Day 5 – Flash Flood

Today we saw two of the leader group being washed away.

ichinojo-takayasu-down
Ichinojo, Takayasu, bye!

And now the leader group consists of only three men. One of whom is – as it turns out – the same age as Onosho’s dad.

But let’s start at the beginning. We had a flood of flash bouts today. The first of them was Myogiryu taking on Juryo visitor Tokushoryu. Myogiryu gets both hands inside and quickly yori-kiris Tokushoryu.

Not much beauty in the Nishikigi vs. Kotoyuki bout. Kotoyuki retreats, retreats, until he runs out of dohyo. He seems on his way back to Juryo, possibly to be replaced by a very motivated Ryuden.

And then we move to the first serious challenge to Aminishiki‘s reign over the Maegashira ranks. Daiamami knows Aminishiki well, and knows where the Ancient Mariner’s weakness is. He pushes him against the tawara. But Aminishiki somehow manages to do his bale dance and get away, only to be caught again. The old wizard’s knees almost cave, when he gives a final dance to his right, and uses the grip he has on Daiamami’s left arm for a sukuinage. Uncle Sumo visibly pants as he picks his kensho-kin. But he is still in the yusho race!

Ikioi gives Takekaze another black star, as this elderly man fails to mimic the senior citizen from the previous bout. Ikioi gets him in a double-hand-inside, holds him high and leads him out.

Kagayaki once again goes into a belt battle with Kaisei. He nearly turns the Brazilian around, but Kaisei rallies and gets face to face again. Kaisei has the upper hand, at least as far as mass is concerned, and then dispatches the man in the mustard mawashi in short order.

Okinoumi continues in his good performance vs. Daieisho. It starts with an exchange of slaps, and Daieisho gets Okinoumi to the bales, but he take a risk, grabs Daieisho under his shoulders and presses down for a Katasukashi. By the way, did you know that “Katasukashi” also means “disappointment” or “letdown”? I’m sure that’s how Daieisho felt.

Asanoyama is probably not going to repeat his double-digits from Aki. In fact, the way it looks, he’ll be happy if he can get a kachi-koshi at all! All he does against Endo just doesn’t work. The strength is there, but he can’t put it together.

Chiyomaru continues in his on-off-on-off series. The NHK commentator explains that Chiyomaru has a problem with mawashi fighting because he can’t reach the opponent’s belt owing to his huge belly. Tochinoshin, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of a belly, has long arms, and he catches Chiyomaru in a belt grip right away and just leads him out without the Kokonoe meatball ever showing much defense.

Arawashi grabs Shodai‘s arm and tries to pull. Shodai resists. Arawashi tries again. Shodai gets out. Arawashi gets a belt grip, but Shodai is not letting him do much. So the Mongolian goes for the arm yet agai, and this time pulls the kotonage he was aiming for from the start. Very nice bout!

Takarafuji manages to scrape a second win today vs. Daishomaru. He keeps his opponent at an arm’s length, showing his usual patience, he evades an attack and keeps the distance between their bodies. He finally gets a yori-kiri without ever getting any sort of firm grip. I must say that it looks like the goings-on at Isegahama are taking their toll on all their sekitori. Though winning, Takarafuji looks tired and gloomy.

It’s a wonder how Chiyoshoma keeps winning against Ichinojo, who is about twice his weight. Today’s bout wasn’t even very long. As soon as he got a mawashi grip, he sent the boulder outside. Of course, if he had tried to do this with only the one hand on the mawashi, he would have to get a new elbow installed tomorrow. He helped the giant along by pushing him with his left hand. I hope Ichinojo rallies and continues his good form as the basho continues.

It’s rare to see Chiyonokuni in a mawashi match. And Hokutofuji is no yotsu expert, either. But still, this is where they found themselves, locked into each other’s mawashi. At some point, Hokutofuji tries to throw Chiyonokuni, but Chiyonokuni rallies. Then there’s an attempt at a kotonage, which eventually leaves Chiyonokuni open, and Hokutofuji pushes him out. Again, a great bout to watch.

And here we begin the flash flood. Kotoshogiku vs. Chiyotairyu. Going, going, gone! I wouldn’t have believed Kotoshogiku could win so fast these days. Especially against Chiyotairyu, which is usually not a pushover.

Then, Takakeisho pushes at Yoshikaze for just a second, side steps, Yoshikaze would have regained his footing – but Takakeisho is there to push him out. Wham, bam, gone in a flash!

This is followed by Takayasu, who is pushed by Tamawashi right out of the dohyo before he manages to get his breath back after the tachiai. You snooze, you lose. And our Kadoban Ozeki drops off the leaderboard.

But have no fear! Goeido is here. He must have been watching the videos from the previous Onosho matches. Usually, I’d complain about him doing his sumo backwards, but for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven, you know. And since Onosho proved that he overcommits and can’t stay on his feet, Goeido served him up with the exact kind of dish that he cooked for himself. So, Goeido still in the lossless group.

Now, what followed in the Hakuho vs. Tochiozan was a very strange thing. This was not your regular “matta”, where the two wrestlers don’t find the correct second to rise. This was actually before the Gyoji started the bout (the gyoji changes the position of his feet during the pre-bout, and this marks which of the shikiri rituals is the “real” one). Events outside the venue must have been weighing on Hakuho’s mind.

Although the bout itself ends pretty quickly and decisively in Hakuho’s favor, he once again pulls one of his “extracurriculars”, though at this point he really doesn’t need any hint of misconduct. That push was certainly a dame-oshi.

Now, the musubi-no-ichiban was worth the money. Shohozan must have watched Takakeisho’s bout with Kisenosato yesterday, as he went for basically the same thing: constant attacks on the Yokozuna’s left side, combined with nodowa, that left the Yokozuna defenseless. Then he tried to throw the Yokozuna, but Kisenosato is not an easy fellow to throw. But Shohozan continued with his pressure and pressed the Yokozuna against the tawara. Unfortunately for Shohozan, the Yokozuna’s right side is still functioning, and he managed a suicidal throw, that got the Yokozuna the come-from-behind win in this bout, which was completely dominated by the Maegashira. Oh wow.


So, what does the leader list look like now, a third of the way into the basho?

Yokozuna Hakhuo
Ozeki Goeido
Maegashira #13 Aminishiki

Say what?

By the way, there is another leader list to follow: those with the most wins for the year. As we started this basho, which is the last of the year, Harumafuji was leading with 47 wins. With Harumafuji no longer able to earn any stars this year (and probably ever), the list looks like this.

Mitakeumi 49
Takayasu 48
Harumafuji 47
Hakuho 47
Takakeisho 46
Hokutofuji 45
Tamawashi 44
Ichinojo 44
Yoshikaze 43
Goeido 41
Daishomaru 41

Whoever ends up as the yearly leader is going to have a negative record: the worst number of wins for the leader of the year, after Takanohana’s 60,  which he achieved years ago. With only 10 days to go, matching 60 is going to be impossible without a playoff.


Finally, here are a couple of Juryo matches for your pleasure:

Ishiura vs. Yutakayama:

Ryuden vs. Homarefuji

Again, nobody from Isegahama, with the exception of Aminishiki, seems to be doing any sumo. Ryuden, on the other hand, got his first kensho-kin yesterday and is very uppity.

 

Five Interesting Matches on Day 5

 

Day 4 was a major improvement over day 3, and it looks like things are going to continue to ramp up as we reach the end of the Kyushu basho’s first act. Here are five matches of interest for tomorrow and additional highlights of day 4.

Tokushoryu vs. Myogiryu

Tokushoryu will be making a brief visit back to the Makuuchi division on day 5, and will kick off the NHK broadcast with Myogiryu. While Tokushoryu has an even 2-2 record, Myogiryu has not had a great start to his top division return. Winless after four days, he will be looking to turn things around with his first victory tomorrow. A win tomorrow will also draw Myogiryu even with Tokushoryu, who leads their series 5-4.

Kagayaki vs. Kaisei

Kagayaki is off to a fantastic start this basho and is one off the pace in the yusho race. He has been executing his sumo with more authority this basho, which is refreshing to see. Much like Aoiyama in Nagoya, I believe Kagayaki is perfectly ranked in the banzuke to find success this time around. Kagayaki will be taking on Kaisei tomorrow, who he has yet to lose to. Should the man in gold win on day 5, he will equal the number of wins he achieved during the entire Aki basho.

