Nagoya Day 4 Highlights

Toyonoshima bulldozed Kaisei to start the makuuchi bouts. At the tachiai he scoops Kaisei, low, and gets a double inside grip and drives Kaisei back to the tawara. Kaisei resisted, briefly, tried to side-step, tried to make a throw but Toyonoshima’s girth and persistence paid off. On the third shove, Toyonoshima succeeded in pushing Kaisei out, yorikiri. Both stand at 1-3. Kaisei’s arm is clearly still hurting. Rather than cleaning up at this low level, he’ll be lucky to survive in makuuchi.

Enho tried to go low against Terutsuyoshi but against a fellow pixie who’s not keen to yield a quick belt grip, that’s rather impossible. Terutsuyoshi forced Enho back and off the edge. The gyoji called out, “matta” since Enho didn’t have his hands down, so they did it again. The second attempt didn’t help Enho as Terutsuyoshi’s nodowa-aided drive overpowered Enho and Hakuho’s deshi crumpled off the dohyo in a replay of the matta from a few moments before. The call was oshitaoshi. Enho’s first loss of the tournament while Terutsuyoshi, according to Herouth, is going for the zensho yusho. Personally, I think Hakuho would take his revenge for the beat down Enho received today.

Chiyomaru was looking to play games against Yago before the tachiai, but Yago wasn’t having any of it, forcing both to reset. They finally met with a strong tachiai, Yago driving Chiyomaru back but Chiyomaru resisted on the edge where both wrestlers settled into a left-inside grip. A lot of leaning and Chiyomaru showed the initiative, surprisingly driving Yago back, but Yago used the tawara to resist and drive back toward center. Chiyomaru drove again but Yago countered quickly. Chiyomaru gave up the belt and started to try to slap his way out but it was way too late and Yago forced Chiyomaru out, yorikiri.

Kotoyoki is not happy if a wrestler doesn’t end up sitting among the fans. Sadanoumi opted for trying to meet Kotoyuki’s thrusts head-on which was not a good idea. Kotoyuki continued to thrust, getting a few decent nodowa in there before eventually Sadanoumi took his seat in the second row of spectators. Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between an oshidashi and tsukidashi. Kotoyuki made it unmistakeably tsuki, “To the Moon, Alice.” Both are level, 2-2 for the tournament.

Kagayaki met Nishikigi head on. The strong tachiai gave Nishikigi a strong position at the center of the dohyo but Kagayaki used his leverage to begin driving his opponent back. Nishikigi was able to pivot and throw Kagayaki to his left for a kotenage win. Again, both level, 2-2 for the tournament.

Tochiozan endured a fierce tsuppari hail storm named Takagenji, interspersed with lightning strike headbutts. Takagenji may have worn himself out as late in the bout he decided to go for Tochiozan’s belt. That’s when Tochiozan pivoted on the edge and drove the young rookie down for his first loss. Takagenji had a clear upper hand for most of the very aggressive, action-filled bout but he picked up his first loss to tsukiotoshi. Tochiozan improves to 2-2 while Takagenji sits at a very respectable 3-1.

Kotoeko put an unfortunate premature end to what promised to be a good slapfest by slipping. The abbreviated bout was nonetheless action-packed. After the vigorous trading of slaps, Shohozan twisted, forcing Kotoeko to lose his grip and balance, flopping into the splits in the center of the dohyo. Hatakikomi, both sit 2-2.

Daishoho drove Okinoumi backward but Okinoumi was able to resist, forcing both wrestlers back to the center. Okinoumi pushed back but Daishoho’s thrusts were too much, and he forced Okinoumi to sit in the corner and think about what he’d done. Both are now 1-3.

Onosho allowed Myogiryu to drive the pair back to the edge, then Onosho resisted and let Myogiryu’s momentum flip himself over while Onosho fell out. On review, both were judged to fall out (or be dead) at the same time so the shimpan ordered a torinaoshi, redo. Myogiryu tried the same forward drive and Onosho tried the same sidestep on the edge but on the second attempt Onosho clearly stepped out. Myogiryu gets the oshitaoshi force out win and improves to 3-1 while Onosho slips to 1-3.

Tomokaze forced Shimanoumi straight back with strong thrusts to the chin and upper body, oshidashi. Tomokaze has yet to lose to Shimanoumi in three attempts…and has yet to lose this tournament. He improves to 4-0 while Shimanoumi is having another rough start. Last tournament he started off losing four of his first six, going on a tear in the second week to finish 10-5.

