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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The wild and crazy Haru basho turned out to be exactly that. My intention was to skip commentary today since the yusho had been determined in my mind and then just wrap everything up in my post-basho report, but senshuraku provided many more talking points that I cannot pass up. For the first time in six months, the yusho race had been extended into the tournament's final day, and there was plenty of drama for everyone regardless of what your view is on sumo. Let's examine the significant events that occurred today starting with Sekiwake Kakuryu, who needed to simply defeat M6 Goeido in order to pick up his first career yusho, a rikishi whom he held an 8-3 advantage over coming in.

In the useless trivia department, a Sekiwake has not taken the yusho since Kotomitsuki accomplished the feat at the 2002 Aki basho. Next, the last time a rikishi from the Izutsu-beya (Kakuryu's stable) took the yusho was in 1992 when former Ozeki Kirishima hoisted the cup, and the stable can only boast 5 total yusho in its history. Also, nine previous foreign-born rikishi have taken the yusho, and if successful, Kakuryu would be the first to do it from a rank other than Ozeki or Yokozuna since Akebono did it way back in 1992.

"If successful" was the key phrase in that last sentence, however, since Kakuryu first had to solve Goeido's attack. And like most bouts, this one was determined at the tachi-ai where Goeido went for a quick hari-zashi move slapping with the left hand and then seeking to the get the right on the inside. On the flip side, Kakuryu defied all logic by putting his right hand high at the side of Goeido's neck and his left arm over to top of Goeido's right shoulder as if to attempt to grab an outer grip over the top although it's clear from the pic at right that Kakuryu is not going for the belt. The result of course was Goeido getting moro-zashi and bulldozing Kakuryu back in mere seconds for what would have to be called a huge upset.

There's really nothing to break down in this bout. It was a suicide tachi-ai from Kakuryu, so the question is was it just a case of nerves or was it intentional? As we've gone through each day of the basho, I've pointed out in my comments aspects of various bouts that just didn't seem right to me, and this was yet another such instance where logic and reason were thrown out the window. I mean, the first 14 days of the tournament, Kakuryu's attack has been so precise, and he's known exactly what he needed to do in order to win. His bout against Baruto and then his performance vs. Kotooshu were two prime examples. And while I believe Hakuho should yusho every tournament and predict as much coming into a hon-basho, Kakuryu's sumo this basho as been worthy of the yusho in every aspect, so to see him come out with a tachi-ai like that is a huge red flag in my mind. Perhaps it's just the way I choose to view sumo, but after watching this bout, my opinion was that Kakuryu had no intention of winning. I can't explain it any other way because a guy who has fought the last year at this level and posted the third highest win total over that span is not nervous Pervis facing an M6 with the yusho on the line. Regardless, when the bout was finished, my only thought was "oh boy, I can't wait to see what happens now." As for Goeido, he finishes a cool 12-3 picking up a Kantosho to boot.

The big question now is how would Hakuho react to Kakuryu's loss. If you asked me before Kakuryu's bout, I would have said he would drop this bout against Baruto since I didn't think he had any intention of standing in Kakuryu's way, something I stated just a few days ago reasoning that Hakuho made himself vulnerable in order to give other guys a shot at the yusho like Harumafuji and Baruto, so why not Kakuryu?  But that assessment was made under the assumption that Kakuryu would try and win out. The Sekiwake's throwing that bout to Goeido on purpose just opened up a new dynamic that I had yet to consider. 

With that in mind, let's fast forward to the day's final bout where Ozeki Baruto won the tachi-ai obtaining a left outer grip near the front of Hakuho's mawashi that could have been used to pinch in on Hakuho's right arm. I saw it that way because Baruto didn't cuff the Yokozuna on that side when he had the chance, and he would pay for it in the end. After about three seconds of inaction giving Hakuho plenty of time to prepare his attack, it came in the form of a maki-kae with the left arm enabling the Yokozuna to grab moro-zashi and then easily spin the Ozeki over to the side and out via yori-kiri. It was strange to me that Baruto did not mount an offensive attack despite his obvious advantage at the tachi-ai. Here's one guy who has a great shot at beating Hakuho even from the gappuri-yotsu position, so when it looks to me as if he has the Yokozuna in a bind at the tachi-ai, he doesn't even try to capitalize on it. Baruto was completely passive and reactive in this bout even though he had the upper hand the first half not to mention the lower positioning. Why he chose that course of action is beyond me. All I know is that he had a golden opportunity and didn't even try to apply pressure to the Yokozuna, and when a guy is actually trying to win a bout, does he ever go out of the ring sideways as Baruto did today? The end result is a 10-5 for Baruto while Hakuho catches up with Kakuryu at 13-2 setting up a playoff for the yusho.

I had no idea what to think at this point, so let's go to the tape and see how the climax would unfold because the craziness was not finished. From the tachi-ai, Yokozuna Hakuho actually henka'd Kakuryu! Now, this was not a jump to the side where he pulls his guy down; rather, he stepped out wide left and grabbed the ill-gotten outer grip on that side coupled with the firm inside grip on the other. Kakuryu had nary a pot to piss in at this point and performed the only action available, which was a maki-kae with the left arm, and while he did get it giving him moro-zashi, Hakuho was already pressing him to the edge. At the edge, Kakuryu dug in his heels against the tawara and arched his back lifting Hakuho up on top of him just as one would do going for an utchari or an evasive tsuki-otoshi, but the twist to the side never came. Rather, Hakuho raised one leg off the dohyo and bent it at the knee as if he were a gal being kissed by her sailor who had just entered port. After this..."moment" between the two, Kakuryu staved off the attempt and looked to force the action back to the middle of the ring while still maintaining moro-zashi, but Hakuho said enough of the funny bidness and spilled the Kak on the dohyo with a left outer belt throw. And just like that, Hakuho picks up career #22 tying him with Takanohana while Kakuryu is denied what would have been an improbable run to the Emperor's Cup.

As I alluded to in my intro, regardless of your stance on sumo and whether or not things are always on the up and up, this finish provided something for everyone. If you believe that all of the fighting was straight up this basho, you had a helluva yusho race where a Yokozuna came from behind to tie one of the sport's greatest. If you are of the opinion that these guys will do each other favors from time to time, there was plenty of unorthodox sumo like the first three bouts I've covered in these comments to make you wonder. If you're curious what my take is regarding this whacky finish, it's this:

The Sumo Association had to save face. With Hakuho continuing to set the precedent that he is vulnerable, it was better for sumo in the end that a Mongolian Sekiwake not show up the Japanese Ozeki by posting a 14-1 yusho while the latter both languished at 9-6. I've worked enough in Japan, lived enough in Japan, and breathed enough Japan that I'm fairly confident there is serious politics going on behind the scenes...all in the name of restoring sumo's good image, which can only be accomplished in the public's eye by having Japanese rikishi succeed.

And I'm completely fine with that and the outcome of the Haru basho. I believe Hakuho shoulda and coulda gone 15-0 defeating Kakuryu along the way. The Sekiwake was robbed of nothing this tournament. He was a legitimate 13-2 jun-yusho rikishi in the midst of a legitimate Ozeki run. The Yokozuna giveth, and the Yokozuna taketh away. It sounds as if Kakuryu will be thrown a bone in the end by being promoted to Ozeki, but there's no way they can't promote him after elevating Kisenosato with just 32 wins. While I was scanning the headlines this morning following the crazy senshuraku, one that really stood out to me was from Nikkan Sports where they actually included a Kakuryu quote in the headline that read "Mada hayai to iu koto," or "I guess it was still too soon." I hear ya brother. Kakuryu's employer is the Sumo Association; he's gotten extremely fat thanks to the Sumo Association; and he won't have to work another day in his life due to the Sumo Association. He gets it, trust me.

I guess there were a few other happenings atop the dohyo today, so let's cover some of the other bouts of interest. Ozeki Kotooshu and Ozeki Harumafuji showed about as much disinterest atop the dohyo as possible. Harumafuji drove Kotooshu back from the tachi-ai with two hands to the throat, and with the Bulgarian of no intent to move forward, HowDo's shoves actually created some separation. With Harumafuji waiting in the center of the dohyo, Kotooshu just walked into a left uwate-nage throw that sent him somersaulting to the dirt just as if this was butsukari-geiko. If you've ever been fortunate enough to visit morning keiko, you know the last drill of the day includes the rikishi actually practicing how to fall properly. It's said this is done to help prevent injury, but trust me, there's an unspoken part of the exercise as well. Anyway, if you watch the rikishi practice it, they roll in a perfect ball landing on their forearm and somersaulting over only to land in a position where they can get right back on their feet. Watching this bout reminded me of that. And I'm not saying it was yaocho as much as I'm saying neither rikishi gave a shat. Now that it's all said and done, Harumafuji finishes at 11-4 while Kotooshu posts a bland 8-7.

Coming in with just 17 wins between them, I think it was apparent that the 8-6 Kotoshogiku would get the win over the 9-5 Kisenosato. The Kid didn't even try as Kotoshogiku got him in moro-hazu (simultaneous pushes at the teets) and backed his fellow Ozeki out of the ring in no time. Moro-hazu from Kotoshogiku? When did we last see that? Like the previous bout I described, I don't think Kisenosato cared about this one, so they may as well give Kotoshogiku the win leaving both at 9-6.

M4 Aran wasted a chance at winning in double-digits by only focusing on a pull-down win against Sekiwake Aminishiki. The gimpy shneaky isn't exactly known for charging ahead full throttle, so he methodically followed the retreating and pulling Aran around the ring before pushing him out in the end. Not a bad basho for Ami at 7-8, but he failed to capitalize on a quick start. Aran is 9-6, and this bout was to see who would occupy a Komusubi slot in May.

Komusubi Gagamaru's sumo the last two days is a good example of how to suspect yaocho or funny bidness in the ring. Yesterday against Homasho, Lord Gaga just stood there and allowed Homasho to pull him down in two seconds with a marginal inside grip. Today, though, against M3 Kyokutenho, Gagamaru charged hard, got his left arm on the inside, and forced Kyokutenho back and had him parallel parked in 2 - 3 seconds. Am I the only guy that notices stuff like this? If you have the means, go back and watch both bouts. Gagamaru is a completely different rikishi on consecutive days. Anyway, the Komusubi comes up short at 6-9 while Kyokutenho is 5-10.

Komusubi Tochiohzan showed little life by actually losing to M5 Wakakoyu in a yotsu sumo bout. After trading shoves the first few seconds, the two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, but the Komusubi couldn't budge the Wookie. Oh did go for and get moro-zashi, but Wakakoyu (7-8) pinched in from the outside on both arms and scored the easy kime-dashi win sending Tochiohzan to an abysmal 5-10.

In other bouts of interest in the rank and file, M4 Toyonoshima cemented the Ginosho with a methodical force-out of M13 Kitataiki stemming from a hidari-yotsu affair. Nothing special in this one other than Toyonoshima's experience aided him in keeping Kitataiki (9-6) upright as much as possible and forcing him back despite an outer grip with the right hand. At 11-4, Toyonoshima will return to the sanyaku where he belongs.

M5 Homasho also posted his 11th win by sticking to a pushing match while M9 Miyabiyama (8-7) was interested in the pull. That will work nine times out of ten.

M7 Takayasu survived a decent right kote-nage throw from M16 Shotenro in their hidari-yotsu contest before squaring back up and forcing Shotenro back and out in the end. Takayasu posts a solid 10-5 and will challenge the jo'i in May. Shotenro ends up 9-6.

M9 Okinoumi at 7-7 had to have been thrilled to see that he was paired against M16 Takanoyama today. Dude just choked the Dummy from the tachi-ai with two hands, shook him silly for an instant as he drove him back, and then shoved him clear off the dohyo and down to Juryo via tsuki-otoshi. My kids, who were watching over my shoulder during a lazy Sunday morning breakfast, couldn't stop laughing at the way Takanoyama was violently thrown about. I piled on of course and rewound the bout several times for some good family fun. Okinoumi earns the easiest eighth win he'll ever come by while Takanoyama worked little magic at 4-11.

M10 Aoiyama picked up his kachi-koshi today as well using a consistent tsuppari attack against the hapless M15 Hochiyama (4-11). When Hochiyama refused to be shoved completely back and started evading around the ring, Aoiyama kept up rather easily and finally yanked Miss Saigon to the dirt with some oomph.

And finally, M14 Ikioi's forgettable debut was capped off with an uwate-nage loss at the hands of M12 Daido. Ikioi (5-10) looked to take charge throughout the migi-yotsu contest, but he wasn't strong enough to knead the Dough, and it didn't take much for the victor to unleash that outer belt throw that dusted off the rookie leaving Daido at 7-8.

Having commented nearly every day this basho, I don't know what more I can say in a post basho report, but I will try and wrap this shootin' match up within the next week.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With all of the pre-basho attention focused on Ozeki Baruto's push for the Yokozuna rank, Sekiwake Kakuryu flew completely below the radar. In fact, the only keiko report I read concerning him had him declining a keiko session with Hakuho citing a nagging injury. It looks like now that he was sandbagging there, but if we go back and run some numbers from last May to the current basho, it shouldn't be any surprise what Kakuryu is doing here in Osaka. Through day 14, if we add up the total number of wins the last 365 days, the breakdown of sumo's top 7 looks like this:

Hakuho: 76
Baruto: 66
Kakuryu: 64
Harumafuji: 61
Kisenosato: 60
Kotoshogiku: 60
Kotooshu: 40

So not only is Kakuryu ranked number three, he's also well ahead of the Ozeki named Baruto. With just 20 wins the last two basho and Baruto's yusho in January, nobody had Kakuryu on their mind in Osaka, but damned if he isn't going to take the yusho. Since number four on the chart above actually has a yusho, I guess it's only fitting that number three gets one as well. Furthermore, if Kakuryu can beat Goeido on senshuraku, that will put him at 34 wins the last three basho including a yusho. Based on the lower standard set by Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato during their Ozeki runs, there is no way the Sumo Association cannot promote Kakuryu.

As long as it's all Kakuryu all the time, let's start with the Sekiwake who was faced with an extremely tough matchup in Ozeki Kotooshu. The Ozeki is too long for Kakuryu to really set anything up with tsuppari, and then trying to get in deep isn't exactly a healthy proposition either. And it showed today as Kakuryu fired two quick volleys into the Ozeki's face before ducking in low and grabbing a right frontal inside grip and a shallow outer grip on the other side. Kotooshu complied with equal grips of his own, so it was technical gappuri-yotsu, but two weren't chest to chest. With Kakuryu hunkered down low and driving his head into the Ozeki just below Kotooshu's jaw, the Ozeki's only real option was to keep that firm outer grip with the left and counter when Kakuryu made a move. The two felt each other out for about 25 seconds and then Kakuryu sensed the timing was right going for a right inside belt throw and brilliantly using his right leg on the inside of Kotooshu's left to life the taller Ozeki up and over for the spectacular win.

Kakuryu's sumo this basho has been a complete joy to watch, especially the way he's dismantled Baruto, Harumafuji, and now Kotooshu. At 13-1, he only needs to defeat Goeido on senshuraku to capture his first career yusho regardless of what Hakuho did today or does tomorrow. Kotooshu falls to 8-6 with the loss and was simply beat by a better rikishi today.

So let's move to the Yokozuna who had to beat Ozeki Harumafuji in order to force the yusho run into the final day. Thankfully Harumafuji came in straight at the tachi-ai (you'll remember his henka last basho), and the Yokozuna was ready for him using a right kachi-age tachi-ai and then getting a left arm on the inside. Harumafuji countered with an upright tsuppari or two and then just ducked in towards the Yokozuna with no plan. Hakuho's reaction was to pivot right and pull the Ozeki down softly to the dohyo, so that when Harumafuji hit the dirt, he did so with both hands and knees touching down. Do I even dare say it? If you want to hear my honest opinion, I don't think Harumafuji was trying to win the bout. Regardless, Hakuho moves to 12-2 with the win while Harumafuji has still looked good this basho at 10-5.

Our sole Ozeki duel today featured Baruto vs. Kisenosato, and the two quickly hooked up in the gappuri hidari yotsu position, and unlike the Kakuryu bout, these guys had chests aligned. If you didn't know the outcome, and I told you to guess the result, what would you say? My first guess would probably be that Baruto tries to lift Kisenosato off the ground for a tsuri-dashi. My second guess is that the Estonian pulls the trigger on an outer belt through. And then my third guess would be that Baruto forces his fellow Ozeki back for the win. Turns out that none of my guesses would have been correct as Kisenosato shook his hips a bit breaking Baruto's right outer grip, but he didn't do anything after that. Baruto retook the hold and this time went for a half-assed outer belt throw, but his hand slipped to one fold of the mawashi and then off. Now, without an outer grip, Kisenosato took advantage and drove Baruto across the dohyo and out for the yori-kiri win. Um...I don't if I even dare to tell you what I thought about this one. Read between the lines and note how Baruto exited the ring as the Yokozuna candidate falls to 10-4 while Kisenosato improves to 9-5.

Okay, ready for a straight-up bout? Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotoshogiku caught M4 Aran at the tachi-ai with a fierce tsuppari to the neck, but the Russian held his ground and got survived with the right inside position. As the Ozeki abandoned his shove and settled for the belt, he was out of position giving up as firm a left outer grip as you please. Aran completely held the cards in this one, and Kotoshogiku was helpless and force the two to turn a bit looking for some sort of opening. Finally, the Geeku brought is left arm inside as if to get moro-zashi, but Aran grabbed the front of his belt with the right outer completely pinching in on the Geeku's left arm, and that was all she wrote. Aran's sumo was so dominating today, it made me wonder who the real bride in this one was. Aran moves to 9-5 while Kotoshogiku falls to 8-6.

In an uneventful affair, Sekiwake Aminishiki waited for M5 Wakakoyu to go for his usual pull. The wait was about two seconds and Aminishiki read it and pushed the Wookie out with ease. Both guys are 6-8.

Komusubi Tochiohzan has been floundering the last week, and today against M3 Kyokutenho it was the same ole story as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu before Tenho pulled the Komusubi down in short order for the uneventful win leaving both guys at 5-9.

The Komusubi bad luck continued as Gagamaru put his right hand at the back of M5 Homasho's head but did nothing with it. Homie simply grabbed Lord Gaga's belt with the left shitate and threw him down in two seconds. You know, Itai once claimed that 80% of the bouts on a given day were...ah, what's the point? Homasho moves to 10-5 and is primed to take over Gagamaru's rank as he falls to 5-9.

The highest profile bout among the rank and file saw M16 Shotenro come hard at M4 Toyonoshima and actually push him around pretty well, but Toyonoshima is just too slippery, and he eventually darted this way and that before sneaking into moro-zashi at the edge to force Shotenro back and out. Toyonoshima is a cool 10-4 while Shotenro's slide continues at 9-5.