Chiyoshoma vs. Ichinojo

Chiyoshoma has been putting on a fantastic throwing clinic in Fukuoka and won his day 4 match against Daishomaru with a beautiful uwatenage over-arm throw. He meets fellow Mongolian and current yusho co-leader, Ichinojo, who has so far proved difficult to move, much less throw, on the dohyo. The two have had four previous matches, of which Chiyoshoma has won them all. Will Ichinojo be able to break the streak and keep his yusho hopes alive?

Kotoshogiku Vs. Chiyotairyu

With his father watching from the stands, Kotoshogiki was finally able to snap his losing skid on day 4. Giku may as well have been wrestling a couch cushion, however, as  Terunofuji once again failed to produce any offense on the dohyo. Many were looking forward to Kotoshogiku getting some revenge on the man who caused him to lose his Ozeki status, but at this point, watching Terunofuji lose is just too sad to revel. The Kyushu bulldozer meets Chiyotairyu tomorrow, who is coming off a resounding loss to Hakuho. Giku and Chiotairyu have met seven times before, with the man in blue winning the last six straight bouts.

Takayasu vs. Tamawashi

Takayasu showed the patience of a seasoned Ozeki today when he and his opponent, Shohozan, became gridlocked in the middle of the dohyo. Takayasu called his shot the second he felt weakness in the Fukuoka native, and Shohozan was far too spent to stop himself from going over the tawara. The Ozeki can look forward to another fierce competitor in Tamawashi on day 5. Let’s not forget, it was his match with Tamawashi that put Takayasu out of commission in September.


Takayasu (left) vs. Tamawashi (right), Aki basho, 2017


 

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore

Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

 

Aki Day 11 Preview

 

goeido-21Let The Third Act Begin!

With the advent of day 11, the third and closing act of the Aki basho is upon us. This is where we crown the champion, and dreams get crushed. Already the dreams of many an eager tadpole who had yusho stars in their eyes have had a trip down reality lane. High performance is very difficult to maintain over the course of 15 days, and while some of the genki youngsters have had a jolly good time of it, Goeido seems to have this one under his command. There are a few chances to still derail his yusho march, but with each passing day the odds are growing longer. Even with a single loss, only Chiyotairyu has enough wins to challenge him. Goeido beat him on day 5….

The real story now for many rikishi is survival, there is a a growing make-koshi list, and some well recognized names may end up with double digit losses, and a handful will disappear from Makuuchi for the November tournament. On the subject of November, there are a large number of questions that have been pushed to the side, in order to focus all of sumo-dom on the basho. We have 3 Yokozuna out, one left who is at maybe 75%, and he competes through sheer force of will. We have one Ozeki demoted to Ozekiwake, and another (fairly new) Ozeki who may have corked up one of his enormous legs. While starting in the second act of Aki, the old guard battled back, it’s clear the sunset days for many well know and respected rikishi is now approaching. While young rikishi like Onosho have taken themselves out of the yusho race for now, their day is coming.

Should this come to pass, we will go through an amazing period where there is a Ozeki and Yokozuna replacement cycle. Once the top end retires from the sumo pyramid, there will be a mad scramble for promotion. This will make for some absolutely amazing and bonkers sumo for a good period of time.

Aki Leader board

Goeido’s yusho is becoming mathematically more likely. Only Chiyotairyu presents an effective challenge, provided someone can hand the lone surviving Ozeki a loss.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Chiyotairyu
Hunt Group – Onosho, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi, Daishomaru, Asanoyama

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Asanoyama vs. Kaisei – Asanoyama claims his kachi-koshi with a win here today. I would note that Kaisei is not doing poorly at all the basho. Granted he’s at the bottom of Makuuchi, but I have hope that he can continue to decrease mass and increase strength before Kyushu. Their only prior match was won by Kaisei

Daieisho vs. Tokushoryu – Daieisho has dropped well back of the leader group now, but he’s still got to work on his 8 wins. Tokushoryu has shown some signs of life in the past two matches, so maybe he is ready to stage a comeback and limit his demotion level. Historically, Daieisho holds a 6-3 advantage.

Endo vs. Arawashi – Arawashi looking for win #8 to secure his kachi-koshi on day 11, but he’s got to best Endo to get it. Endo was impressive on day 10, putting weight on his injured ankle during his match with Tokushoryu. Arawashi has a 1-3 career record disadvantage against Endo, but with Arawashi looking genki, and Endo recovering, this is wide open.

Takanoiwa vs. Daishomaru – Winner gets their kachi-koshi. Both rikishi are having a great tournament thus far, and their 3-2 career record shows that they are evenly matched. I would give Takanoiwa a slight edge in this one, as he seems to be very aggressive this basho, and looking to win at all costs.

Takarafuji vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho won their only prior match, but Takarafuji is really got his sumo together this basho. I continue to be impressed at his methodical and calculated approach to each match, and how he goes about winning by executing his battle plan. Of course Takakeisho is fresh off of a kinboshi, and is likely feeling quite genki indeed.

Shohozan vs. Ikioi – This one has huge potential. Both of them are brawlers, both are big and both are looking to get 3 more wins with only 5 matches left. Ikioi tends to win their match ups, but this one might be a battle to behold.

Hokutofuji vs. Kotoshogiku – Hokutofuji has been looking shattered the last two days, and I am guessing he is nursing that injured hand. Kotoshogiku, on the other hand, is looking more dialed into his sumo than he has in a good long while. While the risk of the much feared “Kotoshogiku Day” is not longer keeping the Tachiai crew awake at night, I can see him getting to 8 wins in Aki. Hokutofuji has a much tougher road, and needs 4 of his final 5 matches to be in his win column.

Onosho vs. Tochiozan – A Tochiozan loss puts him at make-koshi, and an Onosho win secures kachi-koshi for him. Onosho won their only prior meeting, and Tochiozan is very much day by day in terms of power this basho. Like many long term veterans of the upper division, he has many injuries known and unpublished that can impact his performance on any given day.

Tamawashi vs. Chiyotairyu – The lone viable challenger faces the rather aggressive Tamawashi on day 11. Chiyotairyu’s bulked up frame has genuinely benefited him this tournament, and his blistering tachiai is tough to endure. He holds a 6-2 advantage over Tamawashi, but there is the background distraction to Chiyotairyu of his second place position. It’s either over in 3 seconds or most likely Chiyotairyu gets defeat #3.

Aoiyama vs. Yoshikaze – Given Aoiyama’s preference to attack with a rain of tsuppari, I am guessing Yoshikaze’s face wound is open within the first few seconds. If Yoshikaze can get inside and get a hold of the man-mountain, he’s likely going to prevail. But Aoiyama can stop a wildebeest with one of those blows, so we shall see.

Mitakeumi vs. Goeido – We would all like to think that Future Ozeki Mitakeumi could put a stop to the Goeido train, but Mitakeumi is not looking at all genki right now. So my guess is that Goeido puts him away with some relative ease. But it would be wonderful too see Mitakeumi rally and apply some Toyo University love to Goeido.

Ichinojo vs. Harumafuji – Much like spotting a parrot at the North Pole, this rare encounter was first predicted by our very on lksumo. This match up is going to be an interesting one, as Ichinojo’s primary weapon, his giant body, will force Yokozuna Harumafuji to take a more frontal attack. Ichinojo has been randomly hot and cold, so the interest level in this match comes down to which form of Ichinojo shows up.

Aki Day 10 Highlights

Goeido-Salt

Goeido Pulling Away From Pursuit

Today closed out the second act of the Aki basho in a manner befitting this “Wacky Aki”. Yusho race leader Goeido won his match against Tochiozan to remain alone at the top of the pack, while all but one of his pursuers lost. This narrows the conditions that the yusho would come into contention again significantly, and it’s increasingly probable that Goeido will be this basho’s winner. Today he looked strong, confident went on offense immediately, and never looked back.

