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Day 1

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

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
One question that often bubbles unbidden to the top of the stew that is my mind is why do I continue to be interested in sumo? Verily, this is a sport that, even in its country of origin and on a Day 15 that promises an exceedingly rare clash of 14-0 rikishi, draws a crowd whose average age is best described as "infinity plus one."

The answer probably lies in the hold the sport had on me when I was new to Japan, and also in the grandeur that is a hard fought, honest bout between two equally matched foes. In its lead up to the clash between Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Harumafuji, NHK showed a few past bouts wherein a Grand Champion and a Champion went toe to toe on Day 15 14-0. The best of these was some bout back when I was biting ankles, late 60s or so. The bout featured I think Yokozuna Wakanohana (cant recall which just now) taking on another undefeated Ozeki. In the battle, both men were clearly straining as much as they could, locked into a tight yotsu battle, mirroring each others stance and moves. The winner took the yusho by dint of a tiny bit more strength applied here and there. There was no "Oops, duh me!" moment, no move that either man made which caused me to scratch my head. It was o-zumo through and through.

I wish I could say the same about the Hakuho/Harumafuji bout today, but alas I cannot. The very first mistake by the Yokozuna came right after the tachi-ai, when they separated for a split second before coming together again. For some reason, maybe injury, maybe bad timing who knows, Hakuho kept his left arm loose and up, allowing Harumafuji the deep inside right belt grip when it looked to me had Hakuho kept his left arm in tight, HE would have been the one with the inside. But hey, maybe he gave up one thing to get another, as he did manage to get an inside right grip, while HowDo grabbed an outside left.

With both men returned to the same position on the dohyo as when they began, the Yokozuna made his second strange choice. He decided to forego using his larger size and greater strength and take a few seconds to wear down the Ozeki, you know, sort of hunker down and stick his ass back, lean in on him a little (but not too much and get slapped down). Suss him out, if you will (and you will!) No, instead Hakuho decided to rush it. Rush It. If a sumo wrestler who is clearly bigger and stronger wants to give himself the best chance possible of losing, he should Rush It!

So Hakuho, with just an inside right grip (and a too deep grip at that), basically stands upright and walks right into Harumafuji, who with his double belt grip EASILY swings the somnambulant Kublai around and out via yori-kiri. To add insult to injury, Hakuho sort of tripped as HowDo pushed him out, and he crashed ungainly into the fans ringside (breaking one ladies nose and oddly enough, improving her looks!).

Course, you could point out that the Ozeki won the bout when he got that deep right inside from the start, and youd be pretty much right. And that could have been a simple tactical mistake by Hakuho or poor execution. But there was really no good reason I could see for him to hurry forward into an upright stance against arguably the best thrower in sumo.

So we were robbed of a good long hard fought bout by some poor decisions by the best guy in the sport, and that capped a basho where at the end of play on Day 8 the six Ozeki and one Yokozuna were a combined 50-6, but finished a combined 76-29 with all Ozeki finishing with five or six losses but for the yusho winner. Course, thats because they kill each other off!

One bright spot was Myogiryu, whose six losses came to three Ozeki, Hakuho, and two large powerful guys in Aoiyama and Homasho. Today he did not fall for (literally) Takekazes backward from the tachi-ai slapping and shapeshifting, keeping his feet under him and chasing the W4 out with a powerful mawashi shove as he dove to the dirt. Takekaze had not technically touched down, but had jumped off into space and was plummeting well past the top of the dohyo as the Yogi crashed to his teats. With Goeido and Tochiohzan floundering at Sekiwake he is a cinch to be promoted in Tokyo.

Also it appears due to the deep suckitude of M1 Kyokutenho (2-13), S Tochiohzan (4-11), K Toyonoshima (5-10), M1 Aminishiki (6-9), M2 Okinoumi (4-11), and poor luck of injured Goeido (7-6-2), hell be joined at that rank by Aoiyama, wholl be sailing to such shores for the first time after pulling out an 8-7 today by besting Kyokushuzan...I mean, Tokitenku, whose sumo has devolved into nothing more than sissy slaps, lateral escapes and leg kicks that might get him a tryout with the Rockettes but arent going to work on Captain Ahab.

The banzuke ended up looking fat on both ends and sparse in the middle as several low ranked fellas swam into the mid to upper Maegashira waters and feasted on the chum: E13 Daido finished 10-5, though he got pressed like an olive today in a loss to 9-6 Tochinoshin today (and I want to say that the Private has a very regal bearing, looks like the could be a prince or something back in Georgia, doesnt he?); W13 Masunoyama at 11-4 after he watched Shotenro lose his balance from a few slaps; W8 and senior three sport letterman Kaisei with an 11-4 after he carried freshman wisenheimer Takanoyama over to the garbage cans and dumped him in much to the delight of everyone eating lunch in the cafeteria at NSK High; and E7 Gagamaru flashing a sweet little 10-5 which was marred somewhat on this final day by getting his ass KICKED by Toyohibiki in a battle of Hutt Brothers. The Nikibi looked to be getting shoved out when he put his arms inside, resisted the push of the Human Ham, and used some strength that I seriously cannot BEGIN to imagine to lift up on and drive his foe back and out. Picture Kotoshogiku doing his gaburi thing to Baruto, very similar look.

With both men at 8-6, the stage was set for a mean bout, and it did not disappoint as veterans Homasho and Wakanosato went chest to chest, neither man willing to lose, each man looking to be the cream that rises to the top. It ended when Homasho stepped back with a handful of frontal belt and executed a nifty uwate-dashi-nage, pulling overhanded throw which The (former) Barometer had no time to do shite about but close his mouth to avoid getting it full of clay.

I was happy to see Chiyotairyu get his KK vs Miyabiyama (8-7), whose throat thrustings didnt do all that much and allowed the W15 in for the yori-kiri win. Also enjoyed W3 Shohozan going KK by dropping a nasty kote-nage bomb on Takarafujis ass after a protracted struggle. Shohozan is without question the baddest looking mofo in sumo, with that stubbly beard and face that looks like it enjoys making dogs whine. Dude could be a mob enforcer (actually ANY of these guys could, but ShoHo looks the part.)

Well, we were promised some veal on Day 13, but Kenji never showed, so to honor his memory, Im going to cut this report very short (my kids are home for the summer and Im Mr. Mom) and say see ya in September.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Apologies on the delay in reports, but I'm not sure what happened to Kenji, and I had a little fly fishing trip arranged that put the site on hold for a day and a night. Before I comment on the significant day 14 bouts, I would be remiss if I didn't recap the epic bout between Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Baruto yesterday as it's the best bout of sumo we've seen since Hakuho and Asashoryu battled on senshuraku on the 2008 Hatsu basho. Baruto actually took control of the bout winning the tachi-ai and not only gaining the left outer grip positioning his head low into Hakuho's upper torso. The Yokozuna dug in mightily as the two ended up in the gappuri-migi yotsu position, but this was one for the ages as Baruto tried to mount several offensive attacks only to be rebuffed by Hakuho's sheer grit in the end. Once it was clear that Baruto was gassed an no more offensive maneuvers were coming, Hakuho was able to force the action laterally to where he then sprung an uwate-nage trap, but the greatness in this bout was Hakuho's determination not to lose. This bout now becomes the standard bearer of what Hakuho looks like when he doesn't want to lose at any cost, and now you know why I frequently label Hakuho losses as illegitimate. If he doesn't put up a fight as he did on day 13, he isn't trying, and it's easy to tell. Injuries shminjuries. Hakuho is probably the greatest specimen to ever set foot on the dohyo.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's focus on the day 14 bouts starting with Harumafuji and then Hakuho as these two are the only rikishi who can yusho. Harumafuji needed to best fellow Ozeki Kotooshu to keep the pressure on Hakuho, and best him he did stepping out wide left to grab the cheap outer grip with which he then used to simply pull the Bulgarian over to the edge before pushing him out as Kotooshu tried to square back up. I could go either way on calling this a henka, but Kotooshu was his usual bump-on-a-log self making this one look easy as Harumafuji skates to 14-0 putting the pressure on Hakuho

Yokozuna Hakuho looked to do battle with Ozeki Kisenosato today, and the Kid looked fired up from the start jumping the gun before the Yokozuna had sufficient time to put both fists down. As Kisenosato headed back to his line after the false start, Hakuho gave him a shove into the right teet drawing some oohs and ahs from the crowd. As the two reloaded, Kisenosato jumped the gun again trying to time the Yokozuna's tachi-ai causing his second false start in as many tries. The third time is generally a charm, but this time it wasn't as Hakuho just slammed his fists to the dirt and jumped left pulling Kisenosato down in half a second for the win by tachi-ai henka. And so after about three total seconds of action, both Harumafuji and Hakuho find themselves at 14-0 while Kisenosato falls to 10-4. Regarding the henka from the Yokozuna, I had absolutely no problem with it. Hakuho wasn't stalling at the tachi-ai, and he maintained an even rhythm putting his right hand down first and then going for the left. Kisenosato clearly tried to jump the gun to gain advantage, and after the second try, the Yokozuna had had enough. Hakuho was disrespected twice, and so he sent the Ozeki a message with the henka. There were some catcalls from the crowd, but you don't try and shenanigan your way into an advantage against a Yokozuna. You just don't.

The result is the two Mongolian rikishi fighting for the yusho on senshuraku, and if we've learned one thing from sumo the past 18 months, anything can and probably will happen.

In our second Ozeki duel of the day, Kotoshogiku stepped out wide himself to grab the cheap outer grip on Baruto's Belt, but the Estonian kept his chest aligned with the Geeku forcing the contest into migi-yotsu. Baruto had absolutely no interest in grabbing the left outer grip on the near side, and he was nonchalant as Kotoshogiku did a maki-kae on the far side getting moro-zashi. Baruto complied with a right outer grip over the top that he curiously forgot to grab on the other side in the first few seconds of the bout, and as Kotoshogiku mounted his force-out charge, Baruto let go of his right outer and tried to grab the left outer instead, but he was too far gone providing the easy yori-kiri fodder in the end. Baruto falls to 8-6 and wasn't trying to win this bout; trust me. Kotoshogiku moves to 10-4 with the win.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Kakuryu picked up the freebie against Sekiwake Goeido who withdrew after suffering a cracked rib. What a way for the Kak to pick up kachi-koshi while Goeido will be demoted to Komusubi for Aki with a 7-8 record.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan has had no de-ashi this basho so even after getting the left inside after the tachi-ai, the Sekiwake let Shohozan escape, and once there was separation, the feisty Shohozan just slapped the shit out of Tochiohzan pushing him back and out with some face slaps that echoed throughout the venue. Shohozan is still alive at 7-7 while Tochiohzan falls to 3-11.

Komusubi Toyonoshima had no answer for M2 Aoiyama's long tsuppari. After knocking the Komusubi back a step and then two with those beefy paws, Toyonoshima looked to evade to his left near the edge, but Aoiyama caught him square in the neck with a shove pushing the Komusubi back and out in about three seconds. Excellent sumo from Aoiyama who keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 7-7. Toyonoshima falls to 4-10.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Myogiryu looked lost against M6 Homasho staying back from the tachi-ai and looking for an opening instead of driving forward and setting the pace, and so Homasho did it for him driving forward with his head down befuddling Myogiryu into a pull attempt, and when it came, Homasho used his left arm on the inside and just dove laterally into Myogiryu knocking him out with style. Homie picks up kachi-koshi with the win as Myogiryu falls to 7-7.

M1 Aminishiki set up M2 Okinoumi with some wicked tsuppari to the throat before assuming the left inside position and right outer grip. As has been the case the entire basho, Okinoumi (3-11) had nothing, so Aminishiki (5-9) just bowled him across the dohyo with that right outer grip.

M1 Kyokutenho finally picked up his first win of the basho fighting off M12 Sadanofuji's extended arms and just pulling him down about two seconds in. I think even I could have pulled Sadanofuji down in this one he was leaning forward so far. Regardless, Kyokutenho is now 1-13!!

I'm sure M4 Takekaze thought he could outclass M13 Daido, so he charged straight forward, but Daido calmly secured the right inside position and worked Takekaze back and across the straw without argument. Great stuff from Daido who moves to 10-4, and the dude is just brimming with confidence these days. M4 Takekaze falls to 7-7, and I desperately hope he loses on senshuraku. This guy deserves no rewards.

I really see a lot of similarities in M4 Tochinoshin and M8 Kaisei who immediately hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Kaisei had the left outer and used it to force Tochinoshin back straightway. Shin did grab his own left outer near the edge, but it was too late, so his last resort was an utchari attempt that didn't quite have enough mustard as Kaisei crushed his foe to the dirt via yori-taoshi. Well fought bought from Kaisei, but as I stated previously, I see a lot of similarities to Tochinoshin, so it's hard to get excited about Kaisei despite his 10-4 record. Shin falls to 8-6.

Look at M13 Masunoyama surviving an M5 Aran henka to his left, keeping his balance, and then pummeling Aran back and out of the dohyo in a few seconds to move to 10-4. Aran falls to 9-5 and has to at least try and beat the youngster straight up doesn't he? You can't run from a dude in just his second basho in the division.

M6 Shotenro is a tsuppari guy first and a yotsu guy second (maybe third), so after M14 Wakanosato stopped his tsuppari charge near the edge and forced the bout to migi-yotsu, the momentum was clearly in Croconosato's favor. At one point Wakanosato had his gal set up for a pull out of the ring, and as he executed the move he tiptoed the tawara, but Shotenro also held himself up as if at the ledge of a high cliff, and so the two hooked back up in a rare scene, but Shotenro was too gassed as Wakanosato resumed the clinch and forced him back picking up kachi-koshi in the process. Shotenro looks for his own kk tomorrow at 7-7.

On the line in the M7 Gagamaru - M15 Chiyotairyu matchup was a possible special prize for Gagamaru and a kachi-koshi for Chiyotairyu. After a slow motion tachi-ai if I've ever seen one, Chiyotairyu went for the early pull allowing Gagamaru to force the bout to yotsu-zumo with the left inside position. Chiyotairyu's poor yotsu skill were on display as Lord Gaga worked his way into a right outer grip, and then used it to dump Chiyotairyu to the clay not to mention a 7-7 record. Gagamaru skates to 10-4. Chiyotairyu's stable master, Chiyonofuji, was in the booth, and Yoshida Announcer asked about his prodigy's sumo to which the former great replied, "There's just too much of a difference in power if he gets into a gappuri yotsu match with Gagamaru."

M9 Miyabiyama surely slept well last night knowing he'd only need to beat M10 Tamaasuka to pick up kachi-koshi. The Sheriff came out of his stance with a nice choke hold and as Tamaasuka tried to evade, Miyabiyama just dragged him down by the neck picking up his eighth win. How in the hell is the 2-12 Tamaasuka ranked at M10?

M11 Kitataiki picked up kachi-koshi against M10 Takarafuji in a bout that saw Takarafuji grab Taiki's left arm in tottari fashion and position himself for a throw, but Takarafuji doesn't exactly equal the phrase "fleet of foot" and Kitataiki just rammed his right shoulder into Takarafuji's chest bulldozing him out of the dohyo as Takarafuji was still attempting his throw.

And finally, J2 Tenkaiho picked up kachi-koshi today by besting M12 Takanoyama, primarily because Takanoyama charged straight forward. The two eventually hooked up in migi-yotsu after some serious hand wrangling and Takanoyama actually getting moro-zashi, but the Czech native couldn't budge the Hutt a centimeter with the dual insides, so Tenkaiho maki-kae'd with the left and just crushed the Chewtoy back and down to improve to 8-6.

As we knew two days ago, the yusho would come down to either Hakuho or Harumafuji, and props to the Sumo association for breaking protocol and not pitting the Yokozuna against the top-ranked Ozeki on the final day, instead saving Harumafuji for a possible duel between two 14-0 rikishi.  That will now be realized tomorrow as Clancy will tell you about it.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Sumo fans need to ask themselves which type of basho they like where the fighting is all relatively straight up or one where the guys at the top drop bouts on purpose in order to create a more exciting yusho race. At face value, a normal fan would of course choose the former, but when you have such a dominating Yokozuna and no one else even close, it can make for some pretty uninteresting basho. And thus the dilemma that the Sumo Association is currently facing since the Yokozuna and the top Ozeki are all foreigners. But we've already beaten that horse like Hochiyama's opponents, so let's quickly review the leader board heading into the day, which has thankfully been pared down to only legitimate rikishi. Hakuho and Harumafuji are running away with the basho with undefeated records while Ozeki Kotoshogiku is two losses back and still technically in the race, but he'd have to topple the Yokozuna today to keep things interesting.

So as long as we're on the subject...

Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Kotoshogiku immediately set up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai with Kotoshogiku actually gaining the left frontal belt grip, but as the two instinctively rotated around the ring refusing to align chests, Hakuho shook off Kotoshogiku's belt grip with a nifty left kote-nage throw that created separation and put Kotoshogiku on his heels. Before the Ozeki could respond, Hakuho was onto him like flies to poop and pushed him off the dohyo for the emphatic win leaving Hakuho at 12-0. The loss drops Kotoshogiku to 9-3 and means Harumafuji had to lose to Kakuryu today in order to keep hopes alive for the three-loss rikishi.

Wouldn't happen as Ozeki Harumafuji sorta recovered from an awful tachi-ai where he let the Kak penetrate in deep with the right arm while Harumafuji's only answer was the left over the top, but winning wasn't on Kakuryu's mind even though he had moro-zashi and Harumafuji moving backwards. From this position, Kakuryu just spun his body in the direction of a Harumafuji throw, and HowDo responded accordingly throwing the Kak over with a left outer grip. Former Futenoh, who was sitting in the mukou-joumen chair today and did an outstanding job, commented, "Harumafuji's movements were like the losing rikishi." Kitanofuji agreed and neither could deny that Harumafuji lost the tachi-ai and was on his heels throughout. The throw was way to exaggerated because Harumafuji had no footing to make such a counter move. You don't go from the position seen at upper left  and make the throw seen at right unless the other guy is mukiryoku.  Anyway, the win moved Harumafuji to 12-0 meaning that the yusho is down to Hakuho and Harumafuji. Kakuryu falls to 6-6 taking one for team Mongolian, but I have this sneaking suspicion he's still going to get those eight wins!

With the two bouts regarding the yusho out of the way, I'm going to keep the rest of this report short and only comments on bouts of interest. I have plenty to say about all the rikishi, but if I use my ammo up now, there will be nothing to say in my post basho report...and I still gotta break things down on day 14.

In my intro, I used the phrase "relatively straight up" because regardless of how proper this basho has appeared, we're still seeing thrown bouts with the next example the Ozeki Baruto - Ozeki Kisenosato matchup today. At the tachi-ai, Baruto used that most effective move of standing straight up at the tachi-ai and putting both hands up high around Kisenosato's head in what I like to call the "just do me now" tachi-ai most recently exhibited by Kakuryu on senshuraku of the Haru basho against Goeido. Kisenosato responded in short order pushing Baruto out in one second, maybe two. At least Baruto did move to the side in an effort to make it look sorta real, but this was an ugly, ugly bout. My best speculation is that once Baruto suffered his third loss thus taking him out of the yusho hunt, he or someone in his camp decided to prop up his fellow Japanese Ozeki. No harm no foul here as Baruto falls to 8-4 while Kisenosato improves to 9-3.