M6 Goeido earned the right to fight Kakuryu tomorrow by moving to 11-3 after getting a solid left inside position against M9 Okinoumi, using superior de-ashi to drive him back, and then securing the right frontal belt grip to life Okinoumi nearly off the ground before nudging him across. Okinoumi falls to a precarious 7-7. I thought this was Goeido's best sumo of the tournament, but we'll see how well it works against the Kak tomorrow. Watch for Kakuryu to bait Goeido into a hard forward charge only to evade to one side and force the Father out from behind.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Day 13 is what I like to call moving day because by the end of the bouts the list of rikishi who can yusho gets whittled down to whoever is in the lead and the rikishi just one loss behind. Yeah, I know it's mathematically possible for a guy two losses back to still have a chance, but in an era where there is a dominant dai-Yokozuna, he doesn't have a chance. So, with all three yusho contenders fighting different guys--one of them being Baruto, there was plenty of drama heading into the day. I only wish I could say the same after the bouts wrapped up, but the yusho has now been determined.

Let's start with the first bout featuring a yusho contender and then work our way up the charts from there so we can get a better sense of the drama as it unfolded today. First up on the docket was an Ozeki duel that featured down-and-out Baruto vs. the resurgent Harumafuji. Baruto caught Harumafuji solidly from the tachi-ai with a right kachi-age under HowDo's jaw that raised him entirely upright. And before Harumafuji could react, the Estonian launched a beefy left paw into the Ozeki's neck that knocked him clear back to the straw and so upright, he was rendered useless. As soon as Baruto's legs caught up with his upper body, he sent his foe off the dohyo with a final shove to the torso capping as dominating of sumo as we've seen the entire basho from him. Both rikishi are now settled at 10-3...fine records but not quite enough to remain in the yusho hunt.

Before we move to Kakuryu, this was the exact way that Baruto beat Harumafuji last basho. I remember Clancy's questioning the sense in Harumafuji just standing right in front of Baruto last basho, and it was a valid point. You've noticed this basho that I've been questioning over and over why much smaller guys seem hellbent on facing Baruto straight up and settling for ordinary belt fights (two examples that readily come to mind are Yoshikaze and Myogiryu). Part of me after watching this bout live today had me questioning Harumafuji's decision to take Baruto on straight up, especially in light of what happened to him in January fighting in the same manner, but as I watched the replays of this one, it looked to me that Baruto's one two punch of that kachi-age and left tsuki were so effective in driving Harumafuji backwards that the smaller Ozeki simply didn't have the wherewithal to move to either side nor swipe at Baruto's arms. The end result is a thoroughly dominating bout from Baruto that justly earned the tsuki-dashi kimari-te. So, the question is...where was this sumo all along? That Baruto waited until day 13 when he had just been humiliated twice in a row shows us a window into his mental make-up. Dude has relied on his size for so long that he's got to learn if he's serious about this Yokozuna bidness, he'll have to raise the bar in his sumo. It's too little too late this basho, so let's see how he reacts in May. Finishing out 2-0 is crucial in terms of keeping Yokozuna hopes alive for Natsu.

So, with Harumafuji knocked out of the yusho hunt just as quickly as he joined it, let's move to the Kakuryu - Kotoshogiku matchup that featured brilliant sumo from the Sekiwake. Kakuryu stayed low at the initial charge getting his left arm to the inside, but Kotoshogiku quickly responded with the left inside of his own leaving the combatants in hidari-yotsu. After testing the waters for a second or two, Kakuryu understood that in his current stance he could not afford to risk a straight-up belt fight with a larger rikishi, so he demanded the right inside grip by executing a maki-kae that frankly I don't think Kotoshogiku was ready for as he made no push forward during the Sekiwake's attempt. Now in moro-zashi, Kakuryu held all of the cards, and he began his methodical force-out of the Ozeki. Kotoshogiku's only chance was to re-establish an inside position, and so he too went for a maki-kae with his left arm, and I guess he got it, but Kakuryu reacted the instant he went for it and used his right arm to forcefully drag the Ozeki across the straw and out dashi-nage style starting from the center of the dohyo.

I love to break down bouts like this because you can pinpoint the exact occurrence(s) that proved the difference in the bout. When Kakuryu went for his maki-kae, Kotoshogiku wasn't ready and ultimately had to allow it. When Kotoshogiku went for a maki-kae of his own, the Kak was ready and pounced straightway leading to a dominating victory in the end. It's an example of how each of these rikishi have approached the basho mentally. Kakuryu is exuding confidence in his own ability while I think Kotoshogiku's facing the reality that he didn't earn all 33 of those wins during his Ozeki run, and now he knows he really doesn't have the ability to raise the bar. He's doing the best he can do, but that translates into his current 8-5 record. As for Kakuryu, allow me to be the first to congratulate him on the yusho as he moves to 12-1.

How can I make such a statement with so many variables still in place? It's clear to me that Yokozuna Hakuho has no intention of winning the Haru basho, so while I guess it's still possible for Kakuryu to drop his final two bouts and make things difficult on himself, I do know that Hakuho will not be standing in his way. The Yokozuna still holds so many cards, but let's first talk about his bout today against Ozeki Kisenosato.

Now, if you had not seen the bout today and I told you, "Kisenosato whooped Hakuho in under 3 seconds winning by oshi-dashi!" what would go through your mind? For me, I'm sure I'd start with "did Kisenosato henka him?" and then I'd go to "or did Hakuho slip at the tachi-ai?". The reason a rational mind would start there is because Kisenosato was 7-5 coming in, he hasn't done impressive sumo in a year, and his tachi-ai of late has left him exposed. If the Ozeki had 10 or 11 wins and was kicking everyone's ass using a tsuppari attack, then yes, such a result would be plausible. But when Kisenosato hasn't impacted a basho in such a long time, his being able to manhandle Hakuho in 2 - 3 seconds using oshi-dashi is simply implausible. So, even after watching this bout in real time where everything looked quite legitimate, I would think a reasonable person would still have to think "how did that just happen?".

Well, I'm here to tell you exactly how it happened. Neither rikishi won the tachi-ai in what was shaping up to be a migi-yotsu bout with Hak on the right inside, but somehow Hakuho forgot to realize everything that the right inside position entails. He first put his right hand against Kisenosato's mawashi as if to feel the fine-twined linen in all it's glory, but he sure as hell wasn't looking to grip it nor raise his arm up into Kisenosato's left side which was high and completely exposed. He did make a nice adjustment, though, a second later when he actually went for that well-known powerful position of gripping your opponent's sagari (those string things that hang down from the front of the belt). From this position, Hakuho next yanked down with his right hand, but he wasn't tugging at anything and certainly not at the Ozeki's belt. This downward swipe into thin air allowed Hakuho to step forward to his left, and with the Ozeki's hand high at Hakuho's right shoulder from the get-go, the reaction was almost instantaneous allowing Kisenosato to adjust and use a very legitimate shove to push the Yokozuna over the straw for the decisive oshi-dashi win.  Much of what I've just described like the fistful of sagari and phantom swipe cannot be seen from the main camera angle, but those who watched the different replays from NHK's feed will know exactly what I'm talking about.  Even Murray Johnson and his color guy in the booth sounded puzzled while watching the replays as they tried to pinpoint how Kisenosato had accomplished the feat.  In the end, Murray finally offered, "I guess it was that ottsuke."  Sorry bro, but it wasn't.  From an ottsuke you push your foe off balance to the side.

Now, Kisenosato's shove in the end was genuine, and he dominated the last half of this bout, but he did so because Hakuho purposefully put himself into position to be shoved out like that. It's really as simple as that. Once again, watching this live, you could not pick up on what Hakuho was doing with that right hand due to the camera angle, but when have we ever seen the following tactics from Hakuho:

1. Put hand against but don't grab opponent's mawashi
2. Grab opponent's sagari instead of raising arm up to the inside
3. Phantom yank downward while grabbing nothing but thin air causing a  forward stumble

While he's monkeying around with those three things, of course Kisenosato's gonna clue in and take care of bidness in short order. It's completely fine to disagree with me on the subject that Hakuho threw this bout, but no one can disagree that his movements with the inside arm defy all logic. Then there's the question of what caused Hakuho to step forward. It certainly wasn't Kisenosato's brilliant footwork because there was none, nor was it the Ozeki's left hand high up at Hakuho's shoulder.  Look at the pic above, a push from that angle sends Hakuho sideways, not forward.  Go ahead and YouTube the bout.  You won't get the better angle, but there's nothing that Kisenosato does to cause Hakuho to take that giant step forward.  That hand at the left side was reactionary.

I know that those troubled by the continued occurrence of yaocho will often say "why did he throw the bout...what's the conspiracy theory?". Well, there is no conspiracy theory. I'm simply telling you what happened and then speculating as to why it just happened. But before I expound on that, let me pose three questions that you must answer logically in order to convince me that it's not possible that bouts are being thrown:

1. Why don't members of the same stable fight each other at hon-basho?
2. Why don't actual brothers fight at hon-basho even if they hail from different stables?
3. What is "gachinko"?

I mean, if yaocho was eradicated last year on the heels of the bout-fixing scandal, why not repeal the rules from questions 1 and 2? And you cannot say, "well...I think exceptions are sometimes made on senshuraku for 7-7 rikishi or for rikishi in danger of falling to Juryo, but I don't think the top guys are involved." That line of thinking isn't rational. Yaocho exists or it doesn't. And if it exists, it doesn't exist just to the extent that you find it convenient.

Now, others who cannot provide logical explanations that counter what we've just witnessed in the ring and the arguments I've just presented will adopt this line of thinking in order to make themselves feel better: "you say that yaocho is occurring but you can't explain why."

To that my answer is "of course I can't explain why it's happening." Hell, I'm far more interested in drafting a decent little league baseball team and wondering if I'll get any action tonight (not in that order of course). I live 6,000 miles away from Japan and have zero connections within the Sumo Association, so with a lack of any so-called inside scoop, the only thing I can do is speculate.

Now, during the Hatsu basho when I stated that Hakuho threw his bout against Kakuryu on day 10, it caught everyone off guard including myself because it just didn't make any sense for Hakuho to do that. Why lose to Kakuryu and not to someone else? Well, I didn't have the answers then but I did speculate as to why I thought he might do that in the comments section located at the bottom of each report. I went back into the archives and copied verbatim my speculation as to why Hakuho deferred to Kakuryu, and remember, this was before Hakuho lost to Harumafuji and Kotooshu in very suspect fashion a few days later:

* He wanted to bring the yusho line down closer to Kisenosato's level
* He wants to help Kakuryu reach Ozeki since he's clearly on par with Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato
* Every Ozeki is entitled to at least one yusho and there's a definite window for Baruto this basho
* He wants to appear vulnerable so that when he throws one to give a JPN rikishi the yusho it's less conspicuous
* All of the above

The only item from that list that no longer applies is the one about allowing Baruto to take a yusho, but it very well could have been relevant at the time. But now with the luxury of being able to look back on things, that was the least applicable item anyway. I am convinced that item #4 is the underlying reason why we have seen Hakuho clearly throw bouts to Kakuryu and then to Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku before that. With Hakuho purposefully lowering the level of his sumo in order to give the Japanese rikishi a chance to catch up, the ones taking advantage of this much to the chagrin of the Sumo Association are the foreign rikishi! Harumafuji in July, Baruto in January, and now Kakuryu in March.

I think this basho is a perfect example of what you'll see when a Japanese rikishi finally takes a yusho. Kakuryu is now in the lead at 12-1 compared to Hakuho's 11-2. Let's say that Kakuryu loses tomorrow against Kotooshu (a very likely scenario since it's a tough matchup for the Kak), Hakuho then has the luxury of throwing another bout in order to ensure that he doesn't stand in the way of Kakuryu's yusho run. And I'm not saying that this is what will unequivocally happen this basho; I'm saying that Hakuho is setting a precedent--and has been since the two Japanese rikishi were getting all the run last summer--so that when a Japanese rikishi does put himself in a position to win it all, it will not look strange at all when the Yokozuna conveniently loses down the stretch.  That's what I mean when I say that Hakuho holds all the cards.

Now, Hakuho cannot decide prior to a basho, "I think I'll arrange it for such and such a rikishi to take the yusho." He can't do this because he has no control over how that rikishi performs 14 of the 15 days. But, if a rikishi can do the majority of the work on his own (as Kakuryu has done this basho and Baruto last basho), Hakuho has clearly shown that he will not stand in the way of someone else grabbing the Emperor's Cup. And that's all I have to say about that. Kisenosato conveniently clinches kachi-koshi at 8-5 and has now bested the Yokozuna twice in their last four meetings.

Wow, that was a lengthy tangent. Getting back to the action in the ring, let's wrap up the Ozeki ranks with Kotooshu doing battle against M4 Aran. The tachi-ai was uneventful with the two ending up in migi-yotsu. With Aran content to fight straight up, the Ozeki easily grabbed the left outer grip and forced Aran back and out...into the first row. How many times have we watched Kotooshu overdo things at the edge? There's this great phrase in Japan called simply "KY". Now, the Beavis and Butthead in me is laughing just at the two letters and wanting to add Jelly at the end (that'd be cool), but they actually stand for the Japanese words "kuuki yomenai," or translated directly into English, "can't read the air" and then correctly into English, "can't read the situation." KYotooshu has got to learn that when an opponent is done he's done, and you can't keep knocking guys clear of the dohyo when unnecessary. Regardless, both rikishi end the day at 8-5.

Sekiwake Aminishiki dictated the pace of his bout against M2 Tokitenku driving him back off the starting lines with a nice push attack, and then when Tokitenku fled to the other side of the dohyo with Aminishiki in tow, he tried a stupid pull move that only allowed Aminishiki to stick the oshi-dashi fork into him. Aminishiki improves to 5-8 but really blew a good chance to kachi-koshi this basho. Tokitenku falls to 3-10.

M1 Myogiryu went for and got moro-zashi against Komusubi Gagamaru, and the move showed serious nads since it's not necessarily an advantageous position when such a size difference is involved. Lord Gaga showed why driving Myogiryu back using both arms wrapped around the outside, but fortunately for Myogiryu, he had the wherewithal to abandon the position at the edge, slip to the side, and grab a left outside position that he used to nudge Gagamaru across the straw for the close win. Both rikishi finish the day at 5-8.

Komusubi Tochiohzan (5-8) picked up the freebie after M2 Yoshikaze (3-10) withdrew, and M8 Chiyonokuni gave it his all this basho but finally withdrew giving M3 Tochinoshin a much needed freebie. Both guys are 3-10.

Sandwiched in between that, M3 Kyokutenho henka'd to his left against M1 Tochinowaka seizing the ill-gotten right outer grip in the process that he used to immediately throw T-Wok to the clay. Both fellas are 4-9.

M4 Toyonoshima continued his push for another sanyaku berth by barely evading a mammoth charge and push attack by M7 Toyohibiki from the tachi-ai, and once to the side of his opponent, Toyonoshima jumped into moro-zashi and quickly doused Toyohibiki's hopes with an inside throw using the right arm. Classic counter sumo from Toyonoshima who improves to 9-4 while Toyohibiki is still alive at 7-6.

M10 Aoiyama inched towards kachi-koshi in a very unstable oshi contest with M5 Wakakoyu. Neither of these two were committed to the push, but then neither dared go for a pull. Anyway, Aoiyama is 7-6 while the Wookie drops to 6-7.

Could see M5 Homasho back in the sanyaku as well after he improved to 9-5 by defeating M13 Kitataiki in a hidari-yotsu match. Kitataiki wanted to get inside but Homasho stayed low and kept fighting off his advances eventually pushing him off the dohyo for the win. Kitataiki (8-5) struggled to get back on the dohyo, and then limped back to his edge favoring the right leg (the left leg is always the one heavily bandaged). Dare I say this guy's on his last...never mind.

M13 Wakanosato picked up kachi-koshi after M6 Shohozan attacked too high resulting in his right arm up to the level of his eyes. A veteran like Wakanosato will prey on that this way to Tuesday easily shoving Shohozan outta the ring using a kimari-te I'll label as sukui-dashi-nage. Shohozan's on the brink at 6-7.

Damn, how did I overlook the final guy on our leaderboard in the first part of my report? M6 Goeido showed how as he slammed into M16 Shotenro at the tachi-ai and then quickly went for the pull down. It worked like a charm because Shotenro (9-4) was never in contention to begin with. A guy who could truly threaten for the yusho woulda taken full advantage of Goeido's dumb sumo today. Goeido improves to 10-3 and could take over a Komusubi slot for May.

M7 Takayasu finally picked up kachi-koshi against M15 Tamawashi, but it was no gimme. The Mawashi actually dominated this one from the tachi-ai as he secured a right outer grip to the side to the side of Takayasu who barely had a pot to piss in with the left on the inside. Still, Tamawashi showed why he's only an occasional visitor to the division because he just couldn't put Takayasu away. Took about a minute, but Tamawashi musta been exhausted at the end because finally Takayasu had the room to execute a left inside belt throw that felled Tamawashi to the dirt. At 8-5, even if Takayasu wins out he may have played himself out of a special prize (I was thinking Ginosho the first half of the basho). Tamawashi falls to 7-6.

No sumo report is complete without some bashing of M16 Takanoyama. Oh wait, he actually won today. Course, he had to henka to his left to do it, and after jumping to the side, he showed us that new signature move of bear-hugging his opponent's arm, in that case M11 Asasekiryu's right appendage. Seki eventually shook the Dummy off and the two assumed the hidari-yotsu position where Takanoyama snaked his left foot tightly around Seki's right leg lifting him up and throwing him over via kake-nage. As much as I want to praise the move, I can't get the fact outta my mind that this was all set up with a tachi-ai henka. Both Juryo wannabes are 4-9.

And finally, M14 Ikioi's ikioi was halted as the dude was just pounded today by Juryo visitor Kotoyuki. This one wasn't even close as Kotoyuki unleashed a fierce tsuppari attack that quickly knocked Ikioi back and out causing him to trip over the basket of salt in his corner of the dohyo. I know that these guys aren't separated by that much on the banzuke (Kotoyuki's J1), but you can't get worked like that by a Juryo dude. Just ask Hochiyama. Anyway, Ikioi's hopes for kachi-koshi were dashed as he falls to 5-8.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The word of the day is "naiyou," which can directly be translated into English as "content." Whenever a rikishi is being considered for promotion or even a special prize, the content of their sumo is always taken into account (listen for the term "sumou-no-naiyou"). A topic that's been bandied about this tournament, for example, is Takanoyama and whether or not he belongs in the division. Proponents for the dude will argue that he's been promoted repeatedly now, and he's proven he can win 4-5 bouts per basho, but opponents like me base our argument on the content of his sumo. My intent here is not to bring up the innocuous subject of Takanoyama (has this basho lost that much steam?); rather, I bring it up to discuss the prospects of Baruto's promotion to Yokozuna, which was the key storyline heading into Osaka.

