Hatsu Day 15 Preview

 

Tochinoshin Victorious
Kasugano Heya Welcomes Their Hero

 

We come to it at last, the final day on a thoroughly enjoyable sumo tournament. One of the better ones in the last few months, and a real delight to watch over the past two weeks. Some of my favorite rikishi have been doing poorly, but the overall Makuuchi crew has been competing with skill, vigor, and flashes of brilliance.

While none of the crew here at Tachiai (nor anyone I know of) predicted Tochinoshin would dominate this basho, his performance continues to follow the arc we believe will continue. That starting with Kotoshogiku’s yusho in 2016, the age of the Mongolian stranglehold on sumo is ending. This gives us great hope, as this is not the sumo of 20 years ago. The sport continues to have an ever-increasing international appeal, to the puzzlement of Japan.

For now, let’s enjoy the images and video that will flow from today, and know that we continue to see the glorious evolution of a great and ancient sport.

What We Are Watching Day 15

What, you thought because it’s senshuraku there’s nothing going on? Ha! But it does seem like a few folks were brought up from Juryo to try on their Makuuchi moves in preparation for March in Osaka.

Daiamami vs Aoiyama – For Daiamami to pick up his 8th win, and stay in the top division, he must overcome the man-mountain Aoiyama, and his enormous man-boobs. No easy accomplishment. I beg NHK to not show any slow-motion replays.

Kyokutaisei vs Nishikigi – Another likely Juryo promotee for March, he squares off against Nishikigi who also needs his 8th win. The good news for the man who never gives up, he holds a 6-1 career lead over Kyokutaisei.

Kotoyuki vs Ishiura – Someone call the henka police! Kotoyuki is also looking for #8 against the somewhat inconsistent Ishiura. I am sure that Kotoyuki is ready for Ishiura’s submarine tachiai.

Shohozan vs Abi – I am guessing the winner secures a special prize, both are 9-5, both are fighting well. Abi has had a great debut tournament, and I predict he is going to do great things for the next year or so.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Shodai looking for win #8, and a small but interesting move higher in the Maegashira ranks for March. Shodai may in fact still be salvageable as a good san’yaku rikishi. Much of it will depend on him fixing some of the mechanical problems he has. His spirit and dedication are first rates. Kagayaki survived a somewhat rocky Hatsu, and comes out with a winning record. I look for him to be mid-Maegashira in Osaka.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Sure, Tochinoshin has the yusho, and Endo is kachi-koshi, but this one is very interesting to me. Endo was at one time the “Great hope”, but injuries have hampered him. Surgery last year brought him back to some level of health, and he has been working hard to recover as a contender. I am fairly sure Tochinoshin will take this one, but Endo has shown some fantastic sumo this January. Perhaps he has one more surprise left for us.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Super-sized Chiyotairyu looks for a kachi-koshi and elevation to one of the top 4 slots of the Maegashira ranks for March. Chiyotairyu holds a 5-1 career advantage over Daieisho, and Chiyotairyu recently has been adding a sprinkle of neutron-star matter to his chanko, which has given him a steep gravity well.

Takarafuji vs Kotoshogiku – Ugly Darwin match. Winner kachi / loser make kochi. Not sure who I would rather have win. Takarafuji had a pretty tough card this basho but kept up the fight. But it’s tough to see Kotoshogiku fade away. Either way, Kotoshogiku holds a 12-6 career advantage.

Yoshikaze vs Ikioi – The saddest match of the whole basho, which could only be topped if Aminishiki and Terunofuji battled in wheelchairs with IV bottles hanging on them. Both of these great rikishi are in broken states, and I just hope they face each other on the dohyo, shrug and walk off to find a bar.

Kaisei vs Ichinojo – “Why don’t you go pick on someone your own size?” In response, I present you a battle of the gas giants. Both are kachi-koshi at this point, so this is just to see what happens when two massive objects collide. Hopefully, LIGO is tuned up and running.

Hokutofuji vs Aminishiki – Ok, I give up. Why is this happening?

Takakeisho vs Arawashi – Takakeisho wants a win to keep his banzuke drop as restrained as possible. Arawashi’s knees won’t give him too much support as he tries to resist Takakeisho’s powerful thrusting attack. This is actually the first time the two of these rikishi have faced off.

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – Current Ozeki vs Future Ozeki. Good match here. If Mitakeumi can keep himself in touch with his sumo, and stay calm and strong, he can take this one from Takayasu. But I predict that Takayasu is going to go for his cannonball tachiai. Maybe Mitakeumi will give him a bit of a Harumafuji mini-henka, and send the fuzzy Ozeki launching into the shimpan gallery.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Happy to see Goeido booted up in 2.0 mode on day 14. Kakuryu back to injured, so this one is all Goeido, I predict. Big K has no power to ground, possibly due to strain and pain once again in his lower back. I call 10-5 a worthy return, and he should get that back adjusted before it’s chronic again.

