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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Shalom. Ever heard of the phenomenon in stand-up comedy where a comic waiting to go onstage hears the comic before simply "kill" the audience, and the waiting comic wonders, How in Galapagos do I follow that? Well, thats how I feel today. I had this hot intro planned for Day 15, something worthy of the titanic musubi ichiban and subsequent playoff we all knew wed be watching, and then Martin goes and kills at the very start of his Day 14 intro. Truly, how can I possibly top elitism, misanthropy, jingoism, AND homophobia all in one sentence? I rifled through my worn out, dog eared copy of Mein Kampf, even had Arbo check his autographed copy of the Autobiography of Joseph Stalin, but we just couldnt find anything that came close. We stand humbled in the presence of greatness. Urp.

Seven fellas stood 7-7 at days start, so lets keep track of those tightrope walkers, shall we? 7-7 Kokkai got the day off to a rousing start by backing away from Makuuchi-for-a-day Kimurayama then dealing out some Corporal punishment by giving him a vicious left elbow to the face. Tough as he is, the 9-5 Juryo E2 must have felt something amiss, for as he squared up to shove the Enlisted Man out backward, he seemed to lose his bearing and ended up pushing at nothing. Kokkai helped with a bit of belt, to be fair, and one cant really blame him for that gag-me-with-a-spoon-Tiger-Woods-fist-pumping-guts-pose he whipped out (remember the days when winners, in all sports, won gracefully?--and though Tiger has made it popular, I suppose it all started with Kirk Gibsons pinch hit homerun in the 1988 World Series), seeing as how this win keeps him in Makuuchi. The profusely bleeding WWII buff Kimurayama could be heard muttering as he trudged back to the locker rooms: "Well meet again, dont know how, dont know where, but I know well meet again, some sunny day." At 9-6 from JE2, that sunny day will be in Kyushu in Nov. Paybacks a bitch, Gorgeous!

Tochinonada showed his toughness after a horrendous basho by fending off much smaller and younger Tosayutaka and grinding him into the dirt with a nice underarm throw. Normally a beloved veteran like Tochinonada might just barely remain in the division with a 4-11 from W12, but four of the seven guys lower ranked than him had KK and the other three had better records. Id rather have my vacation photos developed at an Arizona Wal-Mart than see us lose GG so soon after Dejima, but will the oldest rikishi in the top flight accept the demotion at the tender age of thirty-five? It was thirteen years ago this Nov. that he took the Juryo yusho in his Juryo debut, then after two more Juryo KK, moved into Makuuchi where he got Kanto-sho after each of his first two basho and Komusubi promotion after his third! While he never reached Ozeki or Yokozuna like many thought he might, what followed was a career of eleven kinboshi (incl. two in one basho), two jun-Yusho (incl. one at 11-4 after an 0-4 start), and a ranking of Sekiwake. He was demoted to Juryo for one single basho in 2006, and promptly took his second Juryo yusho. The man represents all that is great about sumo, and as such I am dreading the release of the Nov. banzuke.

Were not going to suddenly start calling Toyohibiki "The Exterminator", but he treated Kimchigao like a stinking cockroach today, powering him out in less than a second. Back to the clay urn with ya!

Shimotori locked up with 7-7 Masatsukasa in a belt battle that went to and fro. Unfortunately for the E16, the W8 was at 3-11 and not in a giving mood. After a protracted battle, Shimotori succeeded in forcing him out to his MK. Masatsukasa indeed fought like a man wanting to stay in Makuuchi, he just didnt have as much power as his foe.

Iwaki brought some tsuppari to his meet with Tamaasuka, but he let up on it too soon, allowing the E13 to get up and under the pits and push him out with a last ditch dive. At 6-9, this win over a KK Iwaki may have just kept Tama-chan in the division for Kyushu.

Mike made mention of Takamisakaris ridiculously upright stance earlier in the basho, esp. at tachi-ai, and today Tochiohzan made Bean pay for it by applying some throat shoving nodowa followed by the two-handed inside moro-zashi that resulted in a lightning quick yori-kiri push out win. Oh Snap was 3-3, so his 11-4 looks tasty indeed. Now do something similar at E4 instead of E12 and stop pissing us all off.

When I was young I thought the song "Run Joey Run" was a veiled expose on kangaroo abuse in Australia.

At E7 6-8, Aran wasnt going to rise and certainly wouldnt fall too far whether he won or lost today. So did he make Dad proud by giving the Cinderella story of 2009 a fair fight? No, he did not. Instead, he lulled Bushuyama into a false start and on the second go jumped away and slapped down on the Lamas head for the fugly hatakikomi "win". Aran chose the high road in this bout (as in, Were you f**king high?) I proffer some Led Zep philosophy for the young Russian: "Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, theres still time to change the road youre on." (Good ol banned Russian Rohoid showed promise in the beginning as well, then morphed into a slime mold at tachi-ai. As to why this happens, you might want to review Mikes weblog on Eastern Europeans in Sumo.

I understand that Homasho has honor, and that he is loathe to move sideways even after the tachi-ai and always wants to beat his man straight on, but to just stand there at 7-7 and let Hokutoriki pound you out, without making the slightest move to either side, seems to me defeatist. Does he want to stay down around M7 or M8 for the final basho of the year, instead of kicking Cafes and Jokers asses like we all know he should have and finish 9-6 and move up to joi? Inexplicable. Hokutoriki on the flip side loses his first two and then proceeds to eat everyones lunch (excepting Bean and Dolly) to finish 11-4. Hes a strange rikishi with an unbelievable THREE Makuuchi jun-Yusho (and nearly Yushod the third but was henkad on Day 15 by W16 Hakuho in the future Yokozunas Makuuchi debut to end up tied with Asashoryu and defeated in a playoff with Genghis--I mention this because that bout was the origin of the giving-and-taking of wins that Asa and Hak have been engaged in ever since). Does this former Sekiwake have one more Sanyaku run in him? If he wins ten in Kyushu, thats where me may very well end up in Jan.

Id rather work part-time as a census worker in Alex Brohms home state of Kentucky than deign to describe the Sexy/Fruity bout. Asasekiryu won via force out and Futenoh (unnecessarily for a big, strong rikishi) heads down to Juryo.

Im surrounded by the elderly in my village, many twice my age, and tho I can imagine living for another 43 years, I cant begin to imagine crawling out of bed every morning for another 43 years.

After initially looking the aggressor, Takekaze reverted to form, backing away from Wakanosato and forcing the former Sekiwake to come and get it! Well, he came, and he got it, good. Croconosato falls literally to his 5th loss, but hell take that Makuuchi-life extending record from W13 any day of the week and twice on Sunday. With a 9-6 at W5, Takekaze turns into Ben and Jerrys Chocolate Fudge Brownie for Kyushu, and there are about fourteen hungry guys with big, cast-iron spoons waiting for him.

Being driven back by a spirited frontal assault from Kakizoe, Goeido played helpful strong boy to Grandmas jelly jar, twisting the lid off the E11 and taking his sweetened tenth win by kubi-nage. Dude was 1-3, so nice bankai. Zoe Jane was 8-3 and thinking prize money until the bottom fell out in the final four days. Still, a 9-6 finish means my boy is still in it to win it.

I decided to pay careful attention today to the telecast and I had no idea, but evidently there are divisions below Juryo! I shit you. Not. They got dudes fighting all day long, with short hair and sand-colored belts. The things one learns if one simply remains alert.

I hope Tokitenku treats his dates better than he did Yoshikaze, fending off the caffeinated ones repeated charges until putting two hands on the back of Cafes head and forcing him to go down. Gulp! Tokidoki joined Kokkai as the second 7-7 to get KK. Yoshikazes last stand 9-6 from E15 is a nifty U-turn away from Juryo demotion.

You know two guys are sucking hard cider when they lock up and start resting on each other less than three seconds into the bout. Aye carumba! E9 Mokonami finished 5-10 by uwatenageing E1 Shotenro out of his misery. Big Shot finished with two measly wins hed like to forget as soon as possible, I reckon. 

For a couple of homeboys with less than shit on the line, Kyokutenho and Miyabiyama went postal on each other. After a big boy tachi-ai, Flobby tries to pull off some throws, but the Chauffer keeps steering him away. So Flobby jacks him up and goes for the spare, but the former Mongolian gets his hands on the wheel at the last second and drives the former Ozeki out. But wait, Miyabi twists and aint going easily and theres a big crash, wreckage all over, but who hits first? After a mono-ii the Men In Black (MIB) decide the W2 can keep his license and Miyabi must appear at the police station and watch safety videos. Sadly, it was actually the Chauffer whose windshield cracked first, but at nine wins between them, who really cares? Still, hardy sumo. Thanks guys.

Peter and No Shine wrestled, Peter won. 4-11 Tochinoshin had the most brutal schedule of any rikishi (how does this grab ya for your first TEN matches:  Ozeki, Yokozuna, Yokozuna, Ozeki, Ozeki, Ozeki, Ozeki, Komusubi, Sekiwake, Komusubi, and he was wiped out by the time he met Flobby, Chauffer and Peter on the final three days), yet he managed to beat hAruMafuji, Chiyotaikai, and Kisenosato, and I stand by my assertion he will be a joi mainstay in 2010.

I hate the so-called putdown, "horses ass". How is this an insult? Have you ever seen a horses ass? Theyre magnificent. Besides, apart from the human brain, the group of muscles that make up what we call the horses "ass" has been the single most important engine for humanitys development. Quick, name three significant events in recorded, pre-industrial human history that did not include us using horses and their fantastic asses in a crucial role? So next time youre called a horses ass, say loudly and proudly, "Gottamright!"

Our next 7-7 was the ever sneaky Aminishneaky, but he was taking on this bashos star, Kakuryu, who has been so dialed in it would have been a huge mistake for Shneaky to henka. After an honest tachi-ai led to a few pulldown attempts by Aminishiki, Kak held up the Komusubi with his hands on both sides of his foes face, kind of like Michael Corleone when he kisses his brother Fredo in Cuba, and then guided him forward, expertly waxing the fast coming WK, a la Mr. Miyagi, into a dive off the dohyo. What I liked most was after Kakuryu had pulled Shneaky forward, he deftly took his left hand off and brought it over to the left side of Amis face, continuing and accentuating the waxing as his foe flew out. Kak revenged three big losses from his Sekiwake turn in Nagoya, taking down Kisenosato, Kotooshu, and Kyokutenho on his way to a lofty 11-4. Kak will be Sekiwake again in Kyushu along with Baruto, and itll be interesting to see if Geeku can hold off Goeido for the WK spot to remain at the same rank as the Kid, who should be at EK.

The reason why Geeku may fall out of Sanyaku is that he got owned by Toyonoshima, a smaller and less skilled rikishi. Yoritaoshi.

As I mentioned, Kisenosato should drop no further than Komusubi, even though he looked foolish today vs. Baruto. Kise used the nodowa attack to stand Biomass up and off to the side, but as he moved forward Baruto nimbly snagged the back of his belt with an outside left while at the same time grabbing the right arm and swinging the Sekiwake out like an unwanted dance partner. Baruto was downright scary this basho, the main reason being the manner with which he won and the confidence he showed while doing it. Please dont screw with us and bomb out in November, ya big lug. 

Contrary to all expectations, Kaio was able to somehow defeat Kotomitsuki. Never would have seen that coming. Well-deserved 8-7 for Mr. Record Breaker Kaio. 

hAruMAfuji came in fast and mean, but got himself too low and ended up beneath Kotooshu. Picture the back of hAruMAfujis head pressed against Kotooshus navel. Okay, so now with the Big Bulgar leaning down on him, the Mongolian Ozeki showed frighteningly fast math computation skills: 153 kilos + 9-5= Im getting the f**k outta here! Ne Ama then quickly somersaulted forward beneath the Sadogatake man to make sure he didnt snap his neck. Disappointing basho from both men at 9-6, though to be fair neither got their Chiyotaikai freebie.

So in the bout wed all been waiting for, Hakuho bolted fearlessly forward with low hips and a big ol right shoulder block to Asas arms and chest, which blew the totally lateral Genghis backward. Flailing for any kind of grip, he had no chance as Kublai grabbed him and thrashed him around like a chewtoy. Asas foot actually swiped the dirt outside the ring, but there was no time to notice as Hakuho flung him down to the dirt. No zensho yusho for Asa, and a clear indication to all that Hakuho can obliterate his senpai when the chips are down.

Or can he? In the playoff, Hakuho led with a much more conservative tachi-ai, turning to allow Asa the left belt, which he used to twist and shove Hak around. Kubali recovered and got his own inside left, but Asa immediately tried another throw. Unsuccessful it was, but it led to him grabbing Hakuhos belt on the inside with his right hand. Lifting up on his kohai, he got closer and moved the inside front right to a deeper and deadlier back right grip. Now he pivoted and yanked once, twice and Hakuho went tumbling down. Yusho number 24 for Asashoryu. Eerily similar to the January Hatsu basho, where Hakuho lost an early bout to a Mongolian brother, Asa ran the table, then Hakuho mauled him in their regulation match, only to make mistakes in the playoff and lose. 

A compelling basho for the most part. Early hints at good records by Kotos Oshu and Mitsuki were snuffed out in Week Two, while hAruMAfuji rallied to post Ozeki-ish numbers. Chiyotaikai was finally exposed for what he has become, too old and weak to be an Ozeki, and, and Baruto exhibited balanced, patient and lethal sumo employing a variety of kimari-te. I don’t care about Ozeki runs or yusho, my 2010 wish is to see guys like Baruto and Kotooshu take down at least one Yokozuna at least every other basho. Is it too much to ask?

We all fly back home this evening (with the exception of Martin, whom Mike has booked on an all-male steamer ship bound for the docks of San Francisco). As some of you no doubt noticed, the Manchester Marauder himself Simon the Greats photo is now gone from Sumotalk. We waited long and breathless for his return, but it seems the lad has taken his bright lights to another part of the firmament. We wish him well, and welcome as our newest regular the whipcrackin Andreas! Forward ho!

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
In a world filled with fags, gangstas, emos, punks, neonazis, bums, metrosexuals, chavs, trannies, rednecks, and everything else that went wrong with humanity after we climbed down from the trees, everyone sometimes needs something like an anchor, something that feels perfectly right at any moment you notice it and makes you think this is the world you knew and wanted to be in. Well, for some, that thing is Asashoryu winning. For others it's Hakuho winning. For everyone else that is both of them winning. Most things change, but death, taxes and these two guys winning are damn near certainties. After the great starts of the Sadogatake Ozeki duo, week two came as a bitter disappointment for anyone who was expecting (as in desperately hoping for) a non-Yokozuna Yusho. Still, I must confess I subconsciously suspected Kotooshu would fall apart after that bad loss against Kakuryu exactly a week ago, and Kaio's henka didn't help much either.

So, coming into today, Kotooshu was riding a dubious 4 bout losing streak while Hakuho had just punished a henka from his stablemate in spectacular fashion. Kotooshu had the better of the tachi-ai, getting the left uwate straight away while denying Hak one of his own. The Mongol felt he might be in danger so he tried to wiggle out and pull Kotooshu down by the head, but he couldn't do much, and the two stopped in the center of the dohyo...for about a second, anyway, because the Yokozuna did what a Yokozuna had to do and feigned a right scoop throw while almost simultaneously moving to his left and throwing Kotooshu straight down with an "oh my god, what the f**k happened here, I was blinking" kote-nage. I've watched the replay several more times and I still can't believe how fast it was, it was that good. Hakuho improves to 13-1 and makes sure he's still competing for the Yusho tomorrow, while Kotooshu (8-6) is a few wins short of a contender (i.e. business as usual).

Kotomitsuki took a few pointers from Kotooshu in the previous bout and proceeded to win the tachi-ai and a damn good grip...only to stand around and wait for Asashoryu to muscle his way into one of his own. After the damage had been done, Kotomitsuki embarked on a fool's errand in trying to yori-kiri Asashoryu out while he had a double grip and was rewarded with a perfectly timed, perfectly executed shitatenage that sent Mitsuki out of the dohyo to his 5th loss. Asashoryu stays perfect. And day follows night. Business as usual.

Ozeki Harumafuji woke up from his nightmare start and came into today with kachi-koshi already in his hands, but that didn't help his opponent much. Ama stood Kaio right up with a moro-te tachi-ai, then he kept the old bear the hell away from his mawashi and had the brass ones to actually stick his left arm deep on the inside, right into Kaio's vice. Kaio needed no special invitation to deploy his kote-nage, but the younger Ozeki was expecting it, as he pressed forward and threw down Kaio instead of going down himself. Ama gets his 9th win and a lot of respect from me, while Kaio still stands at 7-7 and has his work cut out for him, because defeating the 9-5 Kotomitsuki on senshuraku will be a more than daunting task. NOT. Like above, business as usual.

Goeido looks like he forgot all about his injured right elbow, because he was riding the gravy train coming into today at 8-5. Sadogatake #3, on the other hand, had to run the table if he wanted to keep his rank. Both guys went at it hard, and Kotoshogiku quickly got the left inside he prefers, but Goeido grabbed the uwate on that same side. The Geek was mayhaps too eager to move forward, because Goeido made several attempts at a throw which left him a bit compromised, but Kotoshogiku was unable to capitalize properly. Eventually, after some serious spinning around the dohyo, Kotoshogiku moved in for the kill, but Goeido finally put a fork in his hopes for kachi-koshi with a perfectly timed throw that even allowed him to stay on his own feet. 9 wins is a decent result for Goeido, given the circumstances, and if both Kotoshogiku and Aminishiki lose tomorrow, he even has a chance to go to sanyaku.

Kisenosato took on Miyabiyama in a straight-up oshi affair and he was never in any sort of danger, as The Fatman's tsuppari are for show only. After brushing him off a couple of times, the Kid methodically forced his bigger foe to the edge, laughed off a meager pull attempt and delivered the final push. Still, at 7-7 Kisenosato is very likely to get demoted from the S1E spot, as he faces Baruto tomorrow (who just happens to want it for himself). The Fatman is a paltry but expected 4-10.

With his back against the wall, Aminishiki resorted to his usual tachi-ai shenanigans against Tamanoshima, causing a matta that all but killed Peter's offensive intentions with henka on his mind. Then Aminishiki pounced and blew Tama away at the second tachi-ai attempt (despite the two not being nearly in sync), getting a quick and decisive moro-zashi he ultimately used to force his larger foe over the bales. Definitely not pretty sumo, but Sneaky now only has Kakuryu to beat to keep his sanyaku paycheck, while Tamanoshima will be heading for the calmer seas of the mid-Maegashira ranks.

Estonian Baruto has been the big cheese in town this basho after the two Yokozuna, and that must have gotten him a bit overconfident. As soon as I saw him lunge straight into hidari yotsu (his favorite), I thought "there's no way Kak gets him now", and boy was I wrong. With both men having double mawashi grips, Baruto quickly tried to lift his lighter opponent clean off the dohyo, but Kakuryu then did the best thing anyone could do, that is hook one of Baruto's legs and pull at it until the two collapsed with Baruto on the receiving end. This is probably Kakuryu's biggest win of his career so far, but with the improvement he's shown over the past year, I suspect he might have some more like that to follow up. All in all, he'll certainly deserve his Gino-sho. Baruto boasts a shiny 11-3 and will have to settle for the Kanto-sho and the start of an Ozeki run (but I'd be very careful in stating that Baruto making Ozeki is a matter of when, not if, because he has to show this kind of consistency for at least another two basho, and he's also supposed to be able to take some Yokozuna scalps).

Private No-Shine blew it against the elderly Kyokutenho, winning the tachi-ai and getting the left uwate he prefers while denying the Chief one of his own. The white Georgian settled for a stalemate, and Kyokutenho methodically worked him towards the tawara, where he unleashed a lightning-quick maki-kae (I can't believe I just typed that about Tenho!), gaining moro-zashi and finishing off his less experienced foe. No worries, though, Shin is still young and will eventually learn, but for now he'll have to settle for only 4 wins. Tenho shares that mark with a yawn.

Shotenro (2-12) was shafted right up the arse by his compadre Asasekiryu (5-9) with a big fat henka to the left and minimal mawashi contact to dress it up as uwate-dashi-nage. Talk about kicking a guy when he's down. I actually said that in my last report about Shotenro, too, and, would you look at that, the perpetrator was another Mongol brother. Maybe they're just jealous Big Shot was able to do what they can only dream about.

With kachi-koshi on the line, I was expecting some dubious maneuvers at the tachi-ai from the trip master Tokitenku, but Wakanoho and Aran's anti-henka humiliations at the hands of Iwakiyama must have stuck with him, because he charged hard and straight. Still, Iwakiyama managed to get his right hand deep inside and from that moment Tokitenku could only go back and eventually out, with some oomph from Moony, who bowled himself a strike too, in addition to winning a sumo bout. Of course, with make-koshi looming, I'm expecting some serious shenanigans from Tenku tomorrow against the bothersome Yoshikaze (and I hope he fails miserably, as he should). Iwakiyama is a quiet 8-6.

Who would have thought a near nobody like Bushuyama would turn 32 before reaching Makuuchi for the first time, then, one year later, even score in double digits? Anyway, today he achieved that in fine fashion, blasting Toyonoshima at the tachi-ai and getting a right inside grip, denying Toyonoshima his bread and butter moro-zashi. The little guy could stop Bushie's charge, but could do little else afterwards, and Dolly used his left grip on Toyo's arm to twist him around with a quick, upright kote-nage and finish him off with an emphatic push that sent him into the 2nd row. Toyonoshima isn't looking too good at only 6 wins.

If there's a guy in sumo right now whose sumo I can't stand, it has to be Takekaze. No real power in his charge or his push, no yotsu skills, no throws, only a(n un)healthy dose of pulling, slap-downs and skirting at the edge and the occasional stray oshidashi. What's bothering me even more is that he's been around Makuuchi long enough to burn the youngsters with this kind of shite more often than he should. Anyway, one of those youngsters was too good today to fall for it. Tochiohzan, coming in with a healthy 9-4 record, didn't fall for the inashi at the initial charge, then slapped on Kaze's noggin while the latter was attempting to weasel his way out of Oh's reach, so Takekaze fell on all fours, but since he's already got his 8 wins, I'll be enjoying his dismantlement in the jo'i next basho. Tochiohzan should soar to similar heights, but he actually has a good chance of gracing those ranks on a regular basis.

The other Kaze is a sort of an overachiever himself this basho, sporting a decent 8-5 coming into today's bout against the 7-6 Homasho. Like all the bouts involving this Kaze, it was a very messy affair, with Yoshikaze all over the place and Homasho desperately trying to catch him but ultimately failing, victim to a well timed swipe at his shoulder. It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but I'll take this over a henka anytime. Homasho will have a tough time against Hokutoriki for his kachi-koshi.