After Baruto was defeated on day 4 at the hands of Kakuryu, there was little harm done by the loss. It was such a well-fought bout by both parties and so epic that I came away from that bought thinking, "wow, Kakuryu just beat a Yokozuna." But contrast that to yesterday's loss at the hands of Kotooshu that saw Baruto slide on his back down the edge of the dohyo and onto the arena floor with his opponent riding him like those skeleton dudes at the winter Olympics, and it was evident that the content of the loss hurt worse than the actual tally in the record books.

Baruto's back was against the wall for sure after day 11, so it was vital that he respond on day 12 with sumo whose content was worthy of a Yokozuna. Problem was he didn't. Against fellow Ozeki Kotoshogiku, he took a page out of Kisenosato's Tachi-ai for Dummies and left himself wide open allowing Kotoshogiku to lurch into the moro-zashi position from the get-go. And not only did the Geeku get moro-zashi, but his legs were driving hard, so there was nothing Baruto could do as Kotoshogiku forced him back to the straw, used a few gaburi bumps, and then forced Baruto down to the clay so hard that he slid off the dohyo backwards...for the second day in a row. Ballgame.

I really feel for the Ozeki and all of the Estonian fans who had so much invested emotionally, but the proof's in the pudding. It's not so much that Baruto now stands as 9-3 as it is the way he has been beaten the last two days. The content of one's sumo is everything, especially in the case of a foreign rikishi who will not see the same coddling as say Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku did when they were promoted to Ozeki despite average sumou-no-naiyou. It doesn't mean Baruto can't reach the sport's pinnacle in the future, but he was under prepared to face the challenge facing him in Osaka. Props to Kotoshogiku for clinching his kachi-koshi with a superb win, and someone give me the recipe of the Sadogatake-beya's chanko the last coupla days.

With Baruto also eliminated from the yusho hunt with the loss, the focus now turns to Hakuho and Kakuryu. What a joke that they paired Sekiwake Kakuryu with M16 Shotenro today simply because the latter was riding a 9-2 start. It's customary to bring the hot rank and filers up high and test them with sanyaku rikishi, but I want to see Kakuryu fight the best possible schedule if he's going to compete for the yusho. And despite how close you think this bout may have been, it wasn't. Shotenro used tsuppari to move Kakuryu back a few steps, but the Sekiwake was in complete control and as merely waiting for an opening. It came in short order as the unprotected Shotenro's belt was so wide open that Kakuryu grabbed a right frontal grip that also happened to be an outer. All it took from there was the Kak's left arm on the inside of Shotenro's right side, and the force-out win was a given from there. I'm okay with the NSK continuing to feed Shotenro (9-3) guys with good records, but this was too easy for Kakuryu who skates to 11-1.

In his quest to keep pace with Kakuryu, Yokozuna Hakuho received a stiff challenge from Ozeki Kotooshu who didn't just roll over at the tachi-ai. Instead, he hit hard enough and came in low enough that the Yokozuna was far away from an outer grip in the migi-yotsu contest. For an instant after the tachi-ai, I thought Kotooshu actually had a shot to pull this one out, but he never mounted a serious forward charge, and so Hakuho twisted his body a bit to shake his man off in order to create an opening. The end result was migi-yotsu again, and this time the Ozeki actually succeeded in a maki-kae with the left arm, but once again, he really didn't couple that with good footwork, so Hakuho attempted to counter with one of his own, and with Kotooshu's attention focused on defending it, the Yokozuna said enough of the funny bidness and just yanked Kotooshu across half the dohyo and out with a dashi-nage throw with the right arm. Someday, we'll actually be able to comment on a legitimate Hakuho loss, but today was not that day as Hakuho holds serve at 11-1. Kotooshu falls to 7-5 but looked good in this bout.

In the day's penultimate bout, Ozeki Harumafuji welcomed Komusubi Tochiohzan (4-8) as the two cautiously felt each other with hesitant tsuppari from the tachi-ai, and when it was clear that Tochiohzan wasn't going to come forward, the Ozeki did pouncing into moro-zashi and making quick work of the Komusubi from there. The swift force-out win boosts Harumafuji to 10-2, and he still has Hakuho to face, so in a matter of just two days, the big three have gone from Hak, Kak, and Bart to Hak, Kak, and HowDo with Baruto now assuming the role of spoiler. Go figure.

Ozeki Kisenosato tsuppari'ed his way out of an M4 Toyonoshima left inside attempt at the tachi-ai, and with his own left arm on the inside for insurance, Kisenosato made short work of Toyonoshima continuing to fire thrusts into his body until he was beyond the straw. This was a swift ass kicking but who has the last laugh...Kisenosato at 7-5 or Toyonoshima at 8-3?

Remember those fast starts from Aminishiki and Tochiohzan? Didn't thinks so. Anyway, Sekiwake Aminishiki seems all shenanigan'ed out because today against M1 Myogiryu, he put up little fight as the shorter M1 committed to a straight-forward oshi charge that had the Sekiwake pushed out in seconds. It's 4-8 all around for these two.

Komusubi Gagamaru likewise committed on a straight -forward charge against M1 Tochinowaka albeit a much beefier attack than Myogiryu's. As he is wont to do, Tochinowaka faced the attack head on and tried to find an opening, but it never came as Gagamaru methodically pushed his way to a nice victory keeping kachi-koshi hopes alive at 5-7. At some point, Tochinowaka (4-8) has gotta realize that his strategy of playing a teppo pole is not working. He has make-koshi now to show for it.

M3 Tochinoshin and M2 Yoshikaze were engaged in a wild tsuppari-ai from the beginning, but Shin created enough of an opening to where he pounced into the moro-zashi position. With both guys a step away from the edge, Christina Aguilera was already on the second verse of I'm Beautiful even before Tochinoshin (2-10) had finished his yori-kiri bidness. Yoshikaze falls to 3-9.

M8 Takekaze drove straight into M4 Aran who countered with his usual oxymoron pull attack, and just when it looked as if Takekaze would take the bride as his own, Aran slipped to the side and yanked Takekaze down by the top-knot. I can't believe the judges didn't question it, and it was funny to watch Aran kinda look around out of the corners of his eyes to see if anyone was going call a mono-ii. They didn't, and Aran clinched kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Takekaze falls to 6-6.

Let's briefly touch on the day's first half bouts starting with M5 Homasho who picked up kachi-koshi be securing moro-zashi against M11 Asasekiryu and bullying his opponent out in short order. The Secretary's make-koshi became official as well.

M6 Goeido moved to 9-3 by charging straight into M13 Wakanosato's left side, the arm Wakanosato intended to get on the inside. Didn't happen as Goeido bulldozed Croconosato back and out to a not so shabby 7-5.

M6 Shohozan is even steven at 6-6 after taking advantage of an M15 Tamawashi tsuppari attack that was way too high. Sho assumed moro-zashi, and it was wham bam thank you ma'am from there.

In a mirror bout between two Hutts, M7 Toyohibiki was way too high in his thrusting attack against M11 Tenkaiho, so Tenkaiho seized moro-zashi and quick as a steamroller methodically worked Ibiki out of the ring always keeping his foe in close against his girth. Who'da thunk Tenkaiho would be at 6-6 after that horrendous start? Toyohibiki is 7-5.

M7 Takayasu is cooling off fast, and I believe part of the reason is he's worrying more about his opponents' belts than he is his strength, which is a tsuppari attack. He used the thrusts against M13 Kitataiki to dictate the pace early on, but he went for moro-zashi part way through getting his right arm on the inside but being rebuffed with the left arm. Now in migi-yotsu, the better belt fighter prevailed as Kitataiki worked his way into a yori-kiri win earning him a kachi-koshi while Takayasu is still one off at 7-5.

M14 Ikioi is still alive at 5-7 after getting an effective right arm on the inside of M8 Chiyonokuni, and his left was close enough to the inside as well that it was nigh unto moro-zashi. With Chiyonokuni focused on fighting off Ikioi's inside position while retreating, the rookie reversed gears and unleashed a wicked right scoop throw that sent Chiyonokuni flying down to a painful 3-9 record. I sincerely hope the Chiyonokuni can live to fight in the division come May. There is such a huge difference in his sumo this basho compared to last that he has not recovered from his injury.

The only reason I'm going to comment on the M9 Miyabiyama - M14 Takarafuji affair that lasted about 30 seconds is because the Sheriff delivered a sweet uppercut at the ring's edge to finally knock his foe back and across. At 6-6, Miyabiyama is all upper body these days, which really weakens the lumbering tsuppari. Takarafuji is 5-7.

And I guess we should end with M10 Aoiyama vs. M16 Takanoyama, not because I want to pick on the Dummy but because their contest actually produced some drama. Aoiyama quickly and violently shoved Takanoyama back to the straw, but Takanoyama used his heels well braced against the tawara (something Hakuho somehow forgot to do against Kakuryu) to give him enough time to latch onto Aoiyama's right arm and hold on for dear life. Aoiyama still bullied him back to the edge driving him across the straw, but the judges called a mono-ii thinking that Aoiyama might have inadvertently stepped out first (called an isami-ashi). Replays showed that Takanoyama clearly stepped out first, but I guess they wanted the drama because they called for a do-over.

In round two, Takanoyama actually got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but it was useless as tits on a boar as Aoiyama wrapped around both arms from the outside and bulldozed the M16 back via kime-taoshi.  But Takanoyama went for an utchari that sent Aoiyama down to the side in another bout too close to call.  They called another mono-ii to review the Aoiyama's hand and Takanoyama's feet, but this time they didn't miss as Takanoyama's left heel touched out before Aoiyama hand touched down.

As the dust settled, Aoiyama evens things up at 6-6 while Takanoyama has fallen upon hard times at 3-9.  Still, today was the most valiant sumo we've seen from the Naruto native.

Looks like I'm going solo the rest of the way. There are enough key matchups the next two days that I will likely do day 13 and day 14, and then wrap the shooting match up sometime next week.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we open the shubansen, or final five days, this basho has clearly turned into a three man race among Hakuho, Baruto, and Kakuryu. The interesting aspect for Kakuryu is that he has already fought and defeated Hakuho and Baruto, so his four remaining opponents are likely to be Shotenro, Gagamaru, Kotoshogiku, and Kotooshu. Kotooshu could prove tough due to his length, but Kakuryu is the easy favorite in the remaining three. So while Kakuryu will finish with 13 or 14 wins barring a major meltdown, Hakuho and Baruto must still face each other in the tournament's final match meaning if they still have yusho (hopes in the case of Baruto) on their mind, they can ill-afford to drop another bout prior to Sunday. Regardless, Kakuryu is the wild card this basho, and he is the one keeping things interesting.

Before we get to the action today, what sumo desperately needs is a Japanese rikishi to do what Kakuryu is doing in Haru and what Baruto did in January. Sure, Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato recently enjoyed Ozeki runs, but we know there was some cooperation involved from other rikishi, and neither of the two were ever serious yusho contenders. Kakuryu's keeping this basho interesting is putting fannies in the seats, but if a Japanese rikishi could rise up and perform at this level, it would put the nation in a frenzy.

On that note, let's start at the top and work our way down beginning with Yokozuna Hakuho who welcomed Ozeki Kotoshogiku. The Geeku actually got off to a great start in this one securing a left outer grip on the front of the Yokozuna's mawashi while following up with the standard right arm on the inside. That's about all of the momentum that the Ozeki could muster, however, as Hakuho broke that outer grip about two seconds in leaving both with right insides and no outsides. Hakuho used his sheer size to right that wrong demanding the left outer grip and then using it to force Kotoshogiku back and across without further argument. Very textbook action and reaction from the Yokozuna who calmly and collectively moves to 10-1 while Kotoshogiku falls to 7-4. Before we move on, it's watching sumo like this day after day from Hakuho that makes calling his yaocho so obvious.

In the day's penultimate bout, Ozeki Kotooshu beat fellow Ozeki Baruto at the tachi-ai grabbing a left frontal belt grip that was so potent it rendered the Estonian's right arm useless. When coupled with the solid right inside position on the other side, Kotooshu was in a stance just as effective as moro-zashi, and when the tallest guy in sumo has you in this hold, you've got a pickle on your hands. With Kotooshu down so low and keeping his hips far away from a dangerous outer grip by his foe, Baruto had one choice only, and that was to try a maki-kae with his left arm in order to establish some semblance of an inside position, but Baruto is not the nimblest cat on the dohyo, and the Bulgarian was ready seizing on the risky move from his opponent by driving Baruto back to the edge and down hard for the brilliant yori-taoshi win.

Unlike the Baruto - Kakuryu bout, Kotooshu was so precise in this one that Baruto had nothing to work with. Nothing. In fact, I can't recall the last time someone dismantled the Estonian so completely in a belt fight. It was beautiful sumo from the Bulgarian, but it also hurt to see Baruto succumb to a second loss. Regarding Baruto's Yokozuna hopes, this loss was a lot costlier than the first one, and it has nothing to do with the timing. The bout against Kakuryu was a free-for-all with Kakuryu making a risky move by giving up the outside position in order to grab moro-zashi, but it still took all he had and probably a little luck to pull it off. Even at the edge, the bout could have gone either way needing a Kakuryu watashi-komi at the end to sill the dill, but in this contest, Baruto was defeated from start to finish in a manner that will hurt his chances for Yokozuna promotion.

As I stated in my pre-basho report, there was little information coming out in the media as to what Baruto needed to accomplish in order to secure promotion. Just after the Hatsu basho, some schmuck from the Yokozuna Deliberation Council proclaimed a jun-yusho and 12 wins would do it, but the YDC is a useless body that has zero political power. The only report I read from someone on the board of directors (Kagamiyama-oyakata) said Baruto would have to repeat his yusho performance from January. Regardless of who is right, the Yokozuna run took a serious hit on all fronts after this bout. I mean, just look at the picture at left.  Yokozuna don't lose like that.  Let's see how Baruto responds, and we're all looking forward to see what transpires when he fights Hakuho, but for the time being, Ozeki Baruto is just Ozeki who falls to second place in the yusho race at 9-2. Kotooshu improves to 7-4 with his best win in memory.

Our second Ozeki duel featured Harumafuji and Kisenosato in a bout that saw HowDo easily get to the inside with the left arm at the tachi-ai, and the Mongolian wasted little time in throwing his foe off balance with a scoop throw that was effective enough to send Kisenosato to the edge. And while Kisenosato did survive that first volley, Harumafuji was right there to clean up the mess obtaining moro-zashi and ramming his body into the Kid's midsection sending both rikishi down in the yori-taoshi victory for Harumafuji. At 9-2, Harumafuji completely outclasses his fellow Ozeki who drops to 6-5.

Sekiwake Kakuryu welcomed M1 Myogiryu today, the second time these guys have done battle in a hon-basho. In January, Kakuryu easily burned Myogiryu allowing the kid to think he was pushing him back only to evade at the edge and send the youngster out with ease. I remember commenting on the bout that Myogiryu should learn from that first fight, and I think he did since he was much more ready when Kakuryu same tactic today using defensive tsuppari to set up a pull attempt two seconds in. The move threw Myogiryu off balance a bit, but he recovered nicely to resume his forward-moving attack. That would last only for a brief moment as the Kak easily fought his opponent off with more tsuppari that set up a shoulder slapdown that worked like a charm. Myogiryu must surely be frustrated, especially since his make-koshi becomes official at 3-8, but I can see the progression in the kid, and five wins from a jo'i debut happens even to the best of 'em. As for Kakuryu, it was a smart win today as he moves to 10-1. When you're in the driver's seat, there's no need to take any risks; thus is conservative sumo today.

Sekiwake Aminishiki looked to dictate the bout against M1 Tochinowaka by using a tsuppari attack, but the Sekiwake just doesn't have the legs for a straight-forward technique against a huge due like Tochinowaka who has proven he can take a decent punch. And that was the case today as Tochinowaka sorta arched his back reducing the effect of Aminishiki's shoves and enabling him to see his opponent well, and the tactic paid of nicely when about 10 seconds in Tochinowaka lurched for one of Aminishiki's paws, grabbed it, and spun the Sekiwake around 180 degrees. I was a bit disappointed that the youngster didn't embrace Aminishiki fully from behind in the manlove position opting to push him in the back, but he'll learn. Both fellas are 4-7 and generally heading in different directions.

Komusubi Gagamaru has got to get it into his thick skull that his tsuppari and de-ashi will work against the big guys, not just the little guys. Facing M2 Yoshikaze, Gagamaru went at hit full bore, and the tactic was successful as he shoved Yoshikaze back by the neck and then landed a final shove that sent Yoshikaze back across the straw before he could fully evade and send Gagamaru stumbling out of the dohyo. Lord Gaga needed to balance at the straw just a bit to let Yoshikaze land outside of the ring, but a win is a win as Gagamaru improves to 4-7. Yoshikaze suffers make-koshi at 3-8.

I almost hate to type this but Komusubi Tochiohzan was too low at the tachi-ai against M4 Aran. He just has to know the henka is coming from the Russian, but sure enough, he charged low into thin air as the Bride pulled her train to the left. I despise the henka and rikishi who rely on it (like Aran at 7-4), but as dirty as it is, Tochiohzan still has to account for it. Instead, he drops to 4-7.

And speaking of henka, M2 Tokitenku jumped to his left at the tachi-ai easily pulling M3 Tochinoshin down as he tried to recover. Tokitenku (3-8) proves once again that he can only win in the upper half of the division with trickery while Tochinoshin has far more issues than just his 1-10 record.

It was typical M5 Wakakoyu as he shoved into M3 Kyokutenho's chest before immediately reversing for the pulldown. Can't believe Kyokutenho fell for it like this, but maybe that helps explain his 2-9 record. The Wookie improves to 5-6 showing that old habits are hard to break.

One of the best matches o' the day featured M7 Takayasu against M4 Toyonoshima where Takayasu showed his maturity in the ring by finagling moro-zashi at the tachi-ai against the former Sekiwake. But getting moro-zashi against a veteran is one thing; beating him with it is quite another. The savvy veteran with the toothless old man executed a maki-kae with the left arm turning the bout to hidari-yotsu, but Takayasu responded just as he should have grabbing the right outer and immediately driving Toyonoshima back to the edge, but the shorter M4 used the tawara to his advantage setting up a counter scoop throw that barely sent Takayasu crashing to the dirt before Toyonoshima touched outside the ring. This was so close, and Takayasu dominated so heavily that the gunbai actually went to him, but a mono-ii was called for where it was determined that Toyonoshima managed to stay in the ring long enough for Takayasu to touch down. It was the correct judgment after watching the video, but I would have liked to have seen a do-over called for since Takayasu was so dominant. Still, it shows just how hard it is to win up high in the ranks. Veterans like Toyonoshima (8-3) are roaches, and it's so damn hard to kill them. Takayasu falls to 7-4, but he's had a very successful basho.

