When I see a Yokozuna go in during a taichi-ai and not gain the right hand grip when it is there for the taking or I see Kakuryu continue to show of some of the best sumo a top the dohyo and then get caught “off guard” by the likes of Myogiryu or Toyonoshima, I can’t help but raise an eye brow. When you’ve practiced something as much as Kakuryu and Harumafuji you simple don’t continue to make the same mistakes against the same rikishi.
At this point we have The Dai-Yokozuna, Hakuho leading the way at 8-0 with eight rikishi trailing in by two at 6-2 (Kotoshogiku, Baruto, Shohozan, Goeido, Toyonoshima, Okinoumi, Shotenro, and newcomer and Sumo & Stogie favorite: Jokoryu. I would imagine if we are in for some yusho race funny biznasty it will be arriving any day here. Toyonoshima vs Hakuho could very well be prime pickin as the M4 is 6-2, but I am hopeful Hakuho will take the tournament, as boring as that may sound, at this point in the tourney. He’s been held back for so darn long that I’d rather just see him given the green light to kick some ass and move on. As I noted above there have been a fair amount of questionable bouts already and I would like to start there, discuss various rikishi of interest, and end with a day 7 Makushita bout that I think was likely the beginning of a long and interesting rivalry.
Harumafuji is sitting at an average 5-3 with one potentially legit (fluke) loss to the now kyujo Chiyotairyu. Today he faced Toyonoshima.
As you can see here Harumafuji had the right hand outside grip for the taking in the photo to my left. Instead of taking it though he allowed Toyonoshima to stand him up tall and fight the rest of the bout from the shoulders and above. Toyonoshima finished the Yokozuna with a shove and the Yokozuna went flying off the dohyo. Afterwards, Toyonoshima offered to help but Haruma got up on his own accord and then appeared to be acknowledging someone’s feedback and didn’t appear to be all that surprised or disappointed that he was taken out by an inferior rikishi. This match is a complete opposite of what we witnessed on day seven when Ama went all out against Ikio. I don’t think there is a single rikishi, save Hakuho who is better at working his way inside against an opponent. The day 7 bout against Ikio is a great example of the kind of sumo Harumafuji is capable day in and day out. What we saw today, in my opinion had pretty clear signs of yaocho.
Hakuho on day seven and eight looked more like the Hakuho I know and love compared to the Hakuho we saw on five and six. Apparently Hakuho’s “slide to the right” against Chiyotairyu and the powerful sukinage that followed broke the young guy’s metatarsal in his foot. Watching the video many times if he did break that bone it must have been his right foot as it sounded like it hit the clay pretty hard. Shame for Chiyotairyu as he was on a bit of a roll, but Hakuho and Kakuryu, two of the best atop the dohyo, both realized is that this guy was leaning way to far in at the tachi-ai to gain that powerful thrust. Both Hakuho and Kakuryu used that against him and made him eat dirt. Hakuho got away with a false start against Tokitenku and drove his Mongolian opponent off the dohyo, quick and easily. Finally Hakuho’s left hand grip against Ikio today showed his methodical approach easily throwing the enthusiastic M3 with the uwatenage. If Hakuho is given the green light he’ll yusho. Period.
Shohozan is rocking a 6-2 right now. He’s been beaten by Kisenosato, an Ozeki with a four and four record and Toyonoshima. I don’t particularly like how long this cat waits prior to the tachi-ai, rolling his wrist and what not, but I will give him this: dude is strong. Today he got under Myogiryu’s armpits at the tachi-ai and literally lifted the M2w off the dohyo for the oshitaoshi win. What’s puzzling however is that if you watch the bout Myogiryu had the better position at the initial tachi-ai but quickly stands to tall and get easily knocked backwards.
Kakuryu has given up a few bouts to keep people happy the way I see it. If you watched his wins however you can see a clear difference in his sumo. Today against Tochioshin there was no way the strong Oshin was getting anywhere near Kakuryu. Kak’s use of the nodowa, keeping his arms tight inside and his excellent footwork showed us today the kind of sumo this kid is capable of everyday. Contrast that with his lost to Toyonoshima yesterday and you’ll see what I mean about giving up bouts. Kakuryu is upright at the tachi-ai, his arms aren’t tight, and his footwork is nowhere to be found. It’s hard for me to believe these guys are the same rikishi: he can hold off Tochinoshin easily but appears completely overpowered by Toyonoshima, a rikishi who is talented but not in the same league as the Ozeki.
Okinoumi and Jokoryu really haven’t faced much competition, but they did face each other yesterday. Jokoryu was 6-1 at the time so you can imagine who won. That said, this bout looked like quite the battle with both rikishi attempting some throws before Oki was able to force Jokoryu to step out of the ring. I continue to hope both of these rikishi make more waves into the Joi this year. With Okinoumi’s improved tachi-ai and Jokoryu’s solid balance, I think these guys could eventually find their place in the higher ranks.
Kotoshogiku is 6-2 after getting man handled by Chiyotairyu and Tochiozan on day two and three. Based on that past sentence, I would hope that some would be wondering how an Ozeki could get man handled by those two guys and yet win against the likes of Goeido? Goeido’s roll and positioning looked ridiculous against Geku. That said Geek’s bout today against Tokitenku was about as lame as I’ve seen in a long time. Tokitenku false started and Koto gave him the stop sign with his hand. They stood up and reset only to have Kotoshogiku push Tokitenku back and the Mongolian simply stepped out on his own accord. There was zero attempt on Tenku’s part to do anything in this bout. If Kakuryu stands up and looks to be overpowered again by an inferior rikishi it will only add to the meddling happening this basho. If Kakuryu dominates the Ozeki it will only further support the idea that the Ozeki is not at the level he once was. I for one hope Kakuryu is able to go all out tomorrow and drop the Ozeki who is looking more and more like Kaio and Chiyotaikai did towards the ends of their careers.
This report wouldn’t be complete without at least some rays of light, right? Baruto clearly wants to be an Ozeki again. I think he’ll get there. His only two losses have been to Takayasu and Kakuryu. That said he kicked Kisenosato’s ass and made damn sure Goeido got no where near his belt. If I had any question about the health of Baruto’s leg those concerns went out the window today when he faced Tochiozan. The Big O henkaed and Bart simply bulldozed the guy out off the dohyo, jumped over him and ran half way down the hanamichi before returning to get his cash prize. That nimbleness and drive will get him back to the top if he plays his cards right.
Finally day seven offered a historic bout in my opinion. It was the first time Japan’s big boy Tatsu faced Egyptian Osunaarashi. Both of these men are destine to be Makuuchi mainstays within the year if you ask me. Both dudes are strong, big and getting better. Osunaarashi started the bout out with a solid tsupari and Tatsu faced it and returned it right back to the Egyptian. Tatsu manuevered to the left and started driving The Egyptian Sand Storm back to the bales. Then Osunaarashi got inside again and managed to knock Tatsu off the dohyo. These two will hopefully be fighting each other for years to come! Tatsu is 2-2 while Osunaarashi jumps to 3-1. Exciting to watch some of sumo’s future stars.
Speaking of S & S’s Rikishi on the Rise (also known as Daly’s rikishi on the rise at this point): Newcomer “I kick my feet like a charging bull” Endo has dropped two bouts in a row to fall to 2-2. Akita’s Sasakiyama has also dropped two in a row to fall to 2-2.
So with Nakabi all wrapped up, I believe we plan on reporting full-time again from day 10 onward. I’ll aim to continue to report on interesting bouts in Makushita because there’s a lot of cool cats down their at the moment. I don’t have a clue who’s reporting next, so be sure to check back and be surprised by whatever you find.