What's up with Komusubi Myogiryu's tactic of charging too low the last few days? He tried it again today against Ozeki Kotooshu insistent on grabbing the front of the Bulgarian's belt, but Kotooshu rebuffed him rather easily and just shoved him straight down into the dirt for the easy win. Myogiryu is a fast learner so I don't' suspect similar tactics next basho, but he's still a fine 6-6 considering this is his Komusubi daybutt (or debut as they say in French).

When you get your ass kicked by M2 Okinoumi (3-9) this basho and you're in the sanyaku, you've got some repenting to do. Suckiwake Tochiohzan actually had moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but with no de-ashi, Okinoumi stepped to his right and just slapped Tochiohzan's ass down to the clay not to mention a 3-9 record. Sorta reminded me of Futenoh's sumo (urp).

Sekiwake Goeido henka'd M1 Kyokutenho today and how can you blame him, what with Kyokutenho's 0-11 record coming in. Goeido moved left to grab the cheap outer grip and then just spun Kyokutenho around and forced him out for the quick and dirty win moving him to 7-5.

In a straight up fight, M2 Aoiyama would kick M4 Takekaze's ass, but you could totally see Aoiyama worried about the tachi-ai henka today, and when it didn't come, Takekaze (6-6) already had Aoiyama (5-7) on his heels scoring the ill-gotten sukui-nage win even though it appeared straightforward.

M13 Masunoyama picked up his first ever Makuuchi kachi-koshi by surprisingly manhandling M6 Homasho. Masunoyama caught Homie by the neck at the tachi-ai and lifted him straight up painting a target on his back in the process. Homasho, whose charge was a bit too high, didn't have the wherewithal to get back low nor could he retreat fast enough because Masunoyama was on top of him from the get-go using excellent de-ashi. This was done in three seconds as Masunoyama clinched kachi-koshi and gave one of the better interviews I've heard. Just seeing the joy on his face made Masunoyama's mother and myself proud because this guy's been fighting against a major injury for a year.

M7 Gagamaru effectively knocked M8 Kaisei out of the yusho race in a gappuri hidari-yotsu bout of o-zumo. Neither dude wanted to budge, but the difference in the bout that lasted about 20 seconds was Gagamaru's experience fighting in the division. With Kaisei causing us to scratch our heads watching him fight brilliantly one basho only to stink the next, Gagamaru has consistently been fighting from the mid-Maegashira up to the jo'i ranks. Huge difference as Gagamaru picks up his first kachi-koshi in three basho.

M7 Tokitenku picked up koshi-koshi today with a beautiful suso-harai against 4-8 M12 Sadanofuji. The two fought a pretty decent migi-yotsu contest, but with Sadanofuji standing around like a bump on a log, Tokitenku performed the outside leg sweep to perfection. Kitanofuji, who was on fire in his analysis today, said, "Tokitenku has all these moves like suso-harai, keta-guri, and chon-gake, but what about an outer grip and straightforward yori-kiri?" Amen bruthuh.

I was going to counter Matt's take yesterday regarding M12 Takanoyama and why he likes him, but he wrapped up his point beautifully using the bear vs. wolf fight analogy when everyone is expecting a bear vs. bear. I'm strictly a bear vs. bear guy and can't tolerate anything else. So you know I went limp after watching M12 Takanoyama henka M16 Ikioi and throw him down a second in with a tottari throw. Both Futenoh and Kitanofuji criticized Takanoyama's sumo afterwards as everyone else does on the Japanese broadcast because these guys were raised with the mindset of bears fighting bears.

And finally, after watching fellow Makuuchi pal, Hochiyama, get his ass kicked by visiting Juryo rikishi, Sagatasuka, M14 Tochinowaka promptly got his own ass kicked as well by visiting Asasekiryu. Tochinowaka actually had moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but he could do nothing with it allowing Asasekiryu to easily throw him over with a left kote-nage. After the bout, Kitanofuji described Tochinowaka's sumo as "chiisai." Perfect description.

Kill the fatted calf because the prodigal co-founder returns tomorrow!

Day 11 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Hello from steamy Nippon! Have to travel far to get a good deal on car insurance these days. Turns out that the best deal was to go raid Spain (thanks for the tip, Óscar!) while everybody was busy protesting the government's decision to put the economy into a depression. Strange, those Spaniards.

Speaking of strange, it is also a bit strange to watch sumo these days. On the one hand, we have a Yokozuna who is big, young, relatively free from injury, powerful, dynamic, balanced on the dohyo, and often amazing to watch. On the other hand, he can spend most of Week 1 dancing around lesser rikishi, looking for a pull instead of taking the fight to them. On the one hand, we have more Ozeki than ever, and two of them can really bring it and keep said Yokozuna on his toes. On the other hand, four of the Ozeki show little hope of winning at least for the next year (barring unforeseen questionable circumstances). On the one hand, there are some solid veterans and exciting up-and-comers throughout the banzuke. On the other hand, there are a few gaping, how-de-he-get-here holes that make you wonder. And finally, we have the strong likelihood of thrown bouts that goes well beyond the 7-7 trickery we had come to understand and even begrudgingly accept, all the way to setting up crazy yusho races like we saw in May.

So that means when I watch sumo, I've got ... seven hands! Like I said-- strange.

In the midst of this strangeness, we have a very traditional yusho race between the Yokozuna and a top Ozeki, with everybody else at least two wins off the lead. Harumafuji is looking very genki this go around. It will be interesting to see it play out. On the one hand (there he goes again -- doesn't he have any other rhetorical techniques?), I feel like Hak has too much pride on the line to let anything slip -- he needs to win one to have a chance at four on the year (or even three if he has to give one away) -- so he's looking at 15-0 and the outright yusho. Having seen the respective content of their sumo, I'm torn, but I'll stick with that.

OK, enough chitter chatter. Let's get to some sumo. I will run the two front-runner bouts chronologically and then go backwards down the ladder, in case somebody is not as excited about Ikioi's KK chances...

In what must be the featured bout of the day, Harumafuji looked to remain unbeaten against the Japanese hope (who is unfortunately a below-average Ozeki so far). The two rikishi went at it in what was nominally a tsuppari battle. I say nominally because HowDo was mostly skipping the thrusts and just about hari-te-ing the teeth right out of Kise's mouth. After a couple of slaps, he was going for moro-zashi, but Kise would push him out of position. But a couple more big slaps and he finally got what he wanted, using the double inside to burrow into his bigger opponent. He then quickly bullied the Kid out for an 11-0 record, theoretically putting pressure on the Yokozuna to keep pace. Kise drops to an unsurprising 8-3. HowDo came in with a plan, executed with flair, and stuck with it until he succeeded. Kise should have looked to mix things up, but easier said than done against such a quick opponent.

The Yokozuna (10-0) stepped up with Kotooshu (7-3) for the musubi-no-ichiban. Indeed, the pressure to keep pace was purely theoretical, because the Bulgarian holds very few surprises up his... not sleeves, since they don't wear any up on the dohyo. I guess they wear a mawashi, but I'd rather not think about the surprises he's got up there. Let's leave that to Mike's report. Anyway, without surprises, it's hard to do anything else that would get Hakuho into a vulnerable position, so the question is usually just how long Oshu will last. In this case, the answer was "not long." Instead of using his length and keeping his hips back, Kotooshu's only chance at staying alive, he came in tight to get himself a grip. He consequently gave up a big right hand grip and was too high, giving Hak more than enough to finish him off.

And now we return to reverse chronological order.

Kakuryu, who hasn't quite had his best stuff this tourney, came in low and fast at the tachi-ai with Baruto to set up a very deep inside grip with his left that Baruto tried to match with his customary over-the-back grip with his right. Big Boy Bart did manage to prevent moro-zashi, but Kak was in pretty deep and started to use his position to power forward and had the crowd thinking upset. Well, I guess moro-zashi would have made this more even. Baruto said "Hold on, pardner, I'm leading in this square dance," and proceeded to lift Kak off his feet, swing his partner 'round, and walk him all the way out for a good ol' Baruto-dashi. Baruto is 8-3 and Kak is almost sure to fall short of double digits at 6-5.

I'm sure everyone except Kotoshogiku was disappointed to see Myogiryu lose his footing at the tachi-ai and immediately put a hand on the clay. Geeku keeps pace in the race for third at 9-2, while Myogiryu is still doing great at 6-5 from the E-K slot. Moving on...

Goeido got away with one today. Kaisei had him on the run and setup for the throw with a strong left outside grip. Goeido used his quickness to keep the bout moving around the ring enough to get his man off balance and to lose the throwing grip, leading to the Brasilian's demise. Shitate-nage is the call, but it was not such a clean result as that. Goeido picks up win number six and cools off the hot run of Kaisei, who drops to 9-2.

The lineup today had a stretch in the second half that I'll call the "Round-up of Dishonor," filled with five rikishi who were essentially tasked with the job of making some noise near the top and keeping the Ozeki on their toes, plus M5 Takayasu, who should have been in position to have a nice run. Well, these three match-ups instead contained just 10 wins between the six men after 10 days. But I guarantee that they will add 30% to their combined win total today.

Aminishiki, with two of those wins, came in with the stronger charge against fellow two-win rikishi Tochiohzan. But after knocking his opponent backwards, he lost momentum with a maki-kae attempt with his right. Oh Snap blocked the attempt and quickly turned the tide, driving the Shneaky one to the edge. At this point, I laughed out loud as Aminishiki spun his arms around like a cartoon character on the edge of ledge before the inevitable fall, in this case aided by a final push by Tochiohzan. One more win for our Unsexy Six.

Not much exciting to say about Okinoumi this basho, except that his mawashi color has changed from light blue to this grey/gold color that turns out to be the same as his opponent today, Toyonoshima. Also the same as a car I used to have, and I still can't name the color. What's that you say? Focus on the damn sumo? Alrighty, then -- Okinoumi was moving Tugboat backwards towards the edge from the opening thrusts, so Toyonoshima went for the risky maki-kae to get moro-zashi. Well, he got it, but Okidoki already had him near the tawara, so he quickly squeezed down kime style and put on the forward pressure for his second win. This seals a make-koshi for Tuggy. It definitely helps the quality of a basho when Toyonoshima is on his game, so his disappointing trip to Nagoya is unfortunate.

Takayasu met winless Kyokutenho. The Chauffeur had the better charge at the tachi-ai, moving the hairy dude back, but he stayed high and thought pull the whole way. Takayasu kept his feet, kept hands in his wily opponent's chest, and chased the much-beaten champion around in a circle and out. Could the yusho winner go 0-15? Oh, the drama...

And my guarantee was fulfilled with three more wins for this group. Imagine that!

OK. Time for a few quick hits for the middle of the fight card.

Aoiyama (5-6) beat Wakakoyu (3-8) at his own game, thrusting and then moving out of the way at the right time. I doubt that this is the best strategy for the Bulgarian, but it worked today.

Miyabiyama went for the face today in his match with Shohozan, while the smaller man went for the chest. Chest wins, as long as Shohozan kept his balance, which he did to go 4-7. MiFlobby at 5-6.

If you told me that the kimari-te for today's Tochinoshin vs. Tokitenku bout was hataki-komi, I would have called it for the old veteran. But no, the pull down ended the pushing affair in favor of the Georgian. Both men at 7-4.

Kitataiki vs. Takekaze is barely worth commenting on. It was a shoving affair and close at the edge, but Takekaze (5-6) stepped out first, so oshi-dashi for Kitataiki (7-4).

Quick bout between Aran and Chiyotairyu. First, no henka from Aran (needs to be said, lest the reader be confused). Then, Chiyotairyu got the better of the tachi-ai, moving Aran back. They quickly locked into migi-yotsu and a roughly equal position, but Aran had a strong left outer while Chiyotairyu had a hand dangling in air. That was the difference, as Aran settled in for a few seconds before quickly moving Chiyotairyu back and over the tawara. Unusually straightforward stuff from the Russian, who is 8-3. Chiyotairyu is still in good position at 6-5.

Tochinowaka (4-7) made today's win for Homasho (7-4) harder based only on his size. Homie came in lower, had more power in his thrusts, got the inside position, and worked his man out. I hope that Sleep Waka is injured and gets better soon. He was really worth watching just a couple of basho ago.

Shotenro is better than 1-10 Hochiyama in a thrusting battle and moves above .500 with the win. Enough said.

Interesting choice for Gagamaru today, going after the mawashi of Daido instead of aiming his powerful tsuppari. After one failed attempt, he had his man with a deep inside right -- or so he thought. Daido reacted perfectly, immediately looking to keep Lady Gaga moving by spinning back with his right and threatening an uwate-nage with his left. Daido lost and regained his grip, and this time executed the throw on the compromised Georgian. Good stuff from Daido, who makes his 8-3 from M13 look more impressive with the win over the bigger man, who is still a win from KK.

I've been liking me some Toyohibiki lately. He's never going to challenge for a top position, as he lacks the moves and the gusto. But he's a fine rikishi and he moves forward. Today, he bounced into Wakanosato and had the too-old-to-say-veteran moving backwards. El Croc threatened a throw, which didn't slow Hibiki but probably should have. Because without improving his balance or getting any kind of grip, Hibiki took Wakanosatoto the edge, where the former Barometer re-upped on the throw and made it work. Both guys are now 6-5.

The story of the Yoshikaze vs. Masunoyama match is that Yoshikaze didn't henka and Masunoyama charged full speed ahead. Advantage Mass of a Mountain. It was an even match for exactly one tsuppari each, before the big young gun blasted serious tsuppari into the smaller Starbuck's chest and knocked him out of the dohyo with authority (7-4). Yoshikaze is somehow still in it at 5-6 despite some ugly sumo this go around.

Sadanofuji was a bit stronger in his tsuppari attack than Tamaasuka. Eventually, he switched things up by getting an inside position and bullying the unimpressive (2-9) M10 out to stave off an MK and move to 4-7.

How the hell is Ikioi 6-4? He should be good for 6-4 at J3, not M-anything. 4-6 Takarafuji with a textbook win today to move both guys' records closer to .500 (6-5 and 5-6, respectively, to save Clancy a few minutes of arithmetic). A stronger, lower tachi-ai got Takarafuji a better position and a better left hand grip to work with, which he took his time using to force his opponent out and onto his back.

Finally, my man, the Checko, pulled a henka to get the quick win over the Mawashi. Except in Takanoyama's case, it shouldn't be the "change up," but instead the standard maneuver. And for Tamawashi to bull rush the micro-Euro is just soooooooo (add a few more line's worth of o's) stupid. He deserves the loss and his 2-9 record.

And for the record, I enjoyed the Day 10 match between Takanoyama and Sadanofuji, where he made the bigger man work for his chanko nabe, including a little chest-to-chest action (oh!) that showed off Takanoyama's flexibility. I enjoy these matches much like I would enjoy watching a bear fight a wolf. It's not the standard bear v. bear fight, and we came here to watch the bear fights, but it can be pretty fun to watch anyway. (I do have to admit that Takanoyama's been getting his ass thrown all over the dohyo in most matches so far -- much less fun in that case).

All righty then --- back over to Mike for the Day 12 action. Enjoy the (hopefully clean) finish!

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's interesting to observe the contrast between this basho and the first three basho of the year. What we are seeing this basho is largely status quo. In other words, Hakuho is superior to everyone else and should maybe lose one bout every other basho. Alongside Hakuho, you also usually have one of the Ozeki keeping pace hopefully making things interesting in the end. If you go back the past year, the Ozeki keeping pace were Harumafuji, Baruto, and then Kakuryu that one basho in Osaka, so it was no surprise that heading into the day today that the three rikishi mentioned as serious yusho candidates were Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Baruto with the Estonian having an outside chance two losses back behind the undefeated Mongolians. Under normal circumstances, I would say that anything two losses behind Hakuho is out of contention, but with all the strangeness we've seen so far this year, a Hakuho loss could come at any time. If it doesn't here in Nagoya, then the yusho likely comes down to the winner of the Hakuho - Harumafuji matchup.

Before I get to the bouts, I have to make one comment on the NHK Japanese broadcast. In my day 7, I gushed at length over the takes provided by Takanohana and Mainoumi, especially as they relived the good ole days. And Mainoumi was in the booth again today for day 10, which made for enjoyable viewing, but I would be remiss if I didn't comment on the Japanese broadcast yesterday. Usually on the middle Sunday of the basho or on a holiday, the Sumo Association/NHK will invite a celebrity guest to sit in the mukou-jomen chair in an effort to add a different flavor to the broadcast since more people will be watching. Demon Kogure Kakka--that dude with the potted hat, strange makeup, and power ranger jumpsuit should be familiar to sumo fans as he makes an appearance about once a year, but yesterday they had an actress on named Shibata Rie. I have to say not only was she the most clueless guest they've ever had (at one point Yoshida Announcer had to explain the difference between yori-kiri and yori-taoshi), but she would blatantly root for the Japanese rikishi and then ooh and ah and even moan during the bouts and replays. Now, I'm all for listening to women moan and what not...just not while they're watching sumo. I was actually embarrassed for Yoshida Announcer and Kaio providing color commentary because that was a painful, painful broadcast and they were forced to deal with it. 99.5% of the programming on NHK is as professional as you please, but yesterday we got the .5%. I guess the broadcast gods giveth and the broadcast gods taketh away.

Lets get to the bouts where in week two I will start from the top down so as to comment on the yusho race. We start with Yokozuna Hakuho who displayed a rare tachi-ai for him where he slapped with the left hand while stepping out left to grab the cheap outer grip on Ozeki Kakuryu's belt. This left the Kak with the right inside, and he immediately went for a maki-kae with the right looking for moro-zashi, but the Yokozuna just maki-kae'd right back in what was turning out to be a sloppy affair with two or three meaningless maki-kae. When the dust settled, the two ended up in the migi-yotsu position, and the left outer was right there for the taking if Hakuho wanted it. Instead of grabbing it, he went for an uchi-muso sorta pushing in towards Kakuryu's left thigh (fresh!) while doing most of the damage by twisting Kakuryu down with the right hand in shitate-hineri fashion. Regardless of what the kimari-te was, this was a very unorthodox bout starting with Hakuho's tachi-ai henka, the meaningless maki-kae, and then the strange finish. In my opinion, Kakuryu had no intention of winning this bout for whatever reason. He just didn't dig in as we usually see him do against the giants like Hakuho and Baruto. The end result is Hakuho keeping at least a share of the lead at 10-0 while Kakuryu falls to 6-4.

The featured Ozeki duel of the day was another very strange affair where Harumafuji used a hari-zashi tachi-ai with the left hand getting it securely on the inside, and with Harumafuji moving to his left, Ozeki Kotoshogiku didn't even counter even though he should have with the right kote-nage position. I mean, his hand was there instinctively, but he didn't bother to pinch inwards opting to leave it limp. One second in, Harumafuji went for the quick scoop throw with the left arm while Kotoshogiku readied his elbow to just hit the dohyo and roll. Kotoshogiku had no intention of attacking today, and he made no counter moves, so when I saw him roll just as they practice at the end of each day, it made me think the bout was fixed from the beginning. I don't know if the Geeku owed Harumafuji one or three, but this was more unnatural sumo. Hey, I may be wrong, but usually when you have two critical bouts like this with yusho implications, they're hard fought affairs. None of the four participants even worked up a sweat today as Harumafuji stays even steven with Hakuho at 10-0 while Kotoshogiku falls dangerously back at 8-2.

