yet another long serving Makuuchi vet who is struggling to produce wins in the first week of this basho. He just seems to be about 20% less potent than before, and I would guess some kind of injury is at work here. Hopefully he can bounce back before May.

Takarafuji vs Onosho – This match has my interest. With Takarafuji traditionally spending most of the match working hard not to lose (aka “Defend and Extend”), he will have to react to Onosho’s often chaotic attacks. Onosho holds a slight career edge at 5-4, but they have split the last 4. I am honestly looking for Onosho to hit 8 wins, and to rise a bit higher into the top of the rank and file for May.

Okinoumi vs Abi – Okinoumi has proven he has a good formula for shutting down Abi-zumo, and he brings a 4-2 career advantage to this match. I keep hoping we will see Abi branch out more, but after all these tournaments of his trademark double arm attacks, I am guessing this is all we get.

Hokutofuji vs Endo – I know Hokutofuji’s fans were looking for some big numbers out of him this basho. Finally in the san’yaku, he can start to try and make the case that he is worthy of an Ozeki promotion. But to reach that goal, he would need to win 8 of his last 10 matches. A tall order for him at this rank. Fellow komusubi, Endo, seems to be fighting a bit better, and has a career advantage of 7-4 prior to today’s match.

Asanoyama vs Mitakeumi – Possibly the big match of the day, a pair of undefeated former yusho winners, only one of them will leave the dohyo with the kensho and the 6th win. While Mitakeumi has a narrow 3-2 career lead, it’s really anyone’s match. The sparks may fly!

Daieisho vs Shodai – If Shodai manages to win half of his remaining matches, he will be kachi-koshi at Sekiwake. This, I think, would be a big deal. To be honest, his sumo right now seems maybe a notch less intense than it was in January. Maybe it’s the lack of crowd at the venue, maybe its a confidence problem, but in spite of my knocks against him, I am hoping he can evolve and improve. He and Daieisho split their 6 prior matches.

Takakeisho vs Enho – I am now officially worried about Takakeisho. The lone surviving Ozeki, he is now struggling to best opponents that he has dominated for months. Are we looking at a re-injury to that pectoral muscle? He won his only prior match with Enho, but he is quite vulnerable to anyone with a hand on his mawashi.

Hakuho vs Yutakayama – Hakuho won their only 2 prior matches. Prior matches? Yes! This harkens back to the day when between Yutakayama and Asanoyama, “Big Unit” Yutakayama was the leader of the Freshmen cohort. I am sure Hakuho is going to completely crumple Yutakayama, but I hope that Yutakayama puts up a good fight.

Tokushoryu vs Kakuryu – Tokushoryu finishes his tour of the Yokozuna today, and I am going to guess this first ever match results in a 0-6 score for the Hatsu yusho winner. Sad, but predictable.

Kyushu Day 14 Preview

As we enter the final weekend of the Kyushu Basho, there are some fans who will feel a genuine sense of relief. This tournament has seen a brutal number of rikishi exit competition due to injury, and long time favorites struggle. But looking past that, there are a number of interesting and promising developments. A few for thought

Small Rikishi Sumo – There was a time last year when the small guys were storming through Juryo, and looked to roll their way into the top division and disrupt everyone’s sumo. But as almost always the case, these rikishi had to work hard (and they did work hard) to pioneer adaptations to be competitive. Now we have 3 small rikishi that are fighting well, and winning matches, often with existing results.

Freshmen Rebound – The Freshmen, a cohort that I define as Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Hokutofuji and Kagayaki, are all doing quite well this basho, even if Hokutofuji is make-koshi. Two of them are recovering from tough injuries that pushed them back to Juryo, and two of them are in san’yaku. These guys are the stars of sumo, starting earlier this year, and we can expect their influence to grow as the old guard hang up their mawashi for the final time.

The Old Guard Rallies – This is mostly covered in Herouth’s reports, but if you wondered where beloved veterans like Ikioi, Kaisei, and Tochiozan went, they are in Juryo. They are all headed to double digit winning records, and it may put a lot of pressure on the make-koshi rikishi in the bottom half of Makuuchi. I think January could see a whole roster of beloved favorites make one more run into the top division.

I know some readers will find ways to take exception to this, but to me it’s a great time to be a sumo fan. The sumo world is changing, and we get to watch it happen.

Kyushu Leaderboard

A win today, and Hakuho takes the yusho. Team Tachiai expects this to be the outcome.