After the news break, Kotoshogiku and Chiyotairyu started the second half of makuuchi action. Chiyotairyu committed to a strong tachiai but quickly got his hand to the back of Giku’s head, sidestepped, and flipped Giku over for a hatakikomi win. Both are having good starts this tournament, standing at 3-1. The force down is called tsukiotoshi rathe than hatakikomi.

Ichinojo’s powerful face slaps drew oohs from the crowd and Takarafuji tried to resist for a while but eventually decided to just retreat. Ichinojo pursued as if Takarafuji had stolen his lunch money and Ichinojo wanted it back. Uncle Takara seemed happy to escape with his head still attached. This Ichinojo is 3-1 and looks strong. Takarafuji is 1-3.

Aoiyama’s slaps kept Meisei away from his belt for a while but Meisei was determined, eventually securing a belt grip. Belt hold not withstanding, Aoiyama was able to force Meisei down at the edge for the tsukiotoshi win. Aoiyama moves to 3-1 and Meisei is still searching for that first win.

Mitakeumi forced out Shodai easily. Each portion of shoulder was paired with robust thrusts to the face and upper body, driving Shodai back and out for the oshidashi win. Shodai is now level at 2-2 while Mitakeumi improves to 3-1.

Tamawashi looked to finally find his sumo but Endo showed some life, and frankly more persistence than I’ve seen from the golden boy in a while. Endo chased Tamawashi, searching for a grip. When he got a fistful of mawashi with the left hand, it was only a few more seconds before he forced Tamawashi back to his fourth straight loss. Yorikiri. Endo is 2-2.

Tochinoshin looks like he should have followed Takakeisho’s example and sat out this tournament. Daieisho was more than happy for their bout to be an oshi battle. As Tochinoshin thrust back, Daieisho stepped to the side and the Georgian ozeki couldn’t recover. Tochinoshin is winless and well on his way to another kadoban tournament. It was after a winless 4 days that he elected to sit out the rest of Hatsu and try for a winning record in Osaka. Will he continue, or pull out now? Daieisho is 2-2 and looking to face a desperate Tamawashi tomorrow.

Takayasu prevailed against Asanoyama, he was perhaps a bit too focused on securing a belt grip. As his right arm fished around, looking to gain purchase on the cloth, Asanoyama managed to get him spun sideways. The ozeki kept his balance, however, and once he secured that belt grip, executed a shitatedashinage throw. Takayasu improves to 5-1…oops, sorry, 3-1 while Asanoyama is at a respectable 1-3, midway through a rough first week.

Goeido slow rolls everybody. Hokutofuji got called on two false starts before Goeido decided to oblige and start the action. From there, Goeido didn’t have his mind made up whether he wanted to move forward (good) or retreat (bad). So he did both. He bulled forward, then pulled back to the tawara…again and again. Each time, Hokutofuji stayed with him. The forward drives weren’t forceful enough to drive him out and the change of direction in retreat wasn’t fooling anyone. Eventually, Goeido ended up sidestepping himself, and flopped down on his belly.

Kakuryu has no respect for Abi’s pushing. While the tsuppari comes fast and furious, around the Yokozuna’s face and shoulders, there appears to be little power in them since Kakuryu just pushed through, bouncing Abi out for a tsukidashi win. Kakuryu is 4-0 while Abi falls to 1-3.

Musubi-no-ichiban. While fans of the pixies likely circled the Enho/Terutsuyoshi bout as their highlight bout, the final bout of Hakuho vs Ryuden promised to be a thriller. Ryuden has more than held his own these first few days, picking up two crucial wins against ozeki. Hakuho locked in quickly with a right hand outside grip on Ryuden’s mawashi. From there, Ryuden was along for the ride, offering some resistance at the edge but the Yokozuna was in full control, ushering the upstart out, yorikiri. Hakuho is 4-0 and looking in yusho shape. Ryuden is certainly no slouch at 2-2 but he has much to learn.

Nagoya Day 2 Preview

Day Two Brings A Reckoning….

Day 2 we get Asanoyama vs Hakuho. Fans are eager for this, and with good cause. The two have never fought in a tournament, and Hakuho roughed up Asanoyama a bit in a pre-basho practice session, after Asanoyama surprised the Yokozuna by dominating their first training match.