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

Kakuryu-Hand

The mad-cap roller-coaster of Sumo that is our wonderful Hatsu basho took another wild and exciting turn on day 12. Unlike Kyushu, which was another relentless march of the dai-Yokozuna towards an inevitable victory, the sole remaining (weak) Yokozuna has made this basho exciting, unpredictable and frankly a whole lot of fun. Read no further if you don’t want to know what happened.

On day 11, Yokozuna Kakuryu lost to Tamawashi, making a tactical mistake that his opponent knew would come, and was eager to exploit. In that moment when Kakuryu, the sole undefeated rikishi lost, the yusho race opened wide, and a giant bear of a man stepped up. On day 12, that picture changes again.

So many good matches today. Many good bouts from all rikishi at all levels of the banzuke. The Hatsu basho continues to delight and impress.

Following Herouth’s approach, let’s start at the bottom of the list

Day 12 Matches

Hidenoumi defeats Ishiura – Visiting from Juryo, Ishiura gifts him with a shiny new kachi-koshi. From the tachiai, Ishiura attempts to hit and shift left, but Hidenoumi tracks him perfectly. Now Ishiura’s gambit is in trouble, as his back is to the tawara, and he’s very close to being out. Ishiura manages to break contact and attempt a slap, but Hidenoumi is completely dialed into Ishiura’s sumo, wraps him up, and delivers the yorikiri.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Massive respect for Nishikigi, who refuses to give up and go away to Juryo again. The match starts with a big hit at the tachiai, and both men lock up with each going for a left hand inside grip. The crowd goes quiet as each leans in, working to wear the other down. When Kagayaki lifts and shifts to try to get his right hand inside, Nishikigi makes his move. Well executed sumo from both, but Nishikigi showed superior skill.

Kotoyuki defeats Asanoyama – It’s clear from the tachiai that Asanoyama wants to get a belt grip and negate Kotoyuki’s oshi attack. Asanoyama comes in low aiming for the belt, and Kotoyuki opens by pounding on Asanoyama’s face and neck. To his credit, Asanoyama stands up to the beating for a while, struggling to land a grip, but Kotoyuki knows this game, and keeps moving forward. Asanoyama changes tactics, and tries to pull, but his transition puts him off balance and Kotoyuki finishes him off. Oshidashi for the win.

Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Ryuden kachi-koshi. This bout was quite one sided, with Ryuden landing a double inside grip straight out of the tachiai. Driving forward, Ryuden prevented Daishomaru from mounting any real defense. It’s been a long hard road for Ryuden, and this winning record from his first Makuuchi tournament must be a sweet victory indeed.

Daiamami defeats Terunofuji – Rather the Ghost of Terunofuji. The poor Kaiju has nothing left. I rarely feel sorry for anyone who competes in a warrior sport, but this is just brutal to watch.

Takekaze defeats Aminishiki – Really Isegahama? What on earth are you doing? You are already somewhat diminished by the Harumafuji scandal, and now you put on this show of pain and suffering for the fans?

Shohozan defeats Sokokurai – What an awesome match! It starts with a traditional Shohozan bull rush with arms flailing, and Sokokurai gives ground, but does not give up. As they circle, Sokokurai is trying like mad to wrap up one of Shohozan’s massive arms, and he gets a good hold on the left arm at the wrist. He parlays that into a left hand inside grip, and the two are dancing to set up a throw. Shohozan launches an uwatenage attempt first, but Sokokurai counters masterfully. As Sokokurai rotates to try his own throw, Shohozan moves forward strongly and Sokokurai collapses. Yoritaoshi. Shohozan is kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Chiyomaru – Abi tries a slap down henka at the tachiai, but Chiyomaru is either expecting it, or his bulbous midsection kept him slow off the line. Either way the move fails and Chiyomaru attacks a now back-tracking Abi. But Abi is an unstoppable ball of energy, and launches his now familiar thrusting attack, most of which is landing on Chiyomaru’s neck and face. Chiyomaru rallies at one point, but Abi’s attack is too intense, and Chiyomaru steps out. Oshidashi, with Abi kachi-koshi in his first top division tournament.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – The new plus size Kaisei seems to be nearly impossible to move. Even Daieisho’s normally solid pushing attack had no effect. The bulk of the match is Kaisei breathlessly chasing Daieisho around the dohyo until Daieisho steps out. Kaisei gets his 8th win.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – What has happened to the soft, flabby and unimpressive Shodai? I think he’s on holiday somewhere in Okinawa. This is the other Shodai, the one who wants to be an Ozeki, has fairly good sumo and can win in spite of a somewhat high tachiai. His win over Chiyoshoma was straightforward, he kept moving forward while Chiyoshoma was trying to find a grip. Solid sumo again from Shodai.