Harumafuji did not fare as well against Takakeisho, who successfully employed the attack and retreat strategy that got him mocked in Nagoya by Yokozuna Hakuho. This time he was able to keep Harumafuji reacting, and eventually off balance. I blame the Yokozuna for not just blasting him from the dohyo, which I am sure was his original plan. Congrats to Takakeisho for scoring yet another kinboshi.

With the end of the second act, we have a very clear picture of who is going to do well, and who is struggling to just survive. Sadly, Ishiura and Tokushoryu went into in the make-koshi bin today. Clearly Ishiura is a fraction of his Kyushu self, and I can only hope that someone can repair whatever has gone wrong and get him back to awesome.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu now make-koshi, and Endo looked really solid putting him there. Granted he is fighting the lower end of Makuuchi, but it seems that Endo is probably on an upward path after his ankle surgery. Fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Mr Sunshine gives it a text book run, and bests Nishikigi who is treading dangerously close to make-koshi himself. Asanoyama has really adapted well to the upper division, and hopefully can continue to excel.

Arawashi defeats Yutakayama – The match started with a matta, but Arawashi owned this from the tachiai. Yutakayama has been really hit-or-miss, but Arawashi is having a great run this Aki.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru falls to 2 off Goeido’s leaders pace with his loss to Chiyoshoma. Oddly, Daishomaru did not even really look like he was ready, and Chiyoshoma dispatched him easily.

Takarafuji defeats Ishiura – Wild and crazy match that Ishiura could have won at least twice. For a while, Ishiura was able to get behind Takarafuji, but could not finish him off. Takarafuji just seems very calm, methodical, and keeps working his plan. Great come back for the man with no neck.

Ikioi defeats Takekaze – It was clear that Ikioi was looking for the henka, but Takekaze was going to meet him head on. Ikioi got the best of a rather slow tachiai, and quickly got Takekaze off balance and rolling. Takekaze is now one loss from maki-kochi.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Another of Goeido’s contenders hits the clay, as Ichinojo hands Takanoiwa his third loss. When Ichinojo can get you in a throwing grip, there is little that anyone can do. With his size and strength, you are going for a ride. We tease about Ichinojo quite a bit, and that is mostly because he is a shadow of his former self in many ways. I think the other rikishi sometimes assume that he’s not a serious contender now, and on many days he’s not. But today he made quick work of Takanoiwa.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Sadly this is not a wonderful victory of the struggling rikishi overcoming a strong and healthy veteran via an epic struggle. Instead Shohozan slipped on the clay and fell. Kintamayama calls these “Slippiotoshi” wins.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really is in bad, banged up shape. He put up a valiant fight against Chiyotairyu, but Chiyotairyu seems to really be dialed in for now. He remains the only one in range to challenge Goeido.

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – The Kyushu Bulldozer dispatches Onosho, who many were counting on to challenge Goeido for the yusho. While still mathematically possible, it is increasingly unlikely. This is not uncommon with fast rising young rikishi, they hit a snag in the second week, and finish strong, but not strong enough to challenge. Onosho will be back, and better than ever. We are going to enjoy this guy and his crazy high amplitude sumo for years to come. Kotoshogiku has not looked this solid in a while.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seemed to have a really bad case of the nerves, as he jumped early twice. Tamawashi quickly had him on defense and dominated the match. I expect that whatever strategy Hokutofuji may have had going in was so shattered by his two false starts that once the match got underway he was easy prey.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Man Mountain Aoiyama finally wins one after his return to the basho mid-way through. This time, Aoiyama did use the “Stand and Deliver” strategy, and Mitakeumi bought it. The future Ozeki needs to think through this one, as it’s not the first time someone has used it on him.

Yoshikaze defeats Shodai – Yoshikaze made really quick work of Shodai, he managed to keep his face from bleeding today! Shodai needs a new transmission and possibly a valve job, as he’s failing hard. From the look on his face, Shodai is getting very frustrated with his performance.

Goeido defeats Tochiozan – This is what we expect to see from Goeido. He took command from the tachiai and never let Tochiozan set up any kind of offense. Now that he has his kachi-koshi, I am hoping that we see this Goeido for the rest of the basho.

Takakeisho defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji drops another kinboshi, and Takakeisho could not be happier. Takakeisho was able to keep Harumafuji from getting inside and taking control, so this loss is really on him. He let Takakeisho set the tempo and style of the match, and Harumafuji payed the price.

Aki Day 10 Preview

Yumitori-shiki

Day 9 stripped the leader group down to the lone Ozeki, Goeido. He claimed his kachi-koshi with his win over Aoiyama, and for the 6th time in his career, removed a kadoban mark next to his name. While he is the current leader, the Aki basho has been unpredictable, and I would caution any Goeido fans to prepare for a fight right up till the end.

For fans and readers worrying about Yoshikaze, and his daily blood facial, this is not uncommon for “The Berserker”. It’s sad, it’s ugly, it likely hurts and it’s probably further damaging that guy’s face, but in many past basho, Yoshikaze has gotten a cut on his face, and every subsequent day, his opponents make a point to re-open that wound.

Both Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi have a decent chance to hang onto their Sekiwake ranks for Kyushu, and if that is the case, they will be joined by Ozekiwake Terunofuji, provided he is healed enough to compete. This will create a 3 Sekiwake situation we last saw with Kotoshogiku. This is referred to as a “haridashi” or “overhang”. During the Kotoshogiku Ozekiwake era, the promotion lanes were full, and nobody had a chance to move into the San’yaku for several tournaments, with Takayasu and Tamawashi holding down the standard Sekiwake slots, and Kotoshogiku holding down the overhang.

Aki Leader board

Goeido is now in sole possession of the lead for the Aki yusho. But 4 rikishi are chasing him, the most interesting (to me) is Takanoiwa. A Takanoiwa / Goeido match is unlikely in the next few days, but would resolve many questions.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Daishomaru
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takarafuji, Arawashi, Daieisho, Asanoyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Endo vs. Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu is headed back to Juryo, short of some kind of miracle. Endo has a chance to deal him a make-koshi on day 10, and seal his doom. Of their 6 prior matches, Endo has won them all.

Nishikigi vs. Asanoyama – Mr Happy is looking to continue his 3 match wining streak, and Nishikigi is really feeling the heat to push for wins to stave off a return to Juryo. In their only prior match, Nishikigi prevailed.

Yutakayama vs. Arawashi – Arawashi is performing very well this basho, and his sumo seems to be dialed in. This should be a fairly easy match against a struggling Yutakayama.

Chiyoshoma vs. Daishomaru – Daishomaru needs to best Chiyoshoma to maintain his distance one behind Goeido, and hope for a chance to compete for the Emperor’s cup. But Chiyoshoma has a 3-2 lead in their career match-ups.

Ishiura vs. Takarafuji – Ishiura looks injured or demotivated, or both. He has not been fighting well, and the overwhelming sumo that he displayed when the blasted his way in the Makuuchi is nowhere to be found. This is sad because I really liked that guy. Takarafuji continues to methodically, quietly keep winning his matches.

Chiyonokuni vs. Daieisho – Chiyonokuni fights harder than any other losing rikishi I have seen in quite some time. His day 9 loss was another heartbreaker for him, and now he gets a turn with former co-leader Daieisho. Chiyonokuni holds a career lead of 3-1 over Daieisho. I am expecting another wild pushme-pullyou war that rages across the dohyo 3-4 times.

Ichinojo vs. Takanoiwa – This is going to seem odd, but I think Demon Hunter Takanoiwa represents an interesting threat to Goeido in the days to come, but we shall see if the schedulers give him a shot. Ichinojo is back to seeming vague and uncertain, which is not where he does his best sumo. Ichinojo leads the series 3-1.

Shohozan vs. Kagayaki – Kagayaki can’t buy a win. So he should just own that, go out and have some fun. Take a page from Asanoyama’s book. Treat this like the greatest day to do sumo in your whole life. Lift Shohozan by the mawashi butt-strap and give the knot a tug. Sure it will stop the match, but the fans will remember that moment forever, while 100,000 little old ladies in Tottori Prefecture alone will all be madly mashing the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on their DVR.

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyotairyu – Speaking of a rikishi who is unfortunately doomed, the bell tolls for thee, Tochinoshin. Now that you are maki-koshi, why not see if you can get Chiyotairyu to fall and put a dent in the dohyo? Hell, in Nagoya some bout resulted in a portion cracking and falling away. Though Tochinoshin leads the series 2-1, it’s clear Tochinoshin is pretty banged up, and needs to regenerate some knee tissue.