Elsewhere, we have a lot of ring-rust to scrape off of a few Makuuchi rikishi, and a few that need to tune up their sumo. I am hoping that day 2 has less slop, and hopefully less slip, than day 1.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Yago vs Kotoyuki – Yago had a surprising amount of trouble with Kaisei on day 1, and now he’s against Mr 5 x 5, Kotoyuki. We can all be fairly sure that Kotoyuki will end up somewhere in the first 2 rows of zabutons, but how he gets there is the open question. For those of you wondering, yes, many times when he wins, he also ends up in the crowd. It’s his calling.

Toyonoshima vs Terutsuyoshi – Former Sekiwake might think he has landed in Oz, facing two Pixies back to back. But unlike his history with Enho, Terutsuyoshi has never taken a match from Toyonoshima.

Kaisei vs Enho – An injured Enho vs over 400 pounds of hairy Brazilian. I know the fans love this sort of thing, but I just want Enho to emerge in one piece. Truth be told, big men like Kaisei are especially susceptible to Enho’s speed and maneuver based attacks. Kaisei is literally twice Enho’s size. -lksumo

Tochiozan vs Chiyomaru – I am sure that Tochiozan is very disappointed in his day 1 display or ring rust, but he can make up for it with a strong showing against the bulbous Chiyomaru on day 2. ‘Maru has only beaten him once: Hatsu 2018. Chiyomaru will probably go for a pull down, and as long as Tochiozan can keep his feet, he should prevail.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Sadanoumi also looked especially rusty day 1, while Kagayaki surprised me with his reactions, his confidence and his ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. After a lackluster Natsu performance, I am hoping that Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals is back in session.

Kotoeko vs Nishikigi – First ever match between these two, and I think we are going to see Kotoeko try to exploit the fact that Nishikigi’s eyesight is terrible. With Kotoeko’s maneuverability, I would guess we will see him try to stay way from Nishikigi’s front quarter.

Takagenji vs Daishoho – These two have a long running rivalry in the lower ranks, favoring Takagenji. Takagenji managed to secure a very plum rank for his first placement in the top division. Even if he should manage a mild losing record, his chances of being returned to Juryo are quite slim. But today we are going to see these two fight it out, and they typically go at it at close range.

Onosho vs Shohozan – The more times I re-watch Onosho’s day 1 match, the more sloppy it looks to me. Going against Shohozan, Onosho’s defensive footwork will be crucial to him staying competitive in this match.

Okinoumi vs Tomokaze – An odd fact that may be a bit unsettling to long-time sumo fans, but Tomokaze is now Oguruma’s top ranked rikishi. He is drawing Okinoumi early in the basho, while the older veteran rikishi still has some stamina, so this could be a fairly good match. This is their first ever bout.

Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu knows this match is all about him keeping his feet when Chiyotairyu’s canon ball tachiai comes roaring through. Myogiryu has won the last 2 of their bouts, so he should be able to absorb the blast if he’s on his sumo.

Shimanoumi vs Takarafuji – Day 1, Shimanoumi completely fell apart at the moment of tachiai. While the result was rather weak, Takarafuji’s technical sumo will require Shimanoumi to execute strongly and with confidence if he hopes to get his first win.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – Meisei showed a lot of ring rust day 1, but his lot is no easier day 2, where he faces the veteran Kotoshogiku, who is not yet worn down by daily matches. It will be Kotoshogiku going for the mawashi early, and engaging the hug-n-chug.

Ichinojo vs Daieisho – Ichinojo’s day 1 match was a clear cut disappointment. Is he back to being injured, or did he just go soft when he realized he did not have his body in position to attack? Daieisho will be going for center-mass at the tachiai, but Ichinojo presents quite a lot of mass to effect.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – Leading the day 1 “Derp Sumo” roster would be Mitakeumi, who looked completely distracted in his first loss. Endo will once again have a plan, and it will be really good. Mitakeumi, if he’s in form, can power through most of Endo’s sumo. I am eager to see if Mitakeumi’s day 1 flop has motivated him to come out strong. The two have split their previous 8 bouts. -lksumo