Chiyonokuni defeats Arawashi – This match was lost at the tachiai, when Arawashi went to land a left hand outside grip and missed. Chiyonokuni opens with an oshi attack, and Arawashi does not really get a good second chance to lock things up on his terms. Arawashi keeps trying to work inside, but Chiyonokuni has his thrusting attack on full, and Arawashi can’t even establish a solid defensive footing. Chiyonokuni wins by tsukiotoshi as Arawashi does his gymnastics tumble once more.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Straightforward thrusting match. Takarafuji could not overcome Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and strong upper body. Takarafuji still needs one win for kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is hurt, and not really able to execute Makuuchi grade sumo. From the tachiai Hokutofuji stood him up with a firm nodowa, and then slapped him down. Both men are make-koshi and will need to try again in Osaka.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – As predicted last night, this match was almost painful to watch. Yoshikaze seems to be only at 75% of his normal self, and Ichinojo’s massive size and strength mean that normal forces of sumo, much like space-time, are warped and distorted the closer you get to him. Yoshikaze comes in low at the tachiai, looking to get a grip at center-mass, but Ichinojo lands a brutal choke hold, and moves forward. There was absolutely nothing that Yoshikaze could do to stop it. Ichinojo goes kachi-koshi while Yoshikaze is now make-koshi, and probably has a headache. Ichinojo faces Tochinoshin on day 13. Hoo-boy!

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – Dare I whisper it? Kotoshogiku may come back from a dismal start to be in striking distance of kachi-koshi? Takakeisho is a bold young man of immense strength, and he decided to try to push against the Kyushu Bulldozer. Kotoshogiku masterfully shuts down Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari, and it’s down to a contest of strength. While not quite able to get the hug-n-chug running, Kotoshogiku keeps moving forward, and avoids Takakeisho’s last minute attempt at a hineri at the edge. Takakeisho kept grabbing his mage after the match, I was curious if he was trying to signal something. Yeah, Kotoshogiku’s hand was on the back of his head, but I am not sure it’s a mage pull at all. Takakeisho now make-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi continues his meltdown, and it’s quite a disappointment to watch. As with prior matches, he tries to pull early on, but Okinoumi uses his backward motion to take control and win. After his failed pull, Mitakeumi cannot recover any forward momentum. Bad move, bad strategy, bad outcome for the Ozeki hopeful. Go back and try again.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin prevails to stay at one loss, while Tamawashi is now make-koshi. From the tachiai Tamawashi lands a strong nodowa, but this seems to only power up the Georgain battle mech. With a strong shove, Tochinoshin breaks the neck grip and goes on the attack. Tamawashi puts everything he has into a couple of huge tsuppari, and nearly brings Tochinoshin down, but it also left him wide open. Tochinoshin surges forward and lands a double inside grip. We, of course, know how this ends with Tochinoshin’s massive yorikiri.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – Goeido, unable to exit debug mode, is once again stuck playing Tetris instead of Osumo. Takayasu is a half step ahead at the tachiai, and focuses on applying rapid pressure to Goeido’s shoulders. Goeido never has a chance to produce any offense, or set up any kind of defensive stance. Goeido now needs to pick up 2 wins to not go kadoban.. again.

Endo defeats Kakuryu – Yes, sumo fans. Big K dropped his match with Endo, leaving Tochinoshin as the sole leader of the yusho race at the end of day 12. As with day 11, his attempt to pull left him off balance, and Endo was ready for it. Endo moved strongly forward and made the Yokozuna pay. Endo picks up a kinboshi, and Kakuryu loses his share of the lead. The cushions fly in the Kokugikan.

That’s it for day 12. It’s a brawl right to the end now, with a decent chance that a rank-and-file rikishi could lift the Emperor’s Cup!

Hatsu Day 11 Preview

Hatsu Day 11

It’s a big day at the Kokugikan, and this another day that I strongly recommend fans find Kintamayama’s daily summary on YouTube and Jason’s fantastic videos.  There are just so many interesting matches, there is no way the NHK 25 minute highlight show can do it justice.

Today marks the return of Terunofuji. Why? I have no idea. That guy is horribly injured, suffering from diabetes, and already make-koshi. But I suppose he is trying to save some rank in the coming demotion to Juryo.

Day 11 seems to be the day the scheduling team decided to toss the banzuke and match some of the fresh faces at the bottom of the ranking sheet with some in the middle. Sort of a “trial by fire” phase for many of them, and it has led to some really interesting matches. I must admit, I am following the Maegashira 17-13 match more closely than the Maegashira 12-7 matches. It just seems that the crop at the bottom of the banzuke this time has all the fire, energy and crazy “danger be damned” sumo that the sport needs.