In a very similar bout, M5 Homasho allowed M9 Okinoumi to get in close in their hidari-yotsu affair, so Oki was able to capitalize on his height and dictate the pace of the bout. As Okinoumi methodically forced Homie back, the veteran tried the only move available, an evasive maneuver at the edge while pulling down on his charging opponent. The move worked to perfection as Homasho was able to drag Okinoumi down by the shoulder causing his right elbow to touch the clay a split second before Homasho's arse crashed down. Once again, a mono-ii was called it was so close, and once again, I agreed with the judgment in Homasho's favor but would have been fine with a redo. Big win for Homie has he improves to 7-4 while Okinoumi is underachieving at 5-6.

M6 Shohozan settled too quickly for a yotsu-zumo bout (not his strength) against the larger M10 Sadanofuji (not a good idea). Sho did have moro-zashi, but it was too shallow, and so Sadanofuji used his girth to lean in on Shohozan finally thrusting him to the dirt for the well-fought win. I believe Shohozan (5-6) is the better overall rikishi, but props to Sadanofuji for taking what was given to him. He survives another day at 4-7.

M6 Goeido clinched kachi-koshi today by besting M13 Kitataiki in a hidari-yotsu contest. The difference was Goeido's securing the right outer grip, which he used to drag Kitataiki around until he finally spun him 180 degrees. The force-out was a given from that point. Kitataiki falls to 7-4.

M16 Shotenro was the token Maegashira rikishi on the leaderboard coming into the day with one loss, but he went for a pull shortly after the tachi-ai against M7 Toyohibiki, and the Hutt would have no part of it easily seizing the momentum and forcing Shotenro back and out in seconds. I'm always amused when they have these guys on the leaderboard since today was the perfect example of a rank and filer having no business being mentioned among the real leaders. At 9-2, I suppose Shotenro will get some run for another day, but it's all useless talk. Toyohibiki improves to 7-4, and if you get your ass handed to you by Toyohibiki, you ain't a yusho contender.

M8 Chiyonokuni has looked sickly this basho, but there's nothing quite like the cure of having M16 Takanoyama facing you across the starting lines. Kuni charged as hard as I've seen him, but when Takanoyama henka'd just a bit to his left, it was all Chiyonokuni could do to stop his momentum by wrapping his arm around Takanoyama's neck and holding on. The result was Takanoyama turned 180 degrees in a reverse neck hold, and while he was able to back out of the move, Chiyonokuni got his right arm on the inside of Takanoyama in a flash, and then just drove him straight back and into the first row. Both guys are 3-8.

As an aside, on day 5 when Takanoyama defeated Ikioi by kawazu-gake, I'm sure some furreners were amazed at the technique, but the comments from the Japanese booth--particularly from Kitanofuji--were negative saying that this guy is lucky he hasn't been seriously injured yet doing sumo like that. You don't see kawazu-gake in the Makuuchi division for a reason, so Takanoyama's sumo is not a breath of fresh air. It's entertaining for sure, but it doesn't mean he should be in the division. In my two decades of watching sumo, I have never seen a bout like this one where a guy is turned around 180 degrees with his opponent yanking on his neck. Listen to the guys in the know on this one (i.e. the oyakata and former rikishi).

Let's conclude with M14 Ikioi (4-7) who staved off make-koshi by taking the initiative against M15 Hochiyama in a migi-yotsu contest. While Hochiyama seemed content to just nudge Ikio back, Ikioi fired on a coupla shitate-dashi-nage throws that sent Hochiyama out of the ring in short order and to a make-koshi at 3-8.

Day 10 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Day 9 was the big setup. We move into the home stretch with the pieces in place for a really great finish. Day 10 kept everything intact.

Before we get to the action, I suppose I'll need to have my say about the big loss by the Yokozuna. At this point, the patterns are too obvious and you can find those detailed in Mike's report. But for me, the match was still fun to watch. Without time to watch careful replays, and without as veteran an eye as our other writers, it looked pretty legitimate. Some comments below suggest otherwise, but I thought the Mongolian two-man show did a better job than in January (except for the final step out, which was pretty weak this time). They used a more traditional technique -- the maki-kae that gives your opponent a moment's advantage -- to setup the final force out. It's fine theater, and it's amazing that one rikishi (Hak) can be so far ahead of the rest of the field that he has to throw bouts to let the 13-2 guy take a yusho.

The two interesting bits of speculation that we face now: (1) What happens if Kak is 14-1? (2) To whom will Hakuho drop another bout? Kakuryu could go 14-1, as his toughest remaining bout (for him) is probably Kotoshogiku. I'd put the odds around 1/3, just because winning five in row is never easy at this level and he may also face Toyonoshima. As for 2, it's still not totally clear to me what is required for Baruto to get Yokozuna himself. I was really surprised to hear the talk of him only needing a jun-yusho at 12-3, as I rather doubt that they want to give away the rank too easily. Hakuho may not want to lose the final bout of senshuraku but may want to give Baruto the "legitimacy" that comes from beating the current top man. And on the third hand, maybe an earlier loss can be used to set up a playoff. This is going to be fun!

Actual Bout Commentary
I'm only going to cover most of the second half plus a couple of others, top to bottom, and keep it short and sweet.
Hakuho, a.k.a. the Company Man, seemed a bit more cautious at the tachi-ai against Aminishiki, who had re-upped on his Shneaky moniker with a henka the other day. After picking his spot, the Man (for short, still accurate I might add) moves in quick to grab some belt and go for the the quick throw. The Man is 9-1, while Shneaky is quite alive for a KK at 4-6 and lesser competition ahead.

Harumafuji vs. Kotoshogiku should have been the highlight bout, and you could already guess from the first half of this sentence that it wasn't. Kotoshogiku's right foot slipped just as Harumafuji shifted after the tachi-ai and Harumafuji (8-2) whiffed on a slap down attempt because the Geeku (7-3) had already hit the ground. Sigh.

Tochiohzan came in with a good effort against Big Boy Bart (a little resemblance there, eh?), getting inside and pushing him back. But Baruto reached around the little man and gave him a hug. Awwww. Then he swung this smaller Tochi 'round and dumped him to the tsuchi (or whatever the special name for the dohyo dirt may be). Tochiohzan (a respectable 4-6) probably needs to keep his hips farther out and get more of a grip, but easier said than done against the 9-1 Estonian.

Kisenosato (6-4) and Myogiryu (3-7) got into a pushing match, where the smaller and less powerful Myogiryu couldn't escape from the Ozeki's thrusts. In the end, Kise knocked his opponent off the dohyo with a final big shove. This was called an oshi-dashi and maybe that was technically correct, but it had the feel of a tsuki-dashi ass kicking.

A mentally lazy Kotooshu went up against the much shorter Toyonoshima. I think that if you average circumference with height, though, they match up pretty well. Anyway, I emphasize the mentally lazy because the Bulgarian Bomber went full steam into his opponent without establishing a proper grip or ensuring that he had solid footwork and balance. Maybe that's a good approach against Gagamaru, but not against a rikishi with as many moves as the Tugboat. And Kotooshu should know better. After a quick dump to the dirt, they called it a kata-sukashi (under-shoulder swing down) for the 7-3 M4 and a nomiso no onara (brain fart) for the Ozeki (6-4).

Kakuryu had one of his toughest bouts so far this basho against youngster Tochinowaka. After Kak come in with a slightly stronger tachi-ai, the M1 absorbed it, grabbed a grip and pushed towards the tawara. Here's where Kakuryu showed his superior experience and (for now) ability. After recovering from getting pushed around, Kak was able to take advantage of the tighter body position of his opponent to get a solid left hand grip. During the subsequent back and forth, Kak kept burying himself further inside, eventually improving his grip to the other side of the mawashi knot. That is to say he had him around the back, past the middle of the belt, all the way to the opposite butt cheek. That was the advantage he needed to create leverage for the yori-kiri and the 9-1 record. A decent effort from Waka the Somber (3-7).

Gagamaru (3-7) practically used a choke slam (to use an American "pro" wrestling term), grabbing Tokitenku (2-8) by the throat with one meaty paw and running as fast as you've probably ever seen 200 kg. of person move with his own legs to throw the veteran out of the ring. It's this kind of power that says that Gaga's ceiling is definitely higher than Tochinoshin's, if he can put it all together.

Moving down a ways, Kitataiki met Okinoumi in a bout of two guys who could both be in the top half again soon. Kitataiki was aggressive but a bit to high in his tsuppari attack, driving Okinoumi back before finding himself in moro-zashi. That should have been enough positioning to give Okinoumi the win, but Kitataiki kept his wits about him, worked himself into a better position and drove his opponent out of the ring. Kitataiki (7-3) is looking better this basho, even considering the competition, though he could have been in prize contention if he cut down on the mistakes.

Finally, Sadanofuji (3-7) of all rikishi showed the rest of lower Makuuchi a textbook example of how to send Takanoyama (3-7) back down to Juryo. He's so light that you don't need your most powerful shoves. Keep perfect balance, move forward with caution, and keep the little guy in front of you. Based on this basho, it may be a while before I get to see the Czech again -- too bad, because I still think there are plenty of Makuuchi bottom feeders who haven't figured this out yet.

Mike's back tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Here we go again, right? I was actually hoping this day would not come during this basho because I desperately want things to be straight up. I also don't like to create conflict in the minds of our readers, and I know my comments today will do just that for many of them. It's one thing to debate a controversial judgment call in a high profile bout or disagree on whether or not Takanoyama belongs in the division--something I'm glad Matt challenged on day 6, but when you question the legitimacy of the sport about which we're engaged here, it creates a conflict among myself and the readers that makes me uncomfortable because I know how much you want sumo to be what I sometimes say it isn't. So, I am going to give you my analysis of the day 9 bouts, and if that analysis is incorrect, then there's nothing to worry about on your end; it is I who is up in the night.

We must start from the top down today because the very things that didn't occur in the day's final bout did naturally occur in the bouts that preceded it, and I will use a comparison of the day's final bouts in order to explain my view on what happened today.

Having said all that, let's get to one of the most anticipated bouts of week 2 featuring Yokozuna Hakuho and Sekiwake Kakuryu. Hakuho led with the oft seen kachi-age with the right arm that knocked the Sekiwake back a half step whereupon Kakuryu moved to his right and attempted a quick pull that sent the Yokozuna forward a bit. Hakuho recovered well, however, and got his right arm on the inside of Kakuryu, and actually had is left on the inside as well giving him moro-zashi for an instant, but instead of Kakuryu fighting off the lethal grip, Hakuho backed out of it on his own refusing to grab the belt even though he was touching it, then keeping his left hand in no-man's land between the Kak's belt and armpit for a second or two, and then inexplicably bringing it to the outside and up high around Kakuryu's dome, the same tactic he employed in January (a reverse maki-kae). So with Kakuryu now on the inside with his right thanks to the gracious Yokozuna, he hunkered down tight to keep Hakuho away from a deep right grip on the inside. The two stood in this position for about 15 seconds and then turned 90 degrees revealing a right grip from Hakuho at the front of Kakuryu's belt while the Sekiwake held a left outer grip near the back of Hakuho's mawashi.  The obvious move for the Yokozuna here would be to raise his arm high into his opponent's armpit, and it was completely there for the taking, but you'd only use that move if your intent was to win.

So, with Hakuho having neutralized his positions with both arms all on his own, the two rikishi dug in for a migi-yotsu contest that would last for more than a minute. Kakuryu really had no decent position with which to force the Yokozuna back (or he would have at least attempted to do so as he did with Baruto), and Hakuho refused to do anything with that right belt grip, so the two jockeyed for the crowd awhile until Hakuho accidentally pulled the trigger with an inside belt throw with that right hand. The move sent Kakuryu skipping towards the edge and Hakuho instinctively put his right leg into Kakuryu's left as if to lift him upright kake-nage style to aid the throw, but he stopped halfway allowing the Sekiwake to recover his footing and hunker back down in the center of the ring. After about 15 more seconds of this nonsense, Hakuho finally went for a maki-kae with the left arm at the one minute 10 second mark of the bout. I'd normally call that an ill-advised maki-kae, but something had to be done in order let Kakuryu execute the force out because up until this point, Kakuryu hadn't attempted a single offensive maneuver. As the Kak made that final spurt thanks to the bad maki-kae attempt, there was no effort by the Yokozuna at the edge to dig in. He had both heels against the tawara for a half second or so but instead of bracing himself at the edge, he just turned sideways and stepped out (the final red flag) giving Kakuryu the force-out win.  I mean look at the sequence at right:  Hak's straight upright, he's not using the straw to his advantage, and there's no sign of a struggle.  It's completely uncharacteristic of a guy trying to win a bout.  About five seconds in when Hakuho refused to grab the left inside position and actually backed out of moro-zashi, I knew the outcome of the bout, and it was just a matter of judging the acting from there. Regarding that aspect, I thought these two sold it better in January, so a few of you should have known this wasn't straight up today, especially after the ending.

I mean, just compare this to the Kakuryu - Baruto bout I commented on last week. The only way that Kakuryu could beat Baruto in a belt fight was to get moro-zashi. He got it twice, and even then the bout wasn't a cinch. Baruto dug in so strongly and Kakuryu exerted all of his strength finally nudging the Estonian back and across for the epic win. In this bout, Kakuryu didn't even have moro-zashi; yet he was somehow able to outduel a rikishi far superior to Baruto despite the absence of an offensive tactic until Hakuho opened the door with that half-assed maki-kae attempt. It does not add up at all, especially when I watched Hakuho take himself out of this one on both sides of the belt not to mention lamely stepping out without nary a struggle at the straw. When Kakuryu defeated Baruto, I jumped off the couch at the pure beauty of the sumo. For today's bout, the emotion was gone five seconds in leaving me to spend the next minute rolling my eyes and fretting the effect my comments today would have on many of you. But remember, this is just my opinion.

As for reasons why Hakuho would let Kakuryu win this one, the reasons I supplied last basho are still applicable here, and we have definitely seen a pattern now where Hakuho will allow an Ozeki candidate to get him twice in a row to add legitimacy to the run. That Kakuryu is one of the top five guys in sumo right now is indisputable, but there is also no question in my mind that Hakuho gave this one away.

For those keeping score at home, here are the following red flags that went up as I watched the bout:

1. Hakuho refusing moro-zashi by moving his left hand off the Kak's belt, up his side, and then high around his head
2. The shallow inside grip with the right hand when the much more effective deep position was available throughout the bout
3. The abandoned shitate-nage throw halfway through the bout
4. Hakuho's refusal to dig in at the edge and that lame 90 degree turn and half step out of the ring

None of today's sumo added up when you consider sound sumo basics and the precision with which Hakuho normally fights. What does add up is Hakuho's agenda in throwing yet another bout in Kakuryu's favor. I wasn't sure why he did it in January; I only know that he did. As for this basho, I'm still not sure exactly what's going in, but there's no doubt Hakuho is doing Kakuryu favors. Anyway, with both rikishi now at 8-1, let's see what kind of horseplay unfolds the rest of the way.

Let's move to the penultimate bout that featured two Ozeki in Kotooshu and Kisenosato. One reason why Kotooshu dominates his peer is because Kisenosato leaves himself wide open at the tachi-ai, and the Bulgarian is able to easily get a long arm on the inside and neutralize the Kid from there. Today's contest was a perfect example as Kotooshu got his left arm to the inside of Kisenosato and then easily raised it high into his fellow Ozeki's armpit lifting Kisenosato straight up and setting him up for the two second force-out. For the record, Kotooshu dominated so much at the tachi-ai that he had his right arm on the inside as well giving him moro-zashi, but dude's gotta ease up just a bit at the edge and not send a defenseless opponent into the first row unnecessarily. Kotooshu moves to 6-3 with the win, and you watch what he did with his left arm raising it high into Kisenosato's armpit, and it's unconscionable to think that Hakuho wouldn't do the same if he was trying to beat his opponent. Kisenosato falls to a precarious 5-4.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku secured a left frontal grip at the tachi-ai against M1 Tochinowaka, and this one was an outer grip that completely rendered Tochi's right arm useless. Riding the momentum, the Ozeki worked his right arm to the inside as well, and once that position was obtained, he moved his left arm up into Tochinowaka's right armpit charging the entire time resulting in an easy force-out win that moves the Geeku to a quiet 7-2 record. Tochinowaka falls to 3-6, but once again, we see Kotoshogiku execute the sumo basics that Hakuho somehow forgot today. It's not just that Hakuho lost; it's that he failed to perform any of the basics that you see occur in every other legitimate bout.

Ozeki Baruto was dangerously high at the tachi-ai, but that will happen when your opponent is the vertically challenged M4 Toyonoshima. Still, the Estonian managed to keep his right arm on the inside, and Toyonoshima was had at this point for all intents and purposes. How many bouts this basho have we seen Maegashira try and fight Baruto at the belt where they were willing to give the Ozeki an inside grip? It's certain death, and twas the case today as Baruto grabbed the left outer over the top and executed the wham bam thank you ma'am force-out while Toyonoshima (6-3) stood there like a helpless child. The win moves Baruto to 8-1, but more importantly, that Hakuho loss means there's a trio tied for the lead, and Baruto is among them. The only two guys who will threaten Baruto from here are Harumafuji and Hakuho, so once again, we see just how central a role Hakuho is playing in sumo right now.

Rounding out the Ozeki, M4 Aran really took it to Harumafuji at the tachi-ai using an effective moro-tezuki shove into HowDo's neck completely rebuffing the Ozeki off the starting lines, but he blew it all going for a quick pulldown that enabled Harumafuji to gather his wits and create some separation. As the two grappled for further position, the Ozeki wouldn't blow it this time working his right arm deep to the inside that allowed him to run Aran (5-4) back and out with a freight train yori-kiri. Harumafuji improves to 7-2 and still has some say this basho down the stretch.

Komusubi Gagamaru used a fantastic moro-tezuki charge against Sekiwake Aminishiki that drove him back to the edge in a flash, but Lord Gaga blew it by going for a pull down instead of making good on that initial forward charge. Ami survived the move, and as he tried to get inside at the belt, Gagamaru lowered his head underneath Aminishiki's jaw and revved the engines again this time driving Aminishiki back with such force that the Sekiwake was violently knocked backwards off the dohyo hitting his head on the arena floor below not unlike last tournament when that gyoji got knocked silly after the Baruto - Wakakoyu matchup. Aminishiki got up in short order, but if he didn't suffer a concussion there, then I bought the Hakuho - Kakuryu matchup hook line and sinker. Like Kotooshu, Gagamaru has got to do a better job of realizing when his opponents are toast and then easing up in order to avoid inflicting a serious injury. The end result is just the second win for Gagamaru while Aminishiki cools off quickly at 4-5.

My favorite bout of the day was courtesy of Komusubi Tochiohzan who brilliantly read a lame keta-guri attempt from M2 Tokitenku driving the Mongolian out of ring faster than you can shout "he's a fraud!".