Masatsukasa stayed alive today with a killer tachi-ai that had Takamisakari out in one second or so. It did seem a bit like Masa might have jumped the gun, but this low in the banzuke you won't find a soul who cares (well, that is if you don't count the hordes of Japanese Takamisakari fans). Masatsukasa's 7-7 had a weird evolution, but all he needs now is a victory tomorrow against Shimotori. And this couldn't be a better tournament for Masatsukasa to try and win his first against Moo.

By far the longest encounter of the day belongs to Aran and Tosayutaka. The Russian gained the early advantage, in the form of a very advantageous left uwate + right shitate, but despite some determined attempts, he couldn't finish off his smaller foe, who survived with only a right shitate. Anyway, after a long (I mean Shine On You Crazy Diamond long) stalemate, Tosayutaka took the initiative and pushed Aaron all the way to the edge, only to have the tables turned on him and find himself in trouble. But the little gorilla just wouldn't give up, so Aran panicked and went into pull mode, but that was all Tosayutaka needed, as he grabbed Aran's right leg and fell on top of him as they crumbled out of the dohyo. It's safe to say Aran's an idiot for missing out on such a good opportunity (and for several other reasons as well), but I'm kind of used to these Europeans underachieving (for reasons Mike explained in his blog years ago). Both guys are 6 'n' 8.

Veteran Wakanosato schooled the overzealous Toyohibiki by stopping his charge and quickly evading to his left, letting Hibiki's momentum carry him to the edge where he was easy pushout fodder. Wakanosato reaches double digits, while Toyohibiki sinks further to 5-9.

The Jokester was actually good in his bout, but that happens a lot if you have Kakizoe as the opponent. Both guys used pushing attacks and Hokutoriki's size proved decisive, as he was able to progressively push his foe to the straw and finish him off with another hard shove for the 10th. Kakizoe will have to do with only 9, but I think he's happy already.

In his quest to slay the (all too) Gentle Giant, Kokkai grabbed an early right uwate against the hidari-zashi happy Nada. Still, as Nada is the better yotsu fighter (er, at least on paper), Kokkai was taken back a few steps, but just when you started envisioning the yori-kiri, Kokkai zoomed back, lowered his hairy body a little then threw Nada back with probably the best overhand throw of his career (but which, alas, pales in comparison to some of the other throws of the day, and I have Hakuho's in mind specifically).

Last and also least, to speak, Yamamotoyama (well, ok, last and MOST) took on Tamaasuka in the day's exchange bout, looking to stay in the Juryo Yusho race and guarantee himself a spot in Makuuchi by sending Sucka to double digit losses. However, Tamaasuka had other plans, taking The Hutt's charge in full and stopping it, then using a nodowa to put some pressure on his foe, who panicked and went for only he knows what (supposedly a retreating offensive maneuver, like we've so often seen him do it), but was pushed straight out. With 9-5 at J2 and Futenoh and Tochinonada sure goners, and also one of Shimotori and Masatsukasa, I think it's safe to say YMY will be back among the top rankers, amazing us with his momentum and awkwardly effective one-handed throws. Tamaasuka ain't out of the woods himself, a loss tomorrow meaning a vacation to Juryo.

Before I mysteriously disappear into the fog, I'd like to say that yet again there will be no Shukun-sho (nobody beats them Yokozunas these days), Baruto will likely snatch himself the Fighting Spirit Prize while Kakuryu will get his 4th (and to date his most deserved) Technique Prize.

So, be on the lookout for the Mongol Show: Hak wins the regulation bout, Asashoryu takes the title in the playoff, Ama crushes Kotooshu, Tokitenku henkas Yoshikaze, Kakuryu sends Aminishiki to a belated (but well deserved) make-koshi and then they all go and party till dawn, after which they fly out of Japan with the first available flight, only to spite Madame Yoda. Also, be on the lookout for Clancy to join them, but only after he's had his way with the aforementioned hottie. Adios.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Day 13 is usually the most exciting of the basho, but with the recent demise of the Sadogatake-beya Ozeki and Komusubi Baruto already having fought both Yokozuna, these final days leading up to senshuraku are more about will either of the Yokozuna slip up and not about heated head-to-head competition among the leaders. Perhaps the most exciting moment of the day came when a Yokozuna actually got henka'd, so that tells you the direction the basho has taken is let's wait for the Yokozuna to battle it out on senshuraku, a scenario that usually doesn't suck. Let's get right to the action starting with the leaders and moving on down from there.

Yokozuna Asashoryu entered the day unblemished and one win ahead of fellow Yokozuna Hakuho. Up to a few days ago his pending day 13 matchup against Ozeki Kotooshu looked to be a stiff test and a bout where I would have touted Kotooshu as the favorite, but as we've seen in the past, the terms "Kotooshu" and "mental toughness" are rarely seen in the same sentence, which is a disappointment because you want the yusho rikishi to face everyone at their best.

At the tachi-ai, Kotooshu came with his head in too low allowing Asashoryu to crush him back upright leading with the left shoulder and a right hand at the throat, and as Kotooshu ducked back in for some action, Asashoryu swiped at the back of his head and body as he shifted to the left knocking Kotooshu completely off balance as he stumbled towards the straw. Kotooshu sorta righted the ship and managed to turn back around to face the Yokozuna, but Asashoryu was too quick and used a left arm on the inside to throw the Bulgarian to the dirt with a nice scoop throw. This bout was a matter of Kotooshu having checked out a few days ago and Asashoryu maintaining the fine form he's displayed the entire tournament. I wish Kotooshu was in better shape today, but it just wasn't a challenge for the Yokozuna who moves to 13-0 and is the clear favorite to the take the yusho. This marks the fourth straight loss for Kotooshu who falls to 8-5, but cheer up fella, things should perk up tomorrow against Hakuho. Or not.

Moving up the rank a notch to the day's final bout, Ozeki Kotomitsuki showed his true colors by jumping to his left at the tachi-ai and henka'ing Yokozuna Hakuho. Fortunately for the Yokozuna, Kotomitsuki was looking to grab the cheap outer grip and not simply slap him down in the process, but Hakuho was still in a pickle as Kotomitsuki was standing to the side of him with a solid, ill-gotten uwate with the left hand. Hakuho sped into damage control securing an inside belt grip on the right and threatening an inside position with the left arm as well, and this was key because instead of Kotomitsuki attacking straightway with some sort of dashi-nage throw, he was forced to use his right arm to push inwards on Hakuho's left to keep it as far away from his belt as possible. In this position, both rikishi jockeyed in the center of the ring testing the waters to see if a throw was in order, and after a brief scuffle with Kotomitsuki still maintaining that left outer grip, Hakuho used his right thigh on the inside Kotomitsuki's left to nudge him off balance just enough to where the Yokozuna could firmly plant his leg and unleash an inside belt throw. Felling Kotomitsuki with an inside grip is near impossible, but when you've got redwoods for legs as Hakuho does, you can be quite persuasive when you use them as part of the throw, and today was illustrated this point perfectly as Hakuho came from behind to throw Kotomitsuki to the dirt in spectacular fashion. This was an incredible display of counter sumo from the Mongolian and shows his true greatness.

With the win, Hakuho moves to 12-1 and still controls his own destiny. His opponent tomorrow is Kotooshu, which in Swahili means "basket case," so Hakuho will enter senshuraku at 13-1 for all intents and purposes. As for Kotomitsuki, he falls to 9-4 and is mathematically eliminated from the yusho race he was never in to begin with, but his henka in this situation tells us more about this dude's makeup than anything. Kotomitsuki actually has a yusho under his belt (Aki 2001), but it wasn't achieved with the mindset he showed today. Man up and take your medicine like a man. If a lame Shotenro managed to beat the Yokozuna straight up, you'd think you might be able to come up with a plan more courageous than a tachi-ai henka. Any sorta toughness that pervaded the Sadogatake-beya as exemplified by guys like the former Kotonishiki literally went up in flames (they're in Japan, remember) with the demise of the former stablemaster, Kotozakura.

But enough of my usual soapbox rant calling out the Sadogatake boys for a lack of toughness; there's another leader on the board who refuses to go away in Komusubi Baruto who sported a shweet 10-2 record coming into the day that included a 5-0 clip against the Ozeki. On one hand, Baruto has already faced the tough competition and will only get mediocre guys until probably Kisenosato on Sunday, but on the other hand, he no longer has the ability to personally hand either of the Yokozuna a loss, which means he's now trying to pile up wins for an Ozeki run and thinking of ways to spend that envelope of cash he'll receive for winning a special prize.

Today's opponent was M4 Tokitenku, and Baruto looked good again using a potent moro-te tachi-ai to drive Tokitenku back to the straw in a second, but the slippery Tokitenku wouldn't go that easy and moved to his left trying a counter pull in the process. The nonchalant Baruto we've seen in the past may have carelessly stepped out at this point or stumbled to the dohyo, but Baruto's on a mission and used solid footwork to keep up with Tokitenku and turn the tables by slapping the Mongolian to the dohyo in the center of the ring. This bout appeared sloppy for the most part thanks to Tokitenku's escape, but the key was Baruto's balance with the lower body and his proactive attitude at the tachi-ai. I can think of few things in life that I'd rather avoid more than being on the receiving end of a moro-te tachi-ai from the Estonian, and Tokitenku can probably relate as he drops to a respectable 7-6. With the win, Baruto moves to 11-2 but really has no chance of participating in a three-way playoff for the yusho because Kotomitsuki'd have to defeat Asashoryu tomorrow, and Kotooshu would have to down Hakuho.

Regardless of such daydreaming, here is how the leaderboard stands at the end of day 13:

13-0: Asashoryu
12-1: Hakuho
11-2: Baruto

Asashoryu has his work cut out for him against Kotomitsuki tomorrow. If Asa sleeps at the tachi-ai (unlikely) or runs into a shenanigan tachi-ai (more likely), he could easily be upset. Asa's the favorite here, but you never know with Hit and Mitsuki.

Hakuho will turn Kotooshu into a practice dummy tomorrow while Baruto will have his hands full of the slippery Kak. The three leaders are clear favorites to win tomorrow, but too many things have to go right for Baruto and wrong for both Yokozuna, which means it'll come down to Genghis and Kublai on senshuraku.

As for the rest of the field, Ozeki Harumafuji survived a slight shift at the tachi-ai from M4 Toyonoshima by latching onto Toyonoshima's belt with the right hand and yanking it so hard you thought he'd give his opponent one of those Simpson's wedgies where they yank a kid's underwear off with his pants still on. Toyonoshima's mawashi fortunately stayed in place, but his body didn't as the Ozeki dragged him to the ring's edge and just bodied him back in down with his left shoulder in a fierce yori-taoshi display. Harumafuji picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Toyonoshima is still alive at 6-7.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, M3 Kakuryu just rocketed into Kaio's mid-section knocking the Ozeki clear away from the belt and allowing Kakuryu to choose his inside positioning. The Kak selected a left on the inside and a right outer grip, but his right grip was on the front of Kaio's belt giving Kakuryu a position equal to moro-zashi. The Kak wasted no time in lifting up at the Ozeki's belt and driving Kaio back and across without argument. I know Kakuryu (9-4) isn't a popular rikishi with some fans, but he is legitimate as he has shown this basho. Kaio won't sweat too much at 7-6 with two Ozeki to face on the final two days if ya knowadduhmean.

Sekiwake Kisenosato was not only happy to see M5 Takekaze across the starting lines, but he had to be relieved that Takekaze has already secured kachi-koshi meaning chances were good there'd by no shenanigans in their contest today. There weren't as Kisenosato put a left shoulder into his opponent at the tachi-ai and executed a methodic push-out charge that knocked Takekaze back and out with little fanfare. Kisenosato survives at 6-7 while Takekaze was defensive throughout as he falls to a harmless 8-5.

Good ole Komusubi Aminishiki fighting like gangbusters when his back is against the wall. Today, he demanded the moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku and wasted no time in bullying the Geeku back to the tawara, but Kotoshogiku showed good sense to counter with an outer belt throw with the right hand. Both rikishi were committed at this point in the nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge with Aminishiki leading the way with a left inside grip that was beyond the Geeku's knot at the back of his belt against Kotoshogiku's stubby right outer. The taller Aminishiki's grip was better, and he looked to throw Kotoshogiku down first, but Aminishiki put his hand to the dohyo to break his fall confusing the referee as to who actually won. The ref flinched both ways before finally pointing to Kotoshogiku, but replays clearly showed that Kotoshogiku's left hand slapped the dohyo first giving Aminishiki the close win. Both fellas sit at a nervous 6-7.

M1 Miyabiyama dominated fellow M1 Tochinoshin from the start using what else but the lumbering tsuppari to keep Tochinoshin far away from the belt and even a sniff at an inside position. With Tochinoshin upright and nowhere to go, Miyabiyama actually lunged into the moro-zashi position that was so deep his left hand was actually beyond the knot at the back of Tochinoshin's belt. Tochinoshin tried to push Miyabiyama to the side in desperation at the straw, and while the move did allow Tochinoshin to perform a maki-kae with the left arm, Miyabiyama said enough of this funny bidness and threw Tochinoshin down with some oomph using a left scoop throw set up by that initial deep left inside position. The Sheriff added insult to injury by landing squarely on top of NoShine, but he deserved it after this showing. Both rikishi are 4-9.

With M2 Kyokutenho on the skids himself, it was no surprise that he showed such little effort against countryman M2 Shotenro. Kyokutenho was held up at the tachi-ai by a moro-te from Shotenro, and when the Chauffeur failed to push forward or latch onto the belt, Shotenro just pulled him to the dirt in a two-second affair. Shotenro ekes to 2-11 and turns all the stat geeks limp who were hoping he'd finish the basho with his lone win against a Yokozuna. Kyokutenho is barely better at 3-10. 

M5 Goeido quietly picked up kachi-koshi today by staying low throughout against M3 Tamanoshima. Goeido's firm inside grip with the left and low stance forced Tamanoshima to bend over and try and counter Goeido by moving to the side and shoving at Goeido as he went. Goeido was just too firmly planted to the dohyo, however, and capitalized on Tamanoshima's humped-over position by slapping him to the dirt. This wasn't pretty, but Goeido has quietly put together a nice string'a wins to improve to 8-5 while Tamanoshima is an unsurprising 4-9.

M9 Toyohibiki was all bark and no bite with his initial tsuppari attack against M6 Asasekiryu. The Nikibi looked to be in firm control, but Asasekiryu was merely back pedaling until the opening came. When it did, he pulled Toyohibiki forwarded as he escaped to the side resulting in Toyohibiki crumpling to the dirt on his knees near the straw. This had to be frustrating for Toyohibiki fans as he officially suffers make-koshi at 5-8. Asasekiryu ain't much sexier at 4-9.

M6 Homasho naturally took the advantage at the tachi-ai over M7 Takamisakari who charged too high allowing Homie to stay low and force the Robocop back to the straw leading with a deep inside left. As expected, Takamisakari countered at the edge trying to push at Homasho's side, and actually survived, but Homasho only doubled down grabbing a right outer grip to complement his left inside position, so when Takamisakari went for a counter scoop throw with the left, Homasho held on and sent the Cop to the dohyo floor with a shweet outer belt throw. Homasho dominated this one and is rewarded with a 7-6 record for his efforts. Takamisakari falls to 6-7 and is in danger of providing us a kachi-koshi interview. Oh the pain.

M15 Yoshikaze popped M7 Aran well at the tachi-ai moving the Russian back a step and forcing him into pulldown-mode from the beginning, but Yoshikaze's de-ashi just couldn't keep up with Aran's evasive maneuvers, so after about five seconds of ugly action, Aran managed to pull Yoshikaze down via hataki-komi. This was more a case of Yoshikaze tripping over his own feet as he allowed too much separation in his shove attempts. Regardless, Aran stays alive at 6-7 while Yoshikaze won't lose much sleep at 8-5.

I'm not sure what M16 Masatsukasa was thinking against M8 Iwakiyama, but the smaller Mats just lowered his head at the tachi-ai and basically aligned his feet failing to charge forward. Iwakiyama said enough of this funny bidness and just slapped Masatsukasa to the dirt in fine fashion moving to 7-6 in the process. Masatsukasa falls to 6-7 with the loss which begs the question who was the guy wearing the Masatsukasa mask the first five days of the basho?

M13 Tamaasuka took full advantage of M8 Shimotori's charge that was so upright even Takamisakari blushed. Tamaasuka wasted no time in ducking to the side and yanking Shimotori (3-10) over and out of the dohyo by the right arm in hikkake fashion. Tamaasuka moves to 4-9 but must win out, but even then he's not guaranteed a Makuuchi paycheck the next two months.

M9 Mokonami made a mistake by going chest to chest with M12 Tochinonada at the belt not to mention he allowed the fight to go to hidari-yotsu, Tochinonada's strength. And Tochinonada doesn't have that much strength left, but he outweighs Okonomiyaki so much that he was able to survive Mokonami's force-out attempts guided by a left outer grip and his head burrowed into the left side of Tochinonada's face. Once Mokonami realized he couldn't force the Gentle Giant back and out, he went for a desperation uwate-dashi-nage throw and shove to the shoulder combination, but sorta slipped off'a Tochinonada's body with the shove attempt and stumbled to the dohyo before Tochinonada went across the straw. Tochinonada (3-10) actually never did cross the straw showing just how futile Mokonami's (4-9) attempt was to start with. Kids.

M10 Tosayutaka lowered his head well against M14 Kokkai at the tachi-ai, but he failed to pop the Gorgeous Georgian back at all, so Kokkai just reached a pasty left arm on the inside and secured it so deeply he was at the knot of Tosayutaka's belt. Tosayutaka was done in at this point but valiantly tried a neck throw aided by a right outer grip, but when someone whose that much taller is that far on the inside, it dunt matter what you do. Kokkai calmly kept his wits about him, easily survived two neck throw attempts, and then forced Tosayutaka back and out using his left inside position and a right frontal belt grip. Flawless stuff from Kokkai who moves to 6-7 while Tosayutaka is scarred at 5-8.

M10 Bushuyama was having none of M14 Hokutoriki's nonsense as he easily brushed off the Joker's moro-te tachi-ai and subsequent thrust attempts driving him back as he went. Hokutoriki tried a meager pull attempt moving to the side, but Bush was on top of that like maggots to rot and had Hokutoriki pushed back and across with little fanfare. Both dudes are 9-4.

M11 Kasugao moved a half step to his left and looked to shove/pull M11 Kakizoe down to the dirt in a flash, but the henka was too half-assed allowing Kakizoe to easily square himself back up with his opponent and shove him out of the ring in no time. Kakizoe soars to 9-4 with the win while the Kimchi Kid turns rotten at 5-8.

M13 Wakanosato has a history of trouble against M12 Tochiohzan, and it showed today as Croconosato was all pull from the tachi-ai. Tochiohzan was right on top of the tactic however and chased Wakanosato around the ring maintaining a left arm on the inside. Oh finally caught Wakanosato close to the edge and then shoved him to the side a bit with the right hand setting up a maki-kae with the same hand giving him moro-zashi. It took one attempt to force Wakanosato back and across from there as both rikishi move to 9-4. Yoshida Announcer in the booth commented, "we'd sure like to see that kind of sumo from Tochiohzan among the jo'i." Wouldn't we all Yoshida-san, wouldn't we all.

And finally, M15 Futenoh sealed his Juryo fate with a loss to visiting Yamamotoyama who kept Futenoh far away from his body with multiple kachi-age from the tachi-ai before grabbing Futenoh around the left arm and yanking him over and out in kime-dashi fashion. At 4-9 from the M15 rank, Futenoh is already rotating on the spit with an apple in his mouth. At 9-4 from J2, we'll see JabbamotoJabba back up here praying with and ministering to the lower Maegashira for Kyushu.

If I'm not mistaken, that's a wrap on on the day 13 bouts. And speaking of rap, gangstuh P-Marty hip hops tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
Hi everybody! Hisashiburi. Remember me? I'm not the geeky one or the other geeky one or the other geeky one. I'm not the smart one or the funny one. I'm not the Asian one or the new one. I'm just sexy ol' Mark who drops sexy ol' sumo wisdom on your sexy-less asses.

Clancy is an honest man. I'm not saying that he tells the truth (way too many people get those two confused, often with drastic consequences) but he does accurately give you the "truth" as best as he perceives it. I think that's all any of us can do. I remember once towards the end of a pre-basho luau, after countless Mai Tais and Zombies, Clancy said he felt "a big one comin' on". He dropped his drawers, whipped out a Spiderman Zippo, screamed "Blue Angel" like it was some kind of Celtic war cry and then proceeded to extinguish its flame with a steaming Lancy Log. The fart was only perception. The truth was something entirely different.

Methane burns in oxygen forming water and carbon dioxide often producing a blue hue (ΔHc = -891 kJ/mol), as:

CH4(g) + 2O2(g) → CO2(g) + 2H2O(g)

Hydrogen sulfide also combusts (ΔHc = -519 kJ/mol) to

2H2S(g) + 3O2(g) → 2SO2(g) + 2H2O(g)

Clancy was being honest; Mike is by all accounts a "gargantuan A-hole". At best. And everyone else was right when they spoke of confinement and humiliations I wouldn't wouldn't wish on the 13 year old girl I keep tied up in my basement.

But what none of them seem to know (he isn't letting us talk directly of course, but I have worked out a system of scrapes and taps with whoever is in the room next to me [Martin?]) is why this once princely gentleman has become such a sadistic ogre.

So without going into unnecessary and hurtful details-

Mike I'm sorry. I had no idea she was your wife (and by the way, way to go dude! She's smokin' hot!). NOTHING happened. She was a model of temperance and modesty. I can explain the thing about the duck, the coffee grinder and the tattoo artist but PLEASE accept my sincerest apology and the yubitsume finger I sliced off as a symbol of my shame and remorse.

Let us hope that puts an end to this most dark chapter of

Lil' Zuna is too good for his own good. Today he worked the push-pull to perfection and downed Kokkai in a fraction of a second. Problem is, every time Hokutoriki is this low in the banzuke his fickle pride kicks in and he prances well into double digit wins. But remember he sucks. So, next basho he will, again, be ranked too high and will likely end up with another 2-5 win basho.

In a battle of improbably early KK's Kakizoe met Wakanosato. I want you to have a glance back at yesterdays report because after surviving a helluva crazy ride Kakizoe started pushing and "just before Kaki had his opponent out he got so elated again that he forgot his legs and the last few feet it was only his upper body that kept moving sending him to the clay". That was some A+ analysis by the Good Dr. right there. Zoe's bad habit cost him the win today but it was an entreating and spirited contest. Anyway, it's good to see veteran rikishi that can still keep the yung'uns on their stubby yung'un toes.