Onosho vs. Kotoshogiku – You know what Kotoshogiku has shown the last few days? Lateral movement! Go back and watch the matches. I have to think that either he has a better tap job on his knees, or he found some way to get the old patella stable. This is the first match between these two, and I am going to be very curious if Onosho can avoid the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Mitakeumi vs Aoiyama – I think today Aoiyama will decide to use the “stand and deliver” strategy that could have served him with Goiedo. They have split their prior 2 matches, but I would give an edge to Mitakeumi, as I think Aoiyama is still not at 100%

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will bleed some more, Shodai will struggle a bit and go out for a nice yorikiri.

Tochiozan vs Goeido – Don’t dismiss this bout. Tochiozan is a volatile substance, and it’s tough to predict what he will do or how it will turn out. Clearly he is not at 100%, but a veteran like him with a 35 match history with Goeido has to know a lot about how the Ozeki will pursue this match. Goeido wants to preserve his lead, and he’s not going to let Tochiozan near his mawashi. Goeido leads their career totals 22-13.

Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji will probably give Takakeisho a lesson in maneuverability. I don’t see Takakeisho having a big opportunity against the Yokozuna here, but he has explosive strength, if he can line up his attack.

Further Comments On Aki Day 7

harumafuji-old

The old order is battling back, tamping down the rising wave of young rikishi and re-asserting it’s dominance. That dominance is thread-bare now, but it is backed by year after painful year on the dohyo. The veterans of Makuuchi are survivors, and they persist in the top division not because of favoritisms or some quota to meet. They persist because they are skilled combatants, and in some cases some of the best that there has ever been.

Day 7 continued the trend we saw on day 6, and it seems that perhaps the loose and clanky bits of this basho may have been shaken off, and we are down to solid sumo. If you did not read it overnight, Aoiyama is making his return on day 8. Lord only knows what is going through that man’s head, but I do hope he is healthy. Most rikishi take a couple of days to come up to competition level from the start of the basho, but Aoiyama is being thrown into the fire against Harumafuji straight away.

In astounding news, Goeido decided to do some Ozeki sumo today, and did it well. Thanks you big plate of Okonomiyaki, now keep that going. In less surprising but no less welcome news, Harumafuji did an outstanding Harumafuji imitation, and gave hope to his fans that he can still deliver the goods.

Match Comments

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Marathon bout against visiting Juryo riskishi Daiamami, Asanoyama / Mr Happy has a reason to be happy today. After moving Daiamami to the tawara, Asanoyama executed a rather clean sukinage for the win.

Daishomaru defeats Tokushoryu – Today Tokushoryu really applied himself, but he is so very very front heavy that it’s not difficult to topple him once he gets forward momentum. Daishomaru still only has one loss!

Chiyomaru defeats Kaisei – Bloody outstanding battle today between these two. I am quite sure Kaisei decided he had become too massive and his mobility was suffering, he appears to be at least 6kg lighter, and his sumo is much better now. Chiyomaru really brought his sumo today, and these two put on quite a fight.

Daieisho defeats Sadanoumi – I have to wonder if Sadanoumi yet regrets his return. So far no wins, but perhaps that will improve. Daieisho shows once again the power of the tadpoles and why he is on the leaderboard. There is much rejoicing in Oitekaze beya these days.

Takekaze defeats Endo – Well past time for Takekaze to win one. Endo looked very vague, and it’s safe to wonder if Endo has the juice to compete higher up the banzuke with what is probably a tender ankle.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Some controversy on this one over who touched out first. The bout ended with a flying mess at the tawara, and gyoji Konosuke gave it to Ikioi. But replays show them touching down at almost the exact same time.

Arawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – These two were really going at it! The match reminded me of pre-war sumo footage, where the fighting style was very different, and featured a lot of leg trips and upper body throws. Both of these rikishi were out to win no matter what, and their even match up resulted in a fantastic bout. Double bonus points for the two way Shimpan lap-dance.

Takanoiwa defeats Kagayaki – Brutal street fight. I am sure some of those tsuppari were heard in Ibaraki. If you want to see two rikishi pound each other to exhaustion, this is your match.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takakeisho – Sumo-Elvis takes one from the bowling ball. Takakeisho has a lot of drive and a lot of talent, but it’s time for him to broaden his sumo if he wants to advance.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – Onosho overwhelmed Hokutofuji, who seems to be off his sumo the last couple of days. Onosho stays at one loss and tied for the lead.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Eternal blessings to Tamawashi for helping to put the ugly threat of “Kotoshogiku Day’ to rest at long last. Kotoshogiku made him work for it, but Tamawashi carried the day.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is always hit or miss. With his bad leg he can be amazing one day, and weak the next. Today he tried a henka on Yoshikaze, but the Berserker was having none of it. He pivoted and to Tochinoshin’s surprise, opened up a blistering thrusting attack. For whatever reason, Tochinoshin decided to reply in kind. That was, of course, a risky move, and Yoshikaze made him pay. Congratulations to Yoshikaze for his 1000th Makuuchi bout.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is a shadow of his Nagoya self, and Mitakeumi dismantled him easily today. I am refreshed that Mitakeumi seems to have settled down and gotten his sumo back.

Goeido defeats Shodai – At long last, today Goeido was a worthy combatant. He took the fight to Shodai (as indeed he would need to) and administered a severe jostling to the boy in blue before vigorously thrusting him over the edge of the dohyo. Thank you Goeido, more like that, please.

Harumafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan jumped early, but Harumafuji was not going to wait around for the matta. Shohozan is a weight lifting fool, and is impressively strong. But Harumafuji stood up to the blows and began a series of right and tsuppari to Shohozan’s face. Again and again to slapped his face like Shohozan was some petulant child. This did seems to disrupt Shohozan, and Harumafuji latched a double inside grip on Shohozan’s mawashi. A brief atomic wedgie later, and it was Shohozan out and finished. The crowd loved it, and so did I.

Aki Day 7 Preview

Going-somewhere

The time has come for the pivotal middle weekend of this crazy basho. Now solidly in the second act of Aki, this middle weekend is when we will finally get a look at our yusho race. Here at Tachiai, it will be time for us to track them via our leaderboard. Hopefully, dear readers, none of you are going to assume too much until day 13, as this basho is still a crazy jumble of the old and new fighting for supremacy. Right now, none of the Tachiai crew would be too willing to guess which faction will prevail, but lksumo will likely spot it first.

The big change is no rikishi is undefeated now. And we should all be ready for this basho to finish much like some of the Juryo tournaments earlier this year, with our leaders holding 2-3 losses, or possibly even more. One things seems quite certain, the team making the Kyushu banzuke is going to have their hands full.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Asanoyama vs. Daiamami – Daiamami is up from Juryo to help balance the swiss-cheese Makuuchi torikumi. Because Asanoyama just recently left Juryo himself, they actually have a track record, 2-1 in Daiamami’s favor.

Daishomaru vs. Tokushoryu – Daishomaru continues to dominate the lower end of Makuuchi, and day 7 he goes up against the hapless Tokushoryu, who seems doomed to exit the top division by Kyushu. Daishomaru holds a 4-2 career advantage.

Kaisei vs Chiyomaru – Kaisei is looking much better than he has in about a year. I think he lost some weight during his Juryo demotion, and he is moving better. He is still ¾ lumbering blob, but his sumo is better now. Chiyomaru comes in at 3-3, with Kaisei wining their only prior match.

Daieisho vs. Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi comes back from going kyujo, and it seems he gets to be the hacky-sack for the genki crowd in lower Maegashira. Daieisho comes in 5-1, tied with Daishomaru, and holding a career 3-2 advantage against Sadanoumi.

Endo vs. Takekaze – Time for Endo to start facing rikishi further up the banzuke, and it starts with a hapless Takekaze, who is suffering with a 5-1 record right now. Takekaze needs to turn things around this weekend, or face a stiff demotion.

Chiyonokuni vs. Arawashi – with matching records going into day 6, and their career match records at 5-5, this is going to be a fairly even match up. We can hope that both of them will go at it like cranky badgers stuck in a culvert.