M1 Myogiryu meant well by charging full boar into M2 Yoshikaze, but as has been the case in plenty of Myogiryu bouts this basho, his veteran opponent easily side-stepped him at the edge and pulled him down using his own forward momentum against him. Kid'll learn, but for now he suffers through this 3-6 start. Yoshikaze shares the same record.

In a legitimate yotsu contest that lasted over a minute, the two M3's in Kyokutenho and Tochinoshin hooked up in the gappuri migi yotsu position meaning both had right inside and left outside belt grips. From this point, it was rather uneventful as neither dude tried to move to the side, break off his opponent's outer grip, or go for a maki-kae. Took about 1:20 total, but the Chauffeur eventually drove his opponent out and down in the end. Both guys now stand at an ugly 1-8.

I believe that M8 Chiyonokuni's injury that caused him to withdraw last basho has not completely healed because the dude is attacking the same as he did in his successful debut, but there's just no pop to his thrusts. Today against M5 Wakakoyu, Chiyonokuni pushed the Wookie around but couldn't muster that lower body strength to finish him off. In the process, Wakakoyu went for his usual pull attempts, and while Chiyonokuni survived them for the most part, he lost his footing in the end suffering the hataki-komi loss. Wakakoyu limps to 3-6 while Chiyonokuni is weak at 2-7.

Let's quickly hit on a few bouts from the first half, the first a contest between M5 Homasho and M8 Takekaze. Not much to talk about, but (SPOILER ALERT!) I always love to celebrate a Takekaze loss. Homasho knew what his opponent would bring, and so his tachi-ai was cautious as he stayed low and kept his arms in tight. Takekaze executed one effective pull attempt, but Homie survived it and pounced getting his left arm on the inside while Takekaze's hands were still up high, and from the this position it was ballgame as both rikishi finish at 5-4.

M6 Shohozan was proactive against M9 Miyabiyama using his livelier tsuppari attack to push the Sheriff around the ring, but the longer the bout went on, the higher the probability that Miyabiyama would spring the trap, and sure enough, the M9 slipped to the side at the edge just as Shohozan went for a hug push resulting in the younger Matutano (4-5) flying outta the ring with Miyabiyama (5-4) managing a token slap to earn the hataki-komi kimari-te.

M6 Goeido quietly moved to 6-3 by staying low at the tachi-ai against M10 Aoiyama and forcing the Bulgarian upright. From there, the Father changed gears with a pull attempt as he is wont to do, and while it didn't fell Aoiyama outright, it threw him off enough to where Goeido latched into the kote-nage position with the right arm to twist Aoiyama to the edge where a quick shove gotter done. Aoiyama has cooled off at 4-5.

M7 Takayasu is making a strong case for the Ginosho this basho as he used a left paw into the throat of M9 Okinoumi and a right ottsuke to gain the upperhand initially, but the taller Okinoumi was able to work a gangly right arm to the inside forcing the bout to yotsu-zumo. The position favored Okinoumi, and Takayasu knew it, so he attempted a maki-kae with the right arm to which Okinoumi responded with a righter outer belt throw. Oki didn't have quite enough on the attempt allowing Takayasu to hold on with a left inside belt grip that he used to yank the M9 over with while doing the hustle by driving his butt into his opponent to nudge him out for good. Takayasu moves to 7-2 with the fine performance while Okinoumi is fast becoming a dream in the night at 5-4.

M14 Ikioi picked up his third win in as many days by securing moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M10 Sadanofuji and then wrenching him back for the eventual force-out. That Ikioi struggled even with the dominant position foreshadows to me his future struggles in the division. At 3-6, he actually surpasses Sadanofuji's 2-7.

And finally, let's conclude with my personal favorite, M16 Takanoyama, who henka'd to his left, put M12 Daido's right arm in a bearhug, and then tried to force him out from the side. The move had no effect, however, as Daidough easily squared back up with his opponent and slapped him down so hard he drew the tsuki-otoshi kimari-te. Incredibly, Takanoyama still leads Daido record-wise at 3-6 to Daido's 2-7. Go figure.

Matt and I will do rock scissors paper to see who gets reporting doody tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
With Mike away on fat camp, I have the leisure of phoning my report in, and one day late, I might add. Hopefully, y'all will be too hungry to notice I elegantly skipped the intro. Oh, ok, I guess we can't simply jump into it like that, so let me whet your appetite for Makuuchi with a bit of Juryo. Said division is currently being lead by one Chiyotairyu, formerly known as Meigetsuin (the potential for puns is limitless, I know), who easily dismantled Kokkai today (yeah, he's still alive, struggling in the 10 cent division, if you were wondering) to take the sole lead with 7 wins and one loss. What makes Chiyotairyu really interesting is that this is only his second Juryo basho and 6th overall (having won his last tournament 13-2). Though already 23 (he started out in Makushita), this guy, at 180cm and some 160kg looks like a Makuuchi keeper.

But let's get back to day 7 for now. Takanoyama slithered his way to yet another win, befuddling Takarafuji long enough to be able to yank him off balance and out of the dohyo via the not-so-often-seen hikkake. I know we at Sumotalk don't like the slim Czech much, but props to him for managing to win despite the sometimes huge weight difference. As long as they keep falling for his shit, they probably deserve it.

Hochiyama employed a cautious kachi-age tachi-ai and briefly managed to get moro-zashi against Kitataiki, long enough to force his foe to the edge. Mike's ex fought bravely and even attempted a last-ditch utchari (which has worked for him quite well in the past), but the damage had already been done, so Kitataiki crashed to his 3rd loss. Hochiyama improves to 3-4.

Despite his short arms, Wakanosato was able to get a useful left uwate against a bigger opponent, Daido, and ultimately use it to throw him to the dohyo. He even made it look easy, although I'm sure it wasn't. Wakanosato improves to 4-3 with the win, while Dildo has nary a pot to piss in at 1-6 already.

It's most ironic to see a guy with some monumental shikona like Tenkaiho (which can be translated like "The Phoenix clad in godly armor") get his fat ass handed to him day after day after day. Shotenro made really short work of him, capitalizing on Tenkaiho's inferior speed to bully him straight out of the dohyo. It's not even that surprising, come to think of it, if you analyze Shotenro's own shikona "The wolf soaring to the heavens". With the day 7 win and the one today, Shotenro (7-1) stays in the chasers' pack, but look for him to start losing as soon as he gets stiffer competition.

Tamawashi (4-3) was awarded a tsuki-dashi loss for his poor efforts against Sadanofuji (2-5). It's short, I know, but there simply isn't anything else to tell. I promise I'll try harder in the next one.

Ikioi (2-5) picked up a rare win in his debut basho, taking his time and refraining from overcomitting against a nearly useless Miyabiyama, then eventually getting on the inside and sealing the deal with a straight push-out. The Fatman falls to 4-3. OK, so I lied.

In a scenario somewhat similar to the bout above, Okinoumi withstood Fattyazuma's charge, patiently waited for an opening, got on the inside of the larger man and drove him out by yori-kiri, using his taller body and longer limbs. Fujiazuma falls to 4-3, while the man from Okinoshima gets win #5.

In a rare instance of decent sumo from Takekaze, Asasekiryu failed to gain any sort of grip on the shorter, thicker man's mawashi, which eventually spelled doom for the Mongol. It's nice to see the fat Kaze win without resorting to a henka for a change (pun not intended, but welcome). Kimari-te: sukui-nage, Takekaze: 5-2, Asasekiryu: 3-4.

Takayasu and Aoiyama went at it tsuppari style, and it made for a fairly violent show. The larger Bulgarian eventually found the first opening and yanked his smaller opponent down to his 2nd loss. Aoiyama rises above the .500 mark.

Matsutani the Ferocious looked like was going to be on the wrong end of a tsuki-dashi against Chiyonokuni, but a well-timed inashi turned the tables decisively, allowing Shohozan to get behind his opponent and throw him out of the ring rather violently. Chiyonokuni slumps to 1-6, while Shohozan improves a bit, all the way to 3-4.

In a bout similar to so many I've seen before, Toyohibiki, the pusher, kept pushing, while Homasho, the more versatile one, resisted and kept looking for an opening. Taken all the way to the edge, Homie managed to find his opening and slipped both hands in to get the insurmountable moro-zashi. It was all over at that point, despite token resistance from the pusher. Both guys share a 4-3 record (and a 4-4 one today, ha!).

Aran got early moro-zashi in his bout vs. Goeido, but, despite that, he was unable to capitalize on it. In fact, he was on the defensive much of the bout and, in the end, he won it by an evasive maneuver (his bread-and-butter hataki-komi). Seriously, just remove this guy from the banzuke already. Like the two above, these guys also share a 4-3 record (but, unlike them, today they share a 5-3 record - yeah, I know, spoilers).

After six-odd years of watching sumo, I thought I understood most of it, but every day some guy does something I totally didn't expect and makes me put my hand on my head and start scratching vigorously in wild befuddlement. Such was the case today, when Tokitenku simply stood up at the tachi-ai and let the beefier Wakakoyu push him right out before he himself crashed on his belly. Then again, this is Tokitenku we're talking about - I have a sneaky suspicion he had even less of a clue as to what he was doing there.

Tochinowaka was thoroughly beaten by Myogiryu by sheer technique and proper use of the basics, despite a 20-30kg disadvantage. The lighter guy survived the Japanese-Korean's onslaught by keeping his stance lower, and then he turned the tables and made it look good in the process. The oshi-dashi evens both guys at 2 wins apiece.

Gagamaru scored his first win of the basho against an uninspired Tochiohzan, who desperately tried to dig in, but was burned when Gaga moved slightly to the side and slapped him down. I guess size does matter after all, eh? Oh Snap falls below the .500 mark.

Baruto survived a shameless henka attempt perpetrated by Aminishiki (surprise) when he managed to latch his right arm under his foe's pit. Give Baruto an inside grip and it's pretty much over (unless you're Hakuho), as Aminishiki found out less than five seconds into the bout. Baruto's Yokozuna run is still on course, at 6-1, but "Baruto" and "Yokozuna" in the same sentence still seems somehow horribly wrong. Of course, I might not be totally objective here, since I've only witnessed two terribly dominant Yokozuna in my time following the sport. I'll probably accept it if it does happen in the end, but I don't expect him to win many more trophies from now on. Aminishiki goes on a sweet and deserved 4-bout losing streak after starting out 3-0.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku (does that still sound weird or what?) survived after giving up moro-zashi to Toyonoshima, only to get burned later, on the offensive, when the Tugboat expertly slipped to his left and threw Giku down from the inside. 5-2 for both guys.

Yoshikaze produced the most passive tachi-ai you'll ever see him do, which normally spells defeat for a guy his size against most everyone... except Kotooshu. The slippery Kaze stayed in it without relinquishing a belt grip long enough to be able to jump to the side at the edge and send his much taller foe stumbling forward and out of the dohyo in painfully embarrassing fashion. With the loss, Kotooshu falls off the leaderboard (as if...). Yoshikaze improves to 2-5, if anyone cares.

Kisenosato upped the score to 3-1 for the Ozeki with a straightforward, fairly easy-looking oshi-dashi of Georgian Tochinoshin, who can't get out of the meat-grinder fast enough (1-6). The Kid ain't a kid anymore, and he improves to 4-3 with the win. Meh.

The Kak showed great girth, strength and vigor in his valiant effort against the last (and least, at least size-wise) of the Ozeki. Kakuryu and Ex-Ama went right into yotsu-zumo from the tachi-ai, and Harumafuji even looked like he had the upper hand at some point, when he had a decent uwate while managing to prevent Kakuryu from getting one of his own. But Kakuryu recovered nicely, threatening a throw aided by his thigh, and was able to muster an outside grip of his own. This stance would have to favor the... erm, longer guy (the Kak, in this case, of course), and the bout was eventually over by yori-kiri in Kakuryu's favor. Don't look now, but our man is still undefeated. Could another Ozeki run be in the brewing? Ama falls to a quiet 5-2.

Finally, Hakuho thoroughly beat Kyokutenho, getting the deadly uwate while preventing Tenho from getting one of his own. Curtains in less than 5 seconds and 7-0 for the Dai-Yokozuna, while Tenho remains unsurprisingly winless.

A cursory glance at the leaderboard clearly indicates there's only one favorite to win the Yusho (when isn't there?), but all the promotion scenarios might somehow complicate the equation late in the basho. I won't dare speculate much on the prizes, firstly because I rarely get anything right, and secondly, because, other than Kakuryu, I don't see any other worthy candidates.

I'm looking forward to reading the new guy, Matt, and Clancy, who should be up tomorrow, and I'll see you guys in two months' time.

Day 6 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
The main story line for Day 6 could be summed up as "No changes." No upsets near the top, which means that all the story lines for the basho remain intact. But some good actual sumo for me to chew on, which is where I'll put my focus. I'll even go in order, especially since the bottom half was mostly pretty watchable today.

First Half Bouts

Hochiyama, who's apparently going to spend more time as a top Juryo man, managed to lose (goes to 2-4) to not-so-mighty Takarafuji (4-2) after getting moro-zashi at the tachi-ai. Not a bad match to start things off, at least.

Wakanosato and Tamawashi squared off, with the Not-a-mawashi man shifting, Wakanosato weakly pulling, and both men barely managing to stay in the ring for their troubles. As they recovered to go back to the middle, the Croc (3-3) secured an inside belt grip and executed a quick pulling throw. Tamawashi, now 4-2, has looked like he belongs in the division after a short trip down to Juryo in January.

Shotenro, also back in Makuuchi after a short demotion, is looking surprisingly good so far this basho, now at 5-1. Today he pushed a rather lame-looking Daido (1-5) around until Daido got turned to his side and then out.

A defense of Takanoyama: I really don't care that this guy isn't Makuuchi material, he's fun to watch. I mean, would you really want to see more of Daido or Miyabiyama (gee, a slap down) or one match a day with the undersized Euro? The Takanoyama match is often exciting, fast-paced, and shows moves that we rarely see at this level. The leg trips and arm bars are a nice change of pace. Even the henkas aren't as bad on average as with other rikishi, since he's not big and strong enough to bully someone out after getting to his side, meaning that the match continues. All that said, today's match was a mostly forgettable thrusting affair with Fujiazuma (4-2) and drops the pretty fly(weight) for a white guy to 2-4.

Rookie Ikioi comes up with his first genki performance this basho and his first win in the top division. Maybe he didn't care for Asasekiryu's shift at the tachi-ai (though this didn't really show)? In any case, he was totally prepared for it, faced his aite and launched in, grabbing an "above-the-ass" grip with his left hand while giving up a less deep grip to the Secretary's right hand. Ikioi got his veteran opponent (now 3-3) off balance by going for a pull on the mawashi while pushing on his head, and that was all he needed to take control and move him out.

Tenkaiho picked up his second win with the cool-sounding shitate-hineri technique that was actually performed by convincing Kitataiki (4-2) to slip and fall on his face during a belt battle that Kitataiki nearly had in hand. I noticed that Kitataiki was pushing up so much into Baruto's sparring partner that his right foot actually whiffed on hitting dirt a little before the actual slip. He used skill and positioning to get that far but forgot his feet at the edge.

Okinoumi and Aoiyama locked horns. Aoiyama has been better this basho than the last couple, but he came into today without much of a plan against a superior rikishi. Okinoumi (4-2) got into Aoiyama's (3-3) body, pushed up into his pits, and dumped him on his side.

Miyabiyama (4-2) won a match by slap down. I know! I didn't think it was possible either. Sadanofuji was the opponent (1-5).

Takayasu drops to 5-1 after chasing Takekaze around with tsuppari and watching (not closely enough) as Takekaze (4-2) slipped to the side near the edge. Takayasu also needs to keep his head up at the tachi-ai, but he's showed good pushing power and movement overall.

Toyohibiki moves to 4-2 by blasting Chiyonokuni out of the ring with his thrusts. He has has looked good this basho but needs to keep it up -- he was 4-1 to start last time around. Chiyonokuni (1-5) could still pull out an acceptable basho if he can find his magic from January. His opponents have been all over him this time.

Goeido (4-2) showed that he can push a guy out without a belt grip. Maybe I'll need to be more specific and say that the guy is Wakakoyu (1-5), who gave up moro-zashi and couldn't manage much lateral movement as he was being escorted out.


Shohozan came out with lots of energy against Homasho, as always, but he somehow thought that against a bigger and stronger opponent with top-tier balance that he could tsuppari his way to victory. Um ... no. A lack of lateral movement meant that Homie (3-3) could just move forward, place a few good shoves amid the flurry of activity, and work his opponent (2-4) out.

Tokitenku and Aran had a mawashi battle. No henkas, no shifting, no pulling -- these guys are not living up to their billing. We instead see a quick lock up at the tachi-ai, a long delay while they fiddled with their positions, and a throw plus leg trip by Tokitenku (2-4) to finish off his powerful but under skilled opponent (3-3). Watch Harumafuji do it (kake-nage) better later in the day.

One of the better matches of the day went down between powerful but low-key up-and-comer Tochinowaka and small but technically gifted veteran Toyonoshima, who came into the bout with only one loss and looking ready to take his place back in the sanyaku. Tugboat got the better of the tachi-ai, getting moro-zashi and a strong position with his foe off balance. Without a belt grip though, the sukui-nage throw attempt was doomed and allowed Tochinowaka to back out, pull down on Toyonoshima's head, and separate. When they reconnected, Tochinowaka did well to keep Toyonoshima from regaining the inside with both arms again. Toyonoshima decided to switch tactics and got a good grip to pull on the bigger man's right arm, but this was not backed up with some other leverage, like a leg trip. So Tochinowaka (2-4) was able to simply shove the veteran out of the ring with his free hand as both were headed the same way. Toyonoshima (4-2) made a tactical error with that throw, underestimating the balance of Tochinowaka and hoping for the quick win. While that sounds like a good thing for the youngster, he's got to come out with better tachi-ai if he wants to hang with the big boys.

The Really-should-be-an-Ozeki-soon-but-now-its-crowded-up-there Sekiwake Kakuryu faced Tochiohzan in a surprising pushing battle off of the belts. Both rikishi were trying to prevent the other from getting a good inside grip as they moved around the ring. It looked like Tochiohzan was the stronger man today as he got the action moving forward, but he didn't keep his feet when Kak moved out of the way. Kakuryu is now 6-0 and has looked good enough to get 12 wins and possibly more if he gets a little help from his countrymen ranked above him. We'll see some of how that goes tomorrow. Tochiohzan (3-3) is having a good enough first week that he should stay in the sanyaku for next tournament.