Yoshikaze and Kasugao got into an ugly tsuppari "battle" that kind of looked like Rod and Todd Flanders fighting. It mercifully came to an end as Yoshikaze forced Kimchi out. That's a magic 8ball for Yoshikaze while Kasugao is just one loss from a MK.

After a bit of sparing, 4-7 Futenoh and 7-4 Mr. Bush locked up in the centre of the ring and did very little for a long time. Clearly they were exerting a lot of energy, but there wasn't a lot of "action" to show for their efforts. When they finally got going again Futenoh struggled like a hysterical woman being removed from the home of the man she's been stalking after he came home to find her naked on his living room floor smelling his dirty laundry and violating her cat with his toothbrush, but Dolly was finally able to yorikiri him out. They each get their 8th today but they are on different sides of the fence.

Tochiohzan got a much easier KK as he manhandled Toyohibiki, taking moro-zashi at the tachi-ai and forcing Biki back and off the dohyo. Biki needs to run the table from here to avoid a MK. Don't hold your breath...

Aran came at Iwakiyama head down tsuppari style. It seemed to be working well enough but by design or just luck his right hand slipped inside leading to a belt battle. Now in IwakiWorld Aran weathered the first throw attempt and then they settled down into a bit of a stalemate. Iwaki tried to work a couple of things but Aran and his new girth stood toe to toe with the Mountain. Then to the surprise of every single person in attendance as well as the entire TV viewer-ship The Bouncer stuck his left foot on Iwaki's inside right leg and attempted a trip/throw that, in order to be successful, would have necessitated picking the Hut up while standing on one foot and swinging him 180degrees from his left to right side. Did he think he was in there with Kaiho? Iwaki weighs more than most families. So Aran's throw basically devolved into falling straight backwards with Mt. Iwaki crumbling on to him pancake style. The human ribcage is a fair bit stronger than I had previously thought. But I don't want to be too hard on Aran. It took creativity to even think to do that and serious serious stones to attempt it.

Asasekiryu and Tochinonada have both looked deflated, old, uninspired and all together crappy this basho. But as head to head competition must be, one of them was going to crawl to a third win today. It was Asasekiryu.

Homasho pulled to an even 6-6 with a dominant yorikri win over floundering Shimotori.

Goeido wasted no time diving inside with his (healthy) left and throwing the man with the tan with one han....d.

Takekaze looked good today coming at Takamisakari hard from the tachi-ai and then instead of getting into Takami's tight rope walking game he threw it into reverse and tossed the sad Clown while backing up.

Shotenro's march into the record books continued today as he allowed to manipulate him with a tight outer right. Shotenro was back to the straw and down to the clay faster than you can say "He beat WHO!?"

Miyabiyama went old school tsuppari on Tamanoshima's ass today. But those thrusts just don't have the..."thrust" that they used to, so when Tamanoshima leaned in fishing for mawashi Mt. Miyabi pulled him down. Both these dudes are going out MK style.

Aminishiki wasn't quite ready to make his MK official so, after a slight side step at the tachi-ai he took moro-zashi and quickly showed struggling Kyokutenho the door. Let's all hope that The Geek gives Aminishiki his 8th tomorrow.

Shine kinda pissed Kisenosato off stalling at the tachi-ai and then pulling him into a false start. His games seemed to work because by the time they went at it for real, all Kissy seemed to be thinking about was giving Tochinoshin a good slap off the line. I'm sure it was briefly gratifying to swat him but that really was ALL that was in his head. Shin slapped him back, dove in and took the double insides and ran Kissy right off the dohyo.

The Geeku dominated Kakuryu from the tachi-ai moving him back and almost out. But while retreating, ever the opportunist Kakuryu slipped in a maki-kae that was so buttery smooth that I was surprised Kotoshogiku knew he had done it. But as Kak forced the action back to the centre The Geek responded with a maki-kae of his own. The Geek mounted his charge and despite not having too many folds of mawashi he stayed in control with good footwork, keeping the slippery fish in close. Kakuryu came up with no last ditch pull, throw or evasion because Giku didn't give him time or room too. 

Stable mate Kotooshu somehow was henka'd not once but twice by Tokitenku as they broke their own record for ugly sumo. Off the white line Tenku jumped left and Shoe went sailing by but Kotooshu's feet stayed under him and he spun around to be met by tsuppari from Tokitenku. Just as Shoe leaned waaay in looking to put up a fight, Tenku again jumped out of the way. Off balance and falling forward the Mongol gave a half hearted pull and a push to make sure that Kotooshu found the outside of the ring. I hate to see anyone get henka'd and they are hard to recover from but they are a (unfortunate) part of the game and Kotooshu needs to do a better job recovering not just physically but mentally when things don't go his way. Not to justify what Tenku did but if Shoe had kept it together he wouldn't have leaned in like that and he could have giving the Mongol a reason not to do the same thing next time.

Baruto has looked great this basho and I was fully expecting Kotomitsuki to get up to all manner of trickery, hijinks, and tomfoolery at the line. But to his credit he did not...but I bet he wishes he had. Mitsuki started a little further south of the border than he usually does, looking to get up to full steam by the time he got to the waiting arms of Bart. Mitsuki's tachi-ai are always powerful but with no fear of a henka and the extra room to pick up speed this one was massive. Amazingly Bart was able to absorb the blow without moving an inch. From there they went into a tsuppari contest until Bart saw an opening and jumped onto the Ozeki's mawashi. Mitsuki seemed interested in luring Bart into one of his long hypnotic stalemate sessions but Bart acted quick and decisively throwing Mitsuki to the clay hard with his outside left. Once again kudos to the Dr. cause he was right again. Bart went with the flow of the fight today and took his chance when it was given to him.

I was asked tonight if I thought Bart will become an Ozeki and I responded "Ask his knee." The way that I see it injury is the only thing that is going to keep him from sooner or later joining the big boys. But if Bart can fight this kind of sumo for another basho or two the Ozeki will be begging him to join their rank. Right now Bart is over achieving and making them look bad. And making 8 wins harder and harder for guys like Kaio and Taikai. He is less a threat as an equal. In their little club is the safest place to keep Baruto. The last thing they want is a Komusubi who regularly pulls out double digit wins.

Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Harumafuji put on a belt fighting workshop today that saw them each take several different grips in the course of the fight. Twice Hak backed him up to the cord but each time Ama pushed back in. Ending the stalemate Hak took a brave but risky step back and started a massive uwatenage that spun the Ozeki from the straw to the middle of the dohyo and until he landed on his back in the very same place he had started from. Highlight reel throw.

With yusho 24 in his sights, if you thought faux-zeki Kaio could offer up anything to break Asashoryu's pace you need to cut waaaay back on the peyote. The Old Grey Mare fought defensively which is to only reason this fight went beyond 5 seconds. By locking up the Yokozuna's arms and kipping his can as far away as he could he held on for a full 13 seconds but he was only delaying the inevitable. Asa helped him across the straw cord to stay perfect. Don't feel too bad for Kaio, I'm sure someone in the Ozeki Club will find it in their heart to help him with his 8th.

And that's the way it is. I guess all that's left to do is give you some homework and we can all get out of here.

-Try and remember people's names. People respond differently and feel differently about you if you remember their name. Try it.
-Enjoy Mike's report tomorrow. But enjoy it responsibly.
-Plan your trip to Kyushu in November.

Day 11 Comments (Mario Kadastik reporting)
This basho's accommodations are horrible. I mean Mike's somehow pissed or something as he's got us all locked away in separate rooms, there's no booze(!!!) and the only way for us to watch the sumo bouts on the days we aren't reporting is through the keyhole of the door at a TV that's at the end of the hall. And you can imagine the keyhole's just about at that height that makes you be in a crappy position for hours at a time to see the bouts. But at least he relents somewhat when it's reporting day, he then let's you out of your room, gives you a beer (though it's an American one so essentially without booze) a sandwich and pen and paper. There are however no hotties, no foam baths etc. Just a wooden chair in front of the TV (not even seeing the bouts in the Kokugikan!!!), the beer and the notepad with pencil. He's even made the pencil dull so that I couldn't take it with me and possibly use it as a secret weapon or what not. He also removed the cap of the beer bottle and poured it into paper cups. I mean beer from paper cups!!! Anyway, enough of our sad life here, let's get on to the day's action as I have to write darn fast today with that pencil and that's not easy considering that I'm used to the laptop keyboard… 

The action of the eleventh day was kicked off by a face-off of veterans where the Barometer met Tochinonada. Wakanosato has been solid this basho with a few fluke losses here and there, but having the option to kachi koshi on day eleven is not bad. Tochinonada on the other hand has been sliding and already had his make koshi official coming in. Both charged hard at the tachi-ai keeping their hands tight to deny the opponent any kind of inside grip. Having both gone with the same game plan they had to quickly re-shuffle and in the process it was Wakanosato who got a very deep right inner grip (essentially holding onto Nada's belt just above his crack). Nada tried to pivot Wakanosato and tried to trip him over his leg, but all that did was get Wakanosato behind him to the manlove position and when Nada tried to turn around to face his opponent Wakanosato just used the moment to send him back and out. Wakanosato still has four days to go and might very well end up with double digit wins (actually I predict somewhere around 10-11 for him). Nada needs to seriously get himself in gear to avoid dropping to the second division. 

Next up was a pair of wankers meeting. Futenoh this low should have gone through his opponents like a warm knife through butter, but instead he has been seriously struggling to have any kind of victories even over guys he used to dominate. Kasugao's wins haven't come by any better with a few henkas here and there. It seems to me that at least for Mr. Fruity this basho is signaling the beginning of the end (or more likely it was already last basho, which sent him this low) and with his current performance it is doubtful he will be able to keep his Makuuchi spot. As the two charged one could see that Kasugao's gameplan was to immediately pull down Futenoh, but to make sure that the win did come he not only planted his hands on the neck of Futenoh, he also kicked Fruity's right leg from under him. Considering that we're talking about Kasugao here one should say that the move was pretty neat. Futenoh however looked utterly rubbish having absolutely no game plan, which perfectly repeated all his previous days. Neither guy has a make koshi yet, but they're not far either. 

When I first looked at the bout between Kakizoe and Masatsukasa I thought NHK was showing a replay of Kakizoe's match two days ago. The match was an exact copy of Kaki running hard into Masatsukasa, who backpedaled around the ring followed by a fierce Kakizoe and just before Kaki had his opponent out he got so elated again that he forgot his legs and the last few feet it was only his upper body that kept moving sending him to the clay. And like two days ago his opponent stepped out before Kaki landed so he did get his win. He is a nice wrestler and has a concrete style, but he tends to forget himself during the bout and especially if it's going his way. More often than not this costs him the match, but today he was luckily close enough to the tawara already that it made no difference. That win sealed Kakizoe's kachi koshi while Masatsukasa has been utterly bollocks ever since his marvelous start to the basho having lost most of his bouts the last week. 

Mr. Bush has been surprisingly good this basho and has brought around a few upsets against opponents he usually doesn't beat. Today he was handed a nut that could be too tough for him to crack in Tochiohzan, but we have seen Oh Poo fold over the second week before so who knows. From the get-go it was Oh Poo who immediately managed to get both hands inside, but not a belt grip. Even though Bush originally featured a left outer grip he quickly abandoned that to lock up Oh Poo's arms. Not being able to move Tochi back from this position Bush switched gears and backpedaled pulling Tochiohzan with him and off his balance as he had his arms locked up. While moving backwards Bush used his armlock to twist Tochiohzan around him and down to the clay. I would say a good recovery from Bush from giving up that moro-zashi. Both need one more for KK and I consider them likely to get it. 

The white guy from Georgia was given today something easier for the stomach in the form of Shimotori. The two locked up immediately and even though Shimotori quickly attempted to force Kokk back he didn't succeed and was instead sent back and out with a pat on the shoulder by the military man. Good stuff today from the white guy, wish he'd do sumo like this every day. 

One of my favorite wrestlers in the division is no doubt Iwakiyama. I like him especially because of his henka proofness and the schooling of Wakanoho in the leapfrog affair. And even though he had a great start to the basho his last four days have been consecutive losses, which has to destroy ones mojo. Yoshikaze has had the exact opposite with a crappy start to the basho followed by a nice winning streak. Now notice I mentioned that henka proofness of Iwakikong, well there's nothing that's 100% so today when Yoshikaze pulled a full blown henka to his left Iwaki just ran past him. And even though he didn't fall on his face, but even managed to break and turn around to face his opponent again it was enough and gave Yoshikaze the moro-zashi position while having King Kong on the tawara. From there on it was a bit of a struggle, but everyone knew that it was over the moment Iwaki ran past Yoshi. Talk about kicking a man when he's down, but for guys like Yoshikaze the only way is to be fast and that does tend to include also being fast at the tachi-ai in moving laterally. Yoshi's one away from KK while Iwaki just fell below the 0.5 line, but there are still four days left. 

Like the Barometer the Jokester's been delivering the way one expected the two returnees to deliver this low. Even though I've got no big love for Hokutoriki I do say that he's underranked by far and the region around M4-5 is more likely his right place. Today he was paired up with everyone's favorite Takamisakari who got a serious beating a few days ago. Jokester came out with his signature nodowa, but today it had no effect (could be related to the fact that one needs a neck for it to work and Takami has none?) so the two started to trade blows, but in comparison to the beating he got from Aran the blows were just childs play so Takami just closed his eyes and took it like a man while driving Hokutoriki backwards and out. Good resilience from the man with few joints. We are only two wins away from a Takamisakari KK interview so we might still get it while Hokutoriki doesn't need to worry about it anyway. 

So far there haven't really been that many close fights, which isn't quite the case in the next matchup where Homey boy took on Tamaasuka. Namely even though Tamaasuka led the fight from start and had Homasho almost backed out it was Homey who countered and pivoted Tamaasuka around and once he had Tamaasuka backed to the tawara and going over his opponent did what is the only real thing one can do at this point, namely try an utchari and hope your opponent lands before you do. It was close, bloody close and the replays clearly showed Tamaasuka's left hand touching down before Homey landed, but as Homasho had been flying with all body parts in the air for a good second by that time the MIB decided after the gathering that Homey was as good as dead and hence doesn't deserve the win. It was a desperation move as utchari almost always is, but it's also always great to watch. 

Streetfighter today had been given Takekaze as the punching bag. As the two charged they both failed to get any kind of decent grip so they fiddled around with their hands to get to at least something with an occasional push from one then the other. Seeing that the fight as such doesn't seem to be going well Aran decided to shift gears and go for a pull attempt, but it was such a feeble attempt that Takekaze didn't even budge and instead had now Aran off balance and backing away, which he immediately followed through all the way to the outside of the dohyo. A desperation move by Aran, which cost him the bout today. Can't say I'm sorry though. 

Goeido, who is still nurturing his injury was given today someone lightweight. Tosayutaka has been a bit below average, but to be honest I wouldn't have guessed him higher anyway than his four wins coming in. Tosayutaka lead the charge with his left shoulder gaining an inside grip with both hands. Goeido quickly changed gears and went closer on his right hand forcing Tosayutaka to switch to an outside grip and thereby giving Goeido his favorite grip of the front of mawashi. But instead of keeping it Go lifted his hand up to neutralize Yutaka's grip and pivoted him around. Now having left hand outside and right hand in Yutaka's armpit he pressed for a charge that was so strong that it didn't just take Tosayutaka to the tawara and out, it actually crushed them both from the dohyo to the front row. A nice win by Goeido who reacted well to the changing situations. Considering his injury I'd have to say this 6-5 is actually pretty good. Tosayutaka needs to win all of his final bouts to not fall, but that's unlikely. 

Toyohibiki hasn't been his old self ever since his retina surgery and even at M9 he's struggling. Today he was paired with the veteran Tokitenku, who was the clear favorite in the bout as he does have the technique to win while Hibiki is just rubbish these days. Hibiki came out with a pushing attempt, but it was so feeble that Tenku neutralized it quickly and went for a belt grip instead. Once he secured it and made sure he had plenty of folds in his arms he just pressed the ex-Japanese-Yokozuna-hope backwards and out never mind that Hibiki also thought of an utchari attempt as all he managed was take Tenku out with him, but he had long stepped out himself. 

It is sad to see how much a Kaio's armbar kill can do damage. It's been what, three bashos since Toyo got broken by the bear? And still he's fighting at most at half his power. He is hovering around the M3-M6 line, but nothing stellar. His opponent, Mokonami, was great last basho showing a lot of skill and tactics, but this basho while being slightly higher he is really struggling so it wasn't surprising when Toyo immediately got his arms inside while Mokonami was feeling still around what to do. Toyo immediately pushed back on Mokonami making the tanned man seriously balance himself forward leaning into Toyo with his full weight, which Toyo then used as he pulled with his right arm from Mokonami's armpit while pivoting him with his left hand. A kata-sukashi victory from the technician Toyo and something to learn for Mokonami. Neither is far from the MK line, but it's not over till it's over. 

As Tama took the water of power from Toyo the Secretary walked into the ring in a full suit only to remember that it wasn't just another day in the office (at least not that office) so he quickly stripped and went at it in his undies. Well least that's what it looked like as he tried everything to keep Tama away from his belt (think now what happens if someone grabs your undies and pulls on them heavily, ouch). They traded some blows, then separated, then again traded some blows and separated. It was sexy giving all the blowing action, but Tama stood there like a wall and didn't allow this small breeze to move him at all. Sexy even tried an arm pull, but Tama snapped his arm back instantly and lunged in himself finally getting a solid grip on Sexy's mawashi with his left hand. The right soon followed and from there it was curtains as Sexy got escorted back and out. He did try resisting with different leg trip attempts and the kind, but he was in such a big hug that there was nothing he could do. Tamanoshima shaves off another day on his quest to kachi koshi and can't falter in none of the other days while it's just damage control for Asasekiryu. 

In the battle of the damned Tochinoshin with two wins met Big shot with a single win (but what a win!). Big shot came out with guns blazing and a fierce tsuppari, but that's something Tochinoshin usually has no problem with as he weathers the blows and slowly works himself towards the mawashi, which was again the game plan today. Once he gained the grip he hugged close and made sure he had all he needed before raising shot off the ground for a moment to make him lose the balance and then escorted him back and out. Shotenro seems to have taken the quest upon himself to end the basho with just that one win over a Yokozuna. Sure, it'll go into the record books, but is it worth it? Shin continues his damage control and maybe can limit his fall if he keeps on winning (though I doubt that). 

it's interesting to see the Sheriff still around in the higher echelons while he obviously is out of gas to face the top rankers. Today he had Aminishiki, who isn't having a stellar basho himself. As the two charged it looked like it would be a tsuppari battle as both traded blows and Mt. ?Flobby jumping out of the way to let Ami finish himself off...twice. On the second attempt it almost worked, but as Miyabi charged at the off balance Sneaky it was Aminishiki's turn to evade and balance on one foot while Miyabiyama flew out. 

You know I love dogs, but it seems Kyokutenho doesn't as the Chauffeur found on the dohyo a horny dog, who wanted nothing but to hump his leg to oblivion. So he just calmly picked the poor puppy into his arms and escorted him back out. The puppy did struggle (it's in heat, what do you do?), but even humping didn't help. Kyokutenho gathers a few more wins even though he's already MK, but Kotoshogiku has to look out as there's a hungry Baruto just below who is sniffing at both of the Sekiwake slots after yesterdays KK. 

The one Maegashira who's been rocking everyone's boats this basho is Kakuryu, he seems to have turned towards religion and is now possessed with the holy might or something similar as he rips through his opposition and not with shaky sumo, but with solid sumo that is pleasant to watch. And it showed again as as soon as the two jumped to action it was Fishface who gained the upper hand by grabbing the immediate moro-zashi. And even though he was taken back a few steps from the charge by Kisenosato he just aligned his feet and used his grip to drive the Kid back across the dohyo and out. Kid did go for a maki-kae on his right hand, but by that time Kak was already in full gear and there was no stopping to the forceout. Solid stuff, that brings Kak the kachi koshi and a well deserved one. I wouldn't have expected to say such praise over him before the basho, but he has earned it. 

The next bout was one for wetting your appetite where the fabulous Kotomitsuki came on the dohyo and without much effort overpowered Chiyotaikai, who seemed to not be present. A freebie can work many ways, giving you a day off, but it might also kick your rhythm out of ya. So we'll see how Kotomitsuki fares tomorrow against the killer Baruto who's been not his usual self.

Speaking of Baruto, he's come to day eleven with already a kachi koshi, which includes three Ozeki scalps. He has shown different kind of sumo than he usually does by not going immediately for the belt at all cost, but instead flowing with the bout. In some bouts overpowering the opponent with tsuppari, in others going for the belt after it etc. Today he however faced a real test after the Yokozunas when facing Kotooshu. Oshu has been on fire at times and he does have the history edge over Bart, but he has had a few stupid losses in the past few days, which all started with Kakuryu and we all know that Oshu's biggest issue is mental work so it would also show in which state he is when facing Bart in his top form. As the two lined up Kotooshu was visibly away from the starting lines and it may have been that Baruto read his intentions from that position. It is namely my theory that Kotooshu knows that Baruto goes for the belt at all cost and hence his chance to win against him is to get a good belt grip himself and void Bart from one. He also knows that Bart won't henka so what he decided to do was to lunge at full power to the lower section of Baruto going for the belt. However Baruto had other plans as he met Kotooshu fair and square straight up, but instead of going for the mawashi he went already from the tachi-ai towards Oshu's head. Once they clashed and he had his grip he stepped back and slightly to the side to give Osh some room and yanked him down hard. There was nothing cheap about this win as he read his opponent to perfection and he did meet him straight on without any sidestepping. It was essentially lost by Kotooshu, who forgot to follow with his legs and over-committed on that initial charge. Baruto is not only alive, he's rocking at 9-2 with four Ozeki scalps and the sole losses coming from Yokozunas. If Mitsuki won't henka him tomorrow I would say Baruto is the favorite to win that bout too taking down all the Ozekis. But even without that win I'm confident in saying that this is the beginning of an Ozeki run for Baruto as I can't see him losing more than two and an 11-4 from Komusubi is a great start. I would also not put it past him to go 13-2 or 12-3 as his likely meetings are Mitsuki, Kise, Tamanoshima and Kakuryu of which he is the favorite in all (with the Mitsuki one being about fifty fifty). 