Hatsu Leader Board

Leader – Kakuryu
Chaser – Tochinoshin
Hunter – Daieisho

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama comes up to Makuuchi for the day, and faces off against Nishikigi. Both men are at 5-5 and need to win 3 of the next 5 matches to maintain rank, so there is a lot on the line. During his tenure in Makuuchi, Aoiyama was at times a powerful force of sumo. Some of it was an aversion by the other rikishi to land a hold in his upper torso region, and some of it was he is huge and fairly strong. But Nishikigi has bested him 3 of the 4 times they have fought.

Ryuden vs Daieisho – Daieisho is already kachi-koshi and the only rikishi besides Tochinoshin who as any chance of catching Kakuryu, should the surviving Yokozuna falter. His opponent is Ryuden, who is doing fairly well in his long-anticipated debut in Makuuchi. Daieisho’s winning streak may put him in line for a significant boost in rank for March.

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama was red hot to start Hatsu, and now he can’t beg a win from anyone. Sokokurai took the Juryo yusho in Kyushu and has really struggled this basho. I do like the fact that Asanoyama shows up each day with what seems to be the same positive attitude.

Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki is another rikishi who is struggling for wins in the second half of the basho. He opened strong and now is 5-5. Kagayaki, whose man-boobs are nothing compared to Aoiyama, may find that can pick up pointers from the Bulgarian. Either way, I am guessing it’s going to be Kotoyuki trying to shove Kagayaki, with Kagayaki working to get a mawashi grip and toss the little brick-shaped rikishi off the dohyo.

Daiamami vs Aminishiki – I pray to Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that any available Kami protect Aminishiki’s knee. I am still wincing from day 10, and I don’t want to see Uncle Sumo exit the sport forever riding that giant wheelchair.

Terunofuji vs Ishiura – Better make it two wheelchairs at the ready because the Ghost of Terunofuji is returning to the dohyo day 11. He exited the basho earlier citing complications from diabetes. But even that is not going to help his fragile undercarriage. What madness has possessed Isegahama?

Yutakayama vs Kaisei – Kaisei really stacked on the weight over the holidays, and following his day 10 match he looked like he was going to pass out. I suspect that if Yutakayama slaps him in just the right location, it will set up a standing wave across his various fat pockets that could damage or fracture the dohyo. Interestingly enough, Kaisei has never won against Yutakayama.

Tochiozan vs Abi – Both of the Maegashira 8s fight the Maegashira 14s. Sure, why not? So we get Abi going against Tochiozan. This is their first meeting, and I am going to expect Abi to open with double arm thrusts, and Tochiozan to grab him under the arms and send him sailing.

Chiyomaru vs Endo – This should be an easy pickup for Endo, who is not looking nearly as genki as he was at the start of the basho. Chiyomaru has only taken one match from Endo, and that was back in 2013.

Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin, will someone please stop him from eating more spinach? Maybe that someone can be humble but capable Takarafuji. They have evenly split their 14 career matches, with Takarafuji dominating the last 7 of those. But this basho Tochinoshin is in firm contact with his spirit animal, a hydraulic car crushing machine.

Hokutofuji vs Ichinojo – Hokutofuji loves to win. For a long stretch of years, he never failed to rack up a kachi-koshi. Now here he is with the sting of a losing record. He faces our favorite boulder, who somehow has revived himself from his years-long sumo slumber and is happy to rumble around the dohyo crushing everything. You boys play safe now!

Takakeisho vs Yoshikaze – Scratch and dent bin match. I have no idea what has happened to Yoshikaze. But I would be willing to bet a can of Ebisu and a trip to Yoshinoya that he’s suffering from something along the lines of the flu. He just seems to have no energy right now, and that’s not possible under normal circumstances. Takakeisho has sadly found that most of the rikishi have figured out that when he starts his double arm “Wave Action Tsuppari” that you can lay a nodawa right in there and he stops it.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Mitakeumi! Get it together man, you are a total mess right now! You lose to Shodai and I am going to give you a new nickname. You may not get another decent chance to start an Ozeki run for a while, so don’t squander this one. Hey, Shodai. You win this one and I may have to start believing in you again.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu by a mile. Okinoumi is a shadow of his former self.

Goeido vs Arawashi – Should be an easy Goeido win, but what the hell? This guy seems to be booted up in some kind of lame diagnostic mode that only plays Tetris. Goeido!, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT, DOWN, DOWN clears the level.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Kakuryu, short of an injury, is looking likely to seal up his next yusho, and I am delighted that he is fighting well, looking strong and dominating. Tamawashi was eager to leave his mark in Sekiwake territory again, but he seems to be injured and not fighting well.