Myogiryu came right after Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai and got a moro-zashi for just a second. Geeku immediately sensed danger and got in a maki-kae on the left while smartly pulling up on the right armpit to throw his foe off balance and ensure that the maki-kae didn't cost him position. The Ozeki then pulled on Myogiryu's head to get him off balance, moved forward, and held up in the face of a desperation pull. The effect of the pull and the pushing by the Geeku was that Myogiryu slipped and fell on his face. Geeku (5-1) did what he needed to against the aggressive but green youngster, who is getting a predictable taste of the jo'i at 1-5.

Gagamaru and Kotooshu walked towards each other in the middle and had a gentleman's agreement to grab grips on the same side. Kotooshu (5-1) then twisted and threw the uber-hutt (1-5) to the clay. I heard from one of the English language announcers earlier in the week that Gagamaru actually gained eight kilos before this basho. I don't think that's what he needed in his preparation, unless it was eight kilos of lower leg muscle.

Aminishiki and Kisenosato got into a shoving match. Kisenosato was winning, Aminishiki was shifting, and then Shneaky just stepped out of the ring. Both are now 3-3. Aminishiki may have lost some focus after his Day 3 win over Geeku to go 3-0.

Watching Tochinoshin in January, as he worked his way back up from a terrible Kyushu basho in November, he looked to have plenty of strength and size and balance. Defensively, he's a hard out, and on offense, he has the stamina to slowly work out an opponent from an equal or better position. But his steady approach and muscular efforts make for really slow matches. It looks like he's lacking power, as in fast-twitch explosiveness like the runners in the 100-meter dash use when blasting off the starting line. That lack of explosiveness is costing him wins and making is path harder every time out. Unless this is a lingering issue from an injury (totally possible given his November performance), Tochinoshin will not be able to stay in the jo'i. Oh, and for the match itself? The bigger M3 and the Ozeki grabbed each other's belt with opposing hands and both used their hips to prevent their respective aite from grabbing another grip on the other side. Tochinoshin went for a shitate-nage -- a tough thing to pull off given Harumafuji's balancing ability. It did have the effect of getting the two men squared up and they both got a second grip. From here, the Ozeki (5-1) used his slightly lower position to execute a nice kake-nage -- basically as shitate-nage plus leg trip. With more power, No Shine (0-6) might have been able to turn the same position that he was thrown from into his advantage and bully HowDo to the edge, at least. Good to see the Ozeki recover from his terrible sumo on Day 5.

Baruto met winless veteran Kyokutenho in the middle of the dohyo with matching inside right hand grips. Kyokutenho might have been better served by waiting for Baruto to come at him and attempt to evade at the edge. As it was, he took one step forward with his left foot, I suppose to get a better sniff of Baruto's deodorant. Because otherwise it looked like he was going to try to simply overpower Baruto from equal positioning. The deodorant idea seems more plausible. Anyway, at this point, the bigger man (5-1) shifted his weight, spun the not-very-small Kyokutenho (0-fer) around in a circle with a hand on the back of his head, and let him slide to the dirt. Baruto seems to have come in with a plan and executed it well, which makes me hopeful that his mental game is on. Baruto's mental state means a lot to the potential drama in the second week.

What is Yoshikaze (1-5) doing up here in the musubi-no-ichiban? Taking it to the Yokozuna, that's what! Okay, that's a bit overboard, but it was a surprise to see Hakuho pushed around from a neutral position, even for just half a second. Here, Starbuck came in with an extra shot of something (perhaps confidence off of his not very convincing win yesterday), as he absorbed a solid shoulder block from the Yokozuna and then just started running at him full speed. Hak when for the slap down and then spun to grab a couple of grips to his opponent's zero. I have this paused on my DVR right now. Hakuho clearly has a left (though he loses this in just a second) and we see later that he's got a right. He's lower than his aite with pretty decent foot position (left forward, both legs bent, well balanced). From this position, he's bested better opponents a hundred times by moving forward and/or throwing. So it's really not in the playbook that Yoshikaze pushes the Yok backwards several big steps to the tawara and turns his belt grip disadvantage into one inside left grip for himself to zero for Hakuho (knocked off in the surprise motion). At this point, we can't say that Hak's in trouble simply because of what happens. Just like this was the plan all along, Hakuho quickly moves his right arm into a solid over-the-top grip of Yoshikaze's left (which has the belt grip) and swings him down for the kote-nage win.

Again, to be perfectly clear, Hakuho (now 6-0) was never at risk of losing the bout. But it does say something that I have so much to say about him losing positioning to grab the more straightforward win. Yoshikaze (1-5) took big risks and did everything he could to get ... wait for it ... one inside belt grip. The grip itself turned into a weapon for Hakuho to end the match with. I guess the something that it says is that Hakuho remains a long, long, looooong ways ahead of the rank and filers. The risk of a kin-boshi may be as low as it has ever been. Here's hoping that Baruto can get the promotion and give the Maegashira-tachi a prayer.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Did today feel like day 13 or what? Takanohana-oyakata can traipse around Osaka pre-basho all he wants, a group of oyakata can form a barbershop quartet if they please, and a dude dressed in a yellow bird costume and tights can skip around the venue for hours, but what's truly going to bring fans back to sumo is quality action atop the dohyo. To fix this sport and bring the fans back, the Sumo Association must 1) ensure straight-up action atop the dohyo, and 2) make sumo accessible to the masses. Regarding that second item, I've already explained at length that the best way to fill the seats again is to move the start time of the bouts back by two hours since the Japanese public has shown they are unwilling to take time off of work to attend the event, and the television audience is made up of mostly the geriatric crowd. But the focus after day 4 has to be on the sumo. I was so fired up after watching the day's broadcast, but that will happen when you've just witnessed the best bout we will see all year and the Yokozuna getting henka'd in the day's final match.

There's simply too much to talk about to feign interest in the first half bouts, so let's start from the top and then move to the Baruto - Kakuryu bout since today created the perfect opportunity to analyze what makes Hakuho so great and what has kept Baruto from becoming a Yokozuna.

We've made it pretty clear that M2 Tokitenku is a useless entity this high on the banzuke, and today was another demonstration why as the Mongolian actually had the gall to henka to his left against Hakuho. Tokitenku rarely does anything well these days, and today was no exception as the cheap tachi-ai was haphazard and out of control. Who was in control the entire time was the Yokozuna whose one foot forward one leg back tachi-ai is virtually henka proof, and it allowed Hakuho to react on a dime and get his right arm to the inside of the compromised Tokitenku's left side. You could also see at this point that Hakuho was pissed off as hell, which is saying something because how often have we seen any emotion from this guy...good or bad? It would be one thing for an established rikishi like an Ozeki to sorta henka a Yokozuna by stepping to the side and going for the cheap outer grip, but a total schmuck like Tokitenku simply cannot disrespect the rank nor the sport in the manner he did today.

So bottle this rage and disrespect for Tokitenku's uncouth ways up into a Yokozuna sukui-nage attempt, and the result was Hakuho throwing Tokitenku down hard to the dirt via a scoop throw. This was a display of pure adrenaline because normally Hakuho would never attempt a throw without establishing the proper footing first, but today was different. Today the sumo gods were on the side of the Yokozuna, and Tokitenku (0-4) was dispatched as hard as you'll ever see in an upper body throw. My disgust for Tokitenku and his sumo the last year or so was more than justified today as Hakuho moves to 4-0 and shows why he's such a dominant Yokozuna. But more on that in a bit.

Let's get to the day's epic match featuring Ozeki Baruto vs. Sekiwake Kakuryu. I mentioned yesterday that Baruto had yet to be tested this basho, but that would change as he faced the two Sekiwake (and Tochiohzan). And the reason these two Sekiwake will test Baruto is because they're smart enough not to just walk into a yotsu contest that physics dictates they cannot win. As I pointed out yesterday, the way to approach Baruto is to stick and jab forcing the Ozeki to move laterally, and that's exactly what the Kak did coming out with tsuppari from the tachi-ai and then quickly taking swipes at Baruto's own extended arms aimed at the Kak's face. It took him about two seconds to create the opening he needed, and when he did he burrowed into the moro-zashi position going for broke. Baruto countered with the obligatory outer grips over the top, but Kakuryu calculated this one perfectly. Nudging the Ozeki upright as much as possible (which was key here...and where others in this position will make mistakes..cough..clear throat...sputter "Tochiohzan"), the Sekiwake attempted his first force out try making sure to stagger his steps to keep Baruto upright and on his toes before attempting to swing him out dashi-nage style.

The first attempt came close and actually caused the two to dance in a complete circle twice as Baruto evaded and Kakuryu persisted, but the result was complete separation of the two rikishi by about a meter. Sticking to his game plan, Kakuryu wasted no time in diving back into the heart of Baruto and securing moro-zashi again thanks to gassing his opponent by forcing him to survive that initial force-out attempt. Once again, Kakuryu burrowed in tight raising the Ozeki up, and Baruto countered with those dangerous outer grips, but when the two were separated, you could see that Baruto had lost his wind, and there's no doubt Kakuryu knew this as well because his second force-out attempt was linear. The Sekiwake was able to manhandle the BioMass back to the edge, and despite Baruto's use of his heels on the tawara and those outer grips, Kakuryu was able to trip him back to his first loss with the right leg wrapped around Baruto's left soto-gake style.

And just like that, David topples Goliath in one of the best tactical bouts I have ever witnessed. The bad news for Baruto was that he suffered his first loss. The good news is two-fold: 1) only one other rikishi can tactically dismantle him like that (Hakuho), and 2) it felt as if Kakuryu had just beaten a Yokozuna. That was a shukun victory, and even if Kakuryu can't beat Hakuho, he should garner the Shukunsho for that bout alone. It was just incredible, and you can't say enough about Kakuryu for coming into the bout with a plan, sticking to it, and not panicking when said game plan meant delving deep to the inside of the mammoth Ozeki...twice. Coupled with his first career "win" against Hakuho last basho, Kakuryu firmly established himself as an Ozeki candidate again. Damnation...sumo doesn't get better than this bout! Baruto falls to 3-1, but he is very much alive in the hunt for Yokozuna. Though he lost, I thought Baruto looked great, and unless he collapses mentally, dude's still good for 12 or 13 wins this basho.

Now, let's analyze Hakuho and Baruto from their sumo today to pinpoint a key difference. As I stated earlier, Hakuho's sumo is virtually henka proof as he slides his left foot forward bent at the knee and uses his left foot as the anchor in the rear. He attempts to get an arm on the inside and then bring that right foot forward alternating his steps to always keep himself well grounded to the dohyo (the purpose of suri-ashi practice). No matter what you throw at the Yokozuna, there is just no way to penetrate that tachi-ai to set Hakuho up for a quick loss. Huge guys like Baruto and Kotooshu can occasionally catch Hakuho off guard at the belt if they can get in low enough, and quick guys with a ton of experience like Harumafuji and Kisenosato can force the Yokozuna to move laterally in hopes of creating an opening, but Hakuho plays to his strengths at the tachi-ai of every bout.

Where Baruto lost the bout today was just after the tachi-ai when Kakuryu made it clear that he wasn't coming inside from the get-go. Instead of insisting on a belt fight from the charge, Baruto not only played into Kakuryu's tsuppari hand, but he focused on the Kak's face with his shoves, not the torso. I mean, dudes wear a bullet proof vest for a reason, not a bullet proof veil. The torso is the sure target, so Baruto's inability to make that adjustment on the fly is what differentiates him from Hakuho. It's no slap in the Ozeki's face either since very few rikishi can do what Hakuho does, but Baruto had full control of the situation today and made the incorrect choice. Hakuho had much less control but was in a position to react in order to bring the bout back into his favor. So the difference between these two is that Hakuho has mastered the tachi-ai to play to his strengths. Baruto wil sometimes relent at the tachi-ai knowing that he has his brute strength as a solid back-up. It's a fine line, but it's what separates the dai-Yokozuna from the rest.

Okay, I'm really getting carried away here, and it's only day 4, so let's make like Kakuryu and dive head first into the remaining bouts.

M1 Myogiryu keeps settling for belt fights against much larger opponents. Today he methodically complied against Ozeki Kotooshu in a migi-yotsu bout that saw Kotooshu easily use his long arm to grab the left outer grip, or clear advantage. There's absolutely no way Myogiryu can counter from this position as the Ozeki swiftly drove him back. The kimari-te of yori-taoshi shows that Myogiryu died trying, but he had no shot after his yotsu tachi-ai. These are the kinds of mistakes the 0-4 Myogiryu (and plenty of others) have to learn from after their first time in the jo'i. Kotooshu is a quiet 3-1.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku and M3 Kyokutenho also treated us to a migi-yotsu contest. Well, "treat" might be overstating it a bit, but this was a methodical belt fight where the Geeku grabbed the left outer, used it to mount a force-out charge, and then used his left leg well to keep Tenho from moving laterally at the edge. The Geeku is a shaky 3-1 while Kyokutenho is still winless.

Ozeki Harumafuji understood the passive nature from M1 Tochinowaka of late and stormed into his foe at the tachi-ai leading with a fierce right nodowa that knocked Tochinowaka up so high that he was never able to recover. This was a wham bam thank you ma'am oshi-dashi win if there ever was one. HowDo moves to 4-0 and surely took notes of how Kakuryu handled Baruto today. Tochinowaka falls to 1-3 and doesn't deserve the badass nickname I have for him of "T-Wok".

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato received a bit of a scare from Komusubi Gagamaru who actually used great de-ashi to aid the right paw he was driving into Kisenosato's throat. This bout was a case, though, where you can actually get off to too strong of a start in an oshi contest because Kisenosato was knocked off the starting lines fast enough and far enough that he knew he had to get the hell out of Lord Gaga's path and counter. And that he did moving to his left and countering with a wicked tsuppari of his own to Gagamaru's face forcing him near the edge of the ring, and just as the Komusubi proved stubborn at the tawara, Kisenosato literally used a right knee into the gut of Gagamaru to finally nudge him across the straw. This was oshi-dashi with the knee if you're scoring at home as Kisenosato recovers a bit at 2-2. Gagamaru falls to 0-4, but at least he's getting his act together.

It's been funny to watch Aminishiki jump out to this early success, but I believe we've been pointing out all along that he's not winning with straight forward sumo. That finally caught up to him today against Komusubi Tochiohzan, who used a moro-tezuki charge to knock Aminishiki out of position leaving him really no choice but to go for a pull attempt. Tochiohzan was ready and obliged the retreating Sekiwake by pushing him out with some oomph. You gotta love that both of these guys are 3-1, but Tochiohzan's sumo has been much more impressive.

The laziest move by far today came from M4 Aran who attempted a hari-zashi tachi-ai, but his slap was so slow it actually connected lamely with the side of M2 Yoshikaze's melon. This actually ended up looking like a henka it was so poorly executed, but the end result was the two rikishi separated by some distance. Yoshikaze chose to close the gap by charging straight forward right into...? An Aran pull down of course. This was fundamentally bad sumo from both parties as Aran moves to 2-2 while Yoshikaze is winless.

M3 Tochinoshin exhibited a weird stand-up tachi-ai today, but when you consider his opponent was M5 Wakakoyu, it's reasonable to believe that he was prepping for the pulldown. Problem was it never came, and so the Wookie was able to methodically drive Tochinoshin back and across the straw for the win. Tochinoshin had to have been thinking "WTF?", and even Fujii Announcer on the Japanese broadcast quickly pointed out that Wakakoyu actually didn't employ the hiki-waza. I believe step 2 of the 12-Step program states, "Participate in a single bout without going for a pull." Is Wakakoyu on the road to recovery? Let's hope so as both dudes finish the day 1-3.

After the Baruto - Kakuryu matchup, my next favorite bout of the day featured M6 Shohozan vs. M4 Toyonoshima. Shohozan is way overmatched here in terms of ring experience, but he caught the M4 straight in the neck at the tachi-ai and had Toyonoshima upright enabling the youngster to get his left on the inside and a right outer grip. He wasted no time in going for a huge belt throw, but Toyonoshima has been here before and somehow survived it at the edge. As Shohozan geared up for one more go, Toyonoshima used his own inside grip with the left to drag Shohozan across the straw for the shitate-dashi-nage win. This would have been the biggest win of Shohozan's career; instead he must settle for 2-2 while Toyonoshima (3-1) knows he got away with one here.

Prior to the match, a steady rumble could be heard in the crowd that grew louder and louder, so much so that it got m attention fast...and the attention of the NHK cameras.  It was right during the newsbreak NHK does just after 5 PM, so the general public didn't see it, but none other than Asashoryu entered the building escorting the prime minister from Mongolian and other dignitaries.  I was waiting the rest of the way to see if NHK would acknowledge Asashoryu, and they did...probably because of his guests and not the Yokozuna himself.  You'll remember at last year's Kyushu basho he walked in without a ticket, sat in the first row of masu-seki seats, but didn't get any run on the broadcast.

M8 Chiyonokuni's woes continued as M5 Homasho hunkered down low from the tachi-ai and wouldn't let the kid inside. The M8's response was to back out of it and create separation, but this kept him too high and vulnerable. Each time Homasho would get close, Chiyonkuni would separate the two and on and one it went until an exasperated Chiyonokuni went for an ill-advised keta-guri. It wasn't even close and finally gave Homasho the opening he needed to force the kids out to a 1-3 record. Homasho breathes a bit easier moving to 2-2, but you gotta love watching these newcomers fight the veterans.

M6 Goeido stayed low at the charge against potential rival M7 Takayasu, and as he is wont to do, the Father charged forward without really a grip on anything. Dumb move as Takayasu easily evaded at the edge using a counter slap down to send Goeido to the clay. Guys like Hakuho and Baruto can go for yori-kiri without a grip...Goeido can't and pays the 2-2 price. Takayasu is a sweet 4-0.

A predictable match between M9 Miyabiyama and M7 Toyohibiki ended with a pull down of course after the Sheriff kept Toyohibki upright for most of the contest with tsuppari aimed high. Miyabiyama is a cool 3-1 while Ibiki is 2-2.

M10 Aoiyama knew the henka was coming from M8 Takekaze and easily squared back up with his opponent reaching for and getting the inside position with the left. With Takekaze severaly compromised, Aoiyama took out his (and everyone else's) frustrations on Takekaze sending him into the second row via tsuki-dashi. For those new to Sumotalk, let me help define the difference between oshi-dashi and tsuki-dashi. Oshi-dashi means you pushed your opponent out of the ring; tsuki-dashi means you just kicked his ass. Aoiyama is 3-1 while Takekaze gets his comuppence at 2-2.

M9 Okinoumi was way too high at the tachi-ai against M11 Tenkaiho giving up moro-zashi after a nifty maki-kae with the right hand from the Hutt, but the M11 has been so hapless this basho that Okinoumi still forced him back and across with ease despite giving up moro-zashi. Okinoumi improves to 3-1 while Tenkaiho is circling the drain fast at 0-4.

M10 Sadanofuji finally got off the shneid using his tsuppari attack on the shorter M12 Fujiazuma and driving nicely wih the lower body. Fujiazuma really never had a chance as he falls to 3-1 while the win for Sadanofuji was a run of the mill oshi-dashi bout.