Which brings us to the two Yokozunas. The one bout today where we can expect an upset is the one with the two Mongols. Asashoryu has been good this basho and being undefeated he has to be the favorite for the Yusho, but Harry isn't a pushover either. If Harry would bring down Asa it would leave EVERYTHING open including funnily also a possible Yusho by Baruto (I know, I know...wet dreams). The bout didn't disappoint though. From the start they both gained a right inner and left outer grip and immediately began testing each other's strength and grip with Asa trying to lift Harry up and the other countering with the same. The struggle continued for quite a while with neither changing grips nor relenting on the other. After a bit longer pause where both regrouped and tried to get some breath back it was Asa, who out of the blue executed a nice uwatenage throw of Harry, which sent the younger Mongol flying to the ground with his leg going a full 270 degrees and the power of that twist brought Asa himself down alongside Harry. Harry did stay down for a while and looked to be in pain, but it might just have been the hard crash to the clay. Good stuff from Asa, who didn't seem in trouble for a single second though I was a bit surprised how easily Harry let himself be thrown from a position that he had been keeping the whole bout without problems. 

And as the musubi-no-ichiban we had Kaio and Hakuho meeting and even though we know that it's really not that likely to get an upset from Kaio it's never out of the question especially with Hakuho's sumo as shaky as it's been. The two charged and with similar grips in mind didn't get one either, but instead were hands together fishing for a grip. After a short struggle for grips it was Hakuho who did the gutsy thing to do and put his left arm inside giving Kaio possibly his favorite tool: an armlock with the right arm. So with one arm at the front and one in the armpit of Kaio's right hand neutralizing the kote-nage possibility Hakuho slowly worked Kaio back and out. It went as expected, but as with every other Hakuho match this basho he didn't seem 100% in control and had to work his win. This leads me to believe that the favorite for the Yusho is Asashoryu this time around even though the regulation bout could be won by Hak, the playoff goes to Asa. 

It's too early still for the special prizes, but as I won't be commenting later on I'll just give you one: Kantosho -> Baruto. His fighting spirit has been great and all the Ozeki scalps will matter in the end and to be honest I don't see anyone but Kak snatching that from him either, maybe they both get it. 

For tomorrow all the single and why not also the married girls, watch out as it's master Arbo who's being let out of his room and even though I tried as hard as I could to write at an angle I haven't been able to sharpen the pencil enough to be of use... too bad...

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Several days ago NHK led off their broadcast by revisiting the 2002 Aki basho. That was Takanohana's first basho after his seven-tourney layoff, Asashoryu was a new Ozeki, Kaio and Chiyotaikai were in their primes, and Musashimaru was the grand poobah having taken advantage of Takanohana's long absence. Coincidentally, Sumotalk was formed after that basho, and I still remember Kenji and I in those early years waiting for a repeat of Aki 2002. What made that basho so great is you had five or six guys at the top who were all from different stables and who were all at similar levels in terms of ability.

Takanohana would retire two basho later (the same tournament where Asashoryu clinched his promotion to Yokozuna), and Moose-ashimaru made the fateful decision to have his wrist operated on by Dr. Nick Riveria in Saga Prefecture that would lead to his retirement before the year's end. But the whole reason why I even bring that basho up is because we're close to repeating the same circumstance that made those days so exciting. I'll talk about what needs to happen later to achieve that (as if I needed to tease anyone to finish my report), but let's get to the action first in chronological order.

M11 Kakizoe caught M15 Yoshikaze with the perfect moro-te tachi-ai, and instead of going for the quick pull down as he is wont to do, he continued moving forward pushing Yoshikaze back and out in no time. Sweet Zoe Jane improves to 7-3 while Yoshikaze is respectable at 6-4.

M11 Kasugao exhibited a horrible tachi-ai lowering his head and raising his hands high going for the immediate pulldown. Fortunately, his opponent was M14 Kokkai who managed an even worse charge than the Kimchi Kid because he had his eyes on his opponent and saw what he was doing and still lowered his head gifting Kasugao the instant pull down. The excitement from this bout came from Kokkai's false start. Both dudes are 4-6 and have been redefining the term "ugly sumo" of late.

M14 Hokutoriki used a moro-te tachi-ai so effective that M19 Tosayutaka was staring at the man'in-on-rei banners celebrating the sell-out from the get-go. Hokutoriki used his lower body to continue the oshi charge as Tosayutaka tried to stave the badass off and get some sorta position on the inside. It'd never come as Hokutoriki thrust Tosayutaka back and down with some emphasis for the tsuki-taoshi win. For those of you new to sumo, I'll explain again the difference between tsuki-taoshi and oshi-taoshi. Oshi-taoshi means you pushed your opponent down to the dirt. Tsuki-taoshi means you just kicked his ass. Hokutoriki picks up kachi-koshi in the process while Tosayutaka falls to 4-6.

If you've ever wondered what a thrown bout might look like, examine the M10 Bushuyama - M16 Masatsukasa contest today. From the tachi-ai Masatsukasa kept his feet aligned (a huge no-no in sumo) as Bushuyama softly pushed him back towards the tawara. It was comical to watch Masatsukasa go back a step, re-align his feet on purpose, and then go back another step. At the edge, Masatsukasa reached an arm around the back of Bushuyama's neck as the Dolly Yama pushed Mats to the clay ever so gently in as light'a fall as you'll ever see a dude take who weighs 142K. This looked more like a baptism than a bout of sumo with Bushuyama gently laying Masatsukasa to the dohyo. Why these two would ever have cause to throw this bout, I have no idea, but today's sumo was so fake even Kenji squirmed in his seat. Bush the Baptist improves to 6-4 while Masatsukasa falls to the same mark...but praise the Lord, he's saved!

M15 Futenoh used a nifty kachi-age with the left arm from the tachi-ai that blew M9 Mokonami away from any sorta position. As the two grappled for position in the center of the ring, Futenoh managed a right inside grip on Mokonami's belt and then quickly fished for the left inside as well. Mokonami whispered "oh, fresh!" and held Futenoh's hand a second or two trying to keep it from the inside, but Futenoh won out in the end securing moro-zashi and forcing Mokonami back and out in fine form. Both dudes are 4-6.

M13 Tamaasuka has been so underwhelming this basho that he actually secured morozashi against M9 Toyohibiki shortly after the tachi-ai and squeezed the Nikibi back a step, but all it took was a counter right outer grip for Toyohibiki to halt Tamaasuka in his tracks and force him back across the ring and out for the easy win. Tamaasuka suffers make-koshi at 2-8 with the loss, but he's looked awful most of this basho. Toyohibiki improves to 5-5.

M8 Iwakiyama used a flurry of straight-arm tsuppari against M13 Wakanosato at the tachi-ai, but all this did was allow Croconosato a path to the inside. Wakanosato quickly secured his left on the inside while the Hutt countered with an outer right, but Wakanosato is just too good from this position, so as Iwakiyama hurried an ineffective force-out attack with that single right outer grip, Wakanosato stepped to the side near the edge and easily felled Iwakiyama to the dirt with a scoop throw. Wakanosato soars to 7-3 while Iwakiyama is humbled a bit at 5-5.

I agree with Andreas that M7 Aran shoulda been disqualified yesterday for his style of sumo and not just for pulling Takamisakari's hair. The Russian apparently repented of his ways today against M12 Tochinonada using a continuous left nodowa to keep the Gentle Giant upright and away from the inside before committing on an effective thrust attack that had Nada pushed back and out in short order. Aran is even steven again at 5-5 while the Juryo undertaker was seen measuring the 2-8 Tochinonada in the back halls of the arena afterwards.

M6 Asasekiryu and M8 Shimotori immediately hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both maintained right outer grips and left inside grips on each others' belts. This stance favored the taller Shimotori, and it showed as he easily shook off Asasekiryu's outer grip and wrenched him methodically back and out for the textbook yori-kiri win. Asasuckiryu lives up to his name falling to 2-8 while Shimotori ain't too far ahead at 3-7.

M12 Tochiohzan caught M6 Homasho with some nice tsuppari at the tachi-ai keeping Homie away from the inside and actually inviting a quick pull attempt, but before Homasho's hand touched the back of Oh's head, Tochiohzan pushed him back towards the tawara. Homasho continued to try and duck his way inside, but Tochiohzan had all the momentum keeping Homasho up against the ropes before shoving him down by the side. Tochiohzan is 7-3 if you need him while Homasho is 5-5.

M5 Takekaze continued his dominance of M4 Toyonoshima lifting him upright by the teets from the tachi-ai before alternating nodowa and shoves that forced Toyonoshima back to the edge. Completely befuddled, Toyonoshima went for a meager pull down, but that only provided the opening Takekaze needed to finish Toyonoshima off for good. Takekaze actually looked good in this one (seven words I never thought I'd type in succession) improving to 6-4 while Toyonoshima is the opposite at 4-6.

M4 Tokitenku is usually known for his tachi-ai that's a half second late, but M7 Takamisakari assumed that honor today putting his final fist to the clay even though he wasn't committed to his charge. Tenku was and flew across the starting lines before Takamisakari was even outta his crouch and just bodied the Robocop back and across the straw without argument. This one was so swift the crowd didn't even have time to groan in feigned disappointment. Both rikishi are 5-5.

M5 Goeido took a half step left at the tachi-ai to grab a cheap outer grip, but he wisely latched onto M2 Kyokutenho's belt with the right hand in the process giving him the inside position there. As Tenho rebuffed Goeido's outer grip advances, Goeido wisely switched to plan B, which was to fight from the inside with that right inner position that was so deep Kyokutenho wasn't even close to an outer grip for himself. Kyokutenho tried to counter by pushing at the side of his opponent, but Goeido was too swift wrenching the Chauffeur over to the side and bodying him back that final step with a pair'a dry humps. Goeido has managed to even his record at 5-5 while Kyokutenho is already 2-8.

In the Komusubi ranks, Baruto took the initiative from the tachi-ai yet again this basho securing the right inside position before attempting to grab the left against M1 Tochinoshin. I believe it was Martin who pointed this out where Baruto hasn't been so hellbent on grabbing an early outer grip this basho. It's made a world of difference as the Estonian used the inside position to set up what he really wants, an outside grip. He got the inside position straightway with the left, pulled Tochinoshin in close, secured his opponent with a right outer, and smothered him back and out for the classic yori-kiri win. Death, taxes, and a force-out loss to Baruto if you give him two belt grips that aren't both outers. Baruto is all smiles at 8-2 while Tochi-loses-his-shine at 2-8.

Komusubi Aminishiki was upright at the tachi-ai allowing M2 Shotenro a glimpse of hope as he went for his taller opponent's neck, but Ami came in high because he had one thing on his mind: the pulldown. He went for it straightway, and even though Shotenro had a bit of momentum and gave the Komusubi a scare, there was just two much real estate to cover for Aminishiki to be pushed out before Shotenro collapsed to the dirt. Aminishiki (3-7) picks up yet another win where he's forced to balance on the tawara while his opponent bites the dust. Shotenro is 1-9.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku stood his ground well despite the moro-te charge from M1 Miyabiyama, so he had plenty of time to gather his wits and swipe down at one of Miyabiyama's extended paws. The move turned the Sheriff to the side a bit, so Kotoshogiku pounced using a kote-nage move with the right arm to force Miyabiyama over to the edge of the griddle where Kotoshogiku polished him off with a nice shove. The Geeku is stil alive at 5-5 while Miyabiyama's make-koshi becomes official at 2-8.

In our first battle of Ozeki, Harumafuji and Kotomitsuki went for each others' throats literally at the tachi-ai as they traded shoves and slaps looking for any sorta opening to the inside. After two or three seconds of these largely out of control slaps, Harumafuji timed a Kotomitsuki shove attempt and moved to the side throwing the larger Ozeki off balance. Kotomitsuki quickly regained his footing and looked to finally belly up to his opponent, but he charged way too high gifting Harumafuji the solid moro-zashi position. The Mongolian seized the moment from there driving Kotomitsuki clear across the length of the dohyo and out for a painful second loss (against 8 wins). Harumafuji improves to 7-3 with the win virtually guaranteeing him kachi-koshi after his rough start, but majority wins is not what he's fighting for now. He's working to keep the yusho in Mongolian hands, and today he knocked Mitsuki out of the race as pretty as you please. I'd be shocked if he went full boar against Asashoryu tomorrow.

In the other bout featuring two Ozeki, Kaio stepped to his right at the tachi-ai, grabbed a surprised Kotooshu around the back of his left arm, and unleashed his patented kote-nage that isn't necessarily a throw as much as it is a submission hold that encourages his opponents to get the hell outta the ring before he does some damage to their elbow. Kotooshu complied as Kaio twisted him clear over to the edge and sealed the deal with a final shove earning the kimari-te oshi-dashi.

We see this every basho where a rikishi will step to the side in order to grab the cheap outer grip (or kote-nage position today). I don't like it, but I'm generally okay with it if the guy doesn't do it more than once or twice a basho. Overhead cameras showed that Kaio's left leg was still centered at the middle of the starting line not unlike Asashoryu on day 1, so it doesn't fall under my definition of a henka. Still, Kotooshu fans cannot complain about this one. How much of a chance did Kaio have in this contest if he charges straight forward? 5% maybe. Kotooshu has gotta know this coming in and be on the lookout for some shenanigans at the tachi-ai. The Bulgarian (8-2) hasn't been quite as sharp as he was last basho, and there's no way that he was going to beat the three Mongolians down the stretch. He gets knocked out of the yusho race earlier than I had expected, but this'uns coming down to the Yokozuna. Kaio picks up a huge win moving to 7-3. No way he doesn't muster one more the next five days.

Rounding out the Ozeki, M3 Tamanoshima giggled like a school girl at Chiyotaikai's initial tsuppari that failed to move Peter back even a step. After about two seconds, even Tamanoshima was getting embarrassed for the Ozeki, so he did him a favor and pushed him back and out for the easy oshi-dashi win. The atmosphere in the Kokugikan was like a library after this one. I mean, I've heard more ruckus at a funeral than I did from the sell-out crowd after this bout. And the reason is that everybody knows what's going on with this guy. Well, either that or they were speechless after seeing that sunburst shining up at Tamanoshima's crotch at the point of victory.

Chiyotaikai headed back to the dressing room and promptly announced his kyujo. That gives him an official 2-13 finish, which brings his record for the year to 28-47 (with at least 10 of those wins being gifts). I don't see how it can be spelled out for those see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil sumo fans any more clearly than this. Chiyotaikai is compromising the integrity of sumo right now because even the dumbest sheep in the herd can figure this one out. I should also mention that the quality of the basho goes down when the upper guys are forced to give Chiyotaikai wins.

Just ask yourself where you'd rate this basho so far. I'd say it's been pretty damn good thanks to guys like Kotooshu, Kotomitsuki, and Baruto stepping up to complement the two Yokozuna. Last basho was a fluke, Harumafuji's yusho in May was a fluke, and what was Chiyotaikai's record in those tournaments? 8-7 in both. Haru produced a solid tournament and one of the best performances ever from Hakuho as he cruised to the yusho. Chiyotaikai's record in that tournament? 2-13. Now what about the Hatsu basho? That was an exciting tournament where Asashoryu pulled off the surprise yusho after both Yokozuna finished 14-1 forcing a playoff. So what was Chiyotaikai's record in January? 8-7. But hold on a sec. Kotomitsuki was 2-10 in that tournament before mercifully dropping out the last few days, so it supports the point I'm getting at:

Basho where rikishi are not obligated to give out wins to the Ozeki are far more exciting than basho where someone's on the dole. Going back to my intro, Chiyotaikai needs to retire for the good of sumo. Enough already. Tamanoshima peters to a 3-7 record with the win.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho fished for the right inside position and left outer grip from the tachi-ai against M3 Kakuryu, but the Kak's a slippery one and pushed against Hakuho's right arm keeping it as far away as possible disabling Hakuho from getting in close. As Hakuho applied the pressure in his attempt to force the bout to the belt, slick as a cat Kakuryu pivoted and shoved the Yokozuna to the side forcing him to stumble towards the edge similar to his loss against Shotenro. The difference today, however, was that the Yokozuna kept his balance, and as Kakuryu moved in for the kill, Hakuho grabbed his right arm and just twisted the hell out of it sending the Kak across the straw and down in tottari fashion. This one was close for Hakuho who moves to 9-1, and I think he'da gone down if he hadn't already lost in similar fashion to Shotenro earlier. Hakuho was more prepared, but why was he unable to bully his way onto the inside against a smaller foe like Kakuryu? The Yokozuna's left elbow was taped up, and there was mention prior to the basho that it was nagging him, but he could also be sending Asashoryu a signal. Who knows. Kakuryu is still a stunning 7-3 after the loss.

The day's finale featured Yokozuna Asashoryu vs. Sekiwake Kisenosato, and the Yokozuna did not disappoint using a lightening quick hari-zashi tachi-ai that earned him the left inside position from the start. Kisenosato also complied with his own left on the inside, but Asashoryu was able to assume the slightly lower stance giving him the advantage. The moment that Kisenosato fished for a right outer grip, Asashoryu took advantage of the slight change in momentum and bullied his way into a man's uwate with the right. Once obtained, the Yokozuna looked like the Asashoryu of yesteryear bulldozing the Kid back and out for the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am yori-kiri. This one wasn't even close, and it's the best Asashoryu has looked since returning from that criminal two basho ban several years ago. He is your leader unblemished at 10-0, and I give him the advantage over the remaining four Ozeki he'll face the next four days. Kisenosato falls to 5-5, which is respectable considering he's faced both Yokozuna and all of the Ozeki 'cept Chiyotaikai.

With Hakuho looking vulnerable again and Asashoryu looking so good, Asashoryu has firmly planted himself in the driver's seat the rest of the way. And don't forget...Asashoryu has never lost a basho where he was the sole leader, a position he finds himself in now. There's still a lot of sumo left to fight, however, and with Kotooshu, Kotomitsuki, and Baruto still technically on the leaderboard with two losses, anything can happen at this point. If I had to make a prediction now, I think Asashoryu takes the yusho. And the crazy thing is I think he can actually do it without any assistance from his countrymen.

I'll see everyone again on Friday. In the meantime, Mario sheds the gold tophat and sits in the booth tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Greetings, once again.

I will disappoint you. You expected another gargantuan experiment in advanced prose from the exiting new contributor, but I will disappoint you. You expected to roll around witty phrases in your head for hours, laughing, giggling madly, kissing strangers on the street because of the pure joy a sumo report awarded you with, but I will disappoint you. You expected a firework of facts and knowledgeable trivia enhanced by the boldest of conjectures, all presented in the crystal clear speech of a truly talented analyst, but I will disappoint you.

Why oh why?

It's Asashoryu's fault.

In the first top division bout of the day, my beloved fallen Jedi Count Hoku was looking forward to applying the Dark Force to steel-nippled Mr. Orange. As an interesting deviation from the usual proceedings it was actually Futenoh henka-ing Hokutoriki, and not the other way around. But the Yokozuna amongst Maegashira is locked onto one of his badass trips. Instead of falling lazily on his face (always a possibility) he switched to ballet dancer mode, first balancing on the tawara, then showing excellent lateral movement and finally giving his counterpart the irresistible Hoku on fire treatment of heavy thrusts. This allowed him to push out the perpetrator in just about two seconds. Being ranked at M15 means that you don't have a lot of Makuuchi left below you, so Futenoh's 3-6 score is pointing to Juryo. Always considered underachieving, his talent seems to fizzle out altogether. Hokutoriki is on one of his typical hot streaks (7-0 after a 0-2 start). I love him. I want children with him.

Veteran returnee Wakanosato is doing so and so for his position at M13. On the one hand he should dominate most of the guys around him. Then again he may still be recovering from the injury that propelled him to Juryo in the first place. His opponent, M16 Masatsukasa, had been doing surprisingly well so far, so the bout could be rated as mildly suspenseful. It turned out to be a quick affair, though. Both rikishi were more or less standing up at the tachi-ai, "charging" quite high in the process. I suspect that Wakanosato read the move (i.e. Masatsukasa planning to go for a pull down), so he righted his opponent even more by pushing into the left arm pit. From here it was a matter of moments before Masatsukasa was disposed of. They called it yorikiri, but from my seat here in the front row I couldn't see much belt involved. Who cares when both men stand at 6-3 with good chances for a kachi koshi each?

Corporal Kokkai is struggling these days. I remember a year or so ago, we were all so proud of him trying to do real sumo, grabbing belts and stuff. But he lost his way. Against Supersoftyohzan he chose the sly opening by not touching down with his fists at all, gaining a significant advantage in momentum. Supersoftyohzan couldn't do anything but retreat, trying to get at least some grip in the process, which the Corporal denied him. When the latter was a fraction away from the push out win, somebody in the audience cried "Nesnevarrak butrah!", which is Georgian for "Take cover!", so Kokkai couldn't do anything but succumb to his trained reflexes and hit the ditch in a hurry. Lucky escape for Tochiohzan who is doing tochialright at 6-3. The Corporal (4-5) is due to clean out latrine pits, if he doesn't get his act together soon.

Who came up with calling Takamisakari's movements robotic? I mean, watch Kakizoe's preparation at the tachi-ai. I think he never deviates from his routine by a millimeter or a millisecond. You can almost hear some "Clink" sound when he falls into position. With his usual dynamic approach, he got into moro-zashi against a hesitant Tamaasuka straight away. The charge brought down Kakizoe, too, but his opponent was already out. Another bout that lasted for about three seconds. Tamaasuka is in dangerous waters at 2-7, while M11 Kakizoe has one of his good basho at 6-3.

To be perfectly honest, I never ever understand any of the Bushuyama jokes the others here make all of the time. What does he have to do with the Dalai Lama? I just don't get it. You know, I can also start to say things like "Bouts with Bushuyama remind me of press conferences after elections", or "Bushuyama wins are like these small fluffy things I sometimes find in my navel, while his losses are more like the pizza I totally refused to eat in this small bistro in Venice six years ago." So stop it, will you!

Anyway, being such a late comer to Makuuchi, the Bushman shows admirable resilience in the top league. It seems he kept the best for the end of his career. Talking about ends of careers: Tochinonada is close to his, methinks, because he already suffered his seventh loss of the basho without showing any will to righten the ship. Ah, the bout? Right uwate by the Bush, left hand inside by Nada. They waltzed along in circles and the outer grip prevailed. Would Tochinonada do the Kaiho and spend a couple of more years in Juryo just for the sake of it, I ask you? Bushy takes it easy at 5-4.