Takakeisho vs. Chiyotairyu – Another symmetric match up. Both rikishi 4-2, with a 2-2 career match record. Both rikishi have been using a very limited range of sumo strategies thus far, so here’s to hoping that one or both get creative on day 7.

Hokutofuji vs. Onosho – Onosho took his first loss on day 6, but he is still part of the leader group. Hokutofuji is at .500 going into the middle weekend, and needs to push to get wins and stay in the hunt. Onosho leads the series 3-1.

Tamawashi vs. Kotoshogiku – Thank goodness the threat of “Kotoshogiku Day” has faded somewhat. I assure you dear readers, that should it come to pass, I shall indeed (even if no one else does), make and star in that Kotoshogiku tribute video. But now comes a chance for Tamawashi to push that possibility further away. Kotoshogiku leads the series 5-7.

Tochinoshin vs. Yoshikaze – Both of these rikishi had a lot of hopes at the start of Aki, now both are struggling for enough wins to stave off make-koshi. Tochinoshin seems significantly diminshed from his performance in Nagoya, so Yoshikaze may take this one. But Tochinoshin leads their career match-ups 14-8.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochiozan – Mitakeumi needs to keep rolling, and he has a chance to do that against 1-5 Tochiozan. Tochiozan is also greatly diminished from his Nagoya performance, and we have to wonder about injuries.

Shodai vs. Goeido – Goeido has a puzzle for today. With Shodai’s weak tachiai, the sole remaining Ozeki can’t repeat his backwards sumo as well. I am going to expect Shodai to more or less stand up at the tachiai, and this will force Goeido to actually go on offense. Shodai has beaten Goeido twice, but Goeido leads their series 4-2.

Shohozan vs Harumafuji – We were delighted that Harumafuji won day 6, and stablized at .500. He faces Shohozan now, who has been really pouring on the offense. Harumafuji has him on speed, but it’s clear he is suffering.

 

Aki Day 4 Highlights

onosho

We are almost done with the first third of the Aki basho, and it’s clear that this one is going to have a unusual and unruly start. With so many of the upper ranks missing due to injuries, and a few who remained competing hurt, it’s really a wide open scramble for the yusho.

At the end of day 4, there are no fewer than five rikishi who are undefeated, none of which are who you would expect to be dominant. This includes: Kotoshogiku, Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, and Daieisho.

But it gets worse, also at the end of day 4, a number of rikishi who were expected to at least be holding a .500 average are winless! This includes: Yoshikaze, Tochiozan, and Tochinoshin, with Mitakeumi not far behind at 1-3.

It’s a bit early to proclaim a trend, but for the opening third of the basho, it’s been the playground of the tadpole crew, and they look like they won’t be slowing down. We will get our first idea of who might go the distance and take the cup by this weekend, but thus far it’s not who a long term fan might expect.

Day 4 Matches

Tokushoryu defeats Asanoyama – Tokushoryu finally gets his first win at Aki, and looked really solid doing it. I must remark that yet again, Asanoyama just really seems to be so happy that he gets to do sumo today.

Endo defeats Yutakayama – I really liked this bout, not only because Endo won, but because Yutakayama gave him a really good fight. Move me to the “Endo is going to be alright” column. Great footwork at the edge of the ring by Endo to secure the win. If he can keep from getting further banged up, we should see him competitive in upper Maegashira by the Hatsubasho.

Daieisho defeats Kaisei – Undefeated Daieisho bested the Brazilian, who I am certain loss some weight and is moving much better. But Daieisho is really just cranking this tournament, and is not giving any quarter. In fact, most of the tadpoles are undefeated or have a winning record.

Kagayaki defeats Takakeisho – Kagayaki continues to be Takakeisho’s kryptonite. Takakeisho can wreck any number or rikishi on any given day. But for some reason, Kagayaki, in spite of his poor performance thus far, can just slap him around like a rented mule. Takakeisho was throwing everything he had at Kagayaki, but it had little or no success.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – The Biggie Sized Chiyotairyu remains undefeated, and his slap down of Shohozan lacked anything in terms of graceful sumo, but it got the job done. I am really looking forward to Chiyotairyu taking a crack at Goeido on day 5.

Shodai defeats Tochiozan – After a very strong Nagoya basho, Tochiozan has fallen off a cliff, and has yet to win a single match. I was delighted to see that today Shodai decided he was going to do some sumo, and looked like he actually wore his fighting mawashi today.

Tamawashi defeats Mitakeumi – In the group of rikishi who have fallen off a cliff, a close second would have to be Mitakeumi. He is clearly suffering the curse of going on NHK World to talk about his sumo, and we can only hope that he is able to pull out a kachi-koshi by day 15. Tamawashi appears to have overcome his ankle sprain, and was in full effect day 4. Oh yeah, there was a monoii because the Gyoji could not quite figure out who touched down first.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yoshikaze – Also in the cliff diving team, my favorite Yoshikaze. After remarking it would be fun to be the oldest rikishi to be promoted to Ozeki, he is now in a deep hole and struggling. My biggest fear lies in the fact that Kotoshogiku remains undefeated, and I worry that my “Kotoshogiku day” may have to come to pass. It’s too early for me to start looking for a blue mawashi to wear, but the dread of doing so fills me with terror.

Onosho defeats Terunofuji – More trouble in kaiju land as the Onosho gives Terunofuji some amphibian firepower. Terunofuji now has a 1-3 start, and we have to start worrying about him facing demotion. Onosho joins many other tadpoles in the undefeated column.

Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Another dirty henka from Goeido. Really man, you can in fact beat these guys if you give it a try. But Tochinoshin, how were you not ready for this after what he did to Yoshikaze day 3? Some junky sumo here in the second to last match of the day.

Hokutofuji defeats Harumafuji – Hopefully fans don’t assume that just because Harumafuji decided to compete in Aki that he is anything close to 100%. It’s more along the lines of he is a tough and stubborn cuss. But that should not subtract from Hokutofuji’s rally masterful win today. He was quick and strong, and took the fight to the Yokozuna, and prevailed.

Aki Day 4 Preview

Kotoshogiku-Harumafuji

With day 3 behind us, we can all hope that everyone who has survived thus far has gotten their rusty sumo techniques old and working, and the basho proper can get underway. With just 3 days complete, no one’s record is beyond recovery, and everyone still has a kachi-koshi as a possible outcome.

I beg and pray that the Aki blood bath is complete, but something tells me we will lose one or two more. Tamawashi looked like balls today, and his damaged ankle will likely keep him from doing much real sumo for at least a few days. He may still end up declaring himself kyujo before day 15.

The real story in the first three days, besides the injuries, is the strength of the new group of rikishi who are really blasting everything they have faced this far. This includes Daieisho, Onosho and Takakeisho. It’s far too early to talk about the yusho, but it’s possible one of these guys might be in contention during the second week.

One thing of note, with so many rikishi out, the entire torikumi has gotten much shorter.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Tokushoryu vs. Asanoyama – Tokushoryu has had a really poor showing this basho, and on day 4 he is taking on Asanoyama, who seems to be really having a great time and doing fairly well. This is a first meeting between these two men. Tokushoryu has yet to win a single match, so at some point soon, he is going to get really eager to win by almost any means he can.

Endo vs. Yutakayama – Endo seems to be well enough to handle lower Maegashira opponents, and the sumo world is glad for it. There is hope that he can continue to strengthen and improve, and possible return to some of his former glory. Yutakayama is having a bit of a rough ride in his first basho in the top division, but that is not unusual.

Daieisho vs. Kaisei – Daieisho is so far unbeaten, and he faces a resurgent Kaisei, who is a bit stronger than I expected. Is it just me, or did he drop some weight too? He had gotten horribly large, and I think it diminished his sumo. Daieisho won their only prior encounter.

Takanoiwa vs. Takekaze – Takanoiwa is also unbeaten, interestingly enough, and on day 4 he takes on Takekaze, who has yet to win any match during Aki. Takekaze is not looking overly energetic thus far, so maybe he will wake up and show us at least a majestic henka on day 4.

Kagayaki vs. Takakeisho – Kagayaki is another of the “no wins yet” crew, and he faces a really energetic and highly combative Takakeisho, who has yet to lose. It’s strange to note, that in their 3 prior matches, Takakeisho has yet to beat Kagayaki once.