Hatsu Day 10 Preview

Tochinoshin

The snow was coming down in big, heavy globs today across Tokyo. It’s amazing how quickly a bit of snow turns a modern metropolis into Ukiyo-e scene, complete with burly figures in robes making their way through the drifts. At the end of day 9, there was really only one rikishi who had a chance to impact the yusho favorite, Kakuryu. In his winning match, Tochinoshin showed a level of power and vigor that he has been unable to bring to the dohyo for quite some time, and sumo fans worldwide are delighted to see him lift a smaller rikishi like Mitakeumi and carry him to the curb.

Day 10 marks the end of the second act, and true to form, on the closing day of the second act, we know who is a competitor, and whose dreams have been crushed. For Kakuryu, he enters the final five days of Hatsu as the sole surviving Yokozuna, and in a commanding lead. He is thus far unbeaten, and his sumo is as sharp and effective as the heady days when he was an unstoppable Ozeki on his way up.

Mitakeumi has faltered in the past few days, but his goal of a double-digit win record for Hatsu and the beginning of an Ozkei campaign is still within reach.

Hatsu Leader Board

Leader – Kakuryu
Chasers – Tochinoshin
Hunt Group – Mitakeumi, Daieisho

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Ryuden vs Azumaryu – Juryo 2E Azumaryu joins Makuuchi for the day to even out the ranks. Azumaryu and Ryuden have had eight prior matches, and have split them evenly. Azumaryu is nowhere near contention for the Juryo yusho, but his one day pass to Makuuchi may give fans in the US their first look at another rikishi fighting to rejoin the upper division.

Abi vs Yutakayama – Abi has been steadily improving after starting with two straight losses. Though he has struggled in the past, this may be the basho where Yutakayama is able to secure a kachi-koshi in the top division and stick around. Yutakayama won their only prior engagement, but at present, there is likely a slight advantage to Abi.

Asanoyama vs Daishomaru – Asanoyama had an impressive 6-0 start, and has now endured three straight losses. He is looking to turn that around against a struggling Daishomaru, who has been fighting injuries since Aki. Daishomaru won their only prior match, which was during Aki.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – Daieisho is fighting strong this tournament, so the schedulers pulled Maegashira 8 Tochiozan down to face off against Maegashira 13 Daieisho. This will be interesting because two of their prior matches went to Daieisho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo returns! Fans around the globe dearly hope that he is well enough to compete, and is not risking further or increased injury. Although he is already make-koshi, a few wins might make the difference in allowing him to remain at the bottom of Makuuchi for March.

Takarafuji vs Kaisei – Two strong 6-3 rikishi battle it out in a fight of steady and strong. Takarafuji prefers to get a grip on Kaisei and yorikiri the Brazilian, where Kaisei tends to apply throws against Takarafuji. Their career record of 12-9 favors Kaisei.

Shohozan vs Endo – After a strong start, Endo has been struggling, and fans have to wonder if maybe he has aggravated one of his chronic injuries. Today he goes against Shohozan, who has been bludgeoning everyone into submission. Their career record of 4-2 favors Endo, but I am going to see if Shohozan can apply an immediate hatakikomi.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – An injured and demoralized Kotoshogiku goes against a raging mass of genki named Tochinoshin. While it would be great to see the Kyushu Bulldozer put the doom on Tochinoshin, there is no way Kotoshogiku’s knees could withstand the amount of pressure it would take for him to force the big Georgian out. Career record of 24-5 favors Kotoshogiku.

Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – I am going to assume that the Boulder is going to use the same approach he used on Onosho, that is, to just go bowling with his roly-poly tadpole opponent. To be honest, it may not be that easy, as Ichinojo has never beaten Takakeisho in the three times they have faced off. But Ichinojo seems to have recovered the zen of mass and seems unafraid to use his enormity to win.

Mitakeumi vs Arawashi – Arawashi is struggling this basho, and will be lucky to hit kachi-koshi. But Mitakeumi needs three more wins to tick over to the magical double digits. After his humiliating defeat at the hands of Tochinoshin on day 9, Mitakeumi probably has a lot of frustration to resolve. Arawashi has never won a match against Mitakeumi so this could be a foregone conclusion.

Goeido vs Shodai – The Shodai match is a unit-test for GoeidOS 2.0. If he applies maximum upward force from below and inside Shodai’s high tachiai, we can assume that GoeidOS 2.0 is working as planned. Honestly, this should be pretty easy for Goeido.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Not going to be an easy day for a struggling Takayasu. Tamawashi more or less has his number, beating him 10 times out of their 16 career matches. With Takayasu looking disorganized and chaotic on the dohyo, he may fall prey to a focused, organized and concentrated attack. Sadly for Tamawashi, he has not been able to execute that kind of engagement this tournament.