Toyohibiki has a little bit of a creativity issue. I mean, he's charging hard alright, but he could also carry a sign before the bout saying "I will charge hard". Or he could just say it to his opponent when getting ready "You know, I think I will just charge hard". Anyway, he was charging hard at the tachi-ai against the living espresso, gaining the forward momentum for two or three steps. Yoshikaze wasn't too impressed, though, as he managed to deflect two tsuppari upwards. This allowed him to press matters himself by half pushing half grabbing at Toyohibiki's exposed center of gravity. Being forced back, Toyohibiki tried something indistinguishable, but was down and out before Yoshikaze followed suit. The M9 cannot be at the top of his game if he can be handled by Yoshikaze in such a way. Espresso is close to achieving latte macchiato status at 6-3, while Toyohibiki needs to shift gears at 4-5.

Everyone has his or her least favourite rikishi. In this tradition, I refuse from now on to comment on bouts "containing" Kasugao. He lost. That's the only important thing. Come on guys, shout along: "Go home to Korea! Nobody likes you! Stay there and breed mountain goats or whatever!" The Unnamable is at 3-6 and still has a fair chance of falling out of the division like nuclear waste, which makes my mood light as I am humming a little tune. M8 Shimotori moves to 2 and 7 and should try to claw himself to two or three more wins in order to stick around.

I am not sure how many years of sumo expertise you'd need in order to describe the bout between M7s Aran and Takamisakari in a halfway coherent way while sticking to technical terms whatsoever. I don't have those years so let me put it like that: If you take any Bud Spencer movie you happen to have in your collection and jump to any brawl scene, then switch to fast forward, you will have a pretty good simulation of today's clash (DOOSH! DOOSH! WHOOMPH!) between the two. The initiative was initially Aran's, who wanted to keep Goofy away from him at any cost. Nevertheless, somebody should tell him that you need to do something with your feet, too, if you play the thrusting game. It was a strange spectacle to behold, Takamisakari looking a bit like a mixture of a beaten puppy and Godzilla ("But I want to hug you, please!"). In the end Goofy went down, but the MIB awarded him with the win anyway, because the foreign devil had pulled hair. I say that's fair enough, because with this kind of fighting style, Aran should get disqualified out of principle. He stands at 4-5, TKSK mirrors the score at 5-4. Watch out for Aran trying to bite Tochinonada's ear off tomorrow.

Neckless youngster Tosayutaka is still trying to get accustomed to the rhythm of the top dance floor. He is fearless, alright, but he lacks a bit of height, weight, and – most importantly – of good alternative tactics, if his game plan doesn't work out. This already led to several of those "failed utchari" situations, which are impressive to view but carry an imminent danger of injury. One could even get the impression that utchari is an offensive move in Tosayutaka's book. He is learning quickly, though, as could be seen in today's bout against M6 Homasho. After an explosive head butt tachi-ai, Tosayutaka started to apply pressure right away and went seeking for a grip. Homasho did his thing, which is evading and using his hands to block his opponent's. This turned out to be his literal downfall, as the youngster grabbed both of Homasho's hands in a flash of inspiration and pulled him down just as Homo was compromising his own balance by trying to push away from the tawara. Cool stuff from Tosayutaka who evens out a bit at 4-5, while Homasho is not exactly devastated at 5-4.

Every comment about Goeido needs to consider his recent elbow operation. He is certainly not in full command of his powers, so bringing along a record of 3-5 for today's meeting with Asa's Secretary is not as disappointing as it may seem at first. Asasekiryu, on the other hand, is on the downward spiral. Only a lot of banzuke luck pushed him back up to M6, but it seems he cannot even compete in this region anymore. This was confirmed today, when the injured youngster needed three or so decent thrusts to push the former Sekiwake out of the ring. Asa should start to look for a new secretary, since this one here is not so sexy anymore at 2-7. Goeido keeps up the damage control.

Where does Mokonami get his tan from? It is really a bit irritating. Whenever he goes to get his mouthful of power water, I always half expect some bikini girl to turn up and hand him some exotic cocktail with an umbrella sticking in, instead. Anyway, no such thing happened today when BBQ tried to make M4 Tokitenku look pale in comparison. Of course, the latter screwed up the timing at the tachi-ai, but BBQ capitalized only in the sense that he quickly gained a left outside grip. Tokitenku could only play along by taking the right inside, his left arm barring Mokonami's right from gaining any supporting grip. Having achieved such a stance at 90 degrees to each other, neither could find an immediate advantage, even though it looked like BBQ had the better position. Stalemate. While the two were playing along a bit, Paris Hilton finally managed to publish her thesis about neo-stoicist philosophy and Pink Floyd split up and reunited six times. Just when I thought "Now Tenku will do some of his dodgy foot technique sh*t", Tokitenku started to try some of his dodgy foot technique sh*t. Since this didn't help either, they waited until the Indian subcontinent broke lose from Asia and drifted over to Australia to help piling up another mountain range. This really took a long time. Just when Mt. Bingidibonangdon (place names in Australia are really like that!) finally overtook good old Everest, Mokonami managed to push out Tokitenku after several failed attempts. They were looking at each other for several seconds after the bout was over, like to say "Baby, tomorrow we're going to regret this." Both men stand at 4-5.

In another pretty short affair, M4 Toyonoshima knew exactly how he had to take on his M8 counterpart Iwakiyama. Right from the tachi-ai he demanded the double inside grip, pulled the Hutt up while pressing matters forward with good legs. Very solid yorikiri win for Toyonoshima, who is nevertheless under par at 4-5. Iwakiyama stays at five wins, which is quite alright for him. After the bout someone in the crowd cried "Rökrök! Gatribantu apat vahnta!" which is Georgian for "Haha! You have a flat face!"

If there is a sweet spot on the banzuke, Tamanoshima missed it by inches. At M3 East, he is supposed to face everyone ranked higher. After an expected 1-7 start, though, the torikumi makers showed mercy and scheduled him to meet M5 Takekaze on Day 9. The bout turned out to be a rather violent affair, with Tamanoshima securing the early initiative by pushing both hands to Takekaze's throat, but he he couldn't hold it for more than a second. From here, both fighters continued with pretty wild thrusts while constantly moving in circles. A little later, Tama had maneuvered his opponent to the tawara, where Takekaze caught his left arm in a desperation move. Tamanoshima answered with a sotogake trip move that happened so fast, it almost looked like a reflex. Takekaze crashed, and Tama did the same on top of him in a display that reminded of those "Best Accident Home Videos" features on TV. Takekaze is still at 5-4, while his opponent prevents premature make-koshi at 2-7.

Will Shotenro be the second Maegashira in the post 1957 era to achieve his only basho win against a Yokozuna? I had to look this up of course. In Nagoya 2003 Maegashira Kotonowaka defeated none other than Asashoryu on Day 2, only to finish the basho 1-2-12 after an early withdrawal. I am very fond of Shotenro, but I'm afraid we are heading that way. The reason is of course that he is clearly hampered by some knee issue. This takes away the mobility he needs to be able to take on the really big boys. Like today's opponent Baruto. And don't look now, but the Komusubi is prepared to learn a bit and improve his sumo after all! First lesson learned in the last couple of days: Thrusts can help to set up the opponent. Second lesson, as displayed today: If you get the easy inside grip(s), don't go for the outside at all cost. And so it came to pass. Baruto gained moro-zashi right from the start, from where he proceeded to spin Shotenro around one full circle before helping him out of the dohyo. Does Baruto enjoy winning all of a sudden? Losing only to the Yokozuna his score of 7-2 could become interesting. The Scotsman is half a kilt short of anything and needs to regroup after an early make-koshi.

I remember that Tochinoshin looked really light, when he first entered the division. He certainly has beefed up since then, adding the necessary ooomph to his neat technical skills. This is a good reason why he finds himself at a career high M1 this time around. Today, though, he didn't prove heavy enough for Sekiwake Kotoshogiku who pushed the Georgian out in steam train fashion. Tochinoshin has to take care now at 2-7, while the Geek improves to 4-5. Adding insult to injury someone in the crowd called "Enbatnakkul pah runahlak!", which is Georgian for "Your mother's an astronaut!"

Ozeki Amafujiharu has a shown a mediocre performance so far. His shakiness even prompted his tsukebito to disclose to him that they thought his sumo sucked. These are modern times, when your manservants dare to boldly speak up like this, while the villages of their families would have been burned down for less in the good old days when everything was still neat and proper. It's of course Asashoryu's fault, whose else. Anyway, The Boy they called Horse is slowly regrouping as he showed today against Daddy Longlegs Kyokutenho. With both hands to his opponent's throat right from the tachi-ai, he managed to unbalance his ex-fellow Mongolian within moments causing Kyokutenho to stumble out of the dohyo rather ungracefully. If Tokitenku wouldn't have screwed it up, this would probably have been the day with the shortest net fighting time ever. Amafujiharu improves to 6-3, while his M2 counterpart is heading for safer waters at 2-7.

To the yusho race! None other than both Ozeki Kotomitsuki and M3 Kakuryu entered Day 9 with only one loss. In my opinion Kakuryu's sumo had looked much more stable than that of his Ozeki opponent. On the other hand, the Sadogatake boy came with a mission, seeking not only to stay in the race for the cup but also yelling Revenge! for his buddy Kotooshu. The bout between the two turned out to be high paced, both throwing in a lot of force already at the tachi-ai. Mitsuki's self esteem must be low after yesterday's loss, because he retreated after the impact seeking the immediate pull down. Kakuryu wouldn't comply, and tried to chase down the Ozeki with determination. As Kotomitsuki stopped to run away, both quickly engaged in an exchange of thrusts. I couldn't see properly, but Kakuryu must have misfired badly, because the Ozeki managed to thrust him back and onto his ass only moments later. Sometimes the better wrestler loses. Kakuryu is still heading north on the banzuke, but gets Hakuho on Day 10 as a little extra. With this kind of sumo, Kotomitsuki is not a factor in the yusho race (not that he ever was).

Kotooshu was probably happy for his stablemate but maybe also because otherwise Kakuryu would have handed him the power water. Not good for a psyche like the Bulgarian's to be reminded of his only defeat directly before his bout against Shneaky. The Komusubi, on the other hand, is one knee short of doing anything but fiddling about. His two wins both came after mono-ii, meaning they were marginal enough. Shouldn't he just try to get his knee some rest? Anyway, the Ozeki delivered a cautious tachi-ai, always conscious of Aminishiki's rogue potential. A healthy Shneaky would have capitalized by giving a full charge followed by a possible nanosecond yorikiri or oshidashi. Alas! he could not. So what he did instead after the initial contact was evade, push, pull, evade, all in a wild mixture and with the hope of somehow compromising Kotooshu's balance enough to get rid of him. The Ozeki tried to be of assistance by answering with a similar tactic, but after a short exchange of this nonsense, Shneaky somehow turned around 180 degrees and fell off the ring. In my shitty recording (thanks Mario, anyway), I cannot spot any reason for this. There may have been an envelope in Aminishiki's locker room. Kotooshu should try to regain some confidence for the challenges on Days 13 and 14, while Aminishiki would help himself by going home, like, now.

In a duel of sumo dinosaurs, Kaio and Miyabiyama met for the umpteenth time. Since Kaio is the Ozeki and MYBY the ex-Ozeki, it may already be clear in which direction the head to head comparison between the two generally points. Kaio is on some kind of smooth sunset boat trip it seems. Either he is now paying extra for better performances by his victims, or he somehow manages to focus all his skills into a reduced package of mediocre but sufficient sumo, good enough to take the wins he needs. I swear by the grave of Lady Di that I hope it is the second option. Miyabiyama is also still around and actually looking better than a year ago, when he was a likely retirement candidate in my book (he looked much more tired then). Their charge today was unconventional in the sense that Kaio didn't go for the belt and his M1 opponent not for the thrusts. Or maybe they did, but both failed. Anyway and instead, they literally went for each others throats. After a little maneuvering MYBY managed to get behind Kaio but was out of position himself. As he turned around and charged, the Ozeki showed some unexpected quickness and graceful anticipation managing to down him like a matador. Kaio's speed was so surprising that even Miyabiyama had to laugh while dragging himself out of the dirt. Kaio needs two more for a honorable return to Fukuoka, Miyabiyama doesn't really care at 2-7.

Asashoryu surely has the fire for another yusho. Personally, I think he would like to make the 25 and then call it a career. While he didn't put in a lot of effort in Nagoya, right here and now he seems to have the intention to win each and every bout, no matter how. In this sense he resembles his younger self. I am inclined to give him even more praise but I realize that I wouldn't be able to describe his achievements as one of the all time greatest whatsoever.
In today's bout he faced a broken man. I cannot imagine why Chiyotaikai would want to keep up this constant humiliation of being beaten by basically everyone only to follow up with a basho full of bought wins. It is beat up time again, so the man who still has to be formally addressed as "Ozeki" tried to assault his way to an unlikely third win. Asashoryu threw him off the dohyo in the most humiliating style, like getting rid of a fat old fly. The camera showed Chiyotaikai sitting outside after the match for a painful ten seconds or so. He is broken. So sad.

If Hakuho still wants to take the yusho, he has to change something, and quickly. After his fluke loss against Shotenro, he didn't display his usual übercalm anymore. The fact that his left elbow is probably injured doesn't help him either. Along came Sekiwake Kisenosato, himself not exactly in a winning flow, but stable enough this basho to represent a legitimate threat to the Yokozuna. The Kid surely flirted with his chances as he committed a dynamic false start. At the second try the tachi-ai was in sync, as both men charged a little high. Hakuho clearly lost the first clash and had to retreat for the rest of the bout's duration. In fact, he couldn't help but try to pull the Kid somehow out of balance. Just when his heels already touched the straw, he somehow managed to swing/pull Kisenosato down in what was later called a sukuinage. This was a very, very narrow escape for the Yokozuna. Some people – including himself – may argue that he controlled the flow, but there were too many contingencies he couldn't possibly have foreseen in a bout that almost sealed his fate concerning the yusho. Tomorrow's match against Kakuryu will be a real touchstone for Hakuho's value. Kisenosato should draw confidence from these kinds of losses.

I say it loud and clear and now: If Asashoryu takes down Kisenosato on Day 10, he will win the yusho. His fire is hot enough to burn Kaio and the Kotos, Amafujiharu won't get in the way either. I am not even sure if Hakuho is still at only one loss come senshuraku, but if today's Asashoryu would meet today's Hakuho, the winner's shikona would be about dragons.

After the bow twirling dude did his thing, someone in the audience called "Trapniatnarr patnuh attlom!", which is Georgian for "Mario is next! Or Mark?"

Wonder who this guy was. Probably Asashoryu.

Day 8 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
We've crossed the half-way point and we have one man left standing with an unblemished record. But there are four worthy chasers with one defeat, so the prospects for an exciting second half are in tact. 

One such worthy chaser is M3 Kakuryu, who continued his impressive showing against M2 Kyokutenho (2-6). On display was a textbook tachi-ai, low and driving upward from the left (ottsuke), providing Tenho with no space to operate. Easy force-out and 7-1 record. Kotomitsuki tomorrow in what should be a feature bout.

Stalking the field one loss back of all the chasers is Baruto, who took care of M1 Miyabiyama (2-6). Baruto decided to match Miyabi's lumbering tsuppari today, mixing in some pulls for good measure, and eventually got inside on the belt just in time for a shitate-dashi nage win. Baruto is 6-2 with Yokozuna losses. He could be a darkhorse to stay in the race.

Kotomitsuki and Sekiwake Kisenosato locked into migi-yotsu position in a good match-up. Mitsuki then tried to get inside on the right. Kise pounced and attacked in textbook style, catching Mitsuki's hand high and proceeding to decisive yori-kiri win. It was Mitsuki's first defeat (7-1) while Kise improves to 5-3.

What is it about Kotooshu and Toyonoshima bouts where it's inevitable that these two end up in a bang-bang throwing duel? Today Oshu took a cautious approach, watching Toyo closely so as to not let him in easily. It worked, as he was able to secure both sides of the belt before Toyo. But when he went to throw him, Toyo countered and here we go again. Oshu had the slight upper hand and pretty much squashed Toyo down for the victory, preserving his one-loss record (7-1) while Toyo dropped to 3-5. 

Kaio met Chiyotaikai for the 52nd time, tied for 2nd all-time behind only Musashimaru-Takanonami who locked horns 58 times. The first time these two met in Maku-uchi was 1998, which is more than a decade ago but honestly it seems like they've been at it longer. Nonetheless, Kaio had little trouble neutralizing Chiyo by grabbing the arm like does so well. He then got the left shitate. When he got the right uwate on top of that, the crowd applauded. Kaio gets his coveted right uwate so infrequently anymore, the crowd almost over-reacts in joy. They weren't disappointed- an easy yori-kiri followed for Kaio's 32nd win against 20 defeats. 

Harumafuji (5-3) looked strong in disposing of M2 Shotenro (1-7). A strong tachi-ai made Shotenro pull, which was the intended effect exactly. Can some one tell me how in the heck this guy beat Hakuho a couple days ago? He has looked poor all basho leading up to that point, and worse yet after the kinboshi. 

Hakuho and M3 Tamanoshima settled into migi-yotsu, but neither had the left outside grip. One Hakuho got it, he moved in closer and employed an "endless" dashi-nage, ala Mainoumi of yesteryear, twirling Tama round and round. It got the job done eventually, improving Haku to 7-1 and dropping Tama to 1-7. 

The man left standing is Asashoryu At 8-0. Today's victim was Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (3-5), who is a formidable opponent. But Sho was able to get the uwate first on the right side and dictate the bout from there. He did lose the uwate for a split second but got it back quickly and immediately unleashed an effective uwate-nage for the win. It will be interesting to see if Sho's intensity can carry him through the rest of the way. If he loses one, he has a tendency to falter quickly. I'm looking forward to an unpredictable second week.

Andreas is up tomorrow.  Enjoy... 

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
As a little copout disclaimer, I'm sorry to announce to you that I'm suffering from a bad cold and a severe lack of bout coverage (I'm using the 9 kbps NSK stream), so don't expect Pulitzer Prize material this time around. With Hakuho destroyed by Shotenro yesterday, I have to say the excitement in the basho just went up a couple of notches, but today's sumo was largely banal, sometimes outright bad and in a few places spectacular.

Let's start at the bottom, shall we? Last and certainly least, The Jokester stood up at the tachi-ai and received Masatsukasa's charge, deflected it and pulled him out of the dohyo to his second loss in as many days. Looks like the honeymoon's over. Hokutoriki, on the other hand, scores his 5th consecutive win. I bet he's proud of 'imself too, because, by his strut, you'd think he was a Yokozuna.

Next up, M15 Yoshikaze (sporting an unusual dark colored mawashi) notched his 5th victory in 6 meetings against an old and slow Wakanosato. From the very beginning, the little Kaze was all over Croco's face and upper body with his patented bothersome thrusts, took him back then pulled. It worked like a charm and now both men are at 4-3.

The bout between Futenoh and Tochinonada was decided right at the tachi-ai, in spite of taking about a minute to unravel. Nada went for his usual left inside, while Futenoh managed to grab a solid right uwate, while denying GG one of his own. Fruity pressed forward but Nada responded by attempting a shitatenage, which was close, but no cigar. A long Futenoh-esque stalemate followed, but in the end, without attempting any what fancy maneuver, Fruity finally decided to march Nada out, upping his head to head to an unlikely 11-2. Both rikishi have unflattering 2-5 records. Can you spell Juryo?

The pouting Kakizoe jumped the gun in typical Kakizoesque fashion, and, in similarly similar fashion managed to get away with it. The victim was (unsurprisingly, I might add), a white Caucasian. When will these guys ever learn? Long story short, Kakizoe committed a false start, Kokkai reacted to Kakizoe's early charge without being ready, the gyoji let it go and Zoe (4-3) pushed the hairy Georgian out to his 4th loss and ever so closer to the 10 cent division.

Makuuchi sophomore Tosayutaka was taken back at the tachi-ai by the returning Tamaasuka, who looked to force his lighter foe out without a belt grip, but Tosayutaka managed to sneak an arm or two inside, and, before he knew it, A Sucka was being helped across the bails by the back of his mawashi to his 5th loss. Tosayutaka improves to 3-4 and could use a little beefing up.

In sumo there are certain match-ups that favor a particular rikishi over the other, for various reasons. In our particular case, Tochiohzan likes to get moro-zashi a lot, while Iwakiyama is known for giving it up more often than he should. Eventually, it happened in this fight too, after a failed attempt by Iwakiyama to body Oh out without a belt grip on either side. The Moon in the Man is suffering a minor setback at 5-2, while Oh rises above the .5 mark with the win.

Bush, over-ranked a bit at M10, faced one guy he likes to fight in Takamisakari. It was a lot more one-sided than you'd expect, because Dolly just blasted the Clown at the tachi-ai, pushed him to the edge, got the left inside and muscled him out. The ass-kicking evened both men's records at 4-3.

Homasho tried to burn Toyohibiki with the same cheap step to the side he used yesterday against Goeido, but the Hutt showed uncharacteristically sound footwork and kept his opponent right in front of him until he shoved him over the tawara with little argument. It's disturbing to see Homasho try this stuff two days in a row, this only tells me he's not confident in his sumo. Hibiki, on the other hand, seems to be righting the ship, posting the 4th straight oshidashi win after a weak 0-3 start.

Asasuckyryu was shafted with a henka (argue all you want, the impact was completely unintentional, Mokonami was, for all intents and purposes, trying to get out of the way) and finished off with some manlovin'. Sexy ain't so sexy at 1-6 (talk about kicking a guy when he's down). Moe is a lackluster 3-4.

For me, the biggest disappointment this basho is Goeido. If there's one thing that can prevent a guy from becoming the next Yokozuna, it's injury. And elbow surgery right before the basho ain't helping a lot, either. Today, the young 'un got some mercy from the NSK in the form of 1-5 Shimotori, who had never beaten him before. Goeido fished for the frontal left from the tachi-ai, but Shimotori had plans of his own, trying to throw Go off balance with the right inside. Goeido survived the throw attempt and managed to get his own right shitate, which he used to spin Shimotori around and eventually throw him down. 3-4 means he's still in it, but to be completely honest, I don't see Goeido getting 8 in his current state. Shimotori is headed for calmer waters.

Takekaze vs. Kyokutenho was a tentative affair with a spectacular finish. Both rikishi charged cautiously (and I can understand Kyokutenho perfectly for doing that, what with the strong henka essence in Takekaze), and Tenho immediately grabbed his favorite left uwate. Kaze actually managed to get both arms deep inside and tried to force things to the edge, but before he could get there, The Chauffeur grabbed him by the back of the head, gained momentum and threw the hapless Kaze down emphatically for his 2nd win. Takekaze somehow stays above the .5 mark despite the loss.

Probably jealous of Shotenro for his colossal win over Hakuho yesterday, Tokitenku henka'd his younger compatriot without any sort of regret, kicking his legs from under him. On a bastardosity scale of 1 to 10, I'd rank this an 11, but, coming from Tokitenku, it should come as no surprise. Shotenro stays at one win (but, oh, what a win), while Tokitenku "improves" to 3-4 with the dubious ketaguri.