Aoiyama vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi lost traction day 1 on his way to an opening loss. Some of the more energetic footwork may need to be moderated on the slick Nagoya dohyo. I think Aoiyama won’t suffer that problem much, as his sumo usually relies on being enormous, immobile and delivering brutal round-house blows. This pair has met 11 times dating back to 2011, with Aoiyama holding a narrow 6-5 edge, including a victory in May that broke a string of 4 defeats. -lksumo

Goeido vs Abi – As a Komusubi, Abi is going to have a rough first week. Some experts believe that the ancient Jomon people first dug latrines at the edge of their villages, and bestowed the title “Komusubi” on the men tasked to clean them out. In spite of his day 1 loss, Goeido looked fairly good.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin needs to keep Shodai immobilized. Once that guy starts moving around the dohyo, all manner of chaotic things tend to happen to his opponents. I am sure Shodai took a good look at the Ozeki’s day 1 loss, and will possibly try some variation of Endo’s insightful opening mae-mitsu gambit. Like Endo, Shodai has been a tough matchup for the Ozeki, winning half of their dozen previous bouts, including 4 of the last 5. -lksumo

Ryuden vs Takayasu – Long time fans of Takayasu, myself included, are waiting for a sign that his sumo is headed to the next level. It may never come, but if it does, I think it will take the form of him going 7-0 in the first week. Ryuden comes in with a 2-1 career advantage, and some of his best sumo to date. Fun fact: the first of their 3 career meetings took place exactly 10 years ago, at Nagoya 2009, in low Makushita. -lksumo

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji specializes in making his opponents back up. Kakuryu specializes in making his opponents over-commit. What the hell is going to happen here? I think whatever it is, it will be quick. The Yokozuna needs to resist the temptation to pull if he does not want to open Nagoya 1-1. Hokutofuji does have one kinboshi to show for their 4 prior meetings. -lksumo

Asanoyama vs Hakuho – Asanoyama showed day 1 that he is not intimidated to have a big match. But now it’s time to see if Hakuho did more to his head than just give Asanoyama a concussion. The real risk here is injury to Hakuho, as his ego is likely to demand that he not just beat Asanoyama, but possibly toss in some light humiliation. While such sumo accessories may have been easy to execute in his younger days, Hakuho may not appreciate Asanoyama’s stability and strength, as this is their first actual honbasho match.

Natsu Day 15 Highlights

Enho Gives Everything In His Day 15 Match With Shohozan
Image courtesy of friend of Tachiai, NicolaAnn08 on Twitter

Described by one friend as “Anti-climatic”, day 15 in general was a study in how many rikishi were hurt and fighting poorly vs a small core who managed to stay healthy. The schedulers threw in a good number of “Darwin Matches” where both rikishi were 7-7, and one walked away with winning record, the other with a losing record and demotion. The atmosphere in the Kokugikan was off, as vending machines were taken off line, there were hour long lines to be screened to enter, and there were protective guards everywhere. But some solid sumo did take place, and the final day of the Natsu Basho went off without a hitch.

As expected, US President Trump did appear with Prime Minster Abe, and both handed trophies to Asanoyama who looked happy, overwhelmed and just a little bit uncertain. President Trump was courteous, and at times appeared very happy (handing over the Presidents Cup) and bored (during some of the matches). If the President or any of his staff find themselves taken with the notion of sumo, I strongly recommend reading Tachiai, watching Jason and Kintamayama, and listening to Grand Sumo Breakdown during the next 2 months to be primed for what should be an epic battle in Nagoya.

We are all eagerly awaiting lksumo’s crystal ball post due up later today, but I can say that this basho was a death march for far too many rikishi. A few big names were missing, and the ones who hung in there were fighting well below their normal capabilities. I think this basho greatly underscored just how tough it is to keep a group of 40 or so rikishi healthy, fighting and fit.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Chiyoshoma delivers a slap and a pull to drop Ikioi to 4-11. Is this the end of Ikioi as we know him? Clearly he is still too hurt to fight effectively. Its tough to see long time favorites go out banged up and down.