In a much better bout, Ozeki Kotooshu stayed low at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Baruto grabbing the left frontal mawashi, and with Baruto too casual thinking he'd get an outer grip, Kotooshu kept his hips back and denied it. There was no way Baruto wanted to give up moro-zashi, so he had to give up the right outer on the other side trading it for his own left inside position, but Kotooshu had seized the better position from the tachi-ai, and so he was in charge, especially with that right outer grip. Kotooshu kept his hips back, which disabled him from committing on an all-out yori charge, so he worked the Estonian back and actually went for an uchi-muso. Instead of taking advantage, Baruto responded with a slow maki-kae attempt with the right arm, but with Kotooshu in attack mode, he maki-kae'd back with his left arm, grabbed Baruto's belt, and threw him over with ease. Kotooshu completely dismantled the Estonian today knocking him out of the yusho to a 7-3 record while the Bulgarian moves to the same mark.

Ozeki Kisenosato easily got the left inner against Sekiwake Tochiohzan, and when Oh showed no resistance yet against this basho, Kisenosato raised him up a hair, grabbed the right outer grip, and that was all she wrote. Easy yori-kiri as Kisenosato improves to 8-2. Tochiohzan's make-koshi becomes official at 2-8.

Sekiwake Goeido used a hari-te at the tachi-ai against M1 Aminishiki but he sure as well wasn't looking for the sashi to go along with it. With Aminishiki's footwork and shove attack non-committal, Goeido just backed up and pulled the hapless M1 to the dirt in an ugly bout, especially for the top-ranked Sekiwake who moves to 5-5 while Aminishiki joins Tochiohzan at 2-8.

Komusubi Toyonoshima looked for moro-zashi from the start against M1 Kyokutenho getting the right inside straightway, and as Kyokutenho sorta went for a right outer belt throw, Toyonoshima backed out of it taking advantage of Kyokutenho's poor footwork and securing moro-zashi. Against the taller Kyokutenho, Toyonoshima had to be careful in is force-out charge, but he used his experience to force the Chauffeur back and across in the end as improved to just 3-7. Kyokutenho falls to 0-10, and there's no use beating that dead horse again.

Komusubi Myogiryu secured the right inside position from the tachi-ai against M4 Tochinoshin and took a page out of Kotoshogiku's book using his belly to force Tochinoshin back and upright in the process. It worked as Tochinoshin went for an early pull while Myogiryu already had the de-ashi firing away, and so the oshi-dashi win came in about three seconds. Both rikishi finish 6-4 and Myogiryu looks to be the shoe-in to replace Tochiohzan at Sekiwake.

M2 Okinoumi is struggling so much this basho he wasn't even able to take advantage of M3 Wakakoyu's faux oshi charge followed by the pull down. The Wookie's pull attempt was so weak that it didn't even send Okinoumi to the dirt, but the sloppy Okinoumi allowed himself to be pulled out of the ring in ugly fashion regardless. No wonder he's 1-9 as Wakakoyu ain't much better at 3-7.

M2 Aoiyama's not the tsuppari guy that M3 Shohozan is, but he patiently fought off Shohozan's tsuppari charge long enough to where he was able to seize the right inside position coupled with the left outer grip shortly after, and from there, Shohozan already had the fork stuck in him as Aoiyama threw him over easily with that left outer grip. Great sumo from the 4-6 Aoiyama who looks much more mature than the 3-7 Shohozan.

M9 Miyabiyama knew that M4 Takekaze would go for the pull, so he couldn't really commit with the lower body on his tsuppari. Still, Takekaze was thinking back away from the start, and Miyabiyama patiently waited for the opening before catching Takekaze with a beefy paw that sent Takekaze back and out as both rikishi finish 5-5.

M5 Takayasu interestingly settled for a left inner from the tachi-ai against M10 Tamaasuka, but I guess he knew Tamaasuka simply didn't have the power to bully him around. As Takayasu pressed his foe backward, Tamaasuka went for a maki-kae with the right arm and got it, but Takayasu didn't even break stride in his force out charge. Decent sumo against a bad opponent in Tamaasuka as both rikishi finish 2-8.

M13 Daido walked right into a right inside grip from M5 Aran at the tachi-ai, and while Daido was able to counter on the other side with a right inner, he's not a better yotsu fighter than Aran, so Aran let Daido think he was doing well by bellying the Russian back, but near the tachi-ai Aran sprang the trap executing a maki-kae with the left hand and then using it to throw Daido over for what looked like the comeback win, but this was Aran's intention from the start: let his opponent come at him and turn the tables at the end. Really good sumo from Aran considering it was defensive at first. Both gentlemen are 7-3 while Daidough's kachi-koshi is put on hold for a second day in a row.

M6 Shotenro tried to keep M8 Kaisei away from the belt at all costs and actually drove the Brasilian back a few steps with tsuppari, but he just couldn't commit to the push attack, so Shotenro grabbed the left mawashi and then went for a pull of Kaisei's head with the right hand. Dumb move as it gave Kaisei moro-zashi, which he parlayed into the easy yori-kiri win. If Shotenro is going to grab the outer and put his other hand at the back of Kaisei's head, he's gotta spin his opponent around in a circle to create an opening, not just sit there and give up moro-zashi. Watch out as Kaisei is 9-1 while Shotenro falls to 5-5.

Two similar rikishi butted heads and stayed low at the tachi-ai avoiding a yotsu fight, but M6 Homasho is simply a better fighter from this grapplin' position than M11 Kitataiki, so Homie was able to frustrate Kitataiki's attack long enough to where Kitataiki went for a slight pull, and the veteran Homasho made his move pushing Taiki back and out. Both fellas are 6-4.

M15 Chiyotairyu's excellent sumo has a shelf life of about five bouts. After that, he can't look for the pull soon enough. Today he knocked M7 Toyohibiki back pretty well from the tachi-ai with some nifty tsuppari, but he went for the pull for no reason and Toyohibiki was waiting. Chiyotairyu had enough of an advantage from the start that his pull nearly worked, but Toyohibiki forced his left leg to step out before he came crashing to the dohyo in all his girth. Both dudes are 6-4.

Two very similar rikishi hooked up into the hidari-yotsu position today in M7 Gagamaru and M13 Masunoyama, but Masunoyama flinched just a bit and was a hair late from the initial charge. As a result, Gagamaru got the easy right outer grip, and Masunoyama could do nothing to counter his force out charge. Gagamaru is a sweet 7-3 while Masunoyama is still doing well at 6-4. Remember, this youngster is still trying to overcome a serious ankle injury and survive in the division.

M14Wakanosato was way cautious at the tachi-ai against Yoshikaze using a right hari-te and then basically standing straight up in case of a henka. When it didn't come, the two found themselves in a tsuppari contest, but Wakanosato was able to back out of it and bait Yoshikaze into a pull down by the shoulder. Both rikishi end the day 5-5, but Yoshikaze's sumo has just been deplorable this basho. As much as I like him, I don't know how Oguruma-oyakata sleeps at night after watching Takekaze and Yoshikaze fight.

M9 Tokitenku's perfect keta-guri halted M16 Ikioi's ikioi pretty quickly today as the Mongolian executed it perfectly. One reason it worked was that Ikioi wasn't even looking up, so basically Tokitenku had him tripped before he knew what hit him. Personally, I think it's a cheap move because it's a tachi-ai henka (henka means to change up), but Tokitenku made it look good today. He's 7-3 while Ikioi is still in decent shape for his first ever Makuuchi KK at 6-4.

M10 Takarafuji and M14 Tochinowaka settled into a hidari-yotsu bout where Tochinowaka secured the right uwate while Takarafuji had none. The bottom line is Takarafuji simply isn't a good enough rikishi to overcome such a position, even in Tochinowaka's weakened condition. The yori-kiri cam straightway as Tochinowaka improves to 4-6 while Takarafuji drops to the same mark.

M11 Tamawashi brushed off M15 Hochiyama's kachi-age tachi-ai and used just a few tsuppari to push Hochiyama back and across. The bad news is Tamawashi's 2-8; the good news is that Hochiyama's record is even worse than that at 1-9.

And finally, M12 Takanoyama's sumo has turned into a game of tag where he makes his opponent chase him and get a hold of him. M12 Sadanofuji thoroughly dominated their bout today using a moro-tezuki at the tachi-ai to stand Takanoyama up before settling into a right outer grip. Oh sure, there was plenty of ditching and darting and bear hugs on Sadanofuji's arm in between, but in the end, Sadanofuji secured his right outer grip on all folds of the belt and forced Takanoyama out with some oomph, but the wiry Takanoyama somehow kept his feet on the tawara forcing Sadanofuji to step out before the yori-kiri was finished. The kimari-te was isami-ashi, or inadvertent step-out) and there's nothing good about Takanoyama's sumo. Sumo basics like tsuppari, de-ashi, aligning chests, etc. can't be seen in Takanoyama's sumo. He's basically playing a cat and mouse game making mammoth guys chase him around the dohyo. Some people might like it, but there's no place for it in this division if you ask me. Both rikishi are now 3-7.

Matt's got my back tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Considering mining accidents, you might assume that the first couple of minutes or hours are the most decisive. But that is untrue. After a major cave in, nothing can be done whatsoever until the players on the surface catch up. They guys underground might develop a pro-active attitude right from the start, but it is destined to be futile. The ceiling is already down. The lights are already off. The size of the oxygen bubble and the amount of remaining water and food have already been determined.

So Day 1 is exceptional in the sense that it sets the stage of the drama but nothing much beyond. By Day 21 your average mining catastrophe is usually terminated for the better or worse. Days 14 or 15 are good choices for speculating about the emergency shaft being drilled and the makeshift elevator operational. But decisive in the strict sense is most likely Day 9. By this day it is clear if Eduardo will have lost his nerves or Marcelo will make it with the broken leg. By Day 9 it should be clear why Hiung Bo has disappeared and Xian Tao asked for Alka-Seltzer the other day while everyone else was simply craving another pea.

That being said, the connection to the current Nagoya basho should already have sprung in your faces and poked your eyeballs. Tsevegnyam's employee of the month status proved to be pretty worthless under a pile of determined granite. Yutaka had the biggest mouth until he realized that he won't be home for Sunday's Mutton Surprise. And now it's the usual suspects who carry the troupe through dark days and nights. Davaajargal keeps leading the brigade although he takes great care that he does so with an air of suffering. Byambadorj proves to be the opposite of a pretender: tenacious in good times, tenacious in bad times. Kaido can be relied on to shut the odd dissenting mouth, while Kaloyan is an inspiration to all, since it should have been his day off, being sent down the shaft only through the company's managers vile whims. The one to watch is Kazuhiro, as he seems cuddly but might nurse a demon at his breast.

(Major break here in my report, as I spontaneously joined a friend in seeing The John Spencer Blues Explosion in some intimate club not far from where I live. Excellent vibrations, vicious groove. I even talked to their guitarist, who seems to be a laid-back chap, but also has the cool aura that makes me think he eats children. Anyhow, flow-wise my intro is broken, but you got my general idea. As intros go, I was satisfied with the general direction it was taking and invite you to tap your own creativity to see what you can dream into it personally. Thanks for your understanding.)

The feature bouts saw Ikioi surviving a driving Wakanosato, moro-zashi and solid hidari-yotsu, turning a defensive position into a yori-kiri win by resilience alone. I didn't particularly like Ikioi during his first Makuuchi stint, but his performance so far would make me glad to see him achieve kachi-koshi. Well done. Wakanosato won't hang around that much longer.

Masunoyama survived a bout that took longer than ten seconds. I cannot be bothered to look up if it was ever in any report, but he has a lung condition that severely limits his endurance. Thus his urge to keep things speedy. His sukui-nage victory against Sadanofuji, though, was at least 50% courtesy of his aite's inability to finish him off.

I suspect that Tokitenku is containing a lot of the dark matter friend Kadastik is looking for together with his chums. I say that because the Mongolian clearly distorts the time-space-continuum as he is always late or early as in "out of sync". Chiyotairyu fell victim to this walking event horizon in a matter of seconds via the odd entropic slap down. Tokitenku slowly starts to qualify for the "least likeable rikishi I would still like to cheer for if I ever had the opportunity to turn up in person" position that my dear Hokutoriki once held.

I just found the explanation for Tochinowaka's rapid decline. He simply loves abuse. Except for Tokitenku, who receives an amount of choke holds that is beyond the sane, I have never seen a rikishi who is so determined in absorbing just about any kind of initial offensive malice as our Sleepwaka. It takes a really slow opponent, like Miyabiyama, to let him get away with his passive character. Not that it was an easy victory for the former Ri. In the end, he was basically head butting his opponent off the dohjo, something that most likely wouldn't have worked against anyone with a better sense of balance.

I usually try to avoid commenting on Takekaze, but as he stringed together a small series of wins -- including today's against the Minor Hutt -- I would like to point out that he and Toyohibiki somewhat represent the current solidity of mid-Maegashira ranks. Both guys won't drop very far, both guys don't stand a chance to threaten sanyaku. This translates into: If you want to be successful, you need to put away both of them. Takekaze 's excellent sukui-nage (which is a beltless arm throw) was well prepared by a clean [sic!] and solid tachi-ai that led through a small series of minor mistakes by Toyohibiki straight to moro-zashi. In fact, it was so convincing that it was probably fake.

In a fantastic bout, a fair spirited Tochinoshin met a highly motivated Homasho to perform in one of those battles that make sumo worthwhile. The memory of this bout will help me through the next two dozen henka, in fact. Right from the initial clash Homasho gained the initiative but quickly both men found themselves in something like a half ready migi-yotsu with Homasho having the left outside while the Georgian held the right inside. Both men failed to support these grips with their other hands (Homasho's right against Tochinoshin's left) as they violently struggled and countered each others attempts to consolidate the stance. All this happened while moving around and threatening shitate- vs. uwate-nage repeatedly. At one point the ex-PFC was almost over the straw, but recovered with a last power effort that transformed into some final movement that saw Homasho lose his footing and go down in the most exiting hataki-komi that I can remember. Well done, boys. That's sumo.

All the bouts Myogiryu loses is because of his low stance while charging. Seriously. If he somehow manages to correct this particular aspect of his sumo, he will eat most of the jo'i for breakfast. He is especially vulnerable to tall opponents with enough slap down mojo. And thus went the white star to Aoiyama. Myogiryu is huge. Mark my words.

In the replay of last basho's yusho deciding playoff bout, Tochiohzan brought Fortuna to his side and revenged himself for losing the cup by winning a pointless match today. Both together stand at 2-16. This is beyond the worst case scenario for the NSK. It is actually so mind bogglingly bad that everyone can pretend it doesn't happen, so everything is fine after all. After Kotoshogiku has won the yusho. Which will not happen. But it could.

I really appreciate Kisenosato's ballsy attitude and all, but currently he just doesn't strike a chord in me. Neither in my soul, nor intellectually, nor aesthetically. He's just this guy who should but cannot. Yeah, well, he took care of Kakuryu, who is in holiday (or maybe payback?) mode after his promotion, but it is so random and technically inept what he does. Any opponent with high alertness and satisfying ability could and should beat Kisenosato regularly. He should wear a sign around his neck "Grab me here and here, I don't give a sh*t". Harumafuji, Baruto and maybe even Kotooshu will kill him this basho for sure.

Two of these met today in a first clash of Ozeki. Ex-Ama who looks yusho-greedy wily and tough as f**k somewhat henkaed Baruto at the tachi-ai but didn't try for anything more dodgy. Instead he transformed the advantage into an outside gripping spinning move that sent the Estonian to the clay after two rounds or three. Harumafuji will win this tournament.

Finally Goeido botched the chance to get another Yokozuna scalp by applying the right tachi-ai, reflecting Hakuho off his left shoulder and significantly off balance but losing enough time to miss the opportunity to follow through with a slap down or some such. Hakuho recovered and forced things into a crowd pleasing and ooh-ahh inducing migi-yotsu affair that was ended when Hakuho thought that it was enough. The Yokozuna's tachi-ai tactics over the last couple of years can be called a lot of things but certainly not "brainless", which stands in stark contrast to today's attempt. Make up your mind yourself.

Somebody will report tomorrow, chances are his name starts with the letter "M".

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, here it is Sunday at the Kelly homestead, otherwise known as Hump Day, so I am very excited. Also every two months its Day 8 of a sumo tourney, so that, too, makes me excited. Usually. But tomorrow is Ocean Day, national holiday, and the kids are off from school and the sun will be a shinin and the beer will be a flowin (told my six year-old girl to take it easy) and sitting down to bang out a report on what Takekaze is doing is just about the last thing on my mind.

But with my legion of fans awaiting my every word (wipe off the smirk, the dictionary I purchased at the Dollar-Rama store defines "legion" as "any group having at least four adherents") I shant disappoint.

I must admit up front however that Day 8 left me askew, mainly because there was a hottie, a legitimate hottie, sitting on the West side second row, who had décolletage that could be seen and enjoyed from the long angle cameras (a rarity in Japan for women). Short hair, nice smile, and deep cleavage. This was truly shocking as Nagoya runs second only to Fukuoka in the number of women in attendance who could star as the title character from a certain Big Mama Thornton 1952 blues hit!

Why askew, ask you? Well, because she was one seat over, ONE STINKING SEAT, from the close-up shot they show when every Westside guy won and passed the water to the next fella. This camera shot showed the woman NEXT TO the hottie, an exceedingly below average middle aged Buddha who ironically had monstro gonzagas herself, neither of which I was the least bit keen on glimpsing. To add insult, the West side guys won like it was going out of style, 6 for 21 on the day, a mere 2 for the East in the final 14 bouts, so I was continually reminded of my inability to see this (what I know to be through my well refined JPese boner inducing female sensors) wet dream walking.

Speaking of matters scatological, I nearly shant my drawers when I tuned in to find Daido the undefeated co-leader. Dude was thinking he might continue his "fun run" vs. Wakanosato, a man for whom the bell may indeed be tolling, but not today as he grabbed an outside belt and simply planted Daido into the clay with an uwatenage that could just as well have been called a "smoothienage." Daido falls off the leaderboard, much to the relief of Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Baruto.

Takanoyama once again grabbed at the leading extended arm of his foe, this time Hochiyama, and today was successful as he used it to spin the Viet Cong legend about and sidle up all nice and Deliverance like, putting groin to tuchus and escorting his date home. Shazam! I guess if we HAVE to watch overmatched but nicely built men win in Makuuchi, they might as well teach us a thing or two about prison sex while theyre at it.

The next five bouts were a blur as Ikioi, Tamaasuka, Takarafuji, and Miyabiyama all got it done before Yoshikaze played "Gotcha!" with Sadanofuji, giving us one of the fastest sumo bouts ever fought. Maybe 8/10th of a second for this henka travesty. Starbuck walked back to his side with his face like, "What? Who? Me?"

