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SUMO: 2018 Natsu Basho (Day 3)

Welcome to Day 3 of the Natsu Basho, where so far things are going very much according to plan. The sanyaku rikishi are all winning their early matches (except for the komusubi who are losing when facing yokozuna).

Hakuho had a bit of a scare yesterday, though, when komusubi Mitakeumi took control of their match with a slick move off the tachi-ai [initial charge]. Actually, the replay made it look to me more like Hakuho’s hand slipped while trying to grab his opponent’s mawashi [belt], but the result was the same. Still it gave us look at some of the reasons he has been and still is the best in the world. Hakuho reacted so fast that Mitakeumi couldn’t take advantage of his superior position. And then, as the match progressed, Hakuho showed that he isn’t just quick to move, he’s quick to stop, which allows him to control the distance between himself and his opponent better than anyone else I’ve ever seen. In this case, Hakuho putting on the breaks suddenly put him in back in control of the match, and he was then able to end it very quickly with one of his famous uwatenage [overarm throw] maneuvers.

Sekiwake Tochinoshin also looked very strong facing the young up and comer Abi. Although Abi had the size and strength to keep the big Georgian literally at arm’s reach, he couldn’t really do much more than that. And once Tochinoshin maneuvered his way close enough to grab the belt, the match was pretty much done.

Sekiwake Ichinojo, the heaviest man in the top division, continued to show his new winning style by overpowering M1 Kaisei, the second heaviest. Can Ichinojo REALLY have finally turned the corner and become a rikishi worth rooting for?

You may have noticed that we’re on Day 3 and I still haven’t said anything at all about ozeki Goeido. That’s because, despite the fact that some of the announcers are anxious to talk him up and say that he’s looking strong, so far he just looks like the same old Goeido to me. He wins the matches that come easily, and that definitely describes his first two. The question is how he’ll perform when an opponent actually puts up a fight, particularly an unexpected one. Will he dig deep and find the grit to come back and win, or will he roll over and get that “how did this happen to me?” look on his face? And then the even bigger question will be how he reacts the day after that. Will he knuckle down and get himself back on track, or will he mope for a day or two and compound one loss into three? Based on past performance, I think the latter option is most likely in both cases, and that makes me loathe to spend much time talking about him here in the early part of the tournament. Sure, Goeido has the skill and power to be a contender, he’s shown that in small flashes over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, he more frequently shows that he lacks the temperament to make the most of those qualities.

M16 Myogiryu (1–1) vs. M16 Aminishiki 0–2)—The first match of the day is mostly interesting to me because there’s a matta [false start], and the mics clearly pick up Myogiryu apologizing. “Ahhh .. gomen.” Very polite.  (0:10)
M10 Okinoumi (2–0) vs. M12 Arawashi (1–1)
—Two middle of the banzuke [ranking sheet] rikishi who turn in one of the most hard-fought, gutsy matches of the tournament so far. (3:45)
M3 Daieisho (0–2) vs. sekiwake Ichinojo (2–0)—Another match that gives strong evidence that Ichinojo has somehow at this late date learned how to be tenacious and not to just rely on his size. (11:40)
Sekiwake Tochinoshin (2–0) vs. M1 Tamawashi (0–2)—Tochinoshin is looking strong, but today he faces someone who is as big as he is, and nearly as strong. Tamawashi may be winless so far, but his losses have been to the two Yokozuna, so that’s to be expected. Today is the first match that he’s got a real chance to be competitive. (13:10)
Komusubi Endo (1–1) vs. ozeki Goeido (2–0)—Two rikishi with very big, very vocal fan clubs present in the audience. Definitely one of the bouts that today’s crowd was most excited for. (14:25)

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