Shohozan defeats Enho – The first of the Darwin matches, Shohozan threw in all of his unsavory behavior including multiple matta (one with a full charge and slap) before the match could get underway for real. When the match did finally start, it was a wild brawl with Enho dodging and weaving at his best, but Shohozan was clearly in charge. The two went chest to chest, and Enho struggled to get leverage over the larger Shohozan, but “Big Guns” remained upright and stable, while Enho became increasingly tired. Eventually Enho’s attacks left him too low, and Shohozan helped him to take a face full of Natsu clay. Huge effort by Enho, and typical crummy attitude from Shohozan, but he did pick up his 8th win.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Second Darwin match, Onosho’s propensity to put too much pressure in front of his ankles was no worry with Chiyomaru’s mass to push against, and Chiyomaru found himself without any room to work, or any chance to move to the side.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Both men end the basho 5-10, with Ishiura likely headed to Juryo. Ishiura lost the last 5 consecutive matches, and is in dire need to regroup. The entire Pixie contingent looks to have faded through week 2, as Enho also lost his last 6 consecutive matches, after a strong start.

Tomokaze defeats Sadanoumi – Another Darwin match, Tomokaze lets Sadanoumi come to him, then employs superior strength and stability to overpower, lift and eject Sadanoumi. Tomokaze has yet to endure his first make-koshi of his professional career.

Meisei defeats Daishoho – Meisei has over-performed this basho, finishing with a 10-5 record, and a solid win over Daishoho. Meisei took a mae-mitsu grip early, and never gave an inch.

Shodai defeats Kotoeko – Shodai finishes with double digit wins, after finishing Osaka with double digit losses. I think his sumo looked better, and his opponents were in worse condition this tournament. I insist if this guy could improve his tachiai, he would be a force of sumo.

Tokushoryu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze puts forth an effort to win on the final day, but the amount of force he can put into any move seems to be just a fraction of his normal. This comes after double digit wins in Osaka. His performance is either on or off the past 18 months, and I have to wonder if he’s starting to eye that kabu now.

Shimanoumi defeats Takarafuji – Two time Juryo yusho winner Shimanoumi came roaring back from a middling start to win his last 6 in a row, and end with at 10-5 record. That was a lot of Makuuchi jitters and ring rust to scrape off, but once he settled in he produced some solid sumo. He may find himself in a tougher crowd in Nagoya.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Two false starts by Abi left him a bit slow at the tachiai, but he still landed his double arm shoulder attack, and used Tamawashi’s lateral move to send him arcing into the clay. Both men end Natsu 10-5, and Abi receives the Kanto-sho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This bout was a mess, it featured a solid forward start from Chiyotairyu, followed by a lateral collapse that saw the big Kokenoe man hit the clay, but win because Tochiozan had already stopped out.

Daieisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi end Natsu make-koshi, with Terutsuyoshi following a cold start to the basho with a week 2 fade. There are a good number of rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke with really terrible records, and it may be another log-jam in the demotion queue that sees some incredible banzuke luck bestowed on the least terrible of the lot. Will that include Terutsuyoshi?

Endo defeats Yago – Endo catches Yago’s tachiai, lets him begin to push and then drops him to the clay. Simple, easy, effective.

Kotoshogiku defeats Okinoumi – A fairly traditional Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug win, but his hip pumping was less focused than normal, and it took quite a bit of time and effort to finish Okinoumi. Both men end the basho with losing records.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s “Handshake Tachiai” pays off as Nishikigi puts all of his hopes into grabbing a piece of Hokutofuji’s mawashi, and comes up with air. Left without anything to hold on to, Nishikigi is quickly propelled out for an oshidashi loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Asanoyama – Many fans will declare this a bellwether match, as it shows that Asanoyama did not have the mettle to be the Natsu champion. They may have a point, but that’s not how honbasho works. Mitakeumi is able to enact his preferred sumo strategy, and try as he might, Asanoyama cannot get into the grip and foot placement we have seen him use to rack up 12 wins prior to today. Does this foreshadow Asanoyama’s upcoming opponents in Nagoya? Probably, yes.

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Ryuden finishes with double digits, and I have to say his sumo was dead on this tournament. Aoiyama was only a fraction of his normal strength by this stage of the tournament, and Ryuden masterfully absorbed everything Aoiyama delivered in terms of tsuppari.

Ichinojo defeats Myogiryu – When Ichinojo is “on” he turns his opponents into rag-dolls and tosses them around at his leisure. This happened today with Myogiryu, who looked like an play-thing in a giant’s toy box.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Both of these rikishi are fighting hurt, and are only at a fraction of their expected power and speed. Takayasu takes a big chance going chest to chest against Tochinoshin, but rather than set up the sky crane, Tochinoshin oddly decides to try and pull Takayasu, which was all the Ozeki needed to rush forward and take Tochinoshin to the clay. Yeah, Tochinoshin is clearly hurt, and that was crap sumo compared to his first week performance.