In the first bout between two men with records they can write home about, Chiyotairyu took on the Brasilian Kaisei, and like a donut in Mikes kitchen the smaller entity proved no match for the larger as Kaisei easily wrapped him up and worked him out.

Homasho made the mistake of pawing at Toyohibikis head as The Hutt came forward from being nearly pressed back and out, and given this opening, he proceeded to lay that big Mos Eisley grown form on Homasho, who could not resist and despite having a belt grip was taken out without much in the way of complaint.

Aran and Tokitenku had a nice little yotsu belt tussle, with each man attempting a lift or two, but by the end of the party it was Aran cleaning up the spills as Tokitenku fought through a few valiant refusals to go out at the edge by a tippytoeing Aran and win by yori-kiri. Both gents are three games over .500.

Gagamaru demonstrated what a mancrush truly is by chasing out Tochinoshin like that boulder chased out Indy from the tombs in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Type "Gagamaru" into Babelfish and you get back "Bulldozer with navel."

There must be something in the water at Oguruma heya as Takekaze successfully one upped his mate by dropping a henka dime on Shotenro that was even faster than Yoshikazes over Sadanofuji. THIS one was 6/10th of a second and that being generous.

Shohozan rocketed up to his second win by getting a quick belt grip on winless Takayasu and working him like a police dog works a perp. At W5 Takayasu oughtnt be having these kinds of troubles. Dude seems as distracted as Andreas as he sits sipping his java while watching the hairy pitted college gals strut down the Reeperbahn!

Last bashos yusho winner Kyokutenho took a knee, literally, vs. Aoiyama, inexplicably collapsing as he was making a push at the edge. The kimari-te is not even a winning technique; its a losing technique. Post bout scuttlebutt has it that the MIB who was scoping out The Chauffers topknot after his Day 1 loss went ahead after todays loss and ordered the ceremonial scissors!

Kisenosato was one of the two Beasts for the East as he punished Wakakoyu for his tachi-ai shenanigans by bodying in and working him out in lunchpail fashion. I dont see the Ozeki winning many of his bouts in Week 2 as the furries and Geeku are dialed in, so hell be lucky to eke out a 9-6, and thats only if Kakuryu continues to underperform.

Speaking of the Kak, he got lucky today as he was able to somehow slough off Aminishiki as The Bedroll came charging forward. Ugly backward moving sumo from the Ozeki, who looks off his game and better take care not to MK with the big fellas coming up. Well, that is if his pals dont help him out, ya know, the Old Boy Ozeki Club. Course if Hak, Bart, HawDo and Geeku all remain in the hunt till the final days, there may be little room for charity. By the way, "slough off" was the official kimari-te.

Kotooshu, at 6-1 coming in, was in danger of staying with the leaders and possibly having expectations placed upon him to do something other than what he has been doing for five years now, namely treading water, so today he parlayed a commanding right front belt grip into a humiliating yori-kiri loss to heretofore winless Okinoumi. As big as he is, its difficult to see how Okinoumi arrested the Bulgarians forward momentum with such ease, reversing what looked to be an easy Kotooshu yori-kiri win and bulldoze him across the dohyo and out. Stupendous foot placement and lower body control for the W2. If youre going to get only on win, this is the kind youd like to have.

Harumafuji came out of the tachi-ai with his paw on Toyonoshimas throat to such an extent that it looked like he intentionally dropped it down to his clavicle area before he choked him to death. With one final push he sent the Komusubi out as he himself crashed to the clay. All or nothing for the angry Ozeki, who at 8-0 is Elliot Erwitt on PCP. 1-7 Tugboat is the sophomore high school kid who is assigned by his yearbook committee to take candid snaps of the lunch ladies.

Myogiryu used his brain as well as his brawn by hitting Baruto at the tachi-ai and staying in tightly, but circling away just enough so the Ozeki couldnt get a hold on him but so he could find a crack. The Biomass knew he was in trouble and so circled along with his foe, trying to deny the inside position. Barutos eyes were darting all over the place like a cat looking for Speedy Gonzalez, and as he reached for the over the shoulder back of the mawashi grips hes almost always gets in a loss, the East Komusubi (fighting from the West side) pounced on a moro-zashi two-handed inside and had his upset via yori-kiri.

What I liked most about Myogiryus attack was it was unrelenting. He used his legs to push forward the entire bout, never once trying to retreat or pull. Had he done so, the Ozeki could have caught his breath and used those long arms to lift the smaller guy up. More smart sumo from Japans clearly most exciting wrestler.

Goeido showed that seemed disinterested tachi-ai of his, and thats never going to work out well vs Kotoshogiku, who got his right hand inside and used it to methodically move the Sekiwake back and out. Geeku is looking fundamentally sound this basho, so Id like to see him in the mix come Days 14/15.

Finally Hakuho had a solid inside right belt, but as he moved Tochiozan back toward the edge, seemed to leave his arm loose enough to let the Sekiwake move his own arm to the inside and make a scoop throw that almost won the day, but his foot stepped out before Hakuhos hand hit the dohyo.

One question I have is, Why did Hakuho put his and down? That aint toughman sumo! Dude needs to be a role model for the up and comers. Take it in the puss, boyo!

Well, so far it looks like most bouts are being fought straight up, the occasional WTF moment notwithstanding. The only bout that looked suspicious in the sanyaku so far was Kisenosato doing jazz hands in and around Geoidos torso and refusing on a number of occasions to at least grab at the belt. Maybe he was just having a bad day, who knows? Andreas is up tomorrow, and Ill be back on Day 15 to put it a bow on it for ya ("That’s what SHE said!").

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Ya ever get the feeling you're watching that old Bill Murray flick, Groundhog Day, as you're watching this basho unfold? You have the handful of hopefuls way down low in the ranks making some noise, you have the rank and file mid-Maegashira, and then you have the elite rikishi of which there are three undefeated at 7-0--and of course they're all foreign rikishi. And therein lies the problem for the Sumo Association as I outlined at the end of last basho and in my pre-basho report. With the two playoff rikishi from last basho now a collective 1-13, you can't have a repeat of Natsu, but then if you let everything play out naturally, the foreigners are going to run away with the thing. It's a damned if you do damned if you don't scenario, and the real interest for me in this basho is whether or not Hakuho will dominate or whether or not he'll step back because I submit that in at least the last four years, no one has been capable of rising up and wresting the yusho from Hakuho's hands. When other rikishi have hoisted the cup it's because Hakuho stepped back. I of course could be wrong in that assessment because when you think about it, his domination prolly goes back five years.

Anyway, the silver lining for the Sumo Association now is that they had a sell-out on day 7, they'll get one on day 8, and then day 9 is a holiday in Japan, so they'll sell that one out as well. With the slew of Yokozuna and Ozeki set to clash starting from day 9, this basho should have some good momentum heading into the final five days.

Before I get to the action, I should also note that NHK had Takanohana in the booth offering color commentary and Mainoumi sitting in the mukou-jomen chair. Throughout the broadcast they showed a few bouts between the two (of course the ones that Mainoumi won), and then the two reminisced a bit about the good ole days. It's moments like this that are truly golden as you watch sumo. Unfortunately for most foreign fans, it's an aspect of sumo that they cannot enjoy unless they 1) have access to the Japanese broadcast, and 2) can actually understand what's being said. For example, just prior to the Tochinowaka - Kaisei bout, Mainoumi was reminiscing about the morning on one of the days when he beat Takanohana, and he said his shisho came to him and said, "Takanohana is not that good at grabbing the mawashi, so you go out and grab it first and see what happens." Mainoumi of course did just that and won by kiri-kaeshi. Can you tell I'm procrastinating as long as possible my reporting on the first half bouts?

Okay, okay, let's get to 'em where M15 Chiyotairyu played things extremely safe against M12 Takanoyama, and I can't blame him since 0-5 starts always put Takanoyama in shenanigan mode. Tairyu grabbed the right uwate from the tachi-ai, but it was just on one fold of the belt, so he stood his ground as Takanoyama dug in with the left inner. Chiyotairyu waited for about 10 seconds before making a charge, and if you were wondering why, it's because he's not a yotsu guy. Anyway, he finally used that right outer grip to force Takanoyama to the edge where the white and nerdy rikishi went for a counter utchari that looked to me as if it worked, but the referee ruled in favor of Chiyotairyu.

Replays showed that Takanoyama's feet were still in the boundaries of the dohyo as Chiyotairyu crashed down to the arena floor, so the only question was did Takanoyama's heel touch the dirt as he braced his feet on the tawara. The angle NHK chose to show had the head of a rikishi sitting ringside completely blocking Takanoyama's heels, so there was no way to tell for sure if a heel did touch. The only thing that tells me they got this one right was Mainoumi sitting in the Mukou-joumen chair (which is right there by where the action took place), who said during the replay that a lot of fans were yelling out that Takanoyama won, but what they didn't see was his heel graze the dirt as he set up the utchari. That's the best I can give you on this one as Chiyotairyu moves to 6-1 while Takanoyama is the inverse.

The M12 Sadanofuji - M14 Wakanosato affair was simply an oshi guy in Sadanofuji fighting off the yotsu guy in Wakanosato, who looked for an established left inside position throughout. It never came due to Sadanofuji's effective tsuppari, and as a desperate Wakanosato tried that last ditch evasive maneuver at the edge while pulling on his opponent, he stepped out before Sadanofuji crashed down. Gunbai to Sadanofuji as both rikishi finish 3-4.

To show just how out of touch the Japanese fans are these days, after the M11 Tamawashi - M16 Ikioi bout ended in a mono-ii where the judges called for a redo, the arena erupted in cheers. The second time around, Tamawashi's tsuppari attack was all upper body, so Ikioi grabbed his left arm from the outside and threw him down kote-nage style moving to 3-3. Tamawashi falls to 1-5 and has no punch in this division.

If I sound as if I didn't want to cover the previous bout, it's because I'm priming myself for the M10 Tamaasuka - M15 Hochiyama matchup that saw Tamaasuka pick up his first win using a flurry of light tsuppari and the eventual left inner position to force Hochiyama out. As Tamaasuka got the left on the inside, Hochiyama was in perfect position to counter with a kote-nage throw, but quick adjustments in the ring are largely the reason why the obtuse Hochiyama falls to 1-6...the same record as Tamaasuka.

M14 Tochinowaka henka'ed to his left catching M8 Kaisei off guard a bit and allowing Tochinowaka to get moro-zashi although it was arms lightly positioned to the inside and not a stance where Tochinowaka is burrowing into his opponent's chest. As a result, Kaisei grabbed an outer grip and swiftly forced Tochinowaka back to the edge where once again Tochinowaka fell very lightly which tells me he's either going down on his own or his opponents sense the lack of strength and don't want to hurt him. I'm curious if T-Wok even needs to shower after his bouts as he drops to 2-5. Kaisei is a stellar 6-1.

Basho leader, M13 Daido, faced M8 Yoshikaze, who everyone knew was going to henka. It turns out he moved to his left trying to pull Daido down in the process, but Daido held his ground well and squared back up with his opponent. With Yoshikaze now forced to fight like a man (and I use term loosely), the bout erupted into a wild slapfest that included a head butt from Yoshikaze that drew decent blood from Daido's nose, but in the end, Daido was savvy enough to use pushes and pulls to set Yoshikaze up for the eventual pulldown. The superior rikishi won here as Daido moves to 7-0. Yoshikaze is a punk as he falls to 3-4.

M7 Toyohibiki was all bidness today against M13 Masunoyama going chest to chest with the 5-1 Masunoyama and coming out of it with the right outer and left inner. Toyohibiki wasted no time forcing Masunoyama back to the edge using perfect de-ashi where he used that classic shove between his opponent's two teets to send him across for good. Took about three seconds in all, but Toyohibiki (4-3) completely pounded Masunoyama (5-2). What we learn from this bout is just how different the M13 and M7 ranks can be.

M7 Gagamaru and M11 Kitataiki hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Gagamaru pressed his weight into Taiki with excellent de-ashi forcing Kitataiki to retreat, and as he backpedaled, Kitataiki went for a risky maki-kae with the right hand using it to go for a counter scoop throw at the edge. But Gagamaru's legs were moving too well, and he was able to cause Kitataiki to step out before being thrown down to the clay in all his girth. Great bout of sumo here between two genki rikishi as Gagamaru moves to 4-3 while Kitataiki still shines at 5-2.

M6 Shotenro pictured a huge target on M10 Takarafuji's chest and began pummeling him from the tachi-ai with a shove attack, and as Takarafuji rebuffed him at the edge swiping at Shotenro's arms, Shotenro grabbed Takarafuji's right arm in tottari fashion, but before Shotenro could execute the throw, Takarafuji ducked away, but he wouldn't get far as Shotenro next pulled him down for the solid win. Shotenro adeptly displayed oshi, yotsu, and pull down skills as he moves to 5-2 while Takarafuji is just 2-5.

M6 Homasho hit M9 Tokitenku harder at the tachi-ai, and when he got his left arm on the inside straightway, Tokitenku's answer was to go for a pull, but you don't hit your opponent harder if your legs aren't driving forward, and since Homasho's were, the pushout came in two seconds flat. Homasho moves to 5-2 while Tokitenku surely wishes he could have this one back at 4-3.

M9 Miyabiyama extended a beefy paw into M5 Aran's throat from the tachi-ai, so Aran just backed up and pulled down on said arm for the easy win that sees Aran improve to 5-2 while Miyabiyama is doing well to be at 3-4.

The tough luck for M5 Takayasu continued against M4 Tochinoshin as the Naruto-beya prodigy was unable to budge Tochinoshin from the tachi-ai with a flurry of tsuppari, and once Shin crept in and secured the migi-yotsu position, it was over. Well, theoretically it was over. This was probably the longest bout of the day where Takayasu desperately tried pulls, trips, escapes, etc., but the point his, once Tochinoshin got the belt, it was over. Takayasu's an oshi guy, so if he can't finish Tochinoshin off early with the shoves, he can't win. In the end, Tochinoshin got the right outer and left inner and just walked the defeated Takayasu back to an 0-7 record. Mainoumi reported from the hana-michi afterwards that Takayasu walked back to the dressing room and muttered to himself, "Am I compensating for something out that why I'm losing?" To which Kariya Announcer responded, "Ashi-moto janai desu ka?" or it's probably his footwork. Good to know Kariya and I are on the same page. Tochinoshin is 5-2.

Poor old M2 Okinoumi just can't get a break. Fresh off of getting his ass kicked six straight days, they fed him M4 Takekaze today, but Okinoumi's de-ashi were nowhere to be found, so even after he got his left arm to the inside at the tachi-ai, Takekaze backed out of it and then secured moro-zashi. From there Takekaze threw the listless Okinoumi down with a nifty scoop throw to move to 2-4. Okinoumi is now 0-7 and can't expect to win by just standing there in the middle of the ring. After the bout, Takanohana made a great point saying that the oshi move is the key to sumo. You have to be able to use it to set your guy up even if you're a yotsu guy.

Moving into the sanyaku, Komusubi Myogiryu welcomed M1 Aminishiki with a few tsuppari to the face, and Aminishiki's only move from there was to try and grab one of his arms and pull. He did just that, but the Komusubi kept his footing and shoved Aminishiki to the side dangerously close to the tawara and then out from behind as Aminishiki tried to tiptoe the tawara. Myogiryu moves to 4-3 with the win and will have a much easier schedule the rest of the way. Shneaky falls to 2-5.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kakuryu stood straight up at the tachi-ai, put both hands at the back of Sekiwake Tochiohzan's head, and jumped back. If I didn't know better he was trying to give Oh the win, but the Sekiwake has been so hapless this basho he just fell to his knees one second in. Kakuryu moves to 5-2 with the ugly win, but I think it's fiddy-fiddy here he was trying to give one away. Tochiohzan fails to capitalize at 1-6.

Ozeki Kotooshu and M1 Kyokutenho hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai that saw Tenho shade to his right just a bit, but once Kotooshu grabbed a left outer of his own, the bout of o-zumo was on. The two aligned chests and wrangled for a few seconds in the center of the ring, but Kotooshu made the move first breaking off Kyokutenho's outer grip (my favorite move in sumo) that then set up the clear yori-kiri path. Kotooshu moves to 6-1 with the methodical win while Kyokutenho continues to become a black eye for the sport at 0-7.

M3 Shohozan fought Ozeki Harumafuji off for a few seconds with some oshi to the face from the tachi-ai, and when the Ozeki went for a counter pull, it actually created an opening for Shohozan to where he rushed in and grabbed moro-zashi, but he's not a belt guy and so he easily gave up the maki-kae with the right hand to Harumafuji. With the contest now at yotsu-zumo, Harumafuji schooled the youngster denying a maki-kae first and then driving him back to the tawara and sending him down via yori-taoshi in the end. Bad start for Harumafuji but a great finish as he skates to 7-0. Shohozan can't hang his head after this one as he falls to 1-6.

Ozeki Baruto was dangerously flat footed at the tachi-ai against M2 Aoiyama offering a weak right hari-te, but the Bulgarian was unable to make him pay since he wasn't driving forward at the initial charge himself. The result was Baruto grabbing the right outer grip and brilliantly setting his opponent up for the spectacular right outer belt throw. Baruto moves to 7-0, but he got away with one at the tachi-ai. Aoiyama drops to 1-6, and if he watches film of this bout, he'll surely no next time to go for the jugular from the start.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Komusubi Toyonoshima sorta bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai, but Kotoshogiku pressed the action first setting up a right kote-nage throw that moved the Komusubi just enough to where the Geeku grabbed the right outer from the side. Since Toyonoshima's chest wasn't aligned, he wasn't able to counter with the left inside, so he backed out of the belt grip, but the Ozeki's footwork was too good enabling him to pounce on his retreating opponent and push him out for good in the unstable affair. Kotoshogiku creeps to 6-1 with the decent win while Toyonoshima has lost his sanyaku luster at 1-6.

Prior to the Ozeki Kisenosato - Sekiwake Goeido bout, a total of 14 kensho banners were marched around the ring. That's an incredible number for a day 7 bout that doesn't involve a Yokozuna, but it's an indication of the efforts by the Sumo Association and the media to pimp these two Japanese rikishi. At the tachi-ai, Goeido executed a sweet hari-dashi tachi-ai slapping the Kid's face with the right hand and then getting the right arm to the inside, but unfortunately he wasted this opening by opting to push the Ozeki sideways with an inashi focused on Kisenosato's left arm. As the Ozeki looked to square back up, Goeido next went for an ill-timed neck throw with the right arm that Kisenosato easily survived, but for some reason, he refused to grab the belt with either hand even though it was wide open. After letting Goeido worm out of that failed neck throw (usually a do or die move), Kisenosato aligned his feet allowing Goeido to finally scoop throw him down with the left arm for the ugly win. Kisenosato made so many blatant mistakes in this one that I'm led to believe he threw the bout. I can't explain why, but there were just too many unnatural moves and a lack of offense on the part of the Ozeki. Regardless, he falls to 5-2 while Goeido inches forward to 4-3.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho absorbed M3 Wakakoyu's forward charge and then just stepped to his left sending the Wookie down with a left hand to the outside of Wakakoyu's belt. Pretty straightforward stuff as Hakuho breezes to 7-0 while Wakakoyu falls to 2-5.