Kakuryu vs Okinoumi – It would be a huge surprise if this were not a rapid win #10 for the surviving Yokozuna. Okinoumi has, in the past, been a worthy foe for Kakuryu, but this Kakuryu is strong and fast, Okinoumi is looking disorganized and injured once more.

Hatsu Day 2 Highlights

Kisenosato Sigh of Relief

Top line result – Kisenosato won today. He won in a tough battle against a strong, healthy youngster in Hokutofuji. Meanwhile, Hakuho looks uncharacteristically tentative, Kakuryu dismantles Takakeisho’s wave action attack, Takayasu goes the distance with a persistent Kotoshogiku, and I worry there is something amiss in Yoshikaze-land.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Ryuden – A pair of loose mawashi leads to a rather challenging battle, where Daiamami was able to muscle Ryuden out at the edge.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – I am starting to hope that Asanoyama has gotten his sumo back under control. Asanoyama was double-inside at the tachiai, and Nishikigi offered very little resistance.

Ishiura defeats Abi – Ishiura seems to have gotten his sumo together. He is looking focused, tight and he is using his size and strength to his advantage. Abi, in spite of his sunny disposition and outstanding shiko, is still looking for the recipe to get a Makuuchi win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This version of Kagayaki is quite different from the disorganized mess of the last three basho. It’s probably the case that Kagayaki is not yet ready to succeed at upper Maegashira level, but here at the bottom, he is doing great.

Aminishiki defeats Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo locked up Chiyomaru and went chest to chest with the big man, and won! Not a great or glorious battle, but good to see Aminishiki going straight out into battle.

Kaisei defeats Chiyonokuni – Two false starts put both contestants in a hesitant mode, and Kaisei took control of the smaller but more aggressive Chiyonokuni. I am really concerned about Kaisei’s bulk. At that size, one bad fall and it’s all downhill.

Endo defeats Ikioi – In the battle of the Japanese virtues, it was Endo all the way. There was some question on who touched down first, but Endo prevailed. I am starting to be cautiously optimistic that Endo has put his health problems behind him.

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – It was not even close, and frankly it was startling to see how small Arawashi (who is not small in person) looked as Tochinoshin lifted him over the tawara. I am eager to see how Tochinoshin does when he starts facing the San’yaku in a few days.

Tamawashi defeats Yoshikaze – Alright, that’s two weak days from Yoshikaze in a row. As a fan I am starting to worry that something is wrong with the berserker.

Goeido defeats Onosho – Goeido has started Hatsu strong, and he’s completely dialed in on the 2.0 software. The ankle repair appears to have been a complete success, and I think he’s fighting as well right now as I have seen in the past two years.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – For recent joiners of the sumo fan world, this was a classic Takayasu match. Enormous strength and almost inhuman endurance. It’s also a huge measure of respect for Kotoshogiku as he was able to match the Ozeki during that lengthy battle, and never gave up one inch without a fight. Classic match.

Hakuho defeats Ichinojo – That’s two days in a row where the boss has struggled. Yes, Ichinojo is the Obelix of sumo, but in prior engagements, Hakuho has been able to eliminate Ichinojo’s size as a factor. One can assume that the change up in his tachiai has significantly disrupted his sumo.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Amazing bout from Big K! I refer to Takakeisho’s big weapon as a “Wave Action Tsuppari”: he tends to do a double arm thrust 3 times then move. Kakuryu knows this, stops the first wave at the tachiai and moves inside with a shallow grip. Takakeisho moves to escape and Kakuryu does not let him re-set. Takakeisho’s out in the blink of an eye.

Kisenosato defeats Hokutofuji – And all of Japan breathes a sigh of relief. This was actually a very good match, and my compliments to Hokutofuji, who put up one hell of a fight. From the tachiai, Hokutofuji works hard to block Kisenosato’s left hand grip. He then makes the mistake of grabbing Kisenosato’s left forearm and pulling. This seems to really fire Kisenosato up, and he unleashes a hell of a storm on his opponent. After a few very strong blows, Kisenosato lands his deep left hand grip, at which point it’s all over. Great match, if a bit sloppy.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview

kisenosato-down

Day 1 got off to a very solid start, better than either of the last two basho, and I am cautiously enthusiastic about what we are in store for. With so many excellent matches on day 1, I encourage everyone to at least try out Kintamayama’s review on YouTube. While I love the NHK highlights show, and days when there are a large amount of quality bouts in a rather lengthy torikumi, it’s worth it to pick up the matches you missed.