Shohozan vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu’s extra mass seems to have really complimented his sumo, and his opponents are having a difficult time blunting his attacks. But his day 4 match against “Big Guns” Shohozan may be a new story. It’s possible that Shohozan could bench press Chiyotairyu on a good day. Chiyotairyu leads the series 3-2.

Mitakeumi vs. Tamawashi – Mitakeumi needs to continue bouncing back, and Tamawashi is hurt. I don’t doubt that Tamawashi is going to put up a huge fight, but if Mitakeumi is going to make a play to keep his Sekiwake rank (let along start an Ozeki campaign), he needs to start dominating now.

Kotoshogiku vs. Yoshikaze – These matches between these two are one sided in Kotoshogiku’s favor. Plus it seems that Yoshikaze is flagging for multiple reasons (none of which I know). So I am going to expect Kotoshogiku to win this one, and maybe Yoshikaze start’s bouncing back on day 5.

Terunofuji vs. Onosho – Now this one is interesting, the big Ozeki against the angry tadpole. It’s time for Onosho to test himself against a fairly capable Ozeki class rikishi. Granted, Terunofuji is not at full health, but it’s a great test.

Tochinoshin vs. Goeido – Henka probably won’t work for Goeido today, so I expect him to actually have to use some sumo against Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin has beaten him a few times, but Goeido really needs to line up the wins and clear the kadoban flag sooner rather than later.

Hokutofuji vs. Harumafuji – I am sure Harumafuji will be aggressive, focused and unless the gyoji whacks him with the war-fan, he’s not going to stop no matter what. Now, Hokutofuji, is certain to give him a good, solid fight, and I have hopes that this match can be a real contest.

Aki Day 3 Highlights

Matta?

Day 3 in bizzaro basho, and the whole Tachiai crew, along with the cat, are wondering if this thing is ever going to settle down and stop pooping it’s diaper.

If you have yet to watch the NHK highlight reel, or Jason or Kintamayama, I strongly recommend a stiff drink before and during. With now 7 rikishi out kyujo – Including the majority of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps – each day seems a bit more odd and off pace. Yet there is abundant great sumo taking place, and in the absence of the top guys, the up and coming team are really in the spotlight. With rikishi like Takakeisho and Onosho clearly standing out every day, they are getting a great deal of attention, and probably new fans. This is another step down the path of transition that we have been pointing out for the past several tournaments, and it’s not going to reverse.

If you are wondering, many of the Angry Tadpoles are still undefeated at the end of day 3. These guys are a real driving force for the near-term future of sumo.

Rather than call it highlights, for today I am going to call it…

Things That Happened Today

Asanoyama defeats Yutakayama – I have decided I like Asanoyama. He just seems to be having a great time on the dohyo, even when he loses. It’s as if each time he steps up on the clay, he says to himself, “Can you believe they are paying me to have this much fun? Holy crap, what a life!”

Aminishiki defeats Tokushoryu – Yeah, thats right! Uncle Sumo came to Makuuchi for a day and won! His fans in the Kokugikan are legion, and he frequently gets a bigger reaction than 80% of Maegashira. There was a false start, but the second attempt was actually some really good sumo. Tokushoryu was trying to apply overwhelming bulldozery, but Uncle Sumo decided he was fine with that. He offered some token resistance to get Tokushoryu well cranked up, then pulled him down.

Endo defeats Kaisei – Ok, I am starting to allow myself to get optimistic about Endo’s recovery. Sure he is fighting the bottom end of Makuuchi, but I would say his ankle is at best 75% of good. He even had the presence of mind to break Kaisei’s fall. I think with the bloodbath thus far, everyone is worried someone else is going to catch a career impacting injury.

Daieisho defeats Nishikigi – Daieisho is not getting a lot of coverage because he is down at Maegashira 11, but he is looking in solid form right now. Granted Nishikigi is not the strongest opponent, but Daieisho’s sumo was spot on today.

Arawashi defeats Takarafuji – Really nice effort by both Rikishi, Arawashi had a much better tachiai and was able to set up the throw.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Everyone sing along… Shodai blew another tachiai. Easy to do when you are tall and looking rather lethargic this basho, and your opponent is an amped-up bowling ball with legs who has chrome side pipes and the low-rider package. I counted 2 tsuppari from Takakeisho for every 1 from Shodai. Frankly Shodai looked surprised that this tadpole was kicking his butt. Takakeisho remains undefeated.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – Chiyotairyu continues to deliver above expectations, and is really knocking down some of the better rikishi that are not in the hospital.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – I am still thinking that Tamawashi did more to his ankle than he cares to admit. Onosho was once again at 11+ on a 1-10 scale, and Tamawashi seems to be lacking his prior ability to transmit power to ground.

Mitakeumi defeats Shohozan – Mitakeumi hopefully is shaking off the cobwebs and the jinx of going on NHK to talk about his sumo. Big Guns Shohozan is sporting some Yoshikaze-style face damage now, so that may be effecting his sumo. Mitakeumi won by a fairly quick slap-down for a convincing victory.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Goeido unleashes a dirty henka, but Yoshikaze bought it. Goeido really needs to clear his kadoban status, so I am sure nobody really is too sore about his deciding not to take the Berserker on head-to-head.

Terunofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Thank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan. The knee-less wonder won in fairly convincing fashion over Tochinoshin, and maybe there is hope that he’s still got some health left. Tochinoshin gave it his all, and put up a great fight. Terunofuji was relieved, the fans are relieved, and even my cat liked it.

Kotoshogiku “something-something” Harumafuji – I could call it a win, it was recorded as a win, but what the hell was it? It was, in fact, Kotoshogiku’s first kinboshi, but should it have been? Clearly we had a matta, but for whatever reason the gyoji did not call it back. Again, after yesterday’s injury fest, I am sure people like Harumafuji are being extra careful. Should he have ignored the matta and just given The Kyushu Bulldozer (Kotoshogiku) a death spin and a ride in the wheelchair? Either way, it’s in the record books now and Harumafuji has his first loss of the basho. Kotoshogiku… Undefeated?

Aki Day 3 Preview

Harumafuji-Dohyo-Iri

We have yet to start day 3, and it’s already fair to say this will be unlike any other basho for the last few years. We face the possibility of losing 2 more from the top ranks and a crowd favorite Maegashira. If all 3 who were injured on day 2 drop out of Aki, that means that both Tagonoura sekitori (Kisenosato and Takayasu) will be out, and the primary Kensho magnet (Takayasu) will be gone.

I know some readers here (and we dearly love our readers!) were uncomfortable with my prediction that Sumo’s injury problems were in the process of boiling over. But as we say in Texas, “Hold my beer”.

But it can and should rightly be pointed out that we are looking at a sekitori population that has multiple kanban rikishi at or above the average age of retirement, and that given the current sumo schedule, there are few windows for medical treatment and recovery without rather stiff demotions. Sumo is a very Darwin environment – the strong advance and the injured or lesser skilled fall away.

But even if there are no other rikishi that go kyujo this tournament, we are now up to possibly as many as 8 from Makuuchi, and half of those maybe from the Yokozuna/Ozeki ranks. Sumo as a brand stakes a lot of their draw and publicity on these top two ranks, and their decimation at Aki may take some time to recover.

Please note that some of the below matches will possibly have fusen wins if one of the rikishi announced they are withdrawing from the tournament

What We Are Watching Day 3

Tokushoryu vs Aminishiki – The REAL Ojisan, Uncle Sumo Aminishiki, comes to Makuuchi to give battle to the bulbous Tokushoryu. With NHK show it on their highlight reel? We can dare to hope.

Endo vs Kaisei – Ends has not come out strong, in spite of only having to face the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Now he goes against the Kaisei, who has not been showing much in terms of speed. Their career series is nearly tied, but it will be interesting to see if Endo can muster his sumo to overpower the large Brazilian.

Daishomaru vs Okinoumi – I am very happy that Okinoumi has started 2-0, and I hope that he has his injuries under control, at least for this basho. He has beaten Daishomaru in their only prior meeting, which was at Nagoya, and one of his 5 wins for that basho.