And that does it for me for a day or two as I hand the pen off to Clancy tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I don't mean to spoil two of the bouts right out of the gate, but how is it that the two rikishi involved in the yusho playoff last basho are a combined 1-11 after six days? I was talking to Clancy earlier in the week, and we were noting how this is an unprecedented time in sumo. Usually, when you're talking about something unprecedented, it's implied that you're talking about something great, but in sumo's case it's largely negative in terms of things like low ticket sales, ratings, and the six and a half years since a Japanese rikishi took the yusho. While I'm too lazy to go back and check, I'm quite sure that the 1-11 start from two rikishi involved in a yusho kettei-sen the previous basho is unprecedented as well.

On the flip side, this basho has offered a lot of positives the first six days. Chiyotairyu and Masunoyama have provided glimpses of the future, and of the six Ozeki and one Yokozuna, only Kakuryu has suffered two losses. We haven't had that big shake up day yet usually defined as a Hakuho loss, and so until it happens, we can only hope that the Ozeki continue to win because having six or seven legitimate rikishi within a bout of the lead heading into the shubansen would prove dynamite.

I keep telling myself I've gotta stop covering every bout, but reporting from Japan has its advantages, namely I have plenty of time to gather my thoughts and find something in every bout. So starting in chronological order, M14 Wakanosato restored order a bit to that faux M14 Tochinowaka run by getting the left arm to the inside after a very light charge from both parties that redefined the term "soft tachi-ai." Tochinowaka sorta tried to deny Wakanosato a deep position with his left inside, but it didn't matter as the veteran forced the ailing T-Wok back and across anyway. Wakanosato is a quiet 3-3 while Tochinowaka falls to 2-4 and surely has to have at least started packing his Juryo carryon bag.

The next three bouts featured rikishi at 5-0 who are all vying for a Kantosho first and possibly a yusho if we see a repeat of last basho. Up first, M16 Ikioi looked to have M13 Daido in some trouble using an early right on the inside from the tachi-ai to force Daido back quickly, but Daido was completely collected as he dug in near the edge, slid a bit left, and then used a beautiful left ottsuke pushing in at the back of Ikioi's right armpit spilling him to the clay with relative ease. Rather than displaying the strength of Daido, I think this bout was more an illustration of Ikioi's lightweight status. Ne'ertheless, Daido improves to 6-0 while Ikioi evens things up at 3-3.

Up next was M13 Masunoyama who used the exact tachi-ai from yesterday where he brings both forearms up into his opponent's jaw.  It worked wonders yet again today against M15 Hochiyama, but Hochiyama's escape to his right was quicker than Masunoyama's de-ashi, so Masunoyama effectively just tsuppari'ed his way right out of the dohyo and into a 5-1 record. It's funny that Hochiyama (1-5) picks up his first win of the basho in this manner, but Masunoyama's gotta take care of bidness until he's sure his foe is finished.

Our last 5-0 rikishi was M15 Chiyotairyu who looked to receive a stiff test from M11 Kitataiki who hasn't been too shabby himself at 4-1. I mentioned yesterday that Chiyotairyu's henka bothered me because the move looked like it was instinctive, and Tairyu's dark side reared its ugly head again as the dude had no de-ashi and approached his opponent way too high. That could only mean one thing, and Kitataiki read it like a dirty manga on the subway catching Chiyotairyu moving back to his left and shoving him out in two seconds. This is the way to beat these guys...stick to your own guns and trust forward moving sumo. Beautiful bout from Kitataiki who now finds himself tied with Chiyotairyu at 5-1. If there's one thing that could keep Chiyotairyu from greatness, it's his penchant for the pull.

I was about ready to drop my drawers in excitement at the prospect of the M10 Tamaasuka - M12 Takanoyama matchup, but before I could even get my zipper down, Takanoyama henka'd to his left and pulled Tamaasuka down half a second in. This almost looked like a keta-guri attempt, but Tamaasuka's fists were touching the dohyo before Takanoyama could even think of the kicking part. It was ruled hataki-komi, but I'll override that and say it was just plain ugly as Takanoyama boasts a 1-5 record compared to Tamaasuka's 0-6.

I simply have no comment on the M12 Sadanofuji - M10 Takarafuji contest, which was a gappuri hidari-yotsu bout and lasted like two minutes. Sadanofuji won and both guys finished 2-4.

M8 Kaisei was late at the tachi-ai but still managed two hands to the inside of M11 Tamawashi. I say two hands because Tamawashi was pulled into a tight ball in order to deny Kasei moro-zashi, so the Brazilian abandoned the left on the inside and settled for the secure right inner. Tamawashi attempted to push Kasei back with both hands at the torso, but it was feeble at best, so the larger Kaisei just dumped his opponent to the clay with a neck throw...something you usually only see as a last resort. Tamawashi was so limp in this one, however, that Kaisei was able to use it as an offensive move as he improves to 5-1. Tamawashi falls to 1-5.

There was no way M9 Miyabiyama was going to push out M7 Gagamaru, and Lord Gaga knew it, so he made sure to concentrate on his footwork surviving the two or three evasive pull attempts that came. When Miyabiyama had exhausted his back of tricks, Gagamaru easily pushed him out for the win. Both dudes are 3-3.

In an extremely curious bout, M6 Shotenro fired a few shoves M9 Tokitenku's way, but Tenku easily dodged them and found himself in moro-zashi. The only problem was he obtained the dual inside position by just inserting his arms as opposed to driving his way to the inside, so Shotenro just pinched in tight around both arms leaving Tokitenku in a pickle. Moro-zashi is the advantageous grip for sure, but when you're slow dancing with your gal and both of you are cheek to cheek, it means you're up too high for the moro-zashi to do you any good. So with Tokitenku unable to budge his countryman, Shotenro twisted him down in what was ruled a kote-nage. Regardless, both gentleman end the day at 4-2.

M5 Aran looked to gain moro-zashi at the tachi-ai against M7 Toyohibiki with a firm left on the inside and very shallow right, and while Toyohibiki was looking to fight off that right, Aran moved to the side and pulled Toyohibiki down with his left arm hooked up and under Toyohibiki's right armpit. Pretty straightforward win as Aran improves to 4-2 while Toyohibiki is a quiet 3-3.

M8 Yoshikaze henka'd to his left against M4 Tochinoshin at the tachi-ai, but the Private was able to survive by pushing against Yoshikaze to maintain his balance. With any substance to the bout blown to hell at this point, Tochinoshin went for his own pull move that failed and gave Yoshikaze moro-zashi. Yoshikaze's inability to sill the dill at this point is the perfect example of how he has trouble winning at all in this division against even the average rikishi, and as Tochinoshin dug in, he gained enough of a position to throw Yoshikaze down with a right kote-nage. Shin moves to 4-2 with the win and is looking at a basho amongst the jo'i in September while Yoshikaze falls to 3-3.

I think one reason why a lot of the geisha sitting around the dohyo in Nagoya look hot to me this basho is because M4 Takekaze's sumo has been so ugly. Today against M6 Homasho, Homasho was cautious at the tachi-ai allowing Takekaze to drive him back a step or two, but as soon as he dug in with the left inside position, Takekaze was out of legitimate moves. So he next went for a stupid pull and ended up backing himself on top of the tawara. It took Homie a half second to recover from the pull, and once he did, he finished Takekaze off in short order moving to 4-2 while Takekaze falls to the inverse.

If anyone reading this happens to be a groupie of M5 Takayasu, tell him the problem this basho is strictly with his footwork. today against M1 Aminishiki he came out with tsuppari, but there was no substance to it due to his feet moving in all directions. It took about one second for Ami to start bullying Takayasu with pushes of his own and threats of pulls, and with nowhere for Takayasu to run, Aminishiki pushed him back and out in short order. When you make it appear as if Aminishiki (2-4) has brilliant de-ashi, you need to readdress a few things. An 0-6 record should also help wake Takayasu up, but I think the lack of a real shisho is partially hurting this guy during the slump.

I thought the Komusubi duel today was significant because it signaled a changing of the guard. Toyonoshima came with nothing at the tachi-ai, and so not only was Myogiryu able to get his right arm easily to the inside, but his legs were moving as he came out of his crouch, so he forced Toyonoshima back and out without even grabbing the belt. This was an ass-kicking as Myogiryu improves to 3-3, a stellar record for a first-time Komusubi while Toyonoshima falls to 1-5.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan (an oxymoron if I've ever typed one) just stood there at the tachi-ai and let Ozeki Kotooshu crush him back gaining a right inner and left outer in the process as he yori-kiri'ed Tochiohzan's arse in about 2 seconds. It's ridiculous and a bit insulting how Tochiohzan has just given up this basho as he falls to 1-5. Kotooshu has shaken off last basho's injury in fine form at 5-1.

Not only was the Ozeki Harumafuji - Sekiwake Goeido bouts one of the better ones of the day, but it also showed exactly why Harumafuji is an Ozeki and a two-time yusho winner and why Goeido is just a pretender. The two hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both had left outer grips and right inside grips. You would normally expect the larger rikishi--Goeido in this case--to have the advantage, and credit him for attempting the left outer throw first, but he had nowhere near the mustard on the throw to get the job done, and not only did Harumafuji survive it, but he used his opponent's spent energy against him by immediately going for a counter right inside belt throw that felled Goeido to the dohyo in fine fashion. I love this kind of bout where you can physically see the superior rikishi survive a faux attack and then counter at just the right moment. Great stuff as Harumafuji moves to 6-0 while Goeido is okay at 3-3.

Ozeki Baruto stood straight up at the tachi-ai against M3 Wakakoyu as he should have done. If you know your opponent cannot blow you off the starting lines, why chance jumping into a henka? The result was Wakakoyu firing meaningless tsuppari into the Ozeki, but Baruto easily kept his opponent at bay before grabbing the right inside position. When Bart gets close to pulling you into yotsu-zumo, you best change your plan, and Wakakoyu did that by trying to evade, but the Estonian caught him with a beefy paw and slapped him silly to the dohyo floor. Normally I'd be concerned about a flat-footed Baruto throughout his bout, but not against the Wookie. Bart's a cool 6-0 if ya need him while Wakakoyu falls to 2-4 making me wonder how in the hell has he won even two bouts?

M3 Shohozan committed yet another false start prior to his bout with Ozeki Kotoshogiku, further sign that Shohozan's attempt at sneak attack tachi-ai this basho is killing him. It kind of reminds me of that kid who got a bad grade and blamed it on the teacher saying, "yeah, she had it out for me." He of course conveniently forgets the part about being a disrespectful smart ass sumbitch to her and not doing any work. When there are false starts prior to every one of your bouts whether it's you committing them or your opponent, it's a you problem, and it's definitely taken Shohozan out of this basho. Anyway, the two got it right on the second go-around, and Kotoshogiku just bodied Shohozan all the way back to the tawara without a grip, and so it allowed Shohozan to dig in with the right inside position and left outer grip to boot. As Shohozan forced the action back to the center of the ring, he fired on a left belt throw, but he's not necessarily a yotsu guy, so the Ozeki survived it, grabbed his own left outer grip, and then used that position to score the yori-kiri win from there. Kotoshogiku improves to 5-1 and continues to pull his Ozeki weight while Shohozan falls to 1-5. Perhaps Oscar's going kyujo this basho is screwing with Shohozan's karma.

I really like M2 Aoiyama, but I'm thoroughly enjoying watching the Ozeki school him. Today it was Kisenosato's turn as the Kid easily withstood Aoiyama's tsuppari effort and countered with enough pushes of his own to finally force the action to the gappuri hidari-yotsu position. Aoiyama actually had an opening at this point because he had Kisenosato way upright to where the taller rikishi had the advantageous position, but the youngster failed to recognize it while Kisenosato did, so the Ozeki pressed his belly hard twice into Aoyama's stomach knocking him off balance just enough to where Kisenosato had enough room to go for the yori-kiri kill. It's a subtle part of sumo, but one that I am enjoying so far as Kisenosato moves to 5-1 with Aoiyama falling to 1-5, a fine record for him all things considered.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kakuryu grabbed the left frontal belt on M1 Kyokutenho while also securing the deep right inside, and while Kyokutenho fought of that frontal grip, he couldn't prevent Kakuryu from applying a maki-kae with the same arm to give him moro-zashi again, and this position was deep enough that Tenho could hardly counter using his height by pinching from the outside and pulling his gal in close. Kakuryu wasted little time going for the force-out, and as soon as Kyokutenho tried a counter evasive move, the Kak threatened the outside leg trip keeping his man squarely in front of him and forcing him across that last step for the well-executed win. Kakuryu will take that 4-2 record while Kyokutenho is a dubious 0-6.

In day's final bout (I'll stop short of calling it a finale), Yokozuna Hakuho needed to solve M2 Okinoumi. And by solve I mean how does he make it look close? With the way Okinoumi's been "fighting" this basho, you can't make it look close, and so the Yokozuna demanded the right inside position on the near side, grabbed the left frontal on the far side, and used a trio of perfect strides to knock Okinoumi back once, twice, three times a lady. Hakuho may as well have been fighting a blow-up doll here as he moves to 6-0. Okinoumi falls to 0-6, and I'm trying to remember if he was involved in a three-way playoff for the yusho last basho.

I'm back for one more day before Clancy returns for the nakabi.  I'm also flying back to the states on Monday so there may be some delays in getting the site updated for a 24 hour period.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Similarly to last basho, this is turning out to be a tournament of the haves and have nots. After just five days, NHK has already started posting the leaderboard of rikishi who are undefeated. At the end of the day, we had six rikishi with no blemishes, but all it will take is for Hakuho to lose one, and then a bunch'a other rikishi get back into the game. As I scanned the headlines the morning after day 5, the focus was on all of the other undefeated rikishi and not Hakuho. Still, I can't remember four straight days of sumo where Hakuho didn't once go for the mawashi, and if you go back to day 1, he wasn't looking for the mawashi in the first go-around against Toyonoshima either. And if Martin can predict his sansho rikishi after five days, I guess that I can state that I see a repeat of last basho on our hands where we have a totally inflated leaderboard all the way to the end.

Turning our attention to the action today, as horrible as M14 Tochinowaka has been this basho, I think it says something that he actually put together a winning streak this tournament in terms of just how big of a difference there is between the top and bottom of the Makuuchi division. Surely this is still residue from the yaocho scandal last year where 17 deadwood sekitori were ousted from sumo as a means for the sport to save face and give the appearance that it was purging an aspect of itself that has and always will exist. Anyway, Tochinowaka managed a feeble right inner grip after a slight shift at the tachi-ai against M15 Hochiyama, and it's unbelievable that that's all he would need despite giving up a left outer in the process. As it turned out, Tochinowaka sorta led with his shoulder into the torso of Hochiyama driving him around about half the ring before finally pushing him off the dohyo on his way to a 2-3 record. I doubt either of these two guys could go 6-1 in the Makushita jo'i in their current condition as Hochiyama falls to 0-5.

M13 Masunoyama came with dual kachi-age against M16 Ikioi that were so powerful they knocked Ikioi back and across the straw in one fell swoop. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit in regards to Masunoyama's power. I'm sure Ikioi's lack of power had a lot to do with it as well. Regardless, Masunoyama moves to 5-0 after the one second oshi-dashi win fueled by the lower body. How in the hell is Ikioi 3-2?

M15 Chiyotairyu made my stomach turn a bit as he went for a completely unnecessary henka to his left against M12 Sadanofuji. There was no malice in the move, but what bugged me about it was that it stemmed from Chiyotairyu's instincts to move and pull. Since Chiyotairyu didn't go for the quick slapdown (he just moved left), Sadanofuji was able to keep his balance, but just as he squared back up with his opponent, Chiyotairyu was there to greet him with moro-zashi, and the end of this bout was not pretty. Chiyotairyu moves to 5-0 and better repent of his ways quickly. Sadanofuji is 1-4.

It was monkey see monkey do as M11 Kitataiki fighting from the West (the same side as Chiyotairyu) also executed the exact same henka, not necessarily looking for the cheap pull down but moving to the side nonetheless. This time as M14 Wakanosato squared back up with his opponent, he was met with the left inside position from Kitataiki who burrowed in low and forced Wakanosato back and across with little argument. Kitataiki moves to 4-1 after the cheapie while Wakanosato falls to 2-3.

M13 Daido looked to grab the right frontal mawashi against M11 Tamawashi, and while he never got it, Tamawashi was so focused on fighting it off that he forget his de-ashi in the process. As a result, Daidough was forced to dance around the ring but never dangerously backwards. After a few seconds, Daido abandoned the frontal grip and looked to position his right arm to the inside instead, and as he did this, Tamawashi backed out of it instinctively. You can't say that Daido's sumo has been pretty this basho, but give him credit for sensing his opponent's shift and then immediately capitalizing on it with a nifty scoop throw. Daido moves to 5-0 while Tamawashi falls to 1-4.

I have no idea how M12 Takanoyama thought he could stand there and trade tsuppari with M9 Miyabiyama, but he tried for a few seconds. When it was clear that he was getting his ass handed to him, Takanoyama tried that oft-practiced move in the keiko ring of latching onto your opponent's extended arm like a non-swimmer to a life preserver, but even then, Miyabi the Hutt easily shook off the Chewtoy and dispensed him from the dohyo in easy fashion moving to 3-2. I can only offer a sigh as I watch Takanoyama give it a hearty effort day in and day out only to get clobbered like this. He's 0-5.

M10 Tamaasuka shifted quickly after the tachi-ai trying to grab M8 Kaisei's right arm in the process, but it was nothing doing as Kaisei used excellent footwork to keep up with his opponent not to mention a left paw to Tamaasuka's jaw that stood him completely upright setting up the oshi-taoshi win at the edge. Pretty straightforward stuff here as Kaisei moves to 4-1, and Tamaasuka (0-5) continues to display that he is simply not cut out for this division.

M10 Takarafuji and M7 Toyohibiki hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position and settled in for a lengthy affair that saw Takarafuji maintain the right outer grip but do nothing with it. Toyohibiki made sure to keep his chest aligned with his opponent before spilling him at the edge with a sweet kote-nage throw with the right arm. Toyohibiki one ups his opponent at 3-2.

M7 Gagamaru and M9 Tokitenku hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Tokitenku enjoyed the outer grip while Gagamaru had none. Lord Gaga made no effort to compensate for this fact and seemed content to just sit there like a blob in the middle of the ring, so Tokitenku shifted a half step to his left, planted that left foot, and felled the giant in the center of the ring in short order. This was too easy as Tokitenku moves to 4-1. Gagamaru drops to 2-3 and needs to realize how to use his weight advantage every basho. The key for the dude and successful sumo are de-ashi. He had zero today.

M8 Yoshikaze henka'd to his left against M5 Aran grabbing the Russian's left arm and twisting him around in circles. This resulted in a moro-zashi opening for Yoshikaze, and when Aran tried to back out of it, Cafe just bulldozed him back and off the dohyo for the cheap win. Normally I'd reprimand a guy for a henka like this, but Aran has dished out his fair share of henka as well, so it's no harm no foul other than now the Russian thinks he deserves his and will likely henka here soon. Both fellas are 3-2.