I finally got to see the NHK highlight show at 2:30 Pacific today. Yes, I am in San Diego for a bit instead of the mighty bastion of Texas. Counter programming to it was a show on PBS about black holes, and super-massive black holes. I thought nothing of it…

But then here’s Murray Johnson remarking that Kaisei has packed on over 20 kg since November. Dear readers, that’s the size of a small Panda Bear, whose form Kaisei seems determined to emulate. It appears something similar has taken place within orbit of the gas giant Chiyomaru, who may have swallowed a nearby moon. Both of these two balloons will find their added mass a terrible strain on their bodies, and I fear for their longevity.

Say, you know what has me really delighted so far? Great matches at the bottom of Makuuchi! These guys are on fire. The Tadpoles had best consolidate their position in a hurry, as it seems there is yet another cohort advancing on their positions.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ryuden vs Daiamami – Ryuden looked very poised on day 1, I am going to be watching to see if he can repeat that with his match against Daiamami, who holds a 5-2 career advantage of him.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – I am calling for Asanoyama to try to set up a throw early on. If Nishikigi can block the outside grip, he will probably have a chance to get inside and dismantle Asanoyama.

Abi vs Ishiura – An early match with a lot of interest. Both guys are on the lighter side of the scales, and both of them like to move around and mix it up. If Ishiura gets stuck, will he resort to his submarine attack that gets him in such trouble?

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – See, this time I spelled it correctly. Yutakayama has won both their prior matches. I expect a flurry of thrusting and a lot of mobility. Yutakayama seems to choke when he gets into Makuuchi, and I think everyone is hoping that this time he can settle down and show us some great sumo.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – When I said keep an eye on Kagayaki, people laughed. I get it, he has ridiculous man-boobs. He seems to have come to terms with it, and possibly uses it to distract his opponents. They say life in the heya can be lonely, and perhaps these poor guys find the display captivating. But hell no! Kagayaki takes his sumo with all of the earnest concentration you might expect from a rikishi who wants to be somebody. Like Kiesnosato, this guy is willing to train himself to death to get there. Never count that out.

Terunofuji vs Kotoyuki – Did you read Herouth’s discussion of Terunofuji? It’s toward the bottom of her typically awesome post. If you have not read it, go read it. It seems that in addition to Kaisei and Chiyomaru, Terunofuji may have spent time at the Gagamaru body sculpting clinic. If he can’t toss Kotoyuki around like a rotten bag of miso on day 2, it’s very dim indeed for our once mighty Kaiju. (shout out to Joshua who is in Tokyo… Lucky bastard)

Aminishiki vs Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo vs the Gas Giant. Not good as Chiyomaru’s intense gravity well may crush Aminishiki’s space age metal support structure. Seriously, Aminishiki is in lower mid-Maegashira territory now. I hope he’s able to keep himself from getting injured.

Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Panda-kun vs Grumpy Badger. Chiyonokuni came out blazing day 1, but in typical fashion could not close the deal. He’s got strength, speed and energy, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to put together a consistent approach to get a win.

Ikioi vs Endo – Looking forward to this fight, as I am keeping my eye on Endo, who I would not be surprised to see hit 10 wins this tournament. A genki Endo may come as a bit of a shock to the tadpoles, as he brings a surgical precision and some depth of experience to the dohyo. I am looking for him to contain Ikioi’s superior strength and reach, and work inside and backwards.

Shodai vs Okinoumi – Shodai looked better on day 1 than he has in a while, and I am going to guess that for now Okinoumi is in good health. So this is probably a fairly good match, if Shodai does not blow the tachiai. Both of them will go for a mawashi grip from the start, and it will come down to strength and tactics.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi needs a 10 win basho to be taken seriously as an Ozeki contender. So it’s time for him to produce before he faces the upper San’yaku next week. Chiyotairyu is bigger, strong and looks a lot more like Elvis. So Mitakeumi is going to have to gamberize.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in day 1’s outcome. His shot at recovery is with the tough as nails Tamawashi on day 2. Tamawashi is back at Sekiwake after a stumble at Aki and Nagoya, and he wants his back in line for an Ozeki run.

Goeido vs Onosho – Battle of the manic over-committing rikishi, where both of them tend to charge forward with everything they have. Although I tend to be against the use of henka, this is the correct case where it’s of most use. Free tacos if they do simultaneous henka and orbit each other for the first few seconds.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – All the fans want Kotoshogiku to do the big back bend. We know its the source of his magic powers, and he needs every ounce of power against an especially genki looking Takayasu.

Hakuho vs Ichinojo – Hakuho looked a bit lost without his slap-n-grab power combo. Against Ichinojo he needs some clarity, as once that much Mongolian gets moving, he’s headed somewhere. I am expecting the Boss to try another tachiai variation, hopefully with improved effect.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s post match interview had me rolling. When asked about the sumo he used against Kisenosato, he more or less said, “I can’t really remember, I was just trying to win”. Damn straight! He was all over the map throwing everything including the kitchen sink at The Great Pumpkin, and he prevailed. Now of course comes Kakuryu, whose whole sumo approach is to let his opponent get rolling, then use their motion and attacks against them. I can’t wait to see how this one goes. This is the first time these two have fought.

