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SUMO: Natsu Basho 2017 (Day 3)

Day 3 of the Natsu Basho, and already this clearly is going to be one of those tournaments where ANYTHING can happen. Yokozuna Kakuryu has lost both of his matches so far, as has ozeki Terunofuji, Yokozuna Harumafuji is the only one of the top rankers who looks like he’s on his game, and he’s already doing that little wrist twitch at the end of his matches that lets you know that his wrist is hurting him. The two strongest performances so far have been put in by a pair of sekiwake—Takayasu and Tamawashi—while the third sekiwake (Kotoshogiku) is looking completely unimpressive.

But as I said, it’s only Day 3. Anything could happen yet.

I’d say that so far I’m most impressed with Takayasu. He seems in terrific condition and focused on getting the double-digit wins he needs to secure an ozeki promotion. In yesterday’s match, ozeki Goeido bounced off him like Takayasu was a brick wall. I’m not a fan of Goeido, but he’s a strong, tough guy, and it takes a lot to bounce him around like that. 

The most unfortunate thing that happened yesterday was the conclusion to Terunofuji’s loss to Tamawashi. Not only did he get pushed around (another thing you don’t see every day) but when he was shoved off the dohyo he managed to land badly on both his own ankle and on yokozuna Kisenosato, who was sitting ringside. Terunofuji stepped on the yokozuna’s leg AND bashed into his ailing shoulder. Somehow Kisenosato managed to get a win anyway, but I think that had more to do with the difference in MENTAL toughness between him and his opponent, M2 Okinoumi. 

M1 Chionokuni managed to get his first ever kinboshi [gold star award for beating a yokozuna] by besting Kakuryu in the final match of the day. He was energetic and quickly switched tactics after the tachi-ai, leaving the yokozuna looking more than a little befuddled. I think that Kakuryu’s big problem these days is that he’s not good at switching tactics against an aggressive opponent. When he has to keep guessing what’s coming next, Kakuryu tends to back himself into a defensive posture that isn’t working for him at all lately.

J2 Chiyomaru (1–1) vs. J1 Osunaarashi (0–2)—Today’s video starts with a chance to see one of my favorite rikishi—Egyptian Osunaarashi who is still struggling to earn his way back into the upper division after suffering through extended problems with his knees. Currently, he’s ranked at the top of the Juryo Division, so all he really needs to do is get kachi-koshi [majority of wins] this tournament and he should get promoted. Unfortunately, he’s starting slow and is winless here at the start of Day 3. (0:16)

M11 Ishiura (1–1) vs. M10 Ura (2–0)—Two relatively new, but very popular rikishi, both famous for being notably undersized compared to most of their opponents. Their head-to-head matches are going to be things that the fans look forward to for years to come—two tiny warriors going after each other. Overall, I think I like Ishiura a little better . . . but Ura has the better record this basho AND in their past meetings. (4:36)

Sekiwak Tamawashi (2–0) vs. komusubi Mitakeumi (2–0)—Two up and coming rikishi who we should get used to seeing in the sanyaku ranks. I expect Mitakeumi to rise to the rank of ozeki before too long (maybe next year sometime if he stays healthy and keeps improving). Tamawashi still has to prove to me that he can keep up this kind of performance for several tournaments in a row . . . but right now he’s looking like someone who could take a run at an ozeki promotion in the fall. So far, Mitakeumi has won ALL of their head-to-head matches. Can he keep that streak alive? (9:30)

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (0–2) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (2–0)—Two sekiwake going in opposite directions. Kotoshogiku fell from his ozeki ranking and is struggling so far this tournament, while Takayasu is pressing toward an ozeki promotion and has looked nearly invulnerable over the first two days. (Something odd happened to the audio track in the previous bout, so it’s way off sync at the start of this one.) Kotoshogiku NEEDS to start winning of the chances of kachi-koshi will begin to grow slim for him. (10:30)

Komusubi Yoshikaze (1–1) vs. ozeki Goeido (1–1)—After starting the basho with a win over yokozuna Kisenosato, Yoshikaze would like to add another highly ranked name to his list. As it turns out, he leads in the career matches against Goeido, so that’s not at all a crazy notion. Goeido really needs to get himself turned around. As an ozeki, he shouldn’t have to worry about kachi-koshi . . . but since he’s kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] he does, and his schedule is going to be very tough in Week 2. He’s got to secure as many wins as he can in Week 1. (11:00)

Yokozuna Kisenosato (1–1) vs. M1 Chiyonokuni (1–1)—Fresh off his win over yokozuna Kakuryu yesterday (his first ever kinboshi), Chiyonokuni would like to quickly grab another against injured Kisenosato. If he can do the same kind of quick-moving, hard-hitting sumo he did yesterday, Chiyonokuni might just pull it off. For his part, Kisenosato will want to get his hands on the younger rikishi’s mawashi and stop him from moving all around. (13:40)

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