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – They made a good match of it, no shady moves, no cheap sumo here, the top two surviving rikishi finished the day with a solid yotsu match that saw the Yokozuna take his 11th win.

That’s it for our daily highlight coverage. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing the Natsu Basho with us!

Natsu Day 7 Preview

Are You Ready?

Fans around the world are ready to tuck in to a nearly endless buffet of sumo for the weekend, and readers of Tachiai are ready for more! I would like to give a shout out to some readers and friends of Tachiai who will be in the Kokugikan this very weekend, taking in live sumo in the flesh. No VPNs being blocked, no news highlight shows to step on the action – nothing but 10 or so glorious hours of sumo. So folks who are scanning the crowd during your favorite sumo show, look for friendly folks from around the world, wearing Tachiai T-Shirts, or maybe the long rumored bootleg “Wakaichiro Forever” shirts that seem to be in circulation.

Rumor has it we will see Takakeisho return on the middle Sunday of the tournament, just in time for the NHK World Japan’s live stream of the final 50 minutes of Makuuchi for the worldwide fans.

The big story is, of course, the yusho race. The view going into the middle weekend is that it will be between Tochinoshin and Yokozuna Kakuryu. Tochinoshin is pushing hard for 10 wins to take back his Ozeki rank, and right now he seems to be on track to hit that mark, needing only to win 4 of the remaining 9 matches. But it’s right to wonder if that enormous bear of a rikishi would ease up on the genki once he reaches his 10th, or is he going to take the fight all the way to the cup? From what we have seen thus far of Tochinoshin, he just may push it all the way to day 15. Kakuryu is another story. We expect to see defensive sumo from him for the duration of the basho. Tachiai assumes there is an undisclosed injury in effect in the Yokozuna’s body – his ankle or maybe his back – that has him limiting the amount of forward pressure he can generate. Contrast his day 6 match with that blast-off attack we saw day 1, and you can see what we are noticing. That being said, Kakuryu is a master of defensive / evasive sumo, and he just might be able to make it work for all 9 remaining matches. We wish him luck.

Who is waiting in the wings? Believe it or not, there are only 2 rikishi who have a single loss: Asanoyama and Enho! I would not give either a chance against a genki Tochinoshin or even an injured Kakuryu. But 9 days is a long time in sumo, and we will enjoy watching this one unfold.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura – Both of these henka connoisseurs have been fighting straight-forward sumo so far, and I love it. Ishiura’s day 6 match featured a chest to chest battle with plenty of misdirection and risky diversions, but it carried the day. Might really be some solid, action driven sumo to start the Makuuchi day.

Terutsuyoshi vs Enho – Pixie Battle Royale! There’s magic in the air, and I think we might just see Tinkerbell show up to help referee this match, if we just believe! No, I won’t encourage people to clap, as that got Hakuho in hot water, but… for Tinkerbell? Seriously, Enho’s going to eat him alive. [Terutsuyoshi holds a 2-1 career edge. -lksumo]

Tokushoryu vs Daishoho – Tokushoryu has not looked certain about his attack plan as of late, and he’s going to get rolled by Daishoho if he can’t produce some offense early. Daishoho has been coming off the line very well, and as a bonus holds a 4-1 career advantage over the low-slung Tokushoryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – When Sadanoumi wins, he tends to do it by seizing the initiative early in the match, whereas Kotoeko has strength and mobility to wait for an opening and rally to great effect. Sadanoumi seemed to get back in his “fast to win” grove on day 6, and if we see it day 7, it may spell a welcome turnaround for his fortunes.

Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – “Big Guns” Shohozan pulled one of his signature punk moves on day 6 against Nishikigi, so I hope he got that out of his system, because if you get Chiyomaru fired up, he may just fall on you. While everyone might laugh about that, consider the physics involved.

Yago vs Onosho – Yago has been focusing on hitakikomi for most of this basho, and he’s got a fine opportunity to continue that streak with Onosho as an opponent. Onosho has chronically been too far forward in his stance, and practically begs his opponents to swat him to the clay. Don’ get me wrong, I am an Onosho fan. But I suspect his surgery last year has made it tough for him to center his weight properly, and his sumo is suffering.