Hokutofuji vs Kisenosato – The final match of the day, it it carries a lot of weight. Kisenosato needs wins on the board. But in their only prior match, Hokutofuji won convincingly. On day 1, Kisenosato let Takakeisho dictate the match. I am hoping to see him control the bout like his 2016 self would do with such calm and effortless power.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

battle formation

Top headline of the day: Kisenosato drops his match against Takakeisho. There are two things to learn from this: First and foremost, Takakeisho is gunning hard for Sekiwake and above. I slight him for his oshi-only approach, but he is making it work for him. He looked strong, fast and relentless today against the struggling Kisenosato.  The second thing of note is that Kisenosato looked much better than I had feared. He moved well, he attacked with strength, and kept moving forward. Fans who fear the Great Pumpkin being on the ropes should keep in mind he has not really had matches in a while, and will be rusty for a few days. If he walks out with 10 wins, he’s good.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Decent throw that took some time to set up. Moving much better than he was in Kyushu. The happy rikishi has a long path ahead of him, and to reach his potential, he must stay healthy.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden looked strong in his first Makuuchi bout, easily dominating Nishikigi. Ryuden kept his eblows tight, and prevented Nishikigi from establishing a grip, while Ryuden set up for a well executed throw to end the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – A flurry of activity in which Ishiura was everywhere at once and overwhelmed Yutakayama. He was able to get his head against Yutakayama’s chest a couple of times, which helped him keep the larger rikishi’s center of gravity high.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Massive oshi fest as Abi took the initiative and was landing tsuppari with purpose. But he over committed, got too far forward and Daieisho brought him forward and down.

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Kagayaki was very high at the tachiai, but managed to get Takekaze off balance and moving backwards. His excellent sumo instincts took over and he kept moving strongly forward. Good, solid win.

Kotoyuki defeats Aminishiki – Not quite the battle I was looking for, it was over in a blink of an eye as Aminishiki slipped trying to find his footing. Kotoyuki recognized this quickly, and finished what gravity had started.

Chiyomaru defeats Terunofuji – In spite of Chiyomaru’s enormous belly, Terunofuji was able to land a mawashi grip. But without abilty to transmit power through his legs, he was unable to halt Chiyomaru’s counter attack.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Massive tachiai, with Ikioi taking the early initiative, but Chiyoshoma pulled out a win at the edge thanks to excellent ring sense and a great deal of balance.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Keep your eyes on Endo! He wants back in the upper ranks, and he seems to finally have his body in order. This fight saw both rikishi try to establish an offense only to be countered quite effectively, but Endo kept working forward. Fantastic effort from both.

Arawashi defeats Okinoumi – In spite of Okinoumi showing some solid sumo moves, he let Arawashi land a deep left hand grip right away, and from there Arawashi kept working Okinoumi towards being thrown. 800th bout for Arawashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai, for once, had a solid tachiai, but he immediately went chest to chest with Tochinoshin, which had to delight the big Georgian. In spite of Shodai’s right hand mawashi grip, Tochinoshin out-matched him in strength and power.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi has a very sloppy start, he was high and immediately off balance. Kotoshogiku was able to set up a solid defense, and as Mitakeumi was struggling (more than he should) to finish him, Kotoshogiku apparently stepped out. The match was stopped by the shimpan.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Takayasu still working that forearm blast into the tachiai, but it seems to leave him high and forward. Yoshikaze could not exploit it, and was moving backwards in a hurry. Both men re-engaged, and kept the battle running, with Yoshikaze pushing to land a mawashi grip. Takayasu prevailed and Yoshikaze took a slow motion roll to the clay. Hopefully he was ok.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – As predicted, Goeido came in fast and low, but Inchinojo’s mass and forward momentum was too much for Goeido to simply power out. Goeido 2.0 is all about keeping up the pressure, and he did eventually get Ichinojo to step out, but Goeido was on the verge of falling down as it happened.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – This was classic Kakuryu, letting his opponent open the offense, then making him pay. I am thankful that Kakuryu was able to open strong today.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Wow, what a battle! Twice, Kisenosato let Takakeisho set up his “wave action tsuppari”, with devastating effect. But twice the Yokozuna was able to escape. The match ended when Takakeisho grabbed a hold of Kisenosato’s right arm and twisted, bringing the Yokozuna down. Kisenosato looks worried, but it may take a few bouts for him to hit his stride.

Hakuho defeats Onosho – The boss made short work of Onosho, who once again over-committed and was too far forward.