Not to be outdone, M4 Takekaze henka'd to his left going for the cheap pull down of M5 Takayasu. Takayasu easily survived the move and began countering with his tsuppari attack, but he just wasn't committed to it allowing Takekaze to duck away and pull Takayasu off balance turning him around and painting a big okuri-dashi target on his back. It was trick sumo throughout from Takekaze, but it's a win in the box score regardless. Takekaze is 2-3 while Takayasu has got to trust his own sumo. He's 0-5.

M6 Shotenro won the tachi-ai against M4 Tochinoshin and drove him back to the tawara with well placed shoves, but the Georgian somehow survived with the right inside position, and when Shotenro failed to finish his man of early, Tochinoshin was able to work the action back to the center of the ring where he secured a mammoth left grip and used it to throw Shotenro all the way across the dohyo to the edge where he then nudged him easily back for the comeback yori-kiri win. Both rikishi end the day at 3-2.

M3 Shohozan continues to lollygag at the tachi-ai twirling his wrists before quickly hitting the dirt and charging. His monkeyshines actually drew a false start from M6 Homasho, but the head judge properly reprimanded Shohozan and not the other way around. Dude is completely taking himself out of his element with this sneak attack tachi-ai. Today he went for moro-tezuki and actually got it, but there was no lower body to speak of, and so Homasho laughed the charge off, countered with some shoves of his own, and then slapped Shohozan forward by the back of the right shoulder turning him around 180 degrees and setting up the okuri-dashi win. More than Homasho picking up the win and moving to 3-2, Shohozan took himself out of this one...again, thus his 1-4 record.

Sekiwake Goeido used his legs well at the charge against fellow Sekiwake, Tochiohzan, getting the right arm to the inside that he used to push up and into Tochiohzan's left armpit. The tactic worked to perfection as Tochiohzan was lifted high and to the side allowing Goeido to fell him with a scoop throw in a bout that lasted maybe two seconds. Sure, Goeido looked strong here as he moves to 3-2, but does Tochiohzan (1-4) really deserve the Sekiwake rank? The sumo speaks for itself.

Despite that injured left ankle, Ozeki Harumafuji continues to win. Today against M2 Okinoumi, the Ozeki used the left inside position from the tachi-ai to knock Okinoumi back on his heels, and as the taller Okinoumi dug in near the edge with a left inner of his own, Harumafuji took the risk of going for a maki-kae with the right arm. The move allowed Okinoumi to surge briefly and force the Ozeki to buckle back a step or two, but Harumafuji held his ground, and now with moro-zashi, he executed the easy force-out win from there. I love watching smart rikishi calculating the risk of going for a maki-kae. Considering Okinoumi's dismal sumo this basho, the move paid off for Harumafuji who moves to 5-0. Okinoumi is still on o'fer.

Ozeki Baruto looked a bit unnerved against M1 Aminishiki, and I can't say that I blame him after Shneaky came out of nowhere to kick Kisenosato's ass yesterday. Baruto held up at the tachi-ai presumably expecting some antics that didn't come, but what did come was the M1 burrowing upright into the Estonian in the early migi-yotsu contest. The move worked well as Aminishiki was able to move right and shove Baruto by the left shoulder nearly knocking him off balance to the point of no return, but Baruto finally managed to stabilize things at the tawara getting the solid left inside position where he countered by lifting Aminishiki up high on the ball of his feet giving him nothing to work with except two hands at the back of the Estonian's head. Maybe against some rikishi Aminishiki had a prayer at this point, but certainly not against Baruto who sealed his comeback with a solid oshi-dashi win. Baruto also creeps ahead to 5-0 while Aminishiki has been par for the course at this level at 1-4.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku came out of his crouch at the tachi-ai against M1 Kyokutenho and had the left outer grip near the front of Tenho's belt. With the right arm on the inside, the yori-kiri was as swift and easy as taking candy from a baby as Kotoshogiku moves to 4-1.  At 0-5, Kyokutenho's yusho last bash looks that much more embarrassing.

Ozeki Kisenosato looked for the right outer immediately from the tachi-ai against Komusubi Toyonoshima in the same manner as Kotoshogiku the previous bout. He didn't get it, but he had his left arm on the inside denying Toyonoshima moro-zashi while just bulldozing him to the side and out in another two-second affair.  Kisenosato keeps pace at 4-1 while Toyonoshima has the typical Komusubi record at this stage, 1-4.

M3 Wakakoyu completely dictated the pace of his bout with Ozeki Kakuryu firing tsuppari from the tachi-ai and knocking the Kak back onto his heels, and when the Ozeki finally did get an opening in the form of a right outer grip and left inside, his heels were already on the tawara. He dug in valiantly, however, forcing Wakakoyu to now defeat him via yori-kiri, something the Wookie is not adept at. As Wakakoyu pressed his belly against the Kak in desperation, Kakuryu with his heels still on the tawara forced the action to his right where he was just able to muster enough momentum to execute an inside belt throw that forced Wakakoyu's left elbow to touch down before the Kak crashed down himself, the result of a right kote-nage. The ref, who was standing right in front of the play, missed the call, but the judges righted the wrong quickly giving Kakuryu the hard-earned win.

Perhaps the most interesting bout on paper coming in featured the first ever Makuuchi duel between rikishi from Bulgaria with Ozeki Kotooshu welcoming M2 Aoiyama. Aoiyama's feet slipped a bit at the tachi-ai rendering his left inside impotent while Kotooshu used his length with a right inner on the other side to set the M2 up. After a few seconds of wrangling with their chests aligned, Kotooshu grabbed the right outer grip and began forcing Aoiyama back to the edge. He'd never make it across, however, as he tripped over his own feet before the yori-kiri became official. This was simply a case of Aoiyama (1-4) feeling nerves and then wanting to win too much so that he forgot sumo basics. Props to Kotooshu, though, for schooling his fellow countryman as he moves to 4-1.

In the day's final bout, there was a bit of tension leading up to the Yokozuna Hakuho - Komusubi Myogiryu bout due to the recent surge from the Japanese rikishi and Hakuho's unsound sumo of late. The Yokozuna led with a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai while keeping his left arm away from any inside position, but Myogiryu didn't come out with offense on his mind, so the Yokozuna slapped both of Myogiryu's arms upwards, took a few swipes to the side of the Komusubi's head, and then felled Myogibear with a rather simple side swipe to the head. This was pretty straightforward sumo, and it was curious to watch Hakuho not even attempt to get to the inside...again. If he continues this pull-minded sumo, someone's going to clue into it in a hurry and get him. As it stands now, the Yokozuna is a slick 5-0 while Myogiryu falls to 2-3.

I shall make yet another triumphant return tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
The worst thing about reporting sumo on the same website as Mike Wesemann is having to compete with his takes in your reports. The man is a true aficionado and, more importantly, having lived in Japan for God knows how many years, he knows how those guys think way better than I could ever hope to. So, instead of trying to rake his report for minor points I might hope he missed, I'll just present you some photos of animals grinning in the most menacing fashion.

With the intro out of the way, let's start from the chronological beginning. Sadanofuji used his superior mass to move Ikioi back at the tachi-ai and tried to bully him straight out, but the smaller guy dug in and got a nifty uwate, while getting slightly to the side of his opponent for the early advantage. Sadanofuji recovered, though, and managed a double grip on the mawashi. Ikioi threatened the throw at some point, but his maneuver failed miserably and he almost ended up with the fat guy going brokeback on him, but he recovered as well. Eventually, Ikioi (3-1), whose shikona means life force, vigor or might, proved the more spirited and drove Sadanofuji (1-3) back and pushed him down for the hard-earned yori-taoshi.

Takanoyama, outweighed by some 70kg, again tried to win by slipping left and evading right, but Tochinowaka saw right through it and kept him well in front of him, crushing him out by okuri-taoshi in spite of the laughable ipponzeoi (or over-the-shoulder throw) attempt at the edge.

Mike's new crush Chiyotairyu brutally dominated his bout from the start, driving Tamawashi back with expertly timed tsuppari, then reversing momentum and yanking his Mongolian opponent down by something they called uwate-nage for the irrelevant hand on the Mawashi's mawashi the former Meigetsuin added as his compromised foe was going down by him. At 4-0, Chiyotairyu is among the few on the leader board, but don't expect him to stay there as competition gets stiffer.

Kitataiki also dominated Hochiyama, eventually getting the better of him after a struggling a bit to get a mawashi grip. It's interesting how pelargonium can perfectly emulate the smell of burning computer parts, isn't it? For a moment there I thought the heat might have gotten the best of mine.

Tamaasuka was also dominated in his bout against veteran Wakanosato, staying winless for the 4th consecutive day. Wakanosato slipped inside and took The Sucka all the way back without much resistance, then forced him down for the yori-taoshi win. Croconosato improves to 2-2.

Takarafuji looked like he had everything under control, dictating pace in a beltless close-quarters fight with the larger Daido, but he couldn't really finish it off. Daido narrowly avoided being thrown at the edge, then regrouped in the center of the ring, where he capitalized on a poor maki-kae from his opponent, pushing him out immediately. Don't look now, but Daido is 4-0 as well. Only a matter of time, of course. Takarafuji falls to an uninteresting 2-2.

Masunoyama also joins the all winners' club with a swift oshi-taoshi execution of Tokitenku (3-1), who (surprise) failed to synch at the tachi-ai yet again.

Miyabiyama burned Homasho in characteristic fashion, barely resisting his younger foe's pushes only to evade at the perfect moment and drag him down for the ho-hum hataki-komi. Both ho-hum guys have ho-hum 2-2 records.

Aran, for once, won his bout on superior technique against a larger foe, managing to get and preserve a solid left uwate, while denying Kaisei one of his own. The Brazilian used his size and weight to resist, but the Russian eventually prevailed by an incomplete throw at the edge. Both men share a decent 3-1 record.

Yoshikaze had henka on his mind and almost won the bout by it alone, but Takayasu recovered and mounted yet another tsuppari-fueled offensive. Yoshikaze has a few more years of experience, though, and stayed on the defensive long enough to evade at the edge for the last-ditch hataki-komi. The smaller Kaze improves to 2-2 somehow, while Takayasu (0-4) would do well to change his approach.

Despite not following sumo that closely for a while, one thing I've noticed is Toyohibiki's slight change in the approach (and success rate) of his bouts. It appears the large pusher no longer shuns belt fights, and will, now and then, even take a scalp or two from guys who previously had no business losing at the mawashi to him. Such was the case today with Tochinoshin, who had no real answer to Toyohibiki's great tachi-ai, who disabled Shin's left uwate while getting a solid one himself. Despite his recent success, it's pretty clear Hibiki still has many things to learn, because the way he eventually won the bout (abise-taoshi -- forcing your foe onto his back using sheer body weight) denotes his lack of experience. Both guys stand at 2-2.

Gagamaru also improved to 2-2 after a careful charge (that's an overstatement, as the 200kg behemoth just stood up, probably fearing a henka from the shifty Kaze), followed by a methodical push-out of his undersized opponent. Takekaze falls to 1-3 with the loss.

I've probably ripped on this before, but Wakakoyu's sumo HAS to be about as boring as it can possibly get. Rain or shine, day or night, you KNOW what's coming from him -- push a bit, then PULL. True enough, in most cases his opponents either push him out or get a grip on his fat ass and force him out or throw him (sweet!), but sometimes Wakakoyu (who doesn't really deserve the last kanji in his shikona -- which means excellence, leadership or masculinity) gets away with it, like today against Shotenro. Bah. Big Shot literally falls to 3-1.

One of the brighter spots of this basho (and of sumo of late a whole) is Myogiryu, who totally held his own against the more experienced Tochiohzan (after slapping the Kak around yesterday for a win that made me smile with content), eventually winning the bout at the edge by a nose-hair, despite losing control of it. The Excellent, Righteous Dragon improves to 2-2, while Oh snaps to his 3rd loss.

Goeido stood no chance against Baruto, a guy he has beaten on sheer skill before and he could beat again, simply because he refused to fight. No real tachi-ai, no offensive intention whatsoever. Not even a tactically sound evasive fight. No, Goeido simply RAN AWAY. And, naturally, he got demolished by tsuki-dashi. Baruto stays on par for the course at 4-0, while Goeido is still underachieving at 2-2.

Kotoshogiku (3-1) recovered from his bad loss yesterday with a carefully executed force-out of useless Okinoumi (0-4). Though taking his time finishing things off, Giku was never in any real trouble. Okinoumi is simply too weak to fight at this level this basho. I'm not saying he's done for, maybe he just needs a vacation to the nether-regions of Makuuchi.

Kisenosato was murdered by Aminishiki's brutal pushing attack after a wavering tachi-ai. The Kid survived it as well as anyone could, but his last ditch pull on his foe's arm was too little, too late. There was even a mono-ii, but there were no doubts as to who the winner was. Kisenosato takes his first loss, while Aminishiki scores his first win.

Kakuryu fell to his second loss in as many days, also against a guy he should usually beat. Toyonoshima, despite his shorter arms, dominated the tsuppari contest and left his Ozeki opponent nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, pushing him out for his first wins. I wonder if the Mongolian Ozeki is alright physically.

Kotooshu punched in another day at the office, easily brushing off Shohozan's underpowered tsuppari, grabbing a nigh insurmountable double mawashi grip and teleporting his undersized foe over the edge. Yes, it was THAT dominating. Kotooshu improves to 3-1, whereas Cheetos falls to an unsurprising 1-3.

Harumafuji left "defending champion" Kyokutenho little chance to breathe after bullying into a left uwate right from the tachi-ai, then executing the swiftest nage I've ever seen, leaving the perplexed Tenho on his knee in awe. Ex-Ama is also 4-0, whereas Tenho (0-4) is getting his just deserved after the blind luck last basho.

Finally, Hakuho absorbed Aoiyama's powerful charge, only to deflect his overcommitted foe with a paw to the side of the head and win the bout with hataki-komi. Not dominating sumo, but more than enough to win, because Aoiyama had no real plan outside of just charging forward. Anyway, par for the course for the Yokozuna as well. Aoiyama is 1-3 after upsetting Kotoshogiku with a very nice throw yesterday.

By looking at the leader board one year or so ago, I could tell the conclusion of the basho would be a bore. But with the most recent developments, I wouldn't be surprised to see yet another "surprise" yusho from someone neither Mongolian nor Yokozuna. Unless, of course, Hak takes back what's rightfully his and destroys the rest of his opposition, as he should. Only one way to find out, eh?

As for the special prizes, it's way too early to tell, but how about a Myogiryu Shukunsho? Or a Chiyotairyu Ginosho? Or maybe even a Masunoyama Kantosho? Hm? HM? I haven't got a clue who's reporting tomorrow, but you can bet it's going to be awesome, because this is Sumotalk. See ya around.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In my 20 years or so of watching sumo, I've seen several changing of the guards. What I mean by that is a dai-Yokozuna retiring in order to make room for the sport's next. For example, back in Hatsu 2002 when it was evident that Asashoryu would be promoted to Yokozuna, Takanohana retired mid-basho since he had given the sport all he could, and he knew physically that he wasn't up to the task to become a rival to Asashoryu. Contrast that with Musashimaru, who was also physically incapable of becoming Asashoryu's rival but who tried to stick it out a painful four or five basho before finally hanging it up due to that wrist injury. At the time, we really wanted to see one of the those two Yokozuna challenge Asashoryu, but it just wasn't in the cards. Neither Takanohana nor Musashimaru were able to perform the type of sumo they displayed in their primes, and so they moved on.

Asashoryu would go on to dominate the sport for the next five years until Hakuho came along. It was evident around 2006 that Hakuho was the sport's next and would eventually supplant Asashoryu as sumo's top dog. Six years ago at the Nagoya basho, you may remember that dubious yaocho between Asashoryu and Hakuho on senshuraku where Asashoryu let Hakuho beat him in his second basho as an Ozeki, and it was also around that time when Asashoryu proclaimed in Mongolia at a party with Hakuho in attendance that he [Asashoryu] would present Hakuho with a "69". No, no, not one of those 69s. Rather, Asa used a double entendre referring to both old recycled Russian army jeeps common in Mongolia and also to the fact that he would assist Hakuho in becoming sumo's 69th Yokozuna. Hakuho actually suffered an injury at the Aki basho that year resulting in an 8-7 finish and his complete withdrawal from the Kyushu basho, but when he returned for that next year, he was rejuvenated and ready to become sumo's top dog. Hakuho ended up taking the yusho in Haru and Natsu to secure promotion to Yokozuna, but I specifically remember blogging about the Haru basho day 14 match where Hakuho threw his bout to Asashoryu.

I was stunned for several reasons. First, I thought the two were screwing around with the integrity of the yusho, but more than that, it signaled to me that Hakuho had now become the man. Whereas Hakuho received a freebie at the previous Nagoya basho, it was now the younger Khan aiding and assisting Asashoryu in Osaka the very next year. It was hard to believe at the time because Asashoryu had been so dominant, but it was clear then, especially as we look back: Hakuho had indeed surpassed Asashoryu. Around that same time, Asashoryu began complaining of an elbow injury that would plague him until his retirement. He was also suspended later that year for two basho and then constantly hounded by the media and members of the Sumo Association. From that time until his retirement two years later, Asashoryu managed to take four yusho with cooperation from Hakuho and Harumafuji, but his sumo just wasn't the same. And it didn't need to be because sumo's next was already shredding his opponents atop the dohyo on his own.

After Asashoryu's forced retirement in 2010, Hakuho went on an absolute tear crowned by that stunning 63 bout winning streak that included an incredible four consecutive zensho yusho. Hakuho was unstoppable, and the crazy thing was, he hadn't even peaked nor did he have anything close to a rival. Then suddenly beginning in 2011 Hakuho began to lose uncharacteristically. On most days he was dominant, but on other days--particularly towards the end of basho--his sumo became inexplicable, and this circumstance has only been compounded in 2012 including his first day 1 loss in 3 1/2 years and his first three bout losing streak in five years at the Natsu basho. In other words, in 2012 Hakuho has been fighting as if he's in the decline of his career and about to be supplanted by sumo's next. The problem is...Hakuho is still in his prime, and there is no identifiable next out there.

I'm not saying that there's some law out there that says a dai-Yokozuna has to be supplanted by someone else, but the pattern is that the great ones are eventually worn down by others and then hang it up. What I've witnessed from Hakuho the past 18 months does not jive with anything that I've seen in sumo in my 20 years of following the sport. And this whole discussion was derived from my reading the newspapers this morning and seeing that Hakuho critiqued his sumo from day 2 where he kicked Kyokutenho's ass as "banzen janai," or not sound. The picture at right is a good example of what I'm talking about.  You see one thing with your eyes, but the caption says something entirely different, so if you believe everything you read as the Japanese do, you are now being told what is happening even thought the visual evidence not to mention common sense completely contradicts it.  For example, it doesn't make sense to me that Hakuho would unnecessarily critique himself like that--and it was picked up by all the papers--and then come out on day 3 and refuse to go for Aminishiki's belt opting instead to go for the hataki-komi win if his actions were all spontaneous. Anyway, if you were Japanese and you were told in the papers this morning that Hakuho himself said his sumo was not sound, and then you watched him monkey around with pulls the entire bout against Aminishiki today, it is now planted in your mind that a Hakuho loss would be expected and not surprising.  Just food for thought as we watch this basho play out.

