January 2018, Day 12, Shohozan v Sokokurai