M11 Asasekiryu henka'd to his right, but it was half-assed allowing Takarafuji to still make a game of it. The two ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, but AsaSuckiRyu was lower and eventually scored the ill-gotten force-out. Both guys are 2-2.

M15 Hochiyama (2-2) toppled M12 Daido after a wardrobe malfunction disrutped the good belt fight between these two. Daido has some mo too from the tachi-ai unleashing a quick kote-nage, but such is life as he falls to 1-3.

After four false starts, M13 Wakanosato seemed frustrated...and hellbent on pulling down M16 Shotenro. Sho had none of it staying in front of Wakanosato nicely and pushing him down for the good win not to mention 3-1 start. Wakanosato is 2-2.

I've been reminding you the first two days that as soon as M16 Takanoyama piled up consecutive losses, he'd go cheap on us, and today was the day with M13 Kitataiki the victim. The Dummy henka'd to his left and slapped down the befuddled Kitataiki to his first loss. I don't see how anyone can justify Takanoyama's being in the division after watching these first four days.

And finally, the woes continue to mount for M14 Ikioi who couldn't solve M15 Tamawashi's thrusting attack. The Mawashi started high, nuded his gal back, and then fired a few wicked shoves into his chest, and that was all she wrote. Tamawashi is a cool 3-1 while Ikioi falls to 0-4.

Not sure what kind of effort you'll get from me tomorrow, but a new reporter us up for Friday.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
A few days into a basho, you begin to get a pretty good read on the variables that will affect the different storylines. For example, we're three days in, and we already have the yusho narrowed down to three rikishi in Hakuho, Baruto, and Harumafuji. Secondly, you can already see the rikishi who will be key for Baruto to defeat in his quest for Yokozuna. He hasn't faced any of them yet (his opponents up until now are 0-9) so it will be interesting to see how he looks against guys like Tochiohzan and the two Sekiwake before he makes that final push against the Ozeki and Yokozuna. So while there are still some things unanswered at this point, we can definitely see the separation begin among rikishi as to who is hot and who is not. With that, let's get straight to the bouts going in chronological order.

Trust me, it's coming. What you may ask? The gimmick sumo from M16 Takanoyama. Today he tried more straight-up sumo and ended up in the front row courtesy of the Ho Chi Minh Express. M15 Hochiyama simply fired tsuppari straight into Takanoyama's chest and dispatched him in short order moving to 1-2 in the process. Takanoyama falls to 0-3 and looks like he should be doing my taxes, not fighting Makuuchi rikishi.

M16 Shotenro handed M15 Tamawashi his first loss today in a shoving affair where Shotenro's pushes were simply deeper into the body of The Mawashi. Both combatants end the day at 2-1.

They say that the best defense is a good offense, but M14 Ikioi has neither. He hasn't shown the desire to crack his opponent at the tachi-ai, and then he's horrible at fighting off undesirable advances. Today, M13 Wakanosato secured the left arm on the inside at the tachi-ai, and the rookie's response was to try and back out of it. Wakanosato easily cornered Ikioi at the edge and then dumped him with a scoop throw upping his record to 2-1. Ikioi is 0-3 and can't be paired up with Takanoyama soon enough.

M13 Kitataiki dominated M14 Takarafuji in a migi-yotsu contest that saw Kitataiki briefly grab the left outer grip, use a coupla gaburi belly thrusts to drive Takarafuji to the brink, and then fell him with a kote-nage throw using that same left arm that set everything up. Kitataiki moves to 3-0 stopping Takarafuji's momentum at 2-1...and I can't believe I'm actually typing this as if any of it matters.

I'm afraid M11 Tenkaiho was beaten down during keiko to the point of no recovery. He couldn't even get a sniff at M12 Fujiazuma's mawashi (not that you'd want to per se) until the end of the short contest, and when he finally did touch any cloth, it was a weak left inner that Fujiazuma easily cut off with a stifling right frontal grip of his own. From there, Fujiazuma just bodied Tenkai the Hutt back and down across the straw for the yori-taoshi win not to mention the 3-0 start. The fans in that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Mos Eisley, can't be happy with this 0-3 start.

I forgot to record the day 3 broadcast last night and had to watch the action via the innernet. So 35 seconds into the feed when M11 Asasekiryu and M12 Daido hooked up in migi-yotsu and there was still 3/4 of the way to go, I said to hell with this...I don't have the patience to watch such a meaningless match. It ended with Daidough picking up his first win via a pull down and both dudes sitting at 1-2. Exciting!!

M10 Aoiyama knew that M9 Miyabiyama could not beat him straight back and out with his tsuppari attack, and so he waited patiently for the pull to come, and when it came with both hands, Aoiyama pounced and pulled the compromised Miyabiyama down with a sweet pull of his own. Great tactical bout for Aoiyama although I was disappointed he didn't try to make the same kind of dent in Miyabiyama's fat as he did in the Kokugikan wall yesterday after being henka'd by Chiyonokuni. Anyway...both fellas are 2-1.

M10 Sadanofuji doesn't look quite right this basho, but then again Dejima was famous for looking injured after an 0-3 start. For starters, Sada is a push guy, so immediately settling for a belt contest against M9 Okinoumi from the tachi-ai spelled his impending doom from the start. Okinoumi used a right frontal grip to lock down Sadanofuji's left and totally set him up for the easy uwate-nage. Wasn't even close as Okinoumi improves to 2-1 while Sadanofuji's woes should continue beyond just 0-3.

My new mancrush is on M7 Toyohibiki for no other reason than he kicked M8 Takekaze's ass today. Ibiki used a kachi-age with the right hand into Takekaze's throat from the tachi-ai and left it there the whole time as he forced Takekaze back to the straw. He finally relented at the edge but only to fire a sharp thrust into Kaze's chest that shoulda drawn a tsuki-dashi win but was downgraded to oshi-dashi. Still, Toyo the Hutt will take it as both rikishi finish the day 2-1.

Speaking of kachi-age (a fore-arm from the tachi-ai into your opponent's upper torso), M7 Takayasu used the effective move against M8 Chiyonokuni keeping the sophomore too far away to really fire off any effective thrusts. Takayasu followed his victorious tachi-ai with some beefy shoves that were too much for the skinnier Kuni. With Chiyo retreating, Takayasu pounced for and got the right outer grip, and as he bodied up to his foe and threatened to do further damage, Chiyonokuni stepped across the straw as he tried to escape. Solid yori-kiri win for Takayasu who moves to 3-0 while Chiyonokuni (1-2) has got to be frustrated with such an unorthodox start (thanks to Takekaze).

M6 Goeido got his left arm on the inside against M5 Homasho and actually refrained from going for a pull-down. That enabled him to use his left arm to keep Homie squared up in front of him, work him upright, and then subsequently push him across the straw by the teets. I almost want to call this tenacious sumo from Goeido (2-1), but I think Homasho's lethargy had more to do with it as the veteran falls to 1-2.

M5 Wakakoyu should consider enrolling in the 12-step "Hello, my name is Wakakoyu, and I'm an addict. I always ruin decent tachi-ai by going for a pull down 2 seconds later." M6 Shohozan was waiting for it, and seized control of the bout from there shoving the Wookie (0-3) back and out with relative ease while moving to a hearty 2-1.

My interest would normally be aroused at the prospect of a straight-up belt fight between M3 Tochinoshin and M4 Aran, but today's contest really didn't have any teeth as both furries hooked up in the migi-yotsu position. Aran enjoyed the lower stance, which is beneficial in such a bout, but he was fighting all upper body, and so Tochinoshin was able to throw him over relatively quickly with his left outer grip. Just not a lot of life from these two right now with simultaneous 1-2 records a testament to that.

M3 Kyokutenho and M4 Toyonoshima began in the hidari-yotsu position, but the Chauffeur was so lethargic that Toyonoshima easily worked his way into moro-zashi. Kyokutenho is one of those rare rikishi who still has a fighting chance despite giving up moro-zashi, and Toyonoshima remembered this not committing too deeply on the position that would have made him susceptible to a counter kime-dashi or kote-nage throw. Instead, he cautiously forced Kyokutenho back before slipping to his side and executing a scoop throw in the process. It was an awkward ending that knocked Kyokutenho over and down into the missionary position right there on the dohyo. Fortunately for all of us, Toyonoshima was standing to the side out of harm's way having picked up the victory that was ruled sukui-nage, a kimari-te that is not mentioned in the Kama Sutra (unlike the winning technique of ami-uchi for example). Toyonoshima improves to 2-1 while Kyokutenho has yet to...well...score.

Getting back to the theme of my intro, one more thing that has become pretty clear three days in is that Gagamaru is useless when fighting from the jo'i. You watch him last basho and then back in Aki when he was just on fire, and you see a totally different rikishi. Now, I realize that when Gagamaru was making those runs he was fighting from the middle of the banzuke, but that should only affect his record, not his sumo. Look at Myogiryu, for example. Dude's 0-3, but he's still the same Myogiryu we saw the last coupla basho. He's getting burned by the experience of these guys atop the banzuke for sure, but he's still charging hard and using his feet as he attacks his opponents. Gagamaru isn't. Remember when Gagamaru beat Baruto in September in something like four seconds? He did that with a great tachi-ai, perfect footwork, and an inspired attack. This basho we've seen hesitant tachi-ai, no footwork, and no offensive mindset. So today against Sekiwake Kakuryu, Gagamaru's tsuppari from the tachi-ai were laughed off as the Kak easily maneuvered into moro-zashi, wrenched his foe off balance just enough, and then threw the Georgian over with a left scoop throw as easy as you please. Kakuryu moves to 3-0 with the win, but the real story is the way Gagamaru (0-3) folds from the jo'i.

In the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji knew he had a vulnerable opponent in M2 Tokitenku, so he went straight for the neck at the tachi-ai driving Tenku back with some force. Tokitenku's only hope was a quick slap down on the Ozeki's arms, and it nearly worked as HowDo's hand came dangerously close to the d'oh!hyo, but he recovered shortly, and when Tenku tried another pull, Harumafuji shoved him out for good on his way to a 3-0 start. Tokitenku is winless.

Like Yoshikaze yesterday, M1 Myogiryu was actually looking for a belt fight against Ozeki Baruto sticking his left arm forward in an attempt to get to the inside. The Ozeki's response was perfect: use de-ashi to start bodying Myogiryu back and then polishing him off with a couple of shoves into his chest that sent him back and out in seconds stumbling over that basket of salt in the process. Unless you're a big dude, you have to stick and jab at Baruto so to speak in order to make him chase you laterally and look for an opening. These smaller guys trying to get into the heart of the BioMass is a huge mistake, and something tells me Myogiryu won't make that same mistake in July. Regardless, Baruto is spotless at 3-0 while Myogiryu falls to what must be a frustrating 0-3.

Sekiwake Aminishiki is just exuding confidence these days, and he should be. He's veteran enough that he knows how to win even at this level, and with a weak banzuke this time out, he's taking full advantage. Today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, Ami got his left arm on the inside straightway, and then quickly went for a maki-kae with the right arm as Kotoshogiku's charge was too rushed, unstable, and lacked footwork. Aminishiki never got moro-zashi opting to read his opponent's gaffe and just backed up to the side while slapping down on his shoulder. It's not forward-moving sumo as Aminishiki improves to 3-0; rather, it's a reflection of how this veteran knows how to win. Kotoshogiku drops his first of several more this basho ending at 2-1.

Komusubi Tochiohzan caught Ozeki Kotooshu by the neck at the tachi-ai and then quickly went for the moro-zashi position. Having lost the tachi-ai, Kotooshu hurriedly countered by attempting a maki-kae with the left arm, but the Ozeki's foot slipped just a bit due to the Komusubi having totally set him up at the tachi-ai, so Tochiohzan easily moved to the side as he thrust the Ozeki downward to the dohyo in heap just a few seconds in. Tochiohzan moves to 2-1 in the process, and I believe this brief resurgence is the result of two young guys in his stable who are seeing success. The first is Tochinowaka, who was a stable mate from the start, but I also believe having Aoiyama join the fray is going to inspire Tochiohzan to remain the stable's senpai. Each basho with the release of the banzuke, the stable has these little wooden panels (called fude) with the rikishi's name written in kanji. They line these fude up each basho according to the rank of each rikishi, and in Japan where the senpai/kohai things is huge, I think it matters to Tochiohzan that he be the highest ranking rikishi from the stable for as long as possible. Regardless, a vibrant Tochiohzan is good for sumo. Kotooshu cools off at 2-1.

Ozeki Kisenosato picked up his first win today, but lest we get too stiff let's consider his opponent, M2 Yoshikaze. The Ozeki caught his foe with a mean right paw to the throat, and that was all the momentum the Kid needed to execute a solid oshi charge for which the M2 had no answer. At one point during the bout, Kisenosato looked like his foot caught in the dohyo causing a brief stop in his movement, but Yoshikaze couldn't recover from the initial onslaught to take advantage. Kisenosato limps to 1-2 while Yoshikaze remains winless.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho finally got that forward-moving win forcing the bout to migi-yotsu, bodying up to M1 Tochinowaka and forcing him back with sheer strength, and then quickly reversing gears with the left outer grip throwing his opponent back into the center of the ring with style. Hakuho skates to 3-0, and as I've said before, Tochinowaka (1-2) is far too passive these last two basho for my liking.

We are seeing the patterns develop, but we'll probably have to wait until week two to really see a shake-up. Hopefully that means extra drama.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The Haru basho is off to a quiet start the first two days, and that's largely due to the quiet crowds in Osaka. The "sold-out" banners were on display during day 1, but the arena didn't even look 90% full. Just look at this enlarged picture of Tochinowaka defeating Kisenosato on day 1 that shows a large number of vacant seats conveniently out of view from the main NHK cameras. And while we're on the subject of quiet, the elections held at the end of January where Kitanoumi and Kokonoe were restored to sumo's board of directors nearly went under the radar. Contrast that with Takanohana's pimping of the Haru basho where he visited the mayor of Osaka, appeared on a variety of television shows, and showed up at numerous public events.  The coverage of Takanohana's PR work outranked coverage of the elections about 15 to 1. Why so quiet regarding the elections? Well, the big boys who resigned from the board under pressure on the heels of scandal after scandal were conveniently re-elected with Kitanoumi being placed back in the commissioner's chair. The whole reason why I even bring this up is that NHK began the day 2 broadcast with an extended question and answer session with Kitanoumi Rijicho. Going from this interview into a largely empty arena despite all of Takanohana's hard work shows you that sumo has not changed a lick, and the same people who governed when sumo began its major decline are back in charge.

On that cheerful note, let's focus our attention back to the dohyo. I realize that I take a hiatus in between basho regarding the web site, but I do try and keep at least one eye on the news wires just in case something big comes through like Kushimaumi's death, but I must have missed the memo that discouraged straight-forward sumo in place of tachi-ai henka and retreats. Things got slightly better on day 2 as we opened the day's festivities with M15 Tamawashi firing tsuppari straight into M16 Takanoyama's chest sending the Dummy back and off the dohyo in less than two seconds. When you make Tamawashi (2-0) look like the former Yokozuna Hokutoumi (today's color analyst for NHK), it's a sign that you really don't belong in Makuuchi. Takanoyama falls to 0-2 and by day 4 or 5 should realize once again that in order to pick up a few wins, he'll have to resort to gimmick sumo.

M16 Shotenro secured a nifty left inner at the tachi-ai against M13 Kitataiki, but he abandoned it for some reason, so with Kitataiki (2-0) the one supplying the de-ashi in this bout, he turned the tables nicely picking up the quick and dirty force-out. Shotenro falls to 1-1, and I can't believe I've typed so much regarding these first two bouts.

M13 Wakanosato got an early left inside position against M15 Hochiyama who opted not to play any defense, so the result was an easy moro-zashi from Croconosato who toppled Miss Saigon with an easy left scoop throw. Wakanosato is 1-1 while Hochiyama is winless.

M12 Daido looked completely uncommitted to this bout as M14 Takarafuji came in low and forced the bout to a grapplin' contest. Eventually Takarafuji got the left frontal belt grip and forced DaiD'oh! back for the yori-kiri win. Of the current Makuuchi rikishi, Takarafuji has historically performed terribly, so to see Daido (0-2) get done like this speaks more to his indifference than it does for any perceived surge from Takarafuji (2-0).

M14 Ikioi, our lone rookie, was bested again, this time by M12 Fujiazuma who used an inashi with the left arm from the tachi-ai to send Ikioi back on his heels. The rookie tried to time a quick evasive/pull maneuver as Fuji pressed forward, but the latter caught Ikioi with a forearm to send him across the straw before Fujiazuma (2-0) touched down.

I know it's probably too early to start mentioning the word "yaocho," but I thought M9 Okinoumi's sumo was the perfect example of anti-yaocho sumo. Fighting M11 Asasekiryu, the two quickly hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, but it was Okinoumi using his superior length to grab the right outer grip first. Once secured, he pulled the Secretary in tight, bodied up, and then executed a perfect yori-kiri fueled by his de-ashi. Every element of Okinoumi's sumo was textbook, and as I watched the bout unfold, Okinoumi performed the next logical move flawlessly until he had the victory secure. I guess it was the perfection of this bout that made me think about other bouts when a rikishi's movements are illogical and lead to an inexplicable loss. When that happens--especially to a veteran rikishi, red flags are raised in my mind. Before I get too philosophical, suffice it to say that both rikishi end the day at 1-1

If you count results of pre-basho keiko, M11 Tenkaiho came into the day at something like 0-97. Well, make that 0-98 as M9 Miyabiyama used the lumbering tsuppari to keep a desperate Tenkaiho away from the inside, and as the bout began to wear on, Tenkaiho lost some steam enabling Miyabiyama to pull him down after about 10 seconds. The Sheriff is 2-0 if you need him.

M10 Aoiyama punched a hole in the Kokugikan wall after suffering a loss to Chiyonokuni, and while he did apologize later to Takanohana-oyakata, I blame his reaction squarely on Takekaze.  After Chiyonokuni was lubed by a Takekaze henka yesterday, he came into today's bout against Aoiyama feeling as if he deserved to do a little taking of his own. The M8 stepped to his left at the tachi-ai grabbing the cheap left outer grip that he easily used to spin Aoiyama around 180 degrees before pushing him out from behind. This wasn't a full blown henka, and contact was actually made before Chiyonokuni stepped left, but his body was moving left from the start totally throwing Aoiyama off. Chiyonokuni did not demonstrate such tactics last basho because he wasn't greased last basho. Today's bout was a good illustration of the domino effect of tachi-ai henka, and how it ruins sumo. Both rikishi finish the day at 1-1, and hopefully Aoiyama can take the high road and fight straight up tomorrow.