Starting from the bottom up again, M15 Chiyotairyu crushed M15 Hochiyama back from the tachi-ai with dual kachi-age, and with HochiMinhYama upright, Chiyotairyu drove with his legs and threw ham after ham into Hochiyama's face and upper torso driving him back and out in mere seconds. I dare say we haven't seen a Philistine of this proportion in the lower Maegashira ranks since Baruto. Chiyotairyu is a sweet 3-0 and already the odds on favorite to become Japan's first yusho rikishi. Too bad he withdrew last basho. Hochiyama is an expected 0-3, which is a horrible score when you're the bottom face on the totem pole.

M14 Tochinowaka looks decent from the tachi-ai but has nothing after that. Nothing. Today with M16 Ikioi's legs slipping all over the dohyo after the initial charge, Tochinowaka still wasn't able to budge him a centimeter. Finally, Ikioi gathered his wits not to mention the left on the inside, and he felled Tochinowaka with the lightest right outer belt throw you'd ever care to see. Ikioi improves to 2-1 and I'm already salivating over the Tochinowaka - Hochiyama matchup.

M13 Masunoyama kept pace with Chiyotairyu getting a deep left arm on the inside of M14 Wakanosato's right side and then immediately pulling the trigger on a scoop throw with that same left arm. Since the two were in the middle of the ring, it took Masunoyama (3-0) a couple shots moving Wakanosato (1-2) back to the edge with the scoop throw before just bellying him back to make it official.

After watching the gyoji call M12 Sadanofuji and M13 Daido into the ring and then even after watching NHK flash the names of both dudes on the screen, I still couldn't tell which was which once the bout started. Anyway, Sadanofuji used some pretty swell nodowa to push Daido around, but in the end, Daido was able to hook his left arm beneath Sadanofuji's right pit while slapping him down by the back of the right shoulder. Not that it matters, but it looked to me as if Sadanofuji went down way too easy in this one, especially after dictating the pace of the bout with some nice nodowa. Daido improves to 3-0 while Sadanofuji falls to 1-2, and just to help you all identify Sadanofuji tomorrow, he'll be the guy with that white piece of tissue stuck between his eyes after cutting himself shaving his unibrow.

As a little diversion, Tamanoshima was in the mukou joumen chair today commenting on the broadcast, and they showed of few pics of his danpatsu-shiki, or top-knot snipping ceremony. One of the pictures showed a pretty hot chic taking a snip of his top-knot, and it turns out it was Tamanoshima's mother! Who'da thought I'd ever entertain thoughts about a mother to one of the sumos? Anyway, in case you're wondering what a woman was doing atop the dohyo, Tamanoshima explained that he wanted his mummy to make the final snip of his hair, so they had a special stage built next to the dohyo just so she could take part in the ceremony. On a final note, it was obvious that Tamanoshima got all of his looks from his old man.

Speaking of crushes, M11 Kitataiki used a right nodowa to stand M12 Takanoyama upright, so Takanoyama grabbed Taiki's left arm and tried to drag him to the side and out, but Kitataiki showed nifty footwork to keep pace and counter by driving his left elbow into Takanoyama's chest eventually setting up the push out win. Today we saw Takanoyama's first unorthodox move (something that is never practiced in keiko), which was to grab Kitaiki's arm and run, so expect more strange sumo tomorrow from the 0-3 rikishi. A bear hug kake-nage would be a good start. Kitataiki is 2-1.

M10 Tamaasuka and M10 Takarafuji were both upright and hesitant at the tachi-ai as they hooked up in the light hidari-yotsu position. Tamaasuka made the first move, but there was no substance to his yori charge, so Takarafuji dug in at the edge, worked his left arm into a real inside grip, and then bulldozed Tamaasuka across the dohyo and out improving to 2-1 in the process. Tamaasuka is like a dude waiting for the Hobbit movie to come out (i.e. he's yet to score).

Just as a disclaimer, the only reason I'm covering most of these bout down low is because I have to sit here and watch them waiting for the higher-ranked guys to show up, so if I have to watch them, you have to read about them.

M11 Tamawashi jumped out of the gate at the tachi-ai against M9 Tokitenku who attempted a lame hari-zashi. After catching his fellow Mongolian upright, Tamawashi got as far as the tawara before Tokitenku dug in with the right inside position. Now in the migi-yotsu position, the more yotsu adept Tokitenku took over forcing the action back to the center of the ring where Tamawashi went for an ill-advised maki-kae. Tokitenku wouldn't miss that opportunity and forced Tamawashi back and down just across the straw for the yori-taoshi win. Good counter sumo from Tenku who moves to 3-0 while The Mawashi falls to 1-2.

M8 Yoshikaze henka'd to his left against M8 Kaisei, and I don't really blame him. Kaze is spent, and he's fighting a beast in Kaisei, so I don't mind the move left. The result was Yoshikaze in moro-zashi, but Kaisei used his length to grab two outers over the top and just smother Yoshikaze in the process. Cafe attempted to break off one of Kaisei's outer grips, but he had no room with which to maneuver, so Kaisei just pinned his gal in with the right leg and bludgeoned Yoshikaze down into a heap at the edge of the ring. Great stuff from Kaisei who improves to 3-0 while Yoshikaze falls to 1-2.

In a battle of two aging Hutts, M9 Miyabiyama took charge with a moro-te tachi-ai that kept M7 Toyohibiki way upright. With no footwork to counter, Toyohibiki was easy pickins as Miyabiyama clobbered him with a few lumbering tsuppari before pulling him down about 4 seconds in. MiFlobbyYama picks up his first win at 1-2 while Toyohibiki falls to the same mark.

In a battle of two 2-0 rikishi, M6 Shotenro was visibly pumped up as he committed two false starts against M6 Homasho. The third time ended up being the charm, but Shotenro used that same fire to bully Homasho back from the tachi-ai with perfect de-ashi. Homasho managed to get his left arm on the inside in an effort to stave off the attack, but Shotenro grabbed that left arm and wrenched it good forcing Homasho to back outta the ring in a hurry. Homasho looked annoyed by the entire bout starting with those blatant false starts, but Shotenro went out and stole this one from start to finish. Homie was moving that left elbow gingerly in the tunnel as he walked back to the dressing room as this was one of those old time Kaio-nage throws. Shotenro is 3-0 if you need him while Homasho is just fine at 2-1.

In a battle of two underachieving 0-2 rikishi, M5 Takayasu was too high at the tachi-ai (that's something we discussed often when he first came into the division), and so he provided the perfect target for M7 Gagamaru's oshi attack that knocked Takayasu back once, twice, three times a lady after an initial inashi that set it all up. Perfect footwork as well from Gagamaru who moves to 1-2 while Takayasu is still winless.

M4 Tochinoshin let M4 Takekaze get into his head prior to the tachi-ai as Takekaze was clearly lollygagging at the starting lines. Shin shoulda stood back up to reset, but he put both fists down and let Takekaze dictate the start. It didn't help that Takekaze henka'd to his left yanking downwards on Tochinoshin's shoulder with the left hand while pulling his head down with the right. Shin didn't go down altogether, but he was too far spent and up against the edge, so Takekaze was able to nudge him out that last step for the ill-gotten win. I think Tochinoshin may have been able to survive that henka if he had reset before the tachi-ai, but oh well. You can't blame him for charging straight ahead into an opponent that wasn't there. Shin falls to 2-1 while Takekaze's 1-2 record is almost as ugly as his sumo.

As much as I like M3 Shohozan, his tachi-ai today against M5 Aran was nothing but a big shenanigan. With Aran ready to go, Shohozan kind of curled his wrists around and around and then suddenly popped both fists to the ground and lurched into a moro-te tachi-ai. I think Shohozan was more worried about the sneak attack than he was fueling said attack with proper footwork, and so Aran easily backed out of the dual choke hold and shoved Shohozan to the side and completely off balance setting up the oshi-dashi win. Aran moves to 2-1 for his troubles while Shohozan falls to 1-2. I would normally route for Shohozan in this one over Aran, but after that tachi-ai, I'm glad he got beat. I have little patience for anything other than sound sumo.

Sekiwake Goeido always has trouble with Komusubi Toyonoshima, and you could tell it was in his head from the tachi-ai as Goeido charged way upright and looked totally lost at one point attempting what looked like a right outer grip attempt over the top. The result was Toyonoshima with the sufficient left arm on the inside, and just when it looked like an easy yori-kiri win, Goeido evaded to the left quickly forcing Toyonoshima to chase him. In the process, the Father grabbed a subtle left kote-nage and used it to pull Toyonoshima towards the edge where he added insult to injury using a right shove at the back of Toyonoshima's shoulder to send the Komusubi sprawling down to this third loss in as many tries. Goeido is 2-1, and I have no idea how he survived that lousy tachi-ai. Well one idea comes to mind, but let's move on.

I both appreciate and enjoy M2 Aoiyama's spunk this high on the charts, and today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku it finally paid off. Aoiyama used a beefy right kachi-age at the tachi-ai to completely lift Kotoshogiku upright, and while the Ozeki did manage to duck under just enough to mount a force-out attack, he did so without a firm inside grip. Sure, his right arm was on the inside, but he didn't have Aoiyama contained, and so the Bulgarian shifted to his right at the edge, grabbed the left kote-nage in the process, and sent the Ozeki flying with a powerful throw. Great sumo from Aoiyama starting from the tachi-ai as he moves to 1-2. The Geeku is saddled with his first loss at 2-1.

Ozeki Kisenosato executed his best tachi-ai of the basho staying low for once against M1 Kyokutenho. The Kid actually had an opening for moro-zashi but settled for hidari-yotsu after firing a very effective shove up and under Kyokutenho's right armpit. With Tenho totally upright and a bit off balance, Kisenosato used that left inside position to drive out the Chauffeur who could do nothing but put both hands at the top of the Ozeki's head. Kisenosato continues to cruise at 3-0 while Kyokutenho falls to 0-3.

Komusubi Myogiryu made it two in a row over Ozeki Kakuryu by trading shoves for slaps, and so while Kakuryu's slaps provided a weak diversion, Myogiryu's shoves to the Kak's face forced the Ozeki back onto his heels. With Myogiryu fueling the attack with de-ashi, Kakuryu didn't even have the wherewithal to evade to either side, and so Myogiryu's swift and decisive oshi attack turned the bout into a thorough ass kicking. If you watch the evolution of these two fighting, Kakuryu befuddled Yogi early on by ducking and ditching, but Myogiryu's has figured it out completely and now forces Kakuryu (2-1) to beat him mano-a-mano in the future. Myogiryu moves to 1-2 with the win.

M3 Wakakoyu actually won the tachi-ai--or so it seemed--using a moro-te tachi-ai into the throat of Ozeki Kotooshu, but if you looked down to the dohyo floor, you would have seen the Wookie's feet flying all over the place, so while it looked fancy up high, there was no substance to the tachi-ai enabling Kotooshu to eventually fight off Wakakoyu's shoves and assume the yotsu position with the inside left and right outer grip. From this position, Wakakoyu had nary a pot to piss in, and it showed as the Ozeki just crushed him down at the edge for the yori-taoshi win. Kotooshu moves to 2-1 and is feasting on the mistakes from his opponents. Wakakoyu falls to 1-2.

Ozeki Harumafuji was quick at the tachi-ai jumping into the moro-te position against Sekiwake Tochiohzan, but the Ozeki is still recovering from a left ankle injury and wasn't able to force the Sekiwake straight back with good footwork. Didn't matter though since Tochiohzan's own footwork was listless, so with the Sekiwake just standing there, Harumafuji burrowed into a deep left inside position on the back of Tochiohzan's belt, gathered his wits for a few seconds, and then unleashed a nifty inner belt throw that sent Tochiohzan crashing down at the edge. More than an ass kicking at the hands of the Ozeki, this was more a case of Tochiohzan just standing around and letting Harumafuji do what he wanted. Regardless, Harumafuji is 3-0 while Tochiohzan falls to 1-2.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, M2 Okinoumi really didn't have a plan to avoid a straight up yotsu contest with Baruto, and so the result was the left arm on the inside for the Estonian, a mammoth right outer grip, and an uwate-nage throw that Okinoumi will feel for a few days. If your name isn't Hakuho and you're fighting Baruto, you've got to figure out how to get moro-zashi or how to evade a straight up yotsu contest. Okinoumi showed no intention of either, and so this was a swift ass kicking as Baruto moves to 3-0 while Okinoumi is winless.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho used a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against M1 Aminishiki to knock him upright, but he wasn't looking for the belt in this one at all opting to shove Ami up high and look for the hataki-komi. With Hakuho dictating the pace throughout, the Yokozuna eventually pushed Aminishiki by the left shoulder that ended up in a left kote-nage grip for the Yokozuna that he could have used to end Aminishiki's career, so he let up on that and just continued his quest for the hataki-komi that came a few seconds later. Hakuho was never in trouble in this one, but his choice of tactics certainly was curious, especially after his comments earlier in the day that is sumo wasn't sound as I mentioned in my intro. Regardless, Hakuho is 3-0 while Aminishiki falls to 0-3.

There's still a lot more sumo to go, and nothing will surprise me at this point. Martin explains that mystery woman seen with him around town in Pyongyang tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
For the first time in three years, I'm able to watch a hon-basho while in Japan. I realized how much I missed the anticipation of day 1 waiting for the lower bouts to finish, waiting for the useless greeting from the Association, and then waiting for last tournament's champion to return the Emperor's Cup before the main event started. There's also nothing like waking up in the morning and scanning the daily newspapers for quotes and tidbits that I may have missed during the bouts. Being in Japan really reminds my why I enjoy sumo so much in the first place, so let's see if I mellow out in my comments a bit this tournament.

Day 1 was rather quiet until the day's final bout where it actually looked as if Hakuho was defeated by Toyonoshima after the Yokozuna failed to grab a right grip of Tugboat's belt and mounted a reckless charge anyway throwing his body into the Komusubi near the edge while Toyonoshima dragged the Yokozuna down by the left arm. Clancy was correct to point out that there's no way for us to know for sure if Hakuho failed to grab Toyonoshima's belt on purpose, but there was a line in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper this morning that really stuck out to me regarding Hakuho's sumo. For you kanji bandits, it read like this:


If you run that through Google's translation service, that line comes back as: Point was deployment pattern reminiscent of the defeat of the destination location is certainly worrying.

Now, Google just nails the translation, and I don't want to step on their toes, but if I was translating that line into English, it'd read like this: It's certainly a concern that [today's bout] was reminiscent of the same losing pattern from last basho.

Regardless of how it's translated, the key phrase in there is 負けパターン or "pattern of losing." There definitely is a pattern of losing that we've seen with Hakuho, especially over the last 7 basho, and I don't know what the author's intention was when he placed that line at the end of his report, but the way in which Hakuho is losing (or setting himself up to be beat) has been unmistakable.

Now, there are two different ways to look at it. One conclusion is that Hakuho is trying his hardest every bout but has lost it a bit. He isn't able to make those adjustments that he used to or has become careless to compensate for an injury, declining speed, power, etc. The other conclusion is that Hakuho is making himself vulnerable in order to give the other rikishi a chance. I have of course been stating the latter conclusion for the last 18 months or so, and the evidence continues to mount in favor of it. First, Hakuho isn't in physical or mental decline. Second, nobody has risen up to shorten the gap between the Yokozuna and themselves. And third, the foreign rikishi clearly all stepped back last basho in order to give the Japanese rikishi a chance. I don't believe that Hakuho's "pattern of losing" the last 18 months is coincidence, but regardless of one's opinion, there is something for everyone in today's version of sumo, so let's get right to the day 2 action.

Leading off the day was M16 Ikioi, who easily secured moro-zashi against M15 Hochiyama, a rikishi that fights so upright he should become a boy scout. With no clue how to counter Ikioi's attack, Hochiyama allowed himself to be worked back towards the edge where Ikioi felled him with a nifty right inside belt throw. Ikioi picks up a much needed win to even things up while Hochiyama is a useless 0-2.

M15 Chiyotairyu executed a blistering tachi-ai against M14 Wakanosato that coulda loosened a few of the Crocodile's teeth it was so hard. In the process, Chiyotairyu grabbed a right outer grip and threw Wakanosato down like a ragdoll. Damnation. Two days in and no pull shenanigans from Tairyu (2-0) yet, who looks insurmountable at this level on the banzuke. Wakanosato graciously falls to 1-1.

Despite having the advantageous right inside position from the tachi-ai, M14 Tochinowaka did nothing with it while Daido grabbed the left outer grip and dug in. Tochinowaka was in such great shape to make a move, but it was as if he was wearing ski boots on the dohyo (with the skis attached), so Daido gathered his wits, stepped to the left, and gently threw Tochinowaka down to the dirt. I say gently because Daido acted as if he was putting an 85 year-old man to bed. That tells me that he felt no resistance from his opponent, so the question becomes is Tochinowaka injured or has he lost the will to fight? Dude's got enough tape on his right calf to suggest he can't use the lower body, and I hope that's the case. Daido moves to 2-0 with the win while Tochinowaka can't win a single bout in this shape.

Next up, M13 Masunoyama got the left inside from the tachi-ai and used perfect de-ashi to drive M12 Takanoyama back and out in a second flat. This was a thorough ass-kicking, but unfortunately the win was so swift that Takanoyama wasn't thrown around like a chew toy in a pit bull's jaws. Masunoyama will take that 2-0 start this way to Tuesday while Takanoyama will drop two or three more and then resort to subterfuge.

The M11 Tamawashi - M12 Sadanofuji affair was the perfect example of an oshi match where neither rikishi used their lower body. The result was both rikishi prancing around the ring unable to deal a lethal blow. After about 10 seconds, Tamawashi used an inashi (push to the side) with the right hand that got Sadanofuji turned around 180 degrees. From there it was an easy okuri-dashi as both gentlemen finish the day at 1-1.

M10 Tamaasuka and M11 Kitataiki hooked up immediately in the hidari-yotsu position, but Taiki ducked his head lower and actually drove with his feet, so before Tamaasuka knew it, he was on his way back and had to resort to a counter scoop throw with the left as he retreated. Wasn't enough as Kitataiki crushed Tamaasuka to the clay before Kitataiki touched down himself. Good win for my former mancrush who moves to 1-1 while Tamaasuka has yet to score at 0-2.

M9 Tokitenku executed a perfect hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping M10 Takarafuji with the left hand while inserting his right arm on the inside of Takara's left. It looked to me that Takarafuji was a bit dazed after that bitch slap because he failed to counter with the right inside position of his own and just wandered around up high. Tenku was able to parlay that into a left inside position giving him moro-zashi, and from there, it was all academic as Tokitenku moves to 2-0 with textbook sumo while Takarafuji falls to 1-1 after the yori-kiri loss.