Aminishiki tried a few mind games on Baruto, then tried to bum-rush him, but Baruto had enough momentum to stop him in his tracks with little effort, so when Sneaky tried to evade and time his hikiotoshi, Baruto pushed him straight out and made it look easy. 5-2 with the only losses coming against Yokozuna means that Bart is in top shape, while Aminishiki's 1-6 means he sucks ass.

Just when we thought he'd gotten his act together, Kotooshu went right back to business as usual, and against the Kak, no less. Rather cautious at the tachi-ai, Kotooshu had no trouble withstanding Kakuryu's weak charge, and the Bulgarian used a few shoves to drive the Mongol back a bit, but Kakuryu moved around and timed his evasion perfectly, enabling himself to grab Kotooshu's left arm and drag him to the dirt and all but out of the Yusho race. And don't look now, but Kakuryu is on the leaderboard himself, with a well fought and well deserved 6-1 of his own. Now, despite what some might say, there was a big difference between this win and that of Shotenro against the Yokozuna (beside the magnitude). In that one, Shotenro was out for blood and kicked Hakuho's ass good and proper, while in this one Kakuryu never really had any offensive intentions and burned the Bulgarian with evasive maneuvering.

Faux-zeki Chiyotaikai was yet again exposed, this time by Miyabiyama who withstood Taikai's powerless charge, causing him to spin his wheels in place, then he moved to the side and let gravity take its course. 2-5 means Chiyonofuji will be submitting Chiyotaikai's kyujo papers soon (maybe even as you're reading this). The Fatman isn't doing all bad, considering his 5 losses are to the top 5 men in the game.

Ozeki Kaio used his superior sumo skill to deny M1 Tochinoshin morozashi first, and then to keep him from gaining his preferred right uwate. With the two rikishi exchanging only inner grips, Kaio was able to use his superior weight and girth to muscle his way above the .5 mark. Tochinoshin is an expected 2-5.

Usually one of the most expected of the day, the match-up between Ama and Kisenosato didn't disappoint. Kisenosato was a nanosecond late out of the tachi-ai and that was all ex-Ama needed to get a strong right uwate. Kisenosato could not get one of his own and he tried to drive the Mongol to the edge using only his left inside grip, but Ama timed it well, released his inside hand, turned his hip into Kisenosato and unleashed a beauty of an uwatenage that would probably make even Chiyonofuji applaud. What's important here is that Ama manages to get back over that elusive .5 mark, after a couple of really bad losses. I wonder how he's going to handle Shotenro tomorrow (normally, as an Ozeki, you'd expect him to win, but Big Shot is pretty damn strong, just ask Hak). Kisenosato falls to 4-3 himself, and still has some tough matches ahead.

Red hot Ozeki Kotomitsuki crashed into the smaller Toyonoshima hard at the tachi-ai and had him backing out in mere moments, but he didn't have to push him all the way, because his knees kind of buckled under him and he fell awkwardly. Hopefully nothing's broken. Kotomitsuki stays perfect, while his victim is a disappointing 3-4.

Asashoryu won today too, and his 7-0 might look good on paper, but the way he won is pretty tell-tale. Against a somewhat resurgent Tamanoshima, the Yokozuna tried to get a left inside grip, but the veteran succeeded in keeping him at bay with a series of thrusts and maneuvers to his side. However, Asashoryu is probably still the fastest guy out there, so he evaded to his right on one of Peter's shoves, and all of a sudden he was behind him. The whole thing ended with an okuridashi ass-kicking (literally), as Asashoryu whipped at Tama's behind with a conspicuously deliberate knee. It wasn't anything dangerous, just a message: "You do NOT keep the Yokozuna waiting before the salt throw for a full 15 seconds!". However, message or frustration aside, Asashoryu completely lost the tachi-ai in this one, and if it were against a rikishi with more game, it's safe to say this would have been loss #1. That's why I say the Yusho favorite is still Hakuho, by a nautical mile. Tamanoshima is near rock bottom at 1-6.

Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho made sure he wouldn't lose again by henka-proofing his tachi-ai with a cautious charge, at the same time denying his foe Kotoshogiku the morozashi position. Despite not being able to keep his belt grip for long, Hakuho did manage to plant his right pretty deep inside, and he soon took care of business with a marvelous, ample scoop throw. I have to say this is one of Kotoshogiku's better showings against the Yokozuna, but I'm afraid he'll get his ass handed to him tomorrow too, at the hands of the other, less merciful one.

So, with Hakuho trailing on the leaderboard, I'd love to say the Yusho race is wide open, but from the way things went these past few days, I can't see anybody taking this one away from the Younger Yokozuna. I confess I have no idea who's reporting the next few days, but I'll be back here for a clearer picture on day 14. See you then.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
A major shake-up on the leaderboard today has really set the table for an interesting finish in Aki. Due to the large numbers of new readers who join us in September, let's get right to the action in chronological order adding definitions to peculiar terms as we go.

M13 Tamaasuka finally picked up that second win taking advantage of a hidari-yotsu (simultaneous left inside positions) stalemate against M15 Futenoh by raising his left arm high into Futenoh's pit rendering Fruitenoh's right arm useless and pointing upwards. As Futenoh stubbornly held onto Tamaasuka's belt with his own left hand, Tamaasuka (2-4) just bodied the veteran back and out. Futenoh is 1-5 and already making reservations for Juryo.

M15 Yoshikaze greeted M12 Tochiohzan with as stiff'a right paw to the throat as you'll ever see. As Tochiohzan leaned forward in an attempt to get close, Yoshikaze quickly backed up causing OhSnap's right leg to just buckle sending Tochiohzan down forward on his stomach in spectacular Miyabiyama fashion. Both rikishi are 3-3.

M14 Hokutoriki used a moro-te tachi-ai (two hands to the throat) against M12 Tochinonada, and Nada wanted no part of it really offering no effort to swipe either of Hokutoriki's hands away. Hokutoriki drove forward well with his legs and had the Gentle Giant pushed back and out quicker'n Tochinonada (2-4) can say "Juryo." Hokutoriki has worked his shenanigan magic to a 4-2 start.

M16 Masatsukasa finally met his match against M11 Kasugao of all rikishi...and Kasugao didn't henka. Instead he grabbed a stubborn left outer grip from the tachi-ai and smartly brought Masatsukasa in tight with what had to be an uncomfortable position with Kasugao's stilettos poking right into Masatsukasa's mid-section. Masatsukasa tried to counter with the right inside position, but this dude's bread and butter has been to always have some separation and out quick his opponent. Kasugao completely controlled the pace of his one, and he had Masatsukasa pinned in so tight that about three seconds into the contest, Yamaguchi Announcer in the booth instinctively said "ah, this is all Kasugao." It was, and although it took about 15 seconds, the Kimchi Kid sparkled as he moved to 3-3. Mats is 5-1.

In a compelling matchup between two rikishi who prefer to fight from the inside out, M13 Wakanosato snapped Tosayutaka's head back at the tachi-ai with a perfect kachi-age (forearm to the throat) using the right arm. The two quickly hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, but Wakanosato was obviously taking the lead in the dance as he had Tosayutaka upright as he pushed him back step by step to the straw. Tosayutaka knew he was in trouble and went for the only move he could--and one that rarely works--the kubi-nage or neck throw. Wakanosato easily defended the move, but the savvy Tosayutaka used his right leg on the inside of Wakanosato's left ever so subtly forcing Croconosato's legs out wide as if he would do the splits, and with Wakanosato creeping ever closer to the dirt, he put his right arm quickly to the dirt as sort of a submission gesture. The winning technique was ruled as tsuki-te, which means putting ones hand down to the dirt accidentally, but with all of the injuries Wakanosato (4-2) has suffered to his legs, I think the move was instinctive in an effort to take the loss and keep his health. Tosayutaka improves to 2-4 with the win.

M14 Kokkai started a half step behind the starting line against M10 Bushuyama and charged low looking for who knows what, but Bushuyama just rebuffed the Gorgeous Georgian with kachi-age from both arms. With Kokkai now back upright, Dolly quickly forced the bout to hidari-yotsu enjoying a right outer grip to boot. Bushuyama wasted no time in forcing Kokkai back to the edge, but Kokkai countered with a mammoth inside belt throw that threw Bushuyama off balance and stumbling towards the edge, but he never let go of that right outer grip dragging Kokkai along for the ride. As the two were falling to the dirt, Bushuyama used his left arm to yank Kokkai down by the hair. The move was so subtle, the Men in Black didn't catch it. so gunbai to the Dolly Yama, his first ever win against Kokkai. Both rikishi are 3-3.

M11 Kakizoe henka'd to his left against M9 Mokonami, but Mokonami's balance and speed are just too good to be fooled by a fool's good henka. Mokonami recovered nicely and now had Kakizoe on the run going for alternative slaps to the head and pulls with each hand. In desperation, Kakizoe went for that phantom swipe with two hands at Mokonami's dicky-do (his gut...because it sticks out farther than his dicky do), but in the process he was turned around to the side, so Mokonami turned him 90 more degrees so that Kakizoe's back was exposed to his opponent. I was a bit disappointed that Mokonami didn't hug Kakizoe in tight assuming the manlove position, but you gotta take the quick win, which Mokonami (2-4) did pushing Zoe out from behind. Kakizoe falls to 3-3.

M9 Toyohibiki refused to let M7 Aran get in close using a beefy right nodowa from the tachi-ai followed up by an equally potent choke hold with the left. In the process, Toyohibiki was driving Aran back, so the Russian did all he could do evading to his left and even managed a left outer grip in the process, but the Nikibi's positioning was too good, so when Aran wasted his outer grip by going for a pulldown with the right hand, Toyohibiki had Aran pushed back and out in short order. Both rikishi are 3-3 with Toyohibiki erasing an 0-3 start with three straight wins.

M6 Asasekiryu and M8 Iwakiyama traded fast but harmless tsuppari at the tachi-ai for two seconds or so before suddenly finding themselves in the gappuri migi-yotsu position (simultaneous left outer grips and right inner grips). The two jockeyed for position for about 30 seconds in the middle of the ring with neither gaining ground before Asasekiryu went for a leg swipe to try and throw Iwakiyama off balance, but the Hutt stood his ground and countered with a left outer belt throw of his own that sent Asasexiryu to the dirt. Great stuff from Iwakiyama who refuses to go away at 5-1 while Asasekiryu falls to 1-5.

M5 Goeido struck M6 Homasho well at the tachi-ai, but Homie was moving to his left from the start in order to grab the sly outer grip. He got it and quickly used his right hand at the back of Goeido's head to try and drag Goeido down. Goeido dug in admirably, but Homasho had all the momentum forcing Goeido upright and back towards the straw. Goeido finally managed moro-zashi at the ring's edge, but it was too late as Homasho had two outer grips and Goeido pulled in so tight that he was able to body Goeido back that final step without too much trouble. Goeido falls to 2-4 and may have given up at the edge too quickly for my liking while Homasho picked up a cheapy here moving to 4-2.

M5 Takekaze finally charged straight forward, which is sorta like a henka unto itself. The move knocked M8 Shimotori upright and forced him to try and move to escape his charging opponent. Takekaze was just too good (can't believe I just typed those five words in succession), however, and was able to set Shimotori up for the easy pulldown not to mention 1-5 record. Takekaze is 4-2, but in no way deserves that record.

M7 Takamisakari kept his right directly in front of him and low at the tachi-ai against M4 Toyonoshima denying his opponent the moro-zashi he needed to win. With Toyonoshima unable to body Takamisakari back, the Robocop used his right inside position to hoist Toyonoshima over to the side towards the straw, and when Toyonoshima put his hands at the back of Takamisakari's head for a counter pull attempt, it was too late as Takamisakari scored the shweet two second win and even shweeter 4-2 record. Toyonoshima is 3-3.

M4 Tokitenku was late at the tachi-ai as usual, so M1 Miyabiyama stormed into the Mongolian shoving him this way and that with the lumbering tsuppari. With Tokitenku on the run from the long arm of the law, his only hope was a desperation pull attempt, but the Sheriff was too good in this one shoving Tokitenku clear off of the dohyo. And, just so we weren't disappointed, Miyabiyama belly-flopped to the dirt for good measure on that last shove attempt. Miyabiyama has had a tough schedule, so it's nice to see him get off the shneid at 1-5. Tokitenku's is 2-4.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku actually led head to head against Komusubi Baruto coming in, but Baruto has been offensive-minded this basho, and it showed today has he quickly made fun of the Geeku with a right kachi-age tachi-ai that kept his opponent away from the belt while he used his left inside position as insurance to body Kotoshogiku back and across the straw without argument. Baruto is a nifty 4-2, especially considering his rank. Just wait until week 2 when he gets the softies. Kotoshogiku is even Steven at 3-3.

Coming off of his win against Harumafuji, you knew M1 Tochinoshin wasn't afraid of Ozeki Chiyotaikai. After a false start, Tochinoshin laughed off the Pup's initial tsuppari attack and kept Chiyotaikai from moving forward with a coupla long stiff arms to the Ozeki's neck. After about four seconds of this nonsense, Tochinoshin used his right arm on the inside to pull Chiyotaikai closer to where he grabbed the left outer grip and lifted Chiyotaikai clear off his feet walking him towards the straw. From there it was curtains as Tochinoshin executed the flawless force-out charge. Chiyotaikai falls to 2-4, and that's with the Association trying to give him as weak of opponents as possible. Retire now, please. Tochinoshin has to happy with his 2-4 start that includes to Ozeki scalps.

Sekiwake Kisenosato used a nice ottsuke with the right arm against Ozeki Kaio to keep him at bay securing the inside position with the left. At this point, Kaio was far away from any sorta belt grip, so he evaded to his left trying to shove the Kid by the throat, but Kisenosato was having none of that nonsense and kept his body squared up with the Ozeki and legs moving forward. With no other choice, Kaio went for a desperation pulldown that was read by Kisenosato like a dirty manga allowing the Sekiwake to push out the Ozeki for a 4-2 record. Kaio evens things up at 3-3.

The struggling Ozeki Harumafuji stayed low at the tachi-ai against M3 Kakuryu all but daring the Kak to go for a pull down, and as the two seemed to elbow each other this way and that, Harumafuji began to dictate the pace leaning his body into Kakuryu and forcing him back. The Kak chose to counter at this point with what else but the pulldown, so Harumafuji was on him like white to rice pushing Kakuryu out to his first loss. Harumafuji still looks shaky as he manages a 3-3 record.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki used a right nodowa at the tachi-ai against M2 Kyokutenho and then moved both arms in tight looking for moro-zashi. Kyokutenho, who had grabbed a left outer grip in the melee quickly executed a maki-kae with the right hand denying the Ozeki moro-zashi, but Kotomitsuki pressed the action first shaking off Kyokutenho's left outer grip (Mitsuki's one of the best in the business at cutting off outers) setting the Chauffeur up for the methodic force-out win. Kotomitsuki is looking better and better as the basho plugs along, and his 6-0 record doesn't suck either. Kyokutenho is just 1-5.

Ozeki Kotooshu fished for moro-zashi against M3 Tamanoshima at the tachi-ai, and his looking for moro-zashi at the initial charge as been the key to his recent turn around. He got the right hand on the inside but was denied on the left; however, for Tamanoshima to deny moro-zashi, he had to twist his body inwards. This left his belt exposed on his right side, so Kotooshu quickly grabbed the left outer and had Tamanoshima forced back and out neat as a bowtie. It's really damned if you do damned if you don't against the Bulgarian. Either allow him moro-zashi or give up an outer grip. If you don't beat Kotooshu at the tachi-ai these days, you ain't gonna beat him. It's 6-0 for Kotooshu who looks great this basho. Tamanoshima is 1-5.

Moving to the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho looked to have a laugher against M2 Shotenro who is injured and 0-5 coming in, and you could see it in Hakuho's sumo today. It wasn't that Hakuho didn't try as hard. Rather, when Shotenro showed some life, Hakuho thought he had more room to work with than he really did. Shotenro showed some nad at the tachi-ai by not only keeping Hakuho upright with a wicked right nodowa, but he was the one driving his legs--not the Yokozuna, and the result was Shotenro's driving Hakuho back a step or two. Hakuho worked his right arm on the inside at this point hoping to force the bout to yotsu-zumo, but Hakuho could never get in close as Shotenro refused to let go of the right choke hold keeping the Yokozuna upright. It as only at this point that the Yokozuna sensed he was in trouble, so as he began to really press his body forward, Shotenro shifted gears on a dime and yanked at the back of Hakuho's head with the left hand sending the Yokozuna sprawling forward and down to his first loss. Incredible. You really have to hand it to Shotenro (1-5) for refusing to back down even against the best rikishi in the bidness. Just wait until his knee heels up; he'll be back in these parts to work some damage. As for Hakuho, he didn't take his opponent seriously, and it came back to bite him. With three other worthy rikishi at 6-0, Hakuho can't afford to lose again if he wants to yusho. At least he still holds his destiny in his own hands.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Asashoryu seemed to have only one thing on his mind. The Yokozuna struck Komusubi Aminishiki hard at the tachi-ai raising him up with a fierce right nodowa, but he immediately reached at the back of Ami's head with the left and began back peddling towards the straw committing on the early pulldown. It was too close for comfort at the edge as Aminishiki went for that desperation push attempt, but Asa tiptoed the tawara on one leg as Ami's body crashed to the dirt. It wasn't swell, but Asashoryu moves to 6-0. The only problem is this kinda sumo isn't gonna beat Hakuho, Kotooshu, or Kotomitsuki. Aminishiki falls to 1-5, but don't count Sneaky out for kachi-koshi. He knows how to win in week two.

So six days in, and NHK has started to post a leaderboard. It looks like this:

6-0: Asashoryu, Kotooshu, Kotomitsuki
5-1: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Iwakiyama, Masatsukasa

Go ahead and scratch Kakuryu, Iwakiyama, and Masatsukasa from the list, which leaves us with four legitimate rikishi in the yusho race. Hakuho and Kotooshu are your favorites in that order with Kotomitsuki and Asashoryu holding an equal chance to pull of the surprise yusho in the end.

Couldn't ask for anything else...well, unless you're going into withdrawal for Martin.

Day 5 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Recently I heard through the grapevine (you know, grapes, where "whine" comes from) that a small minority of readers here at ST do not enjoy the spirited, liberal, at times bacchanalian use of nicknames in most reports, and that these dour souls have even gone so far as to write letters to the editor, as it were, about it. Well, heres some news for ya, folks: Shikona? Thats a nickname. And it means, after the horses are brushed and the barns are locked, diddly, whereas the nicknames we give mean, at the very least, laughter.

See, "Kyokutenho" may have some awe inspiring, quasi-religious meaning for someone somewhere, but the plainly put "Chauffer" speaks volumes--about him, about sumo, about Japan. And if you are not familiar enough with Japan or the wrestlers background to "get it", than at least trust us, the ones who do, trust that we are often saying more with the nickname game than you may personally comprehend, and bear with us if you find it niggling into your "match summarization" time. And as for the purely goofy nicknames, remember, Sumotalk isnt the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. It’s a bunch of guys having fun. We suggest you have fun as well.

The lead off match today had the most annoying double whammy of shikona in sumo today, Tamaasuka and Masatsukasa. Tamatsukamasakatasamufasakasa. Phuq. Anyway, the bout was a decent one, with the two of them trading throat thrusts and Tamaasuka misfiring on one and giving up the moro-zashi, allowing Masatsukasa to spin him around and crush him out. I love it when both rikishi fall out together. Fighting spirit!

Second bout brought us more of the same as Futenohs poor tachi-ai let Tochiohzan in with a deep right belt, and after shrugging off Fruity Pebbles judo throw attempt, Toe Cheese On manloved him down to the dirt. (Both nicknames are socially relevant, trust me.)

I didnt for a second doubt that Wakanosato was going to kill Bushuyama, and Darwin be praised I was right, as the former Sekiwake mainstay slapped at Bushus blows with disdain, letting the W10 expend all sorts of energy, then coming in with the head, causing Dolly to back away to the ropes, where he planted his feet and leaned way too far forward to resist the pushout we could all see coming. Parton me, said the Crocodilian, and red caped him forward to the doit!

Yoshikaze was all sorts of genki today as he washed over Tosayutaka like an imperfect storm, getting the E10 to the edge and executing a nifty outside to inside grip switch (set up by a good body humping maneuver) that sealed the deal as he was able to shove him out.

Toyohibiki popped Kokkai hard at tachi-ai and the Comely Caucasian wasted no time in running and pulling, and he ran so hard that he ran himself right back and out. The End.

No one told Mokonami about Hokutoriki, who did as he always does, shoved his hands into the Mongolians throat repeatedly until he leaned in too hard and then pulled away and let the man fall. Mokonami got burned today (not that youd notice).

Veteran Tochinonada, 1-3 at W12 and with memories of Dejimas plunge to retirement last basho fresh in his mind, decided to dance with the devil vs. poor ol Shimotori, who ran past looking for the number of the truck that didnt hit him. Perversely, the truck then came up from behind and pulled on his leg and shoved him out. For those not clear after Mikes splanation, unlike Asas on Day 3, GGs move today was a henka, the difference being Asa opened his stance but kept his right leg on the shikiri line, whereas GG was nowhere to be seen.

Coming into the Iwakiyama/Kasugao fight, we were all looking for hijinks from the Korean, but he played it straight, wiping off The Hutt after a cracking tachi-ai. Iwakiyama spun quickly to stay squared, and they went at it with some pushing. Kasugao then got a left hand outside belt, which he used to make a throw that did everything but take the big guy down. Resisting well, Iwonkey Kong somehow miraculously escaped by twisting, leaning forward back at Kasugao, and getting the moro-zashi. Now with the Kimchi Kid raised up and with no leverage, Iwakiyama pushed and picked up and worked him back for the crushout win. Neither dude gave up in this one, another good Day 5 bout with exceptional footwork by the Moon in the Man.

Aran laid a henkatakikomi on Kakizoe, who as we all know deserved it after what he did on Day 2. Naturally the NHK English guy trotted out the same old bullshit read, that Kakizoe had his head down and wasnt looking at his foe and that his feet stayed behind him as he lunged at tachi-ai. First of all it wasnt true, Sweet Zoe was looking right at the Bodyguard. Secondly, EVERYONES feet stay behind when they lunge at tachi-ai, you numbnut. If they brought their feet up under their bodies as they moved forward, it wouldnt be lunging, itd be standing up. It only looks like a mistake (and even then only to those who dont really understand sumo) when the god damned foe is not there! If you want an example, the very next bout (surprise surprise) provides one. 