Kagayaki vs Shimanoumi – Mr Fundamentals needs something to prompt him to turn this basho around. With only one win, he is in a 3-way tie to the first make-koshi of Natsu. Not a fine distinction for a talented rikishi who has a lot of great, basic sumo to bring to the dohyo. If it’s any consolation, Shimanoumi has looked quite lost thus far, and while he may clean up in Juryo, he’s pants in Makuuchi. This is their first-ever match.

Tochiozan vs Tomokaze – Both rikishi have a 4-2 record, and are thus far beating the average. With any luck this will be a solid “learning match” for the youngster Tomokaze, as Tochiozan has a lot he could teach. This is another first time match.

Shodai vs Nishikigi – Sad news Nishikigi, Shodai is your day 7 opponent. This is sad news because Shodai holds a 4-1 career advantage over Nishikigi, who has had a hard time putting his sumo in gear. The biggest problem for Nishikigi is Shodai’s mobility, which prevents Nishikigi from clamping him down and pushing him out.

Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – We are working on the assumption that Yoshikaze is nursing some kind of injury that has left him unable to move with his normal blinding speed, and unable to produce forward pressure that is the foundation of his long successful sumo career. What he is left with is a mismatched collection of gambits that have thus far only squeezed out 2 wins. Asanoyama had an unbeaten record until day 6 when Onosho took him apart at the tachiai, and we hope this is not the start of any kind of losing streak.

Kaisei vs Ryuden – Kaisei is generally not prone to much in the way of lateral movement. With his current condition limiting that further, he should be a fairly workable target for Ryuden, who specializes in applying lateral force to his opponents. Ryuden also holds a 4-1 career advantage over Kaisei.

Myogiryu vs Meisei – Both rikishi at 2-4, both rikishi struggling this basho to find their groove, and stuck too many times responding to their opponents’ sumo.

Okinoumi vs Takarafuji – Two more solid technicians face off, and I am going to predict they keep the battle going for a while. Takarafuji especially likes to wait for an opening and then attack.

Endo vs Abi – Hopefully Endo was watching Takarafuji dismantle Abi on day 6, because it worked brilliantly. If so, we will get to see Endo shut down the obligatory Abi-zumo attack, and Endo’s obasan army across Japan will swoon.

Aoiyama vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi has been looking very sharp off the shikiri-sen so far, and Aoiyama has looked, for lack of a better term, like he is suffering. Hay-fever? A cold? Not sure, but he’s down at least 2 notches in intensity. Mitakeumi seems to be working carefully to line up for Tochinoshin’s soon-to-be-vacated Sekiwake spot.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – If anyone can put a hole in Tochinoshin’s recovery run, its going to be Kotoshogiku. Tochinoshin will man-hug any rikishi, and Kotoshogiku has a special battle-cuddle ready to go. In fact, in the 33 prior matches between these two, its 24-9 in favor of the Kyushu Bulldozer. But I will footnote that by saying that Tochinoshin has won the last 4 meetings.

Ichinojo vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a lot of work to do to nominate himself for a return to San’yaku, which for him would be a simple majority of wins. The career record with Ichinojo shows them evenly matched, so this will come down to Ichinojo getting the high-intensity attack ready for the opening seconds of the match, and not letting Hokutofuji land his nodowa.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – While Tamawashi won’t be pushing for the cup this time, he seems to be in better form than he has been for a while, and we think Goeido’s ankle is back to being in poor shape. As a result, you can expect to see Goeido focusing less on a strong attack at the tachiai, and more on evading and waiting for a chance to slap or pull down his opponent.

Daieisho vs Takayasu – This should be an easy walk over win for Takayasu, but with the Ozeki’s sumo in the first week being as ragged has it has been, you have to consider Daieisho a legitimate threat. I am guessing Takayasu will attempt to take Daieisho off of his attack with an all-or-nothing shoulder blast at the tachiai. [Daieisho pulled off the upset when the two last met on day 3 in March. -lksumo]

Chiyotairyu vs Kakuryu – In 10 matches, Chiyotairyu has been unable to beat Kakuryu. As a master of evasive and reactive sumo, it’s tough to get him to stay put long enough to be on the receiving end of one of your buffalo stampede charges. So I think we won’t see dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna today.