If you couldn't tell, I loathe M8 Takekaze who couldn't get close enough to pull M10 Sadanofuji down by the back of the head, so he danced around until he saw an opening to pull at Sadanofuji's outstretched arms sending the youngster to an 0-2 start. One might say, "well, Sadanofuji shoulda gone harder at the tachi-ai," to which my answer would be, "tell that to Chiyonokuni." Takekaze is a totally ill-gotten 2-0.

M5 Wakakoyu's bread and butter can be effective, but today was a sign that his opponents are beginning to catch on. Today M7 Toyohibiki withstood the moro-tezuki charge and then timed a perfect oshi attack just as Wakakoyu began his pull. The result was a tsuki-dashi win for Toyohibiki that saw the Wookie actually just give up that last half step and walk out on his own he was getting his ass handed to him so hard. Great stuff from Toyohibiki who picks up his first win while Wakakoyu is 0-2.

I enjoyed the M7 Takayasu - M5 Homasho matchup because it featured two of sumo's most likeable on his way up and the other in decline. Homasho actually took the initiative in this one getting his left arm inside and using an ottsuke shove to boss Takayasu around, but the younger rikishi stood his ground well and managed to work Homasho over to the edge. Having lost the momentum, Homasho tried to evade to his left at the tawara and grab the back of Takayasu's belt, but Takayasu smartly just rammed his but straight into Homasho's mid-section and backed Homie out of he ring in as beautiful of an ushiro-motare as I've ever seen. I really like both dudes and hated to see one of 'em lose, but props to Takayasu on his 2-0 start.

M6 Goeido looked to make short work of M4 Toyonoshima getting the right inside grip and mounting a freight-train charge, but Toyonoshima slipped to his left at the edge pushing down on Goeido's shoulder in the process. The Father went for a watashi-komi leg trip to break his fall, but Toyonoshima dodged the move and somehow managed to keep his feet from stepping out before Goeido's left arm crashed to the dirt. They actually ruled in favor of Goeido he was that dominant, but dude's gotta save the freight train charge until he has position with BOTH arms...not just the one. Gunbai sashi-chigai in favor of Toyonoshima as both guys finish at 1-1.

M6 Shohozan straight-armed M4 Aran out of the gate and away from a yotsu contest, and as Aran tried to counter with some shoves of his own to keep Matutano's charge in check, Shohozan was just too persistent with this footwork. I knew the pull from Aran would eventually come, and thankfully so did Shohozan who took full advantage when it happened sending the Russian back and across for a dominating victory. Both fellas are 1-1.

Sekiwake Kakuryu has looked flawless in his first two bouts, so was he sandbagging against Hakuho in the keiko ring last week? Today against M3 Tochinoshin, the two hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but the savvy Kakuryu gained the left outer grip first. The problem was, though, that the Kak really couldn't spurt since Tochinoshin threatened the counter right outer grip if the Sekiwake tried to get too close, so as the two felt each other up a bit in the ring, Tochinoshin was able to pull his gal in closer and grab that right outer grip. There's no way that Kakuryu can win this gappuri-yotsu contest against the taller Shin, so he quickly backed out of it, reaffirmed his left outer grip, and used his left thigh to knock Tochinoshin off balance enough to where the Sekiwake unleashed a beautiful outer belt throw to sill the dill as we say in Utah. This was the best bout of the day as Kakuryu boasts a 2-0 start. Tochinoshin falls to 0-2 and is not making good use of his size.

Look at Aminishiki jumping out to his own 2-0 start after easily getting moro-zashi against M3 Kyokutenho at the tachi-ai. The key to this bout was Aminishiki maintaining a light moro-zashi where he almost pushed his opponent from the inside instead of trying to get in deep. Next to Baruto and Hakuho, Kyokutenho is the toughest guy to topple via moro-zashi due to his size and long limbs, and Ami's gimpy body would have proved a disadvantage in such a scenario, so it was great to see the Sekiwake adjust the bout to his strength and score the yori-kiri win in the end all the while maintaining that light moro-zashi grip. The Chauffeur stalls to 0-2.

I TOLD you in my pre-basho report that Ozeki Baruto better watch out for M2 Yoshikaze! Oh wait. Cafe was doomed from the get go in this one as he tried to get in deep at the tachi-ai only to be rebuffed by a solid right inside from the Ozeki. With the huge size difference between these two in a belt contest with chests aligned, Baruto lifted Yoshikaze so high in the air it reminded me of a father lifting up his child to dunk a ball in a basketball hoop. Yoshikaze didn't even fight it, and I don't blame him because the fork was stuck so far into him it was protruding out the other side. Baruto gently laid Yoshikaze across the straw and that was that as the Estonian waltzes to a second win. Not sure what Yoshikaze was thinking trying to best Baruto in a yotsu fight, but at least he's still in one piece at 0-2.

As limp as Yoshikaze has looked so far, I think M2 Tokitenku has been even worse. Today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, the two hooked up in migi-yotsu, and then a half second later, the Geeku had the left outer grip. By the third dry hump, the fat lady was just starting the second verse. Kotoshogiku is a much needed 2-0.

Ozeki Kotooshu gave up moro-zashi to M1 Tochinowaka, but the Maegashira didn't have any de-ashi from the tachi-ai. With his opponent standing there like a bump on a log despite the dual inside grips, Kotooshu grabbed both outside grips and forced Tochinowaka back and across without argument. This was a puzzling effort from Tochinowaka who falls to 1-1 while Kotooshu is coasting so far at 2-0.

Ozeki Kisenosato was schooled for the second day in a row, this time at the hands of Komusubi Tochiohzan. The two began in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Tochiohzan worked his right arm from the outside to the inside in as casual a maki-kae as you'd care to see. Tochiohzan fights so well from the inside, so once he had moro-zashi the kill came straightway. 1-1 is a fine record for a Komusubi while Kisenosato at 0-2 is trying to outdo Kotoshogiku's effort last basho. Kisenosato lost this bout at the tachi-ai because 1) he didn't have a plan of attack, and 2) his arms are so wide open that even a paraplegic could get moro-zashi on him (no offense to our paraplegic readers...some of my best friends are paraplegics ya know). I think Kisenosato is lost without a true stable master, and some of the other oyakata from the Nishonoseki Ichimon should probably start taking notice.

Clancy was correct yesterday when he said that Komusubi Gagamaru "had this one" against Baruto. His tachi-ai was perfect but then he just stood there failing to use the de-ashi we saw from last basho. Lord Gaga did move forward much better today against Ozeki Harumafuji, who attempted to stick his left paw in the Komusubi's neck, but the Ozeki quickly found that Gagamaru doesn't have a neck, so he quickly back pedaled and let Gagamaru do the rest stumbling to the clay in his own girth. This wasn't pretty for the Ozeki, but when your opponent outweighs you by a mere 75 kilograms, you have my permission to run like hell. Harumafuji is 2-0 while Gagamaru is winless.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho easily absorbed M1 Myogiryu's tachi-ai, tested the pull waters as he is wont to do when he doesn't get inside, and then took a half step to the side positioning himself for an ottsuke into Myogiryu's side that sent the youngster to the dirt in short order. Two days in and Hakuho (2-0) doesn't have a forward-moving win, but he hasn't been in any danger. He's taking what's given to him and making his opponents play their cards. As for Myogiryu, this is a position unlike anything he could have imagined. The rikishi are not only bigger, faster, and better, but they know how to read their opponent's moves and react before Myogiryu's quite knows what hit him. Still, the kid must continue to learn the ways of the jo'i because he will be a mainstay in a year's time.

The "Areru Haru Basho" or wild and crazy Haru basho has yet to surface, but give it some time. Everything's been even keel so far, but the talking points will come. I'm up every day this week until Friday, so we'll see how long it takes me to run on fumes. Oh, and for the record, I haven't been able to get Kenny Loggins out of my head the whole day. Thanks for nothing, Clancy.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, here we are, back in Osaka for the first time in twenty-four months. Last time Naniwa hosted a hon-basho was the first time Hakuho wrestled as the lone Yokozuna, Asashoryu having been squeezed out after taking the 2010 Hatsu basho. Fittingly, we find sumo on the cusp of returning to the more natural order of dual Yokozunas as Ozeki Baruto, the Estonian (not to be confused with Bostonian) giant who needs a strong showing and (as far as Im concerned) an ass kicking of Hakuho to gain promotion to the sports highest rank. Course, as Mixmaster Mikenstein mentioned in his pre-basho report, who can say what in hell will occur? Sumo is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and covered in peanuts and chocolate. What looks tasty could also be a load of shit, or vice-versa, as Carl Spackler could attest to. One thing IS for sure, though: Nothing will happen without Hakuho playing a central role. (Wow, Clanc, really going out a limb there, huh?)

Normally Id start the basho with some tale of licentious, ribald, mayhem (and wouldnt you know it, I have a few to tell that have occurred since the New Year). But seeing as how today is the one-year anniversary of Japans own "eleven," namely "3-11," Im going to tone it down in the intro. Yes, most of you who know me will be surprised that I exhibit any respect for the fate of others, and that surprise I must admit is warranted. I typically do not get worked up about people I dont know (Maggie Siff, who makes me stiff and whose quiff Id like to sniff, being the lone exception), but the extent of this tragedy still warps the otherwise placidly serene interior of my mind a year later.

Over 350,000 people homeless, and this is modern, industrial giant, long wealthier-than-the-rest-of-Asia-combined Japan, you know, not Bangladesh, where hearing that half a million are without clean water or decent food after a cyclone makes you ask, How does that differ from their normal existence? I mean, when you go from a steady diet of grasshoppers to rations of crickets, its not like your falling from Olympian heights.

All kidding aside, one measure of suffering is the extent to which youve lost what you had, and most of the people now living like refugees here have only ever known the kind of plush, warm, safe, well-fed life that we Westerners know and love and take for granted. So its gotta be brutal. Additionally, Japan is a very private culture, and yet these people are living in futon cubicles crammed into school gymnasiums and emergency evacuation centers. For a goddamned year! Talk about having to look the other way. Top it off with a nuclear reactor that is fubar and a crisis that has been handled by the government as if they are following the orders of the NSK and its just not a great day for being jolly, ya know?

But there was wrestling on the docket, and so I watched and took note, and will now make those notes available to yall.

In the first bout Shotenro, resurrected from Juryo, took on the The Dummy, Takanoyama. Now, this nickname has naught to do with the young mans intelligence. Rather, its a reference to a convo Mike and I were having about how watching his bouts reminds us of those comedy sketch programs where they have someone attacked, say, by a dog, and at the last second edit out the real person and replace him with a dummy, which the dog then proceeds to shake and tear the living shit out of.

At any rate, thats about what Shotenro did to him today, ramming him back and off the dohyo in less time than it takes to come up with a witty line about how little time it took. At least we got to see Takanoyama standing with one leg on the floor and the other on the dohyo, flexibility being a key to sumo success. As is being larger than a 7th grader. But hey, when you dismiss from sumo half a generation of wrestlers, its going to take a few years for that gap to fill with legitimate Makuuchi level guys, so settle in for a couple of more years of the lower half of Maegashira presenting us with guys who are simply not built for it.

Tamawashi also made his return from a one basho descent to Juryo, successfully ambushing Ho Chi Minh Yama, who was on the trail for his first Makuuchi win in six months.

Big Boy Ikioi, who spent the past two basho running roughshod over Juryo, and who hails from the Kitchen of the Nation, gave a good showing vs. Takarafuji, but fell victim to a desperation throw at the edge.

Next Wakanosato had no answer for Kitataikis inside right that allowed the E13 to work the former Sekiwake mainstay out.

Flabby Daidough had Fujiazuma on the retreat, but as weve seen a billion times in sumo, he made the mistake of lunging when his foe had room at the edge to circle away, which is precisely what Fujiazuma did, and with no legs beneath him, Daido came crashing down.

Asasekiryu smashed noggins with Tenkaiho, who got stood up and then released by the Secretary to fall flat on his face. They called it a sukui-nage, but they were being generous. Wonder if having to battle his stablemate Baruto so often in prep for this tourney made him a little too forward leaning?

Aoiyama, after two false starts vs. Sadanofuji, managed to press in on his foe, who was mauling the big white dudes tittys, and after one last shove at the edge, let SaDanofuji come forward and receive a nicely executed sukui-nage, also known as a "Five-O". Book em, Dano!

Miyabiyama kept Okinoumi at bay and for a spell, then started with the slap downs on Okidokis head, and the final of several managed to send the E9 to his first loss this basho after zero consecutive wins.

Chiyonokunis grandmother will be taking down that poster she has of Takekaze on her kitchen wall after the asspounding he gave her boy. Leaping out of the way like one of those people on a YouTube near miss death video, Takekaze reaffirmed for us how pathetic he can truly be. Dude ought to be brought up on molestation charges. Chiyonokuni, after extracting himself from the front row he had run himself into, looked to be contemplating the beating his oyakata was going to give him for falling for such trickery.

Takayasu showed some very nice skill and the strength of a goddamned bear by flinging down 178kg Toyohibiki as the Hutt charged in. It wasnt a desperation move, though, as the Naruto man seemed in control of his faculties the entire bout. Impressive win. His senpai Kisenosato could have used some of Takayasus mojo today.

Goeido benefited from a pesky Shohozan charging forward with too much chutzpah. Like a mite, Goawaydo slapped him aside and let the Shoho go, yo, off the dohyo, ya know? Goeido is also an Osaka nayteeboo, so perhaps he will make good on the promise (he made to his pillow) to take the yusho this basho.

Homasho had a thoroughly Homasho-poi win vs. Wakakoyu, doing that sumo where it looks like hes competing in the 200m butterfly, dipping down and then coming up under his opponent again and again. Hes into the quarterfinal heats tomorrow vs. Takayasu.

Aran tried to cover his henka mugging of Toyonoshima by leaving his left arm out and across Tugboats chest, but it ended up clotheslining the Jan. Sekiwake, who has plummeted to E4 and must feel like nothing is going right for him these days. Aran well and truly earned the nickname Bouncer today for that cheap chokehold. Tugboat tried in vain at the edge to turn the tide, but even Aran couldnt screw up these ill gotten gains.

Right after this bout, the cameras panned into the audience and showed that common site, six or seven furries out enjoying the sumos (in the cheapest seats and lying about like they own the place). There was one sort of hot blonde, and some guy in a NY Giants parka, and so I am reminded to mention that yes, my G-Men did indeed capture the Universe Championship of American football by demolishing the...some other team whose name history will forget. Eli Manning was born to be a colossus bestride the Earth!

Okay, so when my daydream (not "wet dream" because that came true on Feb 5th in Indianapolis!) ended I was staring at my Kak, who was about to gain moro-zashi over his former countryman Kyokutenho and use that to smother, kind of like the Lord Humongous calmed his berserk right hand man in Road Warrior, the Chauffer to an SBD yori-kiri win. I still chuckle recalling young Martin boldly stepping up to the plate in his inaugural ST report and declaring Kakuryu, whom I had previously deemed a keeper, to be a nobody who would be soon out of sumo. Ah, the halcyon days!

Kotoshogiku was on Yoshikaze like hot wax on fingernails, and it hurt for only that long as Starbuck was shown the door lickety split. Third basho at Ozeki, has Geeku relaxed enough to give us provide us with some shambalaya?

I cant, even on my most creative days, conjure up a joi bout that Id be less interested in than Kotooshu vs. Tokitenku. Kotooshu is a write off Ozeki at this point, somnambulant, and Tokitenku has recently purchased a house on Kyokushuzan Drive. Napster vs. Trickster. Course that doesnt mean the Bulgarian cant simply destroy people, cause he can and did today. By the way he charged at and over Tokitenku, it looked like he was trying to get to some frozen yoghurt stand he spotted behind the E2. Seriously, he just ran up and swarmed him. Tokitenku could only wail and start flailing his legs in hope that they might catch the maulers leg, but they didnt, and Tokidoki ended up looking like a fucking Rockette, high kicking it for the fans. In the end Kotooshu was obliged to crush him out and sort of landing on top of him. Hilarious bout, when all was said and done.

Kisenosato looked downright afraid to take on Tochinowaka, and its no wonder, cause when its all said and done, Tochinowaka will be recalled as the better rikishi. The sophomore Ozeki tried to use a hand to the throat to stop the oncoming W1, no doubt hoping for a slap/pull down, but the youngster kept his wits about him and legs under him, moving forward and forcing The Kid back to the ropes. One final mighty shove with his forearm and the Ozeki was flung back to as final and humiliating a crash landing as youll see in sumo at this level. Kisenosato, beaten like a red-headed stepchild.

Harumafuji seemed to know that Myogiryu was going to go balls out, and so he let his foe come in, hugged him tightly, and then slung him around and down. A very nice move by the Ozeki, but to be honest, Im kind of sick and tired of backpedaling, countermove sumo from the top guys. We dont pay to see this kind of shit. Maybe Kotooshu doesnt look like such a pussy after all.

So, finally we had the two bouts that matter, the two men in whose hands the drama and destiny of the Osaka 2012 basho lay (well, Mike is the third guy in this troika, but as he is not technically IN sumo, Ill omit him). Baruto was taking on the ever dangerous (if youre a sandwich slathered in barbecue sauce, that is) Gagamaru. In yet another Day One bout where the backward moving rikishi pulls off a swing down, Biomass let Butterball drive him back, only to spank him on the bottom with a perfect (if slow motion) uwate-nage overarm throw. Gagamaru had this bout, or at least had a good chance, but he could not keep the Ozeki centered in front of him.

Finally, Hakuho has to take care of pesky Tochiohzan, skyrocketed all the way up from M8 to Komusubi!! Wow. He certainly justified his promotion by bringing all he had vs. the Yokozuna. In fact, he managed to get Hakuho to retreat, but here is where one needs to consult the dictionary under "tactical retreat," because as Mike pointed out in a Skype convo, Hakuho often will feel out the other guy in the first few nanoseconds, see if hes open to a hataki-komi slapdown (the Yokozuna being a smart guy and not wanting to expend more energy than is necessary). When he senses that Tochiohzan was bringing his A-game, Kublai smoothly moved back and waited for the inevitable opening. Yes, once again this is not the sumo Im in love with, but itll do for Hakuho as he used what is normally a desperation move to thrust Oh Snap to the clay.

Some might have noticed that Tochiohzan had the Hakuhos belt in this left hand for the taking but did not, and imagine this to mean the fix was in, and that Hakuho was the beneficiary. Au contraire, mein freund. Tochiohzan was simply trying to keep his arms in, his left elbow pinned to his side so that the Yokozuna could not get his own inside right.

At any rate, Mike will be up tomorrow to check the pulse, and Day 6 will bring us a spanking new contributor name of Matt. Looking forward to that, as well as our usual Day 7 from the Mighty Matra himself. Yeah, Mike, Martin, Matthew, and Me. What a team. Makes me sad Mario left to plumb the secrets of existence. See ya on Day 8.









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