Goeido and Takamisakari both lunged forward, and both mens feet remained in place beneath them as they collided. If one had henkad, the other would have looked like he left his legs behind. So please, pretty please with artificial sweetener on top, stop talking about guys "leaving their feet behind them" when they get henkad.

Goeido, adroitly blocking any inside belt grab, ran the flailing Cop out in a heartbeat, btw.

I hope that Homasho has some chalk and a board back in the heya, cause hes definitively going to need to draw on it tonight. After getting deflected by a vicious face slap from Tokitenku, he went with his momentum and got a strong outside left. Tokitenku sensed danger and started doing that Mongolian leg tripping in desperation thing, but as Homasho was about to shove him out, Tokitenku somehow thrust back to the center, causing Homasho to get his legs all akimbo. As he stumble bumblingly retreated, Tokitenku swarmed him and ran him out. A bit of a shocker this one, but as we saw in the Iwakiyama bout, good footwork wins, bad footwork kills.

I should point out here that normally Thursday is the day wed have re-Mark Arbo reporting, but as I noted in my Day 2 opening, the poor kid has been suffering great pains lately, and so has had to stay in his suite this basho taking pretty much constant doses of medication. When Mike asked him if he was going to do the Day 5 report, he struggled to whisper, "Cancer" (tho Im pretty sure I heard, "Cant, Sir"). Either way, its painful to watch him struggle with his thrice daily bong hit, and inspiring to see him keep on fighting no matter what.

After seizing the advantage at tachi-ai, Asasekiryu overreacted to a Toyonoshima feint and gave up the moro-zashi. Sexy fought off a throw attempt at the edge, but Tugboat is close to a guarantee when he gets the double inside grip, and tho the Mongolian gamely fled around the rings edge, Toyo stayed on him and tripped him backward and down, employing the kiri-kaeshi, a move I use quite often to get my wife into bed.

Takekaze wanted nothing to do with Kakuryu, immediately moving to his left and then heading for the door. Shit, he was calling for a cab. Kimarite should have been "killer rabbit", as in "Run away, run away!"

Geeku continued his strange mastery over Kisenosato, and like a bored girlfriend ignored the latters ineffectual thrusting and drove forth to blast the Kid back and out. Why doesnt Kise man up to Kotoshogiku more often? His Chiyotaikai imitation sucks.

A bit of a shifting tachi-ai gave Tamanoshima a slight arm lock on Kaio, but the arm lock master Ozeki wormed out of it and pulled his Peter, who came quickly, a little too quickly. Easy as you please, Kaio sidled to his left, got behind him, and shoved the premature one out.

Tochinoshin was licking his chops today, after getting effed up by the Yokos and Kotos, because if he could just get his hands on hAruMAfuji...  After a pushing start by both men, Tochi did indeed get a good belt grip that forced the Mongolian to lean awkwardly forward to avoid being shoved out. hAruMAfuji got it back to the middle but he was in the weaker position, and after a long wait he made his move. No Shine was ready and used the Ozekis forward mo and his own strong belt grips to swing him around. With his higher ranked foe tiptoeing on the straw, Tochinoshin smartly did nothing odd, like try a hand to the face or anything else that might have created an opening for the wily hAruMAfuji, and instead just pressed his full weight on the Ozeki until the ghost of Dave Wiggins whispered in his ear, "Dude, its pancake time!" The suddenly Shiny Georgian then fell hard onto the Mongolian, who would not surrender and got a dohyo edge on the lower back for his troubles. Nice hard fight and another superb ending, where neither guy quits and both crash out painfully. THIS is why we watch sumo, am I wrong?

Shotenro, you poor boy. Will it never end? Today Mitsuki just hammered into him, then backed away and slapped him down like a cornstalk. Nothing cheap here, because Mitsuki has spent his career building his reputation as a bullish tachi-ai man, which forces guys like Shotenro to bring it all, which makes them vulnerable to being pulled down. Nothing wrong with using your reputation to set foes up (as long as you hit them fairly at tachi-ai, that is).

As the K man pointed out on Day 4, Kotooshu has been keeping up with the Jones' (shit, I had to use an apostrophe--first time in my new apostrophe-less career that I cant find a palatable way around it), Asa Jones and Hakuho Jones. But today showed, perhaps, why there is still a vast gulf between the Khan and the Bulgar. A dude who was thrashed by both Grand Champions earlier in the basho dusted off his A-game and charged hard at the Ozeki, who was forced to retreat. However, Kotooshu has skills, and he deftly waxed off Miyabis arms as he plunged forward, then wiped him on the ribs, deflecting him to the clay. The Sadogatake man was definitely dancing on the volcano, but alls well that ends well, as our pal Shakey liked pointing out.

It says a lot about how decrepit Chiyotaikai has become when he has to resort to bumrushing a sub-par Aminishiki to win instead of blasting away and setting him up for the slapdown or better yet driving him out. Sadly for the aging Pup, Shneaky was alert enough to pull the Ozeki forward, then balanced on the edge long enough for the Kokonoe man to touch down first. I know that the popular sentiment has Pup retiring at his home basho of Kyushu in Nov., but there is no way they are going to let him post another 3-12, so if it gets real ugly, like say five losses by Day 8, Im looking for the most durable Ozeki ever to call it a career.

Not much to analyze in the Asa/Kyokutenho bout. It was one of those bouts where Asa wins from the tachi-ai, getting a belt low and tight and then waiting until his foe tries some sort of escape, which in this case was Chauffer reaching over Asas shoulder to grab at the back belt. With his gravity now centered somewhere on Asas forehead, Genghis had no trouble lifting him back and tossing him out.

Finally Hakuho and Baruto locked up in what is fast becoming their routine manner, chest to chest with identical two hand inside grips. In this bout, they both executed maki-kae, switching an outside grip to an inside, which amusingly reversed their original positions. As usual Baruto was slow to capitalize on chances, as I felt he could have pressed forward when the Yokozuna went for his maki-kae. After a brief rest on each other, Hakuho started lifting and tugging, and he eventually got the Estonian out via yori-kiri. Its tempting to say Baruto should be pleased that he has taken out all three Ozeki he faced and lost only to the Yokozunas, but he has got to get it into his head that he is the Biomass and Hakuho and Asashoryu are just men and start kicking their asses every once in a while! Were all waiting.

Day 6 brings an exciting new guy into the mix, Ken M. Samewine (tho a bit of a ponce, insisting we use his middle initial). We hope you enjoy hearing from someone else for a change. Ill see you again in the Final Hours. Muhahahahaha.

Day 4 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Day 4 is in the books and we've got more than a couple dominating performances in the works. We've got the two Yokozuna, a couple of Ozeki and one rank-and-filer who are really displaying good sumo thus far. 

Let's start at the top with Hakuho, who is far and away the most dominant rikishi in the game. Today he dismantled veteran countryman M2 Kyokutenho (1-3) by quickly securing migi-yotsu and driving to the rope for an easy Yori-kiri and 4-0 record. 

But let's give Asashoryu, yesterday's most dominant rikishi, some props here too. Pitted against yet another Mongolian, this time jo'i rookie M2 Shotenro (0-4), Asashoryu raced his way to moro-zashi and proceeded to a statement-making Tsuri-dashi win. Sho is also 4-0, but even more impressive is his streak of 34 consecutive wins against first-time opponents. To put this streak in perspective, consider that's 10 more than 2nd place Kitanoumi at 24 followed by Taiho and Takanohana at 18 a piece, Chiyonofuji at 17 and Hakuho at 15. Head and shoulders above pretty darn good company, I'd say.

Kaio (2-2) succumbed to Komusubi Baruto, looking very apprehensive in doing so. Perhaps his bad back and knee are speaking to him. The easy Yori-kiri was Baruto's 3rd consecutive win over an Ozeki. He is 3-1 and looking like an Ozeki himself. 

Chiyotaikai (2-2) got by Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (2-2) in a mild surprise, but then again he seems to enjoy a lopsided career record against the Giku for some reason. It was in typical Taikai style these days, starting with a big bang, pushing opponent to the rope, then pulling him down for a Hataki-komi once he realizes he can't finish the deal with the tsuki-oshi. His two wins this basho have come in this same fashion, and his two horrible losses were bad attempts at this technique. It's all the game he's got left.

One Ozeki who's not being outdone by the Yokozuna duo is Kotooshu. He made quick work of M1 Tochinoshin (0-4) by securing left outside grip, slinging his fellow gaijin counterpart around a bit, then disposing of him via Yori-kiri. 4-0 and looking just as good as last basho so far.

Kotomitsuki is also unscathed at 4-0, albeit in a bit less dominant fashion. He had no problem though with M1 Miyabiyama (0-4) today, mainly because Miyabi cooperated by falling flat on his face at the tachi-ai for the second consecutive day. It might help Miyabi if he'd keep his eyes open and not stare at the ground during the tachi-ai.

Veteran M3 Tamanoshima (1-3) picked up his first win of the basho against hot and cold Harumafuji (2-2). Tama showed some his old spunk with a good belt game today but almost threw it away with an "Isami-ashi", or accidental step out while forcing the opponent out of the ring. Tama used textbook sumo to charge when Haruma went for a maki-kae and went balls out to the rope. Luckily, Haruma's right heel had touched clay outside the tawara before Tama's left foot did. This was confirmed through a Mono-ii and resulted in a nostalgic interview room scene for Tama. Good for him. 

To wrap things up, rank-and-filer Kakuryu (M3) showed Goeido who's boss with a dominating performance yet again. M5 Goeido (1-3) dove in like a man on a vengeance, giving a strong tachi-ai with internationality, but it didn't phase Kakuryu. He matter-of-factly absorbed it and proceeded to a convincing Tsuki-dashi win to improve to 4-0. Kaku has fallen down the ranks a little, but by the looks of things he'll be right back up there in Kyushu and in the conversation for Ozeki promotion along with Baruto in 2010.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's never too early to call the yusho winner, especially when Hakuho is healthy, but three days in and we're starting to get a good picture of the jun-yusho race as well. There are a host of fellas 3-0 after three days, but with nothing indicating otherwise, it looks as if Aki will come down to the same two rikishi that dominated Nagoya. Speaking of domination, I hope you're all enjoying the Mike and Clancy show. The other contributors are pouting because in my quest for total control, I've denied them all television and internet access. "But what about live feeds of the bouts?" they always lamely protest. "Since when did a credible opinion on sumo and writing for Sumotalk have any correlation?" I always reply. Kids. But enough of our troubles...

Just as I suspected, M16 Masatsukasa is off to a hot 3-0 start as he ducked in low against M14 Kokkai at the tachi-ai, secured the quick moro-zashi, and had the Georgous Georgian wrenched over to the side and out in no time. Kokkai falls to 2-1.

M15 Futenoh's tachi-ai was too soft against M13 Wakanosato who bounced Fruitenoh back a step before securing the deep inside position on the left, which is all Wakanosato needs against a guy like Futenoh. The scoop throw came straightway and sent Fruitenoh to a putrid 0-3 start. Wakanosato moves to 2-1.

M15 Yoshikaze was able to move M12 Tochinonada back a step by crashing into him head on, but Nada was more composed as he used his left arm brilliantly to swipe the thrusting Yoshikaze to the side setting up the left inside position--his favorite--before forcing Cafe back and out in short order. Both rikishi are 1-2.

M11 Kasugao jumped to his right looking for the quick kote-nage throw, but M14 Hokutoriki is no stranger to henka's, so he easily read the move and had Kasugao pushed out by the throat in about three uneventful seconds picking up his first win in the process. Kasugao is 2-1.

M13 Tamaasuka's pilgrimage back to the division met with disappointment today as M10 Bushuyama stayed low at the tachi-ai denying Asuka any sort of position. The Dolly Yama moved his feet forward from the beginning methodically securing the left inside position. He took full advantage from there aligning his teets against his opponent's, which gave Tamaasuka no where to go but back and out. This was as thorough as they come for Bushuyama who is a sprite 2-1. Tamaasuka is stuck on that first win obtained on day 1.

Finally M12 Tochiohzan showed some life this basho greeting M10 Tosayutaka's charge with as stiff a right arm to the throat as you please. Oh moved forward fast continuing to push his opponent back and upright, and as soon as Tosayutaka said "that's all I can stands, I can't stand's no more," Tochiohzan slapped his sorry ass forward to the dirt. I love Tosayutaka (1-2) make no mistake, but he was violated today by Tochiohzan who moves to 2-1.

Clancy pointed out Joni Mitchell sitting just behind the place where the West rikishi stands to dole out the chikara-mizu after a win, and I had wondered myself where a foreign gal like that got her hands on that sweet ticket. Turns out her sugar daddy occupied the seat today...a Japanese version of Lewis Skolnick wearing a yellow hanten jacket over his shirt and tie instead of his Tri-Lamb sweater. You can tell how exciting the basho is so far when I'm already scanning the crowds looking for people to make fun of.

M11 Kakizoe used a classless henka to his left against M9 Toyohibiki, who was completely fooled as Kakizoe's sumo is clean for the most part. Zoe popped the stumbling Nikibi out of the ring by yanking at the back of his arm "improving" to 3-0. Insult was added to injury literally in Toyohibiki's case as he falls to 0-3.

At this point in the broadcast, things were going downhill fast kinda like this report, so NHK wisely opted to show footage of how the Sumo Association handed out free fans to the spectators as they entered the building. The fans had pictures of old sumos doing battle on one side and said O-iri in red kanji on the back. I only comment on this because it'll take all of one hour after the bouts to see most of those things end up in the trash so a gaijin can scrounge a few up and peddle them on eBay. "Buy It Now!" I say.

As if anyone cares, M8 Shimotori is coming in way too high at the tachi-ai this basho, so M8 Iwakiyama easily kept him that way with some initial tsuppari before securing a deep right arm on the inside that he used to bully Shimotori back and out. Shimotori (0-3) didn't go easy, so Iwonkey Kong went Kotoshogiku and dry humped his opponent back and out that last step moving to 3-0 in the process.

M9 Mokonami secured an early left outer grip with a lightening quick tachi-ai against M7 Takamisakari, but the Robocop ain't gonna take that kind of abuse as he easily used his right arm on the inside to break off that outer grip and throw the Okonomiyaki over to the edge of the griddle where he pushed him down and out from there. I like Mokonami's energy, but dude is small enough that he really should consider fighting from the inside out. Grabbing an outer grip against a taller guy like Takamisakari with those long arms is a death knell as Mokonami (1-2) found out today. Takamisakari is 2-1 if you need him.

Speaking of smaller guys needing to fight from the inside out, M5 Goeido charged into M7 Aran briefly getting his right arm on the front of Aran's belt, but he quickly abandoned the attempt and moved it to the outside opting for the outer grip. The problem there was Aran already had the inside position with his own right hand, so Goeido just gifted the Russian moro-zashi. To his credit, Goeido pressed the action pulling Aran in as tightly as possible before driving him back to the edge in a desperate force-out attempt, but Aran was just too strong as he used his advantageous position to wrench Goeido down to the dirt with an inside belt throw. Goeido falls to 1-2 and has failed to fight from the inside once this basho. With that being his bread and butter, it's no wonder he continues to struggle. Aran is a quiet 2-1.

M4 Tokitenku's timing at the tachi-ai is about as bad as it gets, but against M5 Takekaze the last thing you want to do is commit to a hard charge. Takekaze actually failed to henka today, and it cost him dearly as Tokitenku pounded him downwards near oblivion before using his right hand at Takekaze's forehead to lift him back upright and push him down hard onto his arse. It was nice to see Takekaze (2-1) get his ass kicked after two straight henka as Tenku picked up his first win.

M6 Homasho was extremely cautious at the tachi-ai against M4 Toyonoshima, but Toyonoshima didn't attempt to bull his way into the inside (even though it was wide open) allowing Homasho to hunker down and force both rikishi low as they touched foreheads and flirted with their arms. From this position, Homasho methodically drove Toyonoshima back and across the entire diameter of the ring before going for a quick push attempt that stood Toyonoshima upright rendering him the easy push-out fodder from there. Toyonoshima is listless yet again as he drops to 1-2. What ever happened to the days of rushing in for the inside position from the tachi-ai and pulling that quick inner belt throw trigger? Homasho improved to 2-1.

Speaking of slowing down, M6 Asasekiryu's tachi-ai has been non-existent allowing M3 Kakuryu to easily demand the moro-zashi position from the get-go. The Kak wasted no time as he spurt forward and had Asasexiryu forced back and out in a flash. The Kak's a cool 3-0 thanks to his positioning just outside of the jo'i. Asasekiryu falls to 0-3 and can't get up.

Moving up to the sanyaku, Sekiwake Kisenosato managed a nice right paw into M2 Kyokutenho's throat that stood the Chauffeur upright allowing the Kid to gain the quick right outer grip and sufficient left inside position. The quicker Kisenosato was on his opponent like rednecks to stinkbait disallowing Kyokutenho any time to try and counter with a right outer of his own. To compensate, he attempted to push Kisenosato over by the side using the right arm as he retreated, but the Sekiwake was in his groove and had Tenho forced back and out neat as a bowtie. Kisenosato is a proud mary 2-1 while Kyokutenho falls to 1-2.

After some severe stall tactics from both parties at the initial charge, Ozeki Kotomitsuki kept his right arm in tight at the tachi-ai denying M3 Tamanoshima any sorta position, so the question now was could Kotomitsuki get the inside position on the left as well. Tamanoshima was forced keep his right side awkwardly turned inward in an attempt to deny the moro-zashi, but this took him out of any sort of offensive position. Dint matter in the end as the Ozeki finally demanded the left inside position after a brief stalemate before easily forcing Tamanoshima (0-3) back and out for the uneventful yori-kiri win. Kotomitsuki continues his hot streak on paper moving to 3-0.

Ozeki Kotooshu was licking his chops as he stared at those almost new bandages wrapped tightly around M2 Shotenro's left knee, but Shotenro actually won the tachi-ai in this one keeping Kotooshu's head upright with some great shoves to the throat. The problem was, however, that Shotenro couldn't pounce into any sort of position, so Kotooshu stood his ground well with a left arm on the inside before demanding the right outer grip that set up the inevitable force-out charge. Kotooshu skates to a 3-0 start while Shotenro is 0-3 and not getting better soon.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai prolly wet himself at the tachi-ai standing there across from Komusubi Baruto knowing full well he had absolutely no means to beat his opponent. Baruto went easy on the ailing Pup using his left hand on the inside to nullify a Taikai escape and just bodied the Ozeki back and out in two seconds flat. Chiyotaikai (1-2) is useless out there and really should consider retirement before he gets embarrassed. Who can forget his 2-13 the last time he wasn't kadoban? Can't wait for that again. Baruto moves to 2-1 which is T and A for any Komusubi.

Ozeki Kaio kept Komusubi Aminishiki upright at the tachi-ai with a nice choke hold that actually worked because Aminishiki failed to drive forward with the lower body. With his opponent upright and his hand on the front side of his opponent's neck, Kaio just couldn't resist going for the quick one-handed pull down of his opponent by the back of the neck. The move worked largely because Aminishiki hadn't grounded himself to the dohyo, so while even Kaio admitted with his expression that the win was ugly, he'll take it as he moves to 2-1. Aminishiki has been useless at 0-3, and while he's prolly had the toughest competition of anyone so far, his do-me-now attitude isn't appreciated.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Ozeki Harumafuji finally showed some life at the tachi-ai, but he had no choice as he welcomed an undefeated Sekiwake Kotoshogiku who had looked solid the first two days despite a henka of Kaio. The Ozeki forced his way into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and began driving the Geeku straight back, but Kotoshogiku countered brilliantly going for a quick kote-nage throw with the right while executing a maki-kae with the left in as slicka move as you could hope for. Not only did the move work, but Kotoshogiku slipped out of danger and completely turned the tables lifting the Ozeki upright and off balance with his left arm beneath Harumafuji's armpit. With the table now set, Kotoshogiku looked to mount a force-out charge of his own, but in his haste, Kotoshogiku caught the big toe of his left foot in the dirt and stubbed it so badly that he fell to the dohyo of his own accord losing by tsuki-hiza. The sumo gods giveth, and the sumo gods take away. Both rikishi are 2-1, but I thought hAruMAfuji escaped big time in this one. Kotoshogiku got up gingerly after the awkward fall, but let's hope he's okay as he has looked great this basho cept for his tachi-ai.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Asashoryu used a left hari-te that connected straight into M1 Miyabiyama's face before turning to his left to grab the early uwate. He didn't need it, however, as Miyabiyama just tumbled to the dirt after the distraction of the face-slap and the fact that Asashoryu was no longer straight in front of him to offer any resistance. Some may call this a tachi-ai henka from the Yokozuna, but it was nothing of the sort as Asashoryu's right foot was still planted in the middle of the starting line.  It was the effectiveness of the slap and Asashoryu's speed that befuddled Miyabi the Hutt.'s spelled B-A-L-A-N-C-E. The 0-3 former Ozeki had none of it today. Asashoryu moves to 3-0, but the question is will he run out of gas at the end of week one?

In the day's finale, Yokozuna Hakuho completely schooled M1 Tochinoshin demanding the right inside position and not waiting for the outer left to make his charge. Hakuho raised Tochinoshin upright with the body and used his legs to perfection driving NoShine back to the straw where he finally secured the left outer grip, but it was already signed sealed and done as the Yokozuna drove Tochinoshin over and down via yori-taoshi. Kitanofuji commented that Tochinoshin was unable to offer any resistance, but it wasn't that he chose not too. He was just so overwhelmed that he didn't have the time, which brings us to part of Hakuho's brilliance. Unlike any other rikishi, Hakuho has the ability (and the body) to begin driving his opponents back even before he has sufficient grips. The norm is for rikishi to grapple in the middle of the griddle and then mount a charge once they are satisfied with their position, but Hakuho uses his legs and body so well that he is actually driving dudes back before he has complete grips and positioning with his arms. Hakuho can do no wrong as he waltzes to 3-0. Tochinoshin falls to 0-3, but I appreciate the effort so far. It's much better than say Aminishiki's 0-3.

Kenji strikes while the iron's hot tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well its Day 2 and do I look like a Deutscheman? No, I do not, and thanks to Mikes sick sense of humor, its uncertain when (or if) well be seeing Andreas (though one of the EMTs gave me a reassuring thumbs up as they pulled away). See, most of you prolly think Mike is a real nice guy, clean cut, college degree, cute wife, baseball coach to his three strapping sons, active in the church and community, et cetera. And given those aspects of his life, I would be inclined to agree. But The Truth is dude becomes a gargantuan A-hole when a basho rolls around, and I can no longer play along as if everything is hunky dory.