M8 Yoshikaze moved slightly to his left at the tachi-ai throwing M9 Miyabiyama just enough of a curveball to completely take away any chance of de-ashi from Miyabiyama. Of course, Miyabiyama hasn't exhibited any de-ashi the last 18 months, but that's beside the point. The result was a girl slap fight where Yoshikaze was just pesky enough keeping on the move and causing Miyabiyama to fall face-forward with all his girth onto the dohyo. Talk about an ugly bout of sumo as Yoshikaze picks up his first win while Miyabiyama falls to 0-2.

M8 Kaisei smartly went for the inside position against M7 Toyohibiki whose hands were way too high at the tachi-ai. Before he could even hint at firing off a tsuppari, Kaisei was already pushing up into Toyohibiki's raised arms resulting in moro-zashi about three seconds in. Toyohibiki quickly backed out of it, but Kaisei had the momentum with the lower body and just pushed the retreating Hutt back and out for the sweet win not to mention 2-0 start. Toyohibiki falls to 1-1.

M7 Gagamaru was winless in seven tries against M6 Homasho coming in you could see that stat was in his head as they fought today. Gagamaru actually won the tachi-ai and was shoving Homasho back using baby steps, but a few seconds in he put his hands up high as if to threaten a pull and lost his momentum straightway. Homasho seized the opening by moving to his right, grabbing the outer grip on Lord Gaga's belt, and then continuing to move right as he dragged the beast down to the dohyo via uwate-dashi-nage. Gagamaru (0-2) let out a huge roar in the tunnels of the venue after the bout that NHK cameras actually caught and then belt out a string of what I assume were profanities in Georgian. I understand his frustration, but he's got to commit on de-ashi and use his size advantage. Homasho moves to 2-0 and played it perfectly.

M5 Takayasu did well to look for the oshi attack against M6 Shotenro, but Takayasu's feet were slipping on the dohyo while Shotenro's footwork was moving forward. The result was a Takayasu slipping back becoming the easy pull-down fodder. The Mongolian rikishi are too good to miss out on an opening like this when it comes, so needless to say, Shotenro moves to 2-0 with the win while Takayasu's off to a bad start at 0-2.

M4 Tochinoshin instigated the contact against M5 Aran at the tachi-ai getting his right arm on the inside. Shin actually flirted with moro-zashi while Aran lightly tried to pinch in from the outside, but the Bride couldn't stop the advances from the M4 who snuggled in tight with the firm right inside position and left outer to boot. The consummation was methodical from there as Tochinoshin (2-0) picked up the yori-kiri that saw Aran fall to 1-1.

In a classic contest, M4 Takekaze henka'd back to his left against M3 Shohozan, but the man with the tan was expecting it and caught Takekaze with a right paw to the throat driving him back to the corner of the ring. As Takekaze tried to recover and run, Shohozan just pulled his sorry ass down for the easy win. Great stuff as Shohozan is even steven at 1-1 while Takekaze is not only winless but had an orange handprint on his neck afterwards (that's for you Óscar!).

In a decent affair, Sekiwake Tochiohzan tsuppari'ed his way into the solid right outer grip from the tachi-ai against M3 Wakakoyu coupled with the decent left arm on the inside. The Wookie just couldn't wrangle out of this position, and when it looked as if he had no other option, he went for a maki-kae with the right arm, but he was too far gone at this point giving Tochiohzan the solid yori-kiri win. Both rikishi finish the day at 1-1.

Ozeki Kisenosato and M12 Okinoumi treated us to a typical yotsu-zumo clash where both rikishi end up with inside positions (both had the left inside today) from the tachi-ai forcing a chess match to see who could grab the right outer grip first. Okinoumi looked to be a touch lower as the two danced in close, but after about five seconds of digging in, Kisenosato used his larger gut to knock Okinoumi upright just enough to where he was able to grab the right outer grip, and from there it was ballgame as the Ozeki capitalized on a textbook attack forcing Okinoumi back across the straw. Kisenosato's looked great the first two days while Okinoumi is akin to a really good looking rat whose was bred in order to be fed to the snakes.

Next up was Ozeki Kakuryu who welcomed M2 Aoiyama, and I've really enjoyed the first two days watching the Mongolian Ozeki dissect Aoiyama. And it's not as if Aoiyama isn't trying because he's been giving it a great effort, but try as he might to use his size advantage against the smaller Ozeki, the two Mongolians are just too quick for him easily evading his shoves. After a fine kachi-age from Aoiyama today at the tachi-ai with the left arm, Kakuryu staved off the attack and quickly moved to his right dragging the Bulgarian off balance and towards the edge, but Aoiyama recovered well, squared himself back up facing the the center of the ring, and started firing again on all tsuppari cylinders. Kakuryu was too smart, however, to stand toe to toe with those guns, and so once again, he ducked to his right and dragged Aoiyama across the dohyo by the belt this time sending him out from behind. It will be fun to watch Aoiyama's thought process as he learns to fight among the jo'i, but for now he'll have to settle for 0-2. Kakuryu is a cool 2-0.

Sekiwake Goeido executed the exact sumo he needed to in order to defeat Ozeki Kotooshu, and that was to burrow in tight from the tachi-ai and establish the inside position. He took advantage of the gimpy Ozeki and actually secured moro-zashi pressing into the Bulgarian and forcing him to make a move in order to survive. Kotooshu attempted a left kote-nage counter throw, but Goeido was a bulldog in this one throwing down Kotooshu by the inside grip with the left hand. It was a close finish, but Kotooshu clearly put his hand down first giving the Sekiwake the win. A guy that puts his hand down early like that means he's either afraid to take a fall or he's injured...or both, which probably applied to Kotooshu today. Goeido picks up the first shukun victory of the basho leaving both dudes at 1-1.

Ozeki Harumafuji managed an effective right arm at the front of Komusubi Myogiryu's belt at the tachi-ai, and that made all the difference in today's bout as it forced Myogiryu to move to the side in order to shake the Ozeki's grip. As Myogiryu moved, he looked to create an opening with his tsuppari attack, but he had no lower body from which to work, and so as the two grappled with tsuppari in order to create an opening, Myogiryu made the first mistake, which was to put both hands up high around the Ozeki's head. Harumafuji is just too good to blow such a chance, and the oshi-dashi attack came swiftly as Harumafuji moves to 2-0 defeating a very worthy opponent. Myogiryu falls to 0-2 but is still showing plenty of heart and making these top guys work. NHK tried to catch up with him in the tunnel to get a few comments, but all he offered was, "Hey Boo Boo." Not sure what he meant by that, but Harumaufji moved to 2-0.

Ozeki Baruto managed to get his left arm to the inside of Komusubi Toyonoshima, and even though the arm was at the front of Tugboat's belly, it's only purpose was to keep Toyonoshima out of moro-zashi. With the Komusubi having nowhwere to run, Baruto grabbed the easy right outer grip and took his time just smothering Toyonoshima back to the edge and off the dohyo completely with the powerful yori-kiri win. Toyonoshima has to get moro-zashi against these giants or he has no chance. Baruto is a cool 2-0 if you need him while Toyonoshima falls to a respectable 0-2.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotoshogiku drew blood from M1 Aminishiki's forehead as the two butt heads at the tachi-ai that saw Aminishiki actually come away with two inside grips, but they were more happenstance than strategic and so Kotoshogiku was able to pinch in tightly from the outside and threaten a kote-nage throw with the right as he executed a maki-kae with the left. As the dust settled, it was now a hidari-yotsu contest with Kotoshogiku holding the clear advantage with the lower body. As the Geeku went for the inevitable force-out charge, Aminishiki attempted a right maki-kae of his own, but he was too far gone thanks to the Ozeki's excellent technique in this one. Kotoshogiku never panicked and has earned this 2-0 start. Aminishiki is so gimpy out there at 0-2, I'm amazed that he occupied the Sekiwake rank just a few basho ago.

In the day's finale, Yokozuna Hakuho executed his usual perfect tachi-ai getting the right arm on the inside of M1 Kyokutenho that also set up the easy left outer grip on the other side, and before Kyokutenho could even get settled, Hakuho just threw his ass down to the dohyo with a right scoop throw. It's interesting to watch the huge contrast between Hakuho turning it on and turning it off as he moves to 2-0 while the elite rikishi will make damn sure that Kyokutenho (0-2) doesn't repeat as the yusho winner.

Back for more tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well the summer, or Nagoya, basho is upon us and not a moment too soon, as the doldrums were well settled on my mind. There hasnt been much going on in sports to speak of, with the NHL and the NBA holding their playoffs (yawn). MLB is now in the dog days, which is nice if you can actually get out to one of the games and sit and enjoy, but Id have to do that here in Japan and there is no relaxing at a JPese pro baseball game, as the fans treat it like a high school pep rally. There was some sort of tourney in Europe having to do with a ball and feet, but nothing that employs the body parts that set humans apart from the lower animals, namely our hands! A few "big" stories about national competitions for spots on Olympic teams, and thats about it. Oh, yeah, and Cheetah Woods won a few times.

I checked with our contributors both present and past and it looks like they, too, have little to report on in their lives. Kenji seems to have gotten a rug burn on his knee horsing around with his kids, Martin learned an uncle of his used to be a locksmith, Andreas chipped a tooth (not his own), Matt found a better deal on car insurance, Oscar had a late supper, I was chosen in a drawing to run the Kobe Marathon again this year (tho I highly doubt there even IS a drawing for furries), and Mike accidentally received an extra brownie in his airplane meal on his flight to Fukuoka last week.

As for erstwhile contributors, Simon got someone elses mail by mistake, Bernie and George remain dead, and thats about it. Well, Mark did get married, and Mario and his co-workers at CERN discovered the fundamental particle of the universe that essentially allows all other particles (including you and me) to exist. Like I said, not much going on.

So when Ikioi squatted down to face Chiyotairyu, I actually felt bump of goose, as Martins uncle likes to say. I was rewarded with an awfully hard tachi-ai by Chiyotairyu, blowing Icky back and causing him to try and escape to the side, but the W15 was all over him and ran him across and out. Emphatic win and way to start the basho for the top tier fellas.

Wakanosato, still (fire) plugging away at W14, withstood some pushiness from Hochiyama and got inside quickly to execute the former Viet Cong general via a silky smooth sukui-nage. The former Barometer (now a weather vane at best) still has some mojo given the right foe, Joe!

Masunoyama had no trouble with Tochinowaka, shoving him out while I took a second to drink a swig of lager. Even from my tortured viewing angle there wasnt much to note, other than Tochi has fallen and cannot get up.

Let me be perfectly clear. I dig Takanoyamas chutzpah, and think he deserves everything he can get. He has risen up like a small rodent to take advantage of the scarred post-scandal landscape that wiped out so many larger beasts, natural selection writ small (and I do mean small).

But...his bouts are not entertaining at all. He looks like a high school boy among men. Hes not Terao and it does not look like hes willing (or able?) to put on the weight necessary to have a chance to become Terao. So when he comes up, whats the point in watching? If he wins itll be by subterfuge (crappy sumo) or hell get his ass kicked. Either way, hes one for the "Like watching car crashes" crowd.

Kitataiki hit Sadanofuji with more temple than a Japanese New Year, and it started the blood a flowing. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also made Sadan go Hussein, backing up the Kit Cat with shock and awe and leaving him on the wrong end of a yori-kiri decision. The E12 was coolly mopping up the rivulets of blood that had poured down his face to his navel as he made his triumphant way back to the dressing rooms. Kyewl.

Takarafuji and Tamawashi had a nice aggressive bout that ended with Takarafuji pouncing on the smallest opening, grabbing the front belt and powering out the Mongolian. Tamawashi did not want to lose and protested at the edge but it went for naught.

Tokitenku showed some chimplike strength vs. Tamaasuka, back in the division after some time away, by snatching an inside right that looked exceedingly tenuous, with the W9 wide open and being turned around. He hung on however and closed ranks, using the grip to win by frontal force out. Super strong fingers, nearly all the Mongolians have them, which is why they almost always look for the belt grip when they want the win.

Kaisei and Miyabiyama, two of the least easy on the eyes rikishi going, and two of the largest, went trunk to trunk, with the younger and more adroit at this point in their careers Kaisei waiting out the shoving of the former Ozeki until he tired and missed, then getting on top of him for the easy shove down win.

Yoshikaze tried to hit and run, but Toyohibiki snagged an armbar and wrenched it up, preventing Starbuck from getting any kind of belt grip, and then forcing him out. Toyohibiki used the kind of legwork youll see every rikishi intent on winning try to use, namely kind of hopjumped his legs up underneath him as he moved to edge, as opposed to leaving them behind and falling forward hoping to domino his foe out.

Shotenro kept Gagamaru at bay enough that the big guy was forced to go low to get in. Problem is when a top-heavy 200kg man goes low, he tends to stay low. Big Shot realized this and just smothered him down to the clay. Ignominious.

Homasho used patience and timely shoves to keep Takayasu out of sorts and off the belt and ended up with that oh so Homasho sort of win, namely oshi-dashi push out.

Takekaze and Aran were up to start the second half, and as always I was wondering if wed see Ah Ran or his evil (and inept) twin brother Mo. Ah showed up today, taking the fully extended right arm that Takekaze presented to him and dancing him around and out with it like Donald OConnor waltzing Ethel Merman. No kidding, I do not recall ever seeing a smoother armbar swing out than this one (and that includes the legendary armbar champ Kaio [all heads bow] who never, EVER had a bout thrown for him in his long and storied career).

Big White beat Little Brown as Tochinoshin used his long arms to keep Shohozan at, well, arms length until he could set up the slapdown, which he pulled off with aplomb. That aplomb was the bomb!

Mike mentioned in his pre-basho that Goeido was bringing it vs. Hakuho in practice, but today was bent over the knee and just spanked by Wakakoyu. Lemoneido had zero punch at tachi-ai, slapping like Curly from the Three Stooges. Wakakoyu laughed deep inside where it counts, but on the surface was cool and exacting as he bodied up and just powered the Sekiwake out. If this is the kind of sumo well be seeing for 15 days, expect bad things for Nowaydo and quite the opposite for the fiery E3.

Okinoumi had visions of sugar plums dancing in his head as he and Kakuryu locked up in a yotsu belt battle, both men with inside outside belt grips. It looked as though the larger man would be picking up the Ozeki and depositing him on the other side of the line made of twine, and he damn well tried, but made the mistake of putting his kicking and screaming Kak down inside the ring, and with some shweetassed timing the Ozeki spun and flung the W2 as soon as his feet touched dirt. A very nicely done (if fortunate) uwate-nage. Expect Kak to go MUCH more fiercely at big Aoiyama tomorrow. Game is on.

Speaking of going fiercely at Aoiyama, holy crap! Harumafuji tried to knock his block off, throwing haymakers at the poor E2. In an effort to keep his head attached to his shoulders, the gigantic Bulgarian gave the Ozeki a "talk to the hand" right in his nose, and this seemed to cause the rabies in HowDos system to engage. He went nuts, swiping and pawing to get in, and it seriously appeared that Aoiyama thought, Run! He began turning to step out and Harumafuji came up behind him and, with his teeth clamped down on his lower lip, pounded on the Bulgarians back even as he was clearly jumping off the dohyo and the Ozeki himself was standing outside the bales. Woudnt be surprised to hear something about a reprimand for this one. Wow.

Kotooshu took on his nemesis Aminishiki, and it looked like the crafty one might pull off yet another upset of the Ozeki, luring him forward and going for the sidestep pull, but Kotooshu bent at the knees and arrested his forward mo before he stepped out, and in the process had pushed Aminishiki just hard enough to put him off balance at the edge, where he jumped out after dancing on one leg. Good focus for the Sadogatake beya man who didnt look all that injured to me.

Speaking of Sadogatake, there is no truth to the rumor going around that the NSK is considering bringing back Kotomitsuki, who is probably the JPese Ozeki who could have taken advantage of that Yellow Brick Road that the top furreners laid for Kise and Geeku in May.

Kyokutenho continued his 2012 "Gettin No Love" Tour with a stop in Barutotown, where the Ozeki demonstrated the kind of result sure to be common this basho for the oldest man in sumo. Hooked up in a close bodied belt battle, the two men bided their time, and when the May yusho winner made his "move," Baruto used his superior strength and excellent lower body positioning to work the often dangerous when moving backward M1 out. As Le Chauffer tumbled to his ass and then rolled over a few of Nagoyas finest oldsters, I could swear I saw the MIB sitting there appraising his topknot for a not-too-far-in-the-future danpatsu!

While I do believe there is a smidgen of bias in foreign born Kyokutenho not getting Komusubi, I think they would have awarded him the rank had he kicked Tochiohzans ass in the May playoff, instead of that goofy match we were given. Of course, thats not entirely on him, as Tochiohzan wrestled like a quivering mass of konyaku.

There was no leaving his feet behind today as Tochiohzan moved forward at the tachi-ai, but sadly he did so without having a grip with his right hand, and Kotoshogiku niftily jammed his own left arm underneath Oh Snaps armpit and lifted him up, throwing off his balance and leaving him easy pickings for a run out win as he tried to scamper away across the ring. When my sentences run on like that one did, you KNOW Im trying to get out of the paragraph asap.

Kisenosato drove Myogiryu back to the bales and then they circled the entire dohyo to wind up back in the exact same position from which they started, which doesnt happen that often. Once reset Myogibear went for the picanic basket, but Kisenosato foiled his attempt by demanding the inside belt and using it to break any possible grip the shin-Komusubi might get. The park ranger showed excellent patience and balance in forcing him back and out. Im interested to see what Kisenosato does on Day 2, cause Okinoumi is a sight bit larger than Myogiryu and also more of a belt fighter, and looks determined after giving Kakuryu a scare today.

Toyonoshima can be a dangerous opponent, so its not inconceivable that he presents some difficulty for Hakuho. In todays fight, the Yokozuna came in very fast and had his hand hovering over Toyonoshimas belt. He chose to not grab it, for what reason I dare not conjecture, but being so far forward and committed without it allowed Tugboat to tug on Hakuhos left arm and slide away, bringing the Yokozuna to the edge where he essentially flung his body at the Komusubi hoping to land on top of him. Toyonoshima was too far to the side for that, but he was stepping out at the same time, and Hakuho flew out like a skydiver. Gyoji pointed his gumbai at Hakuho, which was surprising to say the least, especially after the replays clearly showed he touched down first. The MIB must have felt that the Yokozuna deserved a do-over considering Tugboats feet were already in the air outside the ring. And thats exactly how a Yokozuna ought to be treated, in my opinion.

Given the second chance, Kublai wasted no time in getting the right hand belt he passed on the first time, deep and right under Toyonoshimas navel. Once secured he did not rush forward to fall to some counterevasive (new word alert!) twist from the Komusubi. Instead he crouched down and kept his hips back and waited, knowing full well that his foe had no stance from which to launch an attack. The moment Tugboat realigned his feet the tiniest bit the Yokozuna was all over him, driving him back out with powerful ease.

With that overeager and perplexing rush in the first bout it looks like Hakuho is vulnerable yet again this basho, so expect some drama and the possibility of a semi-crowded yusho battle. Ill be back on Day 8 to see whats the gaff, and Mike will take you on the Magical Mystery Tour come Day 2. Cheers!









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