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: None
Hunt Group: Asanoyama, Shodai

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Chiyoshoma vs Daishoho – Chiyoshoma visits from yusho, hunting for his 8th win and yet another make-koshi in the top Juryo ranks. Daishoho has little to offer in terms of sumo right now, and is almost painful to watch on the dohyo.

Shimanoumi vs Takanosho – Evenly matched 5-5 career record, but there is little on the line today as Shimanoumi is already make-koshi, and Takanosho already kachi-koshi. Lets hope they can bring some energy to the match anyhow.

Kotoshogiku vs Daishomaru – Can sumo fans get excited for a wounded, aging former Ozeki who is already make-koshi? You bet! Kotoshogiku is on a 3 match winning streak, and may have already saved himself from Juryo demotion. But heck, pour it on Kotoshogiku. I would love to see you finish 7-8 at this point.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – What a great match. Both are Freshmen cohort rikishi, both are 8-5, and they have a 3-3 career record. Both prefer to use oshi-zumo, but have shown a willingness to grapple chest to chest this November. I would like to see Yutakayama hit double digits this tournament, and end up at the lower edge of the joi-jin for January.

Ishiura vs Sadanoumi – Winner of this match is kachi-koshi, and my money is on Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi has been absolutely tough this basho, and has kept his energy and fighting spirit high for both full weeks. Given that the prize is the coveted 8th win, I do expect Ishiura to throw some high agility combo sumo into this match, but Sadanoumi’s superior defensive stance and foot work is likely to foil what could be a great display of Ishiura 3.0.

Tsurugisho vs Nishikigi – Another pair of make-koshi rikishi who look like they have nothing left to give. They have to fight someone, so why not fight each other? Sure.. why not.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoeko – Raise your hand if you want to see Chiyotairyu go chest to chest and gaburi-yori someone again today? I know I do! Kotoeko has a lot of mobility, so this may be a wild ride.

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – A loss today and Enho is make-koshi. Now we don’t want any of that, do we? With Terutsuyoshi already holding win #8, we may see him turn down the intensity a notch and keep his body healthy for January. But even if Enho wins today, you know it’s Darwin time for him tomorrow.

Takarafuji vs Chiyomaru – Takarafuji holds an 8-0 career record over the bulbous one, and I see no reason for that to change today.

Myogiryu vs Shodai – Shodai did make it to double digits, much as Team Tachiai had expected. How much harder will he push it? If he runs the score up too much, he’s going to get another beat-down in January. But if Myogiryu gets the win today, it’s Darwin time for him, too!

Shohozan vs Meisei – With Shohozan kachi-koshi in front of his home town crowd, maybe it’s time for a celebratory slug-fest against the make-koshi Meisei

Daieisho vs Onosho – Winner of this one is kachi-koshi, and the loser is relegated to Darwin on day 15. Career record favors Onosho, and he seems to have fixed some of his week 1 problems.

Kotoyuki vs Okinoumi – Loser is make-koshi, and the winner gets a Darwin match. Sumo can be so brutal some times. Okinoumi leads the career series 9-5

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Well, I expect Asanoyama to take care of Ryuden today, sending him to make-koshi land. But will Ryyden deploy another henka? If so, would Asanoyama fall for it? I want to see Asanoyama run up the score – we are running out of Ozeki, and this guy is young, healthy and has fantastic sumo. Hurry up, Yutakayama, we need you to slow this man down!

Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – At the bottom of san’yaku, Hokutofuji’s make-koshi will in all probability send him back to the rank and file to sort out his sumo. But he can deliver a make-koshi today if he can keep Aoiyama from powering up the V-Twin attack.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, hear our pleas. Bless Endo that he might defeat Tamawashi on this day, and send both of these guys into brutal, soul crushing Darwin matches on day 15.

Takakeisho vs Abi – I am sure Takakeisho wants to hit double digits this time, with his first shot being day 14 against Abi. The big issue there is that Abi has 2x the reach of our stump-armed Grand Tadpole. I think it comes down to if Takakeisho can get inside and blast away before Abi-zumo can send him reeling.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – This is probably the match that delivers the make-koshi to Mitakeumi, and resets any hopes he may have had to reach Ozeki. There are some fans who think Hakuho is still nursing that arm injury from earlier in the year, and maybe, just maybe if Mitakeumi can attack from that side he might gain advantage. He has beaten him twice before, but right now it’s a long shot. A win today would clinch the yusho for Hakuho.

Aki Day 1 Highlights

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

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

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

Highlight Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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