Sure, he rents out the top floor of the hotel (on the Bluehost dime, natch), but did you know he builds a dohyo in his suite out of old playdough? Or that we all have to wear mawashi for fifteen days? That he wakes us sometimes at 3:00 am for what he calls "de-geiko at Wesemann-beya"? That he strikes us with a bamboo rod on the back of our thighs if were not "selling it"? Sure you didnt. Whod think such a thing, given his Jimmy Stewart looks and fine grammar?

Actually, he had been showing signs of lightening up recently, allowing Arbo his "medical" marijuana, doling out some extra coinage for the Transylvanian-Tokyo shuttle and bumping Martin up to Coach (from his usual Cargo seating), and even letting Kenjis reports go a little longer (instead of ruthlessly cutting fourteen of the fifteen pages Heilman consistently hands in). But when he slipped a shiv hed constructed out of hotel cutlery into my hand while tightening my mawashi and whispered, "Gut this pig!" Popeyes voice came to me loudly and clearly: "Thats all I can stands; I cant stands no more!" Okay, I did in fact leave the new guy in a pool of his own blood/urine/vomit, but Id already had my Day 1 stolen by the head honcho himself; no way in Galapagos I was gonna give up Day 2 as well. Point is, it aint all chuckles and chocolate here at ST.

Masatsukasa must have read Mikes pre-basho and taken umbrage, because dude has toppled two of the more tenacious vets hell be meeting this time out, today smartly keeping his arms in to the ribs as he drove forward and ramrodded Yoshikaze, who tried the same thing as he did on Day 1 vs. Jokerman. Worked against that fella, not against the guy whose name rhymes itself.

Corporal Kokkai let himself be picked up like some cheap tart, but like a crafty cheap tart he was ready when his feet hit the dirt again, pivoting with moxie and swinging a bamboozled Futenoh around and then back and out. Nice moves by the Gorgeous Georgian, who may be in line for some celebrity dancing show in some country somewhere. Fruit Fly better get his chit in order, because 0-2 at M15 will give a man pause.

Havent checked, but Id guess that Wakanosato and Hokutoriki have battled no less than twenty times, and it showed as Croc read his foe well by eating up the ubiquitous throat charge then using a perfectly timed and placed upper arm shove to send the Jokester lunging past and out.

After being Tochi Oh Poo yesterday, the E12 was Tochi No Poo today as he effortlessly drove out an already retreating Tamaasuka in record time.

Two dudes who have given sumo some spectacular belt throws over the years went tits to tits as Tochinonada and Kasugao got into that position where they look like they are about to run a three-legged race, you know? At any rate, the Kimchi Kid had the right-hand inside belt, whereas GG had only the inside upper back. This proved to be the diff, though the Gentle Giant gave it the old college try.

Damn, was that Joni Mitchell sitting behind the west side water boy today? Sumos popularity is simply skyrocketing when we can bring in celebs of that magnitude.

From the normal angle it was hard to tell, but damn if Kakizoe didn't sprout hisself some wings and just kind of fly up into Tosayutakas shit, like some leathery demon, then snag the morozashi and bang! zoom! Norton, to the edge! With the new Twilight film trailers playing in his head, Tosayutaka tried to shake off the dread beast, and tho the men crashed down simultaneously, the MIB rightly stayed sitting on their thumbs because little Eddie Munster took this match end of story.

What is there to say about the way the Nikibi got bufud by Bushu? The Zitmeister was all defense, and Dolly came away looking like an Ozeki. Say what?

Iwakiyama and Mokonami got into a very similar situation as GG and Kimchi, with less spectacular results, unfortunately. Though Okonomiyaki had a good belt grip, Marios nemesis rolled out the barrels by resisting the uwatenage attempt, as well as the leg tripping gambit, and now all out of ideas (which is strange, considering how much time LeBronze must have to sit there on the beach and think of moves), the Mongolian was easy push out fodder for our girder stomping anti-hero! 

PTs Boy took a nasty right shoulder to the face from Shimotoooooooooori, shrugged it off like a summer breeze, then snatched his patented Takamisakari Left Hand Belt Death Grip that ended any potential drama. Beans got that first win blowing through the jasmine in his mind.

Aran and Sexy got the same inside, outside grip on each other, and after a lull (which, it should be noted, birthed the word lullaby) Aran worked him out. Im sure it was tough for them; was for me as well.

Takekaze knocked Homashos soap to the shower floor, and from there the bull queen did what comes naturally. Homasho might start fashioning his own shiv if this sort of thing happens to him again. While waiting to pass the water of "power" (whod want to drink from that henka-tainted ladle??), Takekaze kept gripping his left elbow, as if to announce to everyone, Im injured, and so anything goes, sorry. To solitary confinement with the turkey, I say.

Goeido brought a powerful tachi-ai vs. Toyonoshima, blasting him back all the way to the ropes. He then allowed the E4 gain a morozashi two hand inside advantage. There are some guys whom he could take down even after giving it up, but Tugboat is definitely not one of them (ask Kotooshu). Though the Father had grips on the belt outside, Toyo was able to bide his time, shaking and yanking to break those grips and finally win via yorikiri. A virtuous, but wasted, tachi-ai. 

The Kak rocked the Tok, moving in low and steady and preventing any kind of offense whatsoever from his countryman. Looked like me trying to keep my older brother out of my room when I was six.

Kisenosato had to be kicking himself for that loss yesterday, because although Kotooshu has gotten his head more into sumo than in the past, Kid has the game to beat him seven out of ten times. Today he let Tamanoshima come in with all he had, which he absorbed with those well placed gams of his, then shifted his torso ever so slightly and slapped the too hard charging Peter down to his second straight loss. Very Kotomitsuki-ish. Peter is very much in harms way up here at E3, and if he gets the five wins Mike figured on in his pre-basho report Ill be impressed. Kise shook his head as if to say hed like to win in a more powerful manner, but you need to take what your foe gives you, am I wrong?

Another bout with two guys getting close in with identical grips and then playing the rock me gently, rock me slowly game, and in this one, Kotooshu (possibly the strongest guy in sumo) was the victor as he moved the Chauffer out nice and quiet like. Shhhhh.

Recently returned from his unsuccessful attempt to make the NY Jets as a defensive end, Chiyotaikai must have been touched that Shotenro would play blocking sled for him. Hot up and coming Mongolian vs. last legs Pup, how tough is it to figure out? Move, move, move. If Shotenro had half a brain itd die of loneliness.  But I shouldnt be so harsh. As Mike pointed out with Goeido yesterday, Shotenro seems to have stopped by the Dejima Going Out Of Business kiosk at the Kokugikan and picked himself up some sweet barely used bandaging. 

Id like to gush about the Geekus tummy work, how he worked Kaio like a trash can, but when it comes after a henka I just cant. I don't want to see Kaio gifted wins; however, neither do I want to see him tricked. Have some respect, laddie, and fight straight up.

These days, when contemplating yusho contenders, many people think of Harumafuji before they think of Asashoryu (not me, but maybe Im blinded by loyalty). The main reason for that state of affairs is that Harumafuji has youth, speed, a slew of tricks, and above all else, desire, while Asa is the khan in his pleasure dome, trying to squeeze a few more yusho out of his increasingly ailing body and harassed, distracted and tired mind.

But take any one single bout and you can see why Asa is the all-timer and hAruMAfuji just a good tough wrestler who may finish with a few yusho when its all said and done. Asa beat Baruto yesterday like a red-headed stepchild by taking him straight on with speed at tachi-ai and power lifting afterward. Even with that example right before him, hAruMAfuji was unable to do squat (well, he did squat, that was about all). Baruto gave two big hands to the chest and went right after the Ozeki, who was on the retreat and out before one could say Biomass. Don't get me wrong, losing to Baruto is nothing to be ashamed of, but hAruMAfuji can do much, much better than this. Am I wrong?

Shneaky Boy got what looked to be a good grip on the front of Kotomitsukis belt, but the Ozeki leaned down and in on it and broke it, then stood the Komusubi up and grabbed a left belt that spun Aminishiki around and led to a quick okuridashi, or manlove pushout. Captain Kadastik prolly felt his shutterbug finger twitching at the end.

Miyabiyama looked like nothing so much as a huge pile of carefully stacked dinner plates being run over by a yak as Hakuho did his "one of the seven plagues of Egypt" impersonation all over the, yes, hapless former Ozeki. Is there really this much distance between the Yokozuna and the M1 position? Wow. I have to credit NHK for giving us the birds eye view, by the way, as Flobby spilled into the crowd like a drum of toxic waste gelled around a gigantic Slinky. I know, way too many metaphors in this one paragraph, but its difficult to accurately describe a demolition of this size.

NHK tried to get us all pumped up for the Asashoryu-Tochinoshin bout by showing their keiko battles, where No Shine was able to stick it to the Khan a few times, but when the Yokozuna is facing a foe for the first time, he always rolls out the (blood) red carpet. Today was no exception as Genghis kept his arms in tight at tachi-ai, deftly blocking any chance for No Shine to get his long, strong right inside (or left, for that matter), then moved forward and after a brief tussle handled him out. Asa gets Miyabi on Day 3, making it three big fellas in a row, so be on the lookout when he gets his first slippery, smaller dude, and Im thinking Shneaky here, and he has to adjust his approach. Its usually fun to watch, either in the way he wins or if he is upset.

Id like to take a second and welcome any new readers, as a fresh crop of English teachers starts working in Japan every August. I hope you enjoy the commentary and become lifelong sumo freaks like the rest of us. Day 3 brings out the King of the Freaks himself, my good pal Mike. Salud!

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Early on in a basho, I normally recap the bouts in chronological order, but the first few bouts today were so boring, I'd better start at the top in fear of losing the readers. There were also some headlines swirling regarding the Asashoryu - Baruto matchup the last few days that provided for some interesting talking points, so let's start off with that bout.

The Friday morning before the basho starts, the Association releases the lineups for the first two days' worth of Makuuchi bouts. The matchup garnering the most ink was the Asashoryu - Baruto bout. When asked about the pending fight, Baruto commented simply, "Tsureru yo!", which means I can just pick him up [and win by tsuri-dashi]. More than one publication picked up on the comments, so you knew that Asashoryu had read them. The context of Baruto's statement certainly wasn't trash-talking, and it was all in good fun characteristic of Baruto's jovial personality. I'm sure Asashoryu also wasn't miffed and didn't feel disrespected, but it was no coincidence that from the tachi-ai Asashoryu demanded the inside position with both hands and immediately lifted Baruto clear off the dohyo. The Yokozuna took a step forward, set the Estonian down, then immediately lifted him up again and walked him towards the edge of the ring. He set Baruto down just inside the ring before finishing him off with such a strong shove that it sent the Estonian flying off of the dohyo and into the arms of NHK's mobile cameraman stationed near the corner of the dohyo. In order to avoid crushing the cameraman, Baruto sorta hopped to his side, but his momentum sent him sprawling up the hana-michi about eight rows deep. The winning technique wasn't tsuri-dashi, but it was clear Asashoryu was responding to those headlines by lifting Baruto clear off his feet twice.

On one hand, it was nice to see Asashoryu actually able to pull that move off against a lug like Baruto as it was reminiscent of Asashoryu's glory days when he could call his shot and deliver at will.  On the negative side, it goes to show how inconsequential Baruto has become this high. Had Kotooshu come into his bout against Asashoryu saying "Tsureru yo!", Asashoryu wouldn't have tried the same move because it's all he can do these days to beat the Bulgarian by any means possible. But with Baruto, the Estonian's moves are just too slow, and his sumo has become too reactionary, so rikishi with any sort of game can beat him with ease. Asashoryu gets off to a good start, and he needs it. But as a I implied, Baruto is about the easiest rikishi he'll face this tournament (doesn't mean Baruto will be easy with everyone as there are only about five rikishi in the whole sport with any game these days).

Moving back up a notch, Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed Komusubi Aminishiki in the day's final bout. Really, the only way that Aminishiki can beat Hakuho any more is by changing him up at the tachi-ai. Ami didn't, and Hakuho responded in short getting a quick left hand at the front of Aminishiki's belt and lifting him straight up with the right on the inside before driving him back with force. Aminishiki dug in well at the tawara and actually worked his way into a moro-zashi grip, but with his chest aligned with the Yokozuna's, the fork was already stuck in him.  Hakuho couldn't have asked for a better start. 

In the Ozeki ranks, the featured matchup was Kotooshu vs. Sekiwake Kisenosato, but the rivalry would not live up to its hype as Kotooshu stormed from the starting lines into the moro-zashi position and had Kisenosato driven back and down in a second and a half. Kisenosato has got to realize by now that he can't dilly dally at the tachi-ai with a hari-te against Kotooshu. The Ozeki has figured out how to beat his former rival, and if Kisenosato wants to ever beat Kotooshu again, he's gotta keep his arms in tight and deny moro-zashi. This was great stuff from Kotooshu who sends an early message to the rest of the field.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki used a series of right nodowa into M1 Tochinoshin's throat standing the Georgian upright, but Tochinoshin stood his ground well forcing the bout to migi-yotsu where Kotomitsuki enjoyed the left outer grip. Having Tochinoshin driven back to the tawara, Mitsuki immediately switched gears trying to throw the Private down back towards the middle of the ring, but Tochinoshin kept his footing and looked to dig back in only to have Kotomitsuki pivot and go for a second outer belt throw. Tochinoshin held his ground again, however, but just when it looked as if Tochinoshin would dig in and make a fight of things, the Ozeki was too relentless going for a third belt throw that did the damage. This was a dominating victory for Kotomitsuki, but Tochinoshin looked good in defeat. He dug in well, and I'm sure Kotomitsuki wanted no part of a straight up yotsu contest against the Georgina. Kotomitsuki is known for getting an outer grip and then taking about 20 seconds to make his move, but he couldn't take that chance today against a much-improved Tochinoshin. Several basho ago, Tochinoshin is finished off in this one in two seconds, but now he can give these guys a fight.

Ozeki Harumafuji looked to have a somewhat stiff test against M1 Miyabiyama due in large part to Miyabiyama's being large. The Sheriff managed to keep Harumafuji away from the belt at the starting lines with some hands to the throat, but he did so retreating ever so slightly thanks somewhat to Harumafuji's decent tachi-ai. With Miyabiyama leaning towards his opponent but not necessarily leaning on him, Harumafuji was able to slap Miyabiyama by the side of his grill and twist him around a bit upon which the Ozeki pounced using his speed to finish Miyabiyama off for good with a nice push attack. Normally, I want to see Harumafuji win with forward moving sumo (today's was to the side), but beating a rikishi like Miyabiyama at his own game is satisfying enough.

Coming in, I was interested to see what M2 Shotenro would do against Ozeki Kaio, but once I took a look at that heavy bandage wrapped around Shotenro's knee, I suspected it wouldn't be close. Shotenro's tachi-ai was so slow that Kaio looked like a roadrunner as he reached around and grabbed the smothering outside grip. Kaio with a right outer in week 2 dunt mean much, but a right outer against a newbie to these parts means end o' story. Good start for Kaio who can still handle these newcomers with ease.  As for Shotenro's knee, I'm not sure what happened to it, but go ahead and downgrade him to two wins this basho if he's lucky.

Rounding out the Ozeki, M2 Kyokutenho was having none of Chiyotaikai's funny bidness as the Mongolian forced his left arm to the inside despite the Pup's attempt to push him back by the throat. As the Ozeki slowly slipped backwards with his left arm still at the Chauffeur's throat, Kyokutenho simply slipped his right arm on the inside as well giving him moro-zashi and the insurmountable position. The kill was merciful as Kyokutenho kept Chiyotaikai on the dohyo instead of forcing him back into the judge's lap.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku slammed into M3 Tamanoshima forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu, and after a few dry humps leading with the belly, Tamanoshima was set up to the point where Kotoshogiku went for a shweet maki-kae giving him moro-zashi. It was all academic from there as Kotoshogiku scored the solid day 1 win.

M3 Kakuryu used some nice nodowa shoves to drive M4 Toyonoshima back and more importantly keep him away from the inside. Usually a rikishi taking paws to the throat will want to evade, but Toyonoshima retreated too far for his own good, and with him standing too close to the straw for comfort, the Kak was able to finish him off with a couple of well-placed thrusts. Or was it a couple of well-placed thrusts that sent the Kak flying? Either way, Kakuryu gets off to a good start.

The M5 Goeido - M4 Tokitenku matchup was curious as both of these rikishi are just sort of there these days. Granted, one rikishi is on his way up and the other is slowly declining, but neither have looked great for several basho. Goeido jumped the gun slightly at the tachi-ai and was on top of his opponent before Tokitenku could come out of his crouch. It looked to me that Goeido instinctively let up ever so slightly sensing a false start, but it was game on. Tokitenku was prolly thrown off by the lack of synchronization as well because even though he began immediately pushing Goeido back, there was no substance to the move allowing Goeido to turn the tables and pull Tokitenku to the dirt near the straw. This was ugly all the way around, but chalk it up to an ill-timed tachi-ai. As an aside, Goeido's right elbow was heavily taped in this one meaning he either had elbow surgery in the off season or he got first dibs of Dejima's akeni when that former Ozeki retired. 

M5 Takekaze executed a tachi-ai henka to his left against M6 Asasekiryu, but Takekaze jumped so far to the side, he wasn't really able to affect Asasekiryu's direction. Still, having been greased, Asasekiryu's footing was affected, so before he could dig back in, Takekaze was onto him like flies to stink and quickly slapped the Secretary down for the cheap win. This probably won't be the last time that I type "Takekaze" and "stink" in the same sentence.

I was curious to see how M7 Aran would react at this level on the banzuke, but apparently he forgot his lower body up in the jo'i. Against M6 Homasho, the Russian looked to take advantage with a wild tsuppari attack that resembled the crawl in swimming more than actual sumo. Homasho easily withstood the "blows" that glanced off of his shoulder and head and methodically pressed forward with Aran continuing to fire thrusts towards his opponent. When Aran came dangerously close to the edge, he flinched on a quick pull attempt, and that was all the lighter Homie needed as he drove Aran back with some oomph for the nice oshi-dashi win.

One of the better fought contests of the day featured M8 Iwakiyama and M7 Takamisakari. The two quickly hooked up into the hidari-yotsu position with each enjoying a right outer grip resulting in Iwakiyama's weight advantage vs. Takamisakari's counter sumo skills. Iwakiyama pressed the Cop back first, but Takamisakari attempted to evade slightly while forcing Iwakiyama towards the straw with a scoop throw, but Iwakiyama used his right leg well threatening soto-gake, which forced Takamisakari to back up and reload. Iwakiyama quickly went for a second charge, and this time as Takamisakari tried to move to the side, Iwakiyama ducked down low, burrowed his head into Takamisakari's upper torso, and forced him back and out for the nifty win. Great stuff from both parties today in easily the best bout among the Maegashira.

M9 Mokonami was quicker at the tachi-ai than M8 Shimotori, and it propelled him to the dominating win. The Barbecued One quickly secured his right arm deep inside of Shimotori's left, and he used the left arm to latch onto the front of Shimotori's mawashi. It wasn't moro-zashi, but it had the same effect as Mokonami pinned Shimotori's right side so far inwards that he easily bounced his opponent towards the straw and finished him off with the body. Great stuff from Mokonami on the day, but remember Shimotori was his opponent. 

M9 Toyohibiki popped M10 Tosayutaka hard from the tachi-ai, but it was entirely with the upper body. As a result, the Nikibi wasn't able to set up a thrust attack because the much smaller Tosayutaka had wrangled his way inside forcing the bout to migi-yotsu where Tosayutaka enjoyed the left outer grip. Toyohibiki tried to break off the grip using a powerful scoop throw with the right hand, but Tosayutaka dug in valiantly. With Toyohibiki so deep now on his right side, Tosayutaka sensed that he couldn't do anything else with that outer grip, so he went for a surprise scoop throw of his own with the right hand that felled Toyo the Hutt to the dohyo. Tosayutaka's strength was impressive in this one while Toyohibiki's inability to bully his smaller opponent around disappointed.

M11 Kasugao opted not to go for henka today only because his opponent was M10 Bushuyama. The Korean caught Dolly off guard by charging low and hard into Bushuyama's mid-section and then kept him on the run with a snap kote-nage throw and good footwork. Bushuyama never did get down low enough, and Kasugao finally took advantage in the end ducking in for moro-zashi and forcing the Dolly Yama out from there. Good start for Kasugao; I only wish it'd last.

M12 Tochiohzan's lack of effort continued into day 1 of this basho against M11 Kakizoe where OhSnap allowed Kakizoe to jump into the quick moro-zashi position whereupon he lifted Tochiohzan upright and them dumped him to the soil with a right arm scoop throw. Shame, shame, everyone knows Tochiohzan's name after this one. What an embarrassing loss.

M13 Tamaasuka's return to the division saw him paired up against M12 Tochinonada, a stiff test for sure for the smaller Asuka. Tamaasuka has likely forgotten all things Makuuchi because he attacked with the right outer grip giving Tochinonada his favored inside left position. A year ago, Tamaasuka wouldn't have had a chance, but with Nada's rapid decline the last few basho, he was able to hold on with that left outer grip, survive Tochinonada's repeated scoop throw attempts, and finally drag his elder down to the dirt with that pesky outer grip. Tamaasuka couldn't be happier after day one with his solid performance, and he even got his mug in the papers!

M13 Wakanosato gave a little hop at the starting lines, he was too upright, and he whiffed on a slow hari-te. Committing two of those cardinal sins against M14 Kokkai might still get the job done, but do all three of 'em and you make the Georgian look like a field general. Kokkai charged hard with his shoulder and then switched gears on a dime deciding to backpedal (no surprise) and pull Wakanosato down in the process. Wakanosato's off to a horrible start in his return to the division.

M14 Hokutoriki was upright at the tachi-ai and looked to move a bit to his left. But it really wasn't a henka; it was more of Hokutoriki being lazy. With his feet slipping this way and that from the start and M15 Yoshikaze keeping him at bay with a paw to the Joker's throat, Hokutoriki worked his way off balance to the point where Yoshikaze just moved out of his way letting Hokutoriki crash to the dirt in all his girth. Ugly bout all the way around here.

Last and probably least, M15 Futenoh tried to get his left arm on the inside, but M16 Masatsukasa countered with a high scoop throw attempt with his own left arm that lifted Futenoh upright and off balance. From there the goin' was easy as Masatsukasa dumped Fruitenoh to the dirt just beyond the straw.

After a slow start to the basho, the four rikishi who really matter all looked good meaning we can dub this a good start to the basho.  Chiyotaikai's loss didn't suck either.  Speaking of not sucking, Clancy and Andreas fight it out to see who reports tomorrow.












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