Takanoiwa vs Ishiura – Takanoiwa has started strong, and he may be well positioned to have a “good basho” provided that he can stick to mid and lower Maegashira for the remaining bouts. Ishiura is still hit or miss, and we have to wonder if he has some chronic injury that is sapping him of his strength.

Chiyonokuni vs Ikioi – A pair of dedicated oshi-zumo practitioners, I would give a slight edge to Ikioi, who has two straight wins and leads the career total 5-2. Ikioi also bests Chiyonokuni in total mass.

Shodai vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is eagerly throwing himself into his offense so far. He explodes off the tachiai and delivers a relentless torrent tsuppari from the start. Shodai on the other hand is looking slow and comes in high at the tachiai. Takakeisho has never won against Shodai, but I think day 3 changes that.

Ichinojo vs Ura – I expect Ura to be kyujo before this bout. If he insists on competing, I expect Ura will be kyujo after this bout. Ichinojo is looking especially unpolished this basho, but all he has to do is push Ura hard and he might break him at this point.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochiozan – Someone activated Chiyotairyu’s “Beast Mode” and he has been coming off the line strong, and overwhelming his opponents. Tochiozan, by comparison, is looking vague and overwhelmed in each of his matches. It’s hard to tell if some injury is slowing down Tochiozan, but I am going to give an edge to Chiyotairyu this match.

Tamawashi vs Onosho – Tamawashi may be able to gamberize and make it to his day 3 match. But he faces Onosho, who is delighted to have a big target like Tamawashi for his match. Onosho is the real deal right now, strong, fast and completely sure his sumo will win each time. A healthy Tamawashi could delivery a brutal lesson to the young contender, but given day 2’s wrenched ankle, Tamawashi is not likely to be at full power.

Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Mitakeumi received a lot of elevated expectations going into the basho, but now finds himself with a cold 0-2 start. I doubt that Mitakeumi picked up any injury, so I am going to assume it’s all in his mind right now. Day 3 he faces Shohozan, who has brought his big guns to each match and unleashed hell upon his opponents. Will this be the match where Mitakeumi turns it around?

Yoshikaze vs Goeido – Yoshikaze is also suffering a cold start. And on day 3 he faces Goeido, who is likewise struggling. These two are actually a very good match, with Yoshikaze leading their career total 12-9. I would expect for Yoshikaze to try to disrupt Goeido’s attempt to overwhelm Yoshikaze at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Hokutofuji – If Takayasu is not too injured to compete, he is going to get a strong workout from Hokutofuji. They have only met once before (in Nagoya), and Hokutofuji was the winner. But my money is on Hokutofuji getting a fusen win.

Terunofuji vs Tochinoshin – Our favorite kaiju is really struggling now, he as no wins in his first 2 days, and we can assume he is not yet even close to 100% healthy. Tochinoshin is likewise winless, but I think he has a real chance to take one from Terunofuji day 3, even though Terunofuji dominates their career totals at 8-2.

Kotoshogiku vs Harumafuji – These two veterans have met 62 times in their careers. But it is Kotoshogiku who holds a slight edge at 34-30 over Harumafuji. If Kotoshogiku can take a win against the lone surviving Yokozuna today, it would in fact be Kotoshogiku’s first kinboshi.

Aki Day 2 Highlights

Ura-Injured

The Body Count Increments Again.

Prior to the start of Aki, it was clear that this basho was going to be a jumbled and surprising event. With a number of mainstays out on medical leave, and a vigorous corps of new talent blasting their way up the ranks, it was clear that we were going to see many familiar names getting losses. But we can excuse fans in thinking that all of the injuries were accounted for up front. Sadly day 2 seems have have had a swarm of rikishi suffering lower body injuries, and one has to wonder if the yusho will simply be the last man standing.

We can start in the Ozeki, who are still suffering. Today both Terunofuji (his second) and Takayasu (his first) hit the clay. This is especially alarming for Terunofuji who has to pick up 8 wins to remove his kadoban tag. Prior to the start of Aki, I had assumed that he would be able to produce 8 wins without too much challenge. But clearly he is still recovering from surgery and not quite up to full Kaiju power yet.

Sekiwake? 0-2, both of them. Both of them are very capable rikishi. Both of them have gone down like Juryo punks in the first two days (this coming from a Yoshikaze fan). The frustration on Mitakeumi’s face was evident as Chiyotairyu put him away handily. Tochiozan shares the 0-2 start at Komusubi, and has looked a half step slower than the ranging sumo machine that went 10-5 in Nagoya. Yes, the first 3 days frequently feature favorites shaking off the cobwebs, but with the big bad Yokozuna sidelined, you would think the San’yaku would attack with a sense of purpose. The lone surviving Yokozuna, Harumafuji, is holding up fine for the first 2 days, but it’s clear to see that he’s competing in spite of the pain.

Finally it’s worth noting that Ura may have further degraded his injured knee today in his bout with Takakeisho, who was out for a clear victory, and achieved it. Ura needs to take care, and he should study the calamities that visited Endo when he was a rising star and fan favorite.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – Due to the late breaking kyujo wave, there is an imbalance in the banzuke, so upper members of Juryo have been visiting Makuuchi daily to fill in the match list. Today Myogiryu, tomorrow we get “Uncle Sumo” Aminishiki.

Endo defeats Asanoyama – Endo has his hurt ankle taped, and he still looks a bit slow, but he managed to deliver a defeat to Asanoyama via a somewhat lucky slap-down. In general there seems to be traction problems with the dohyo already this basho. This after the Kyokai made a statement that they would use the same clay for every dohyo from here on out. Note – Asanoyama strikes me as one of these rikishi who is just happy to show up and get to do sumo today.

Okinoumi defeats Tokushoryu – The nature of Okinoumi’s chronic injury means his ability is more or less a day-by-day surprise package. At Maegashira 14, he has a fairly easy schedule for his “healthy mode”, which he currently seems to be in. The rather massive Tokushoryu gave him a very good contest today, but Okinoumi took his time and worked him to done.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Solid effort from Nishikigi in his second match. He overpowered Chiyomaru and kept moving forward. Many bouts, it’s as simple as finding a way to do that.

Arawashi defeats Takekaze – Takekaze’s henka did not fool Arawashi for a moment, and it left Takekaze off balance and easy to thrust out. Who faces Takekaze and is not looking for a henka?

Ikioi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki needs to find a way to move beyond the “good effort” category he falls into in far too many bouts. Ikioi is quite strong, but he is a benchmark for Kagayaki – he needs to find a way to systemically defeat a rikishi like Ikioi if he wants to reach his goals of higher ranks.

Shodai defeats Ichinojo – Two large, hulking guys, wearing the same color mawashi. Moving kind of slow, seem to be kind of phoning it in. No wonder there was a Monoii. From the replay it was really hard to tell who touched out / down first. But the Shimpan did the right thing and called for a Torinaohi (re-match) and ran it again. Second run was all Shodai.

Takakeisho defeats Ura – Takakeisho blasted out of the tachiai and had Ura back and off balance. But being Ura, he attempted to distort space-time at the tawara, but his injured knee gave out as he went to evade Takakeisho’s finishing thrust. After the match it was evident that that damaged knee is now a much more damaged knee. They ended up taking him out via a wheelchair. I will be surprised if Ura sees Aki day 15, and frankly should be focusing on recuperating.

Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – This bout was all Chiyotairyu. A forearm blast out of the tachiai got Mitakeumi off balance and Chiyotairyu finished him moments later with a firm slap-down. Many fans have hopes for Mitakeumi, but at the moment he is looking really disorganized.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze put up a good fight, but man, can Onosho really pour it on! If Onosho can stay healthy, he has a lot of great sumo to offer for years to come. Yoshikaze’s dismount looked really ragged, and I am willing to guess that he, too, lost his footing.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – This whole bout was all Tamawashi. I don’t know if Takayasu’s mawashi was on too tight or if he had too much sake Sunday night, but he looked surprised and unable to respond to Tamawashi’s explosive tachiai. Blasting your opponent off the dohyo at the tachiai is usually Takayasu’s forte. Worryingly, Tamawashi and Tamawashi both seem to have wrenched their ankles. Both limped off the dohyo, but moments later Takayasu rode a wheelchair back to the dressing room.

Kotoshogiku defeats Terunofuji – The Kyushu Bulldozer was able to lock up the big Kaiju and hip-pump him across the bales. It was a classic Kotoshogiku attack strategy, and it underscores that Terunofuji may not yet be ready to compete at full strength.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – This is more like the Goeido we wanted to see day 1. Strong, confident and committed to his attack strategy. Hokutofuji put up some firm resistance, but was not match for Goeido booted up in 2.0 mode. Watch the slow motion replay for some great upper body work by Goeido to disrupt Hokutofuji’s effective opening gambit.

Harumafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Another solid day of sumo from the surviving Yokozuna. The big Georgian went down in a quick mawashi battle that Harumafuji made look easy. When he’s on, he’s a joy to watch.

Closing note – How many more kyujo before the end of week 1?

Nagoya Final Day Preview

Aoiyama2

It’s the last day of sumo until September, and frankly the Nagoya basho has been a lot of fun. As a fan, the unpredictable nature of this basho has kept me focused and looking for the next turn and twist on the road to the end. The road to the yusho has been rather straight the entire time. It’s been all Hakuho. I know that NHK and some in the press are attempting to fan the remote possibility that Aoiyama would challenge on the final day, it will come to naught. I am looking for Yokozuna Hakuho to once again lift the Emperor’s Cup just before I wake for my Sunday.

Even though the yusho is more or less settled, day 15 still has heaps of critical matches, as some rather important rikishi still battle to finish Nagoya with a winning record. This includes:

  • Goeido – I am sure he would rather not be kadoban again, so he must defeat Takayasu. Takayasu looks injured and distracted, so I am giving him better than even odds if he can boot up on 2.0 mode Sunday.
  • Tamawashi – His Sekiwake rank at stake, he needs to defeat a really strong Tochiozan. I am looking for Tochiozan to once again be calm, measured and methodical. This should be a really good match.
  • Daishomaru – They give him Maegashira 1 Takakeisho for the final day, so he really needs to work for this kachi-koshi.
  • Ichinojo (and Sadanoumi) – The schedulers seem to love doing this. Take two rikishi who are 7-7 the final day and make them fight for the winning record. Only one of these guys can get it.
  • Nishikigi – Readers will note I have been following Nishikigi closely the entire basho, as I think his struggle to re-affix himself to Makuuchi is a compelling story.
  • Arawashi – Also left begging on the final day. I do hope he can make it. His opponent is the already deeply maki-koshi Okinoumi

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Hakuho
Bulgarian In Waiting – Aoiyama

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tokushoryu vs Nishikigi – Last chance for Nishikigi to pull this one out and stay in Makuuchi for the September basho. Tokushoryu has had a lousy basho but is probably safe in Makuuchi even with a 11th loss.

Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – A very Darwin battle – Loser gets demoted and the winner gets promoted. If Sadanoumi loses, he faces a real chance of being sent back to Juryo. Brutal.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – The schedulers finally give Aoiyama a tough match. Hopefully Yoshikaze will give him a vigorous battle. In the past, an effective combat (but disgusting) strategy has been to grab a handful of man-boob and start shoving.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Will Tochiozan do Tamawashi any favors? Tamawashi really likes his san’yaku slot, but Tochiozan as never been afraid to run up the score. I am going to guess these two battle it out for real, and Tochiozan has a career 9-2 advantage over Tamawashi.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido really needs this one, and he has the advantage of fighting an Ozeki that has seemed injured and a bit off his sumo. But historically Takayasu leads 15-8 over their career. An Aki kadoban Goeido would be a terrible thing, because Terunofuji is already kadoban.

Hakuho vs Harumafuji – The big battle to end the basho. On the chance that Harumafuji wins and Aoiyama, there would be an playoff bout between Hakuho and Aoiyama immediately following the bow twirling ceremony. Should this rediculous stunt take place, it may end painfully for Aoiyama.

Nagoya Day 10 Highlights

Captain-Kensho

Valor In Defeat.

Day 10 brought few surprises, but a massive amount of outstanding sumo action to Nagoya. Again the stand out match revolved around crowd favorite Ura, who was unable to be Takayasu, but threw everything he had at the big Ozeki. Fans appreciated both the unquenchable fighting spirit shown by Ura, and the stability, poise and patience from Takayasu.

Takakeisho showed no less fighting spirit in his match against Yoshikaze, who was not phased in the least by the youngster’s manic attack plan. Yoshikaze is an interesting figure in sumo. He is a fantastic all around athlete, and would have likely been successful in sports other than sumo, as he played baseball in college, too. This augments his sumo in that he can perform moves that others might not have the overall physique to attempt. We don’t frequently see him lift an opponent, but today Yoshikaze carried Takakeisho out like it was his bed time.

Ichinojo gets rightfully accused of being a big slow container ship in a mawashi, but today his exhausting marathon grapple with Tochinoshin is the stuff of epics. Both men knew going into this bout that it was going to be a contest of strength and stamina, and Ichinojo had the ability to hold his own in a contest of might.

Highlight Matches

Takarafuji defeats Gagamaru – Takarafuji secures his kachi-koshi by taking advantage of Planet Gagamaru’s spherical shape, and rolling him around the dohyo to victory. The laws of physics are a harsh mistress, and wise is the rikishi who studies Isaac Newton and Galileo.

Takekaze defeats Nishikigi – After a blistering start, Nishikigi is now in a 4 bout losing streak, and his remaining in Makuuchi is starting to look questionable. Takekaze, of course, seems timeless and is able to concoct a winning strategy for nearly any opponent this far down the banzuke.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daishomaru – Great to see the scion of Kokonoe beya back in the fray. After a miserable Natsu and a weak start in Nagoya, he seems to be in his grove and applying himself well.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyotairyu – The man moutain Aoiyama delivers the doom against Chiyotairyu, who was looking to lock down his kachi-koshi today. Aoiyama will be much further up the banzuke in Tokyo, and with any luck he will expand his catalog of sumo techniques and recuse himself well.

Kotoyuki defeats Ishiura – Facing a ride on the shame train back to Juryo, Kotoyuki decides he is going to really engage and fight. He put away Ishiura today, who drops to 5-5. Kotoyuki’s next loss locks in a make-koshi and a demotion.

Onosho defeats Tokushoryu – In what has been called by some the “Battle of the Angry Tadpoles”, Onosho has come away with his kachi-koshi. His performance since joining Makuuchi in May has been impressive, and I would be interested to see if he scores his second special prize this basho.

Yoshikaze defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho was destined for a make-koshi this tournament, and today the Berserker delivered. Takakeisho will be back stronger and greatly improved. I sincerely hope that many of his matches this basho helped him explore the need to expand his sumo, and the staggering variety of tactics a solid Makuuchi rikishi can and will deploy in just a few seconds.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – It was not even close. Shodai has a raging problem with being consistent in his delivery, and as we oft repeat here, his tachiai is sloppy and high. Mitakeumi, being a squat, burly fellow, knows he can keep Shodai high and quickly run him out.

Kotoshogiku defeats Goeido – Wow! The Kyushu Bulldozer side steps the Goeido war-charge and succeeds.

Takayasu defeats Ura – Both rikishi really impressed today. I encourage readers who have time to re-watch the match a few times, and one viewing focus on just Takayasu, and another viewing focus on just Ura. When Ura deploys the knee grab, there is a moment where Takayasu is doomed, and he thinks through it in a blink of an eye and counters to win. That, dear readers, was a masterful move.

Hakuho defeats Chiyoshoma – Of course he did. But he played with Chiyoshoma for a bit first. I swear he and the Mole Boss discuss match strategies. The Boss is now at 1046, one away from tying Kaio’s all time win record. Hakuho zensho looking increasingly likely. At this point, I am keen to see him do it again.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Prior to Nagoya, there was a good amount of discussion that Tamawashi would be the next sumotori to reach for Ozeki promotion. Tamawashi is very good, but he is perhaps one notch below the level needed to vie for Ozeki. It will be interesting to see who the schedulers throw at him for the final 5 days, as he needs to find a way to 3 more wins to stay at Sekiwake.

Personal Note – Bruce is on a business trip today, so posting will happen at odd times and may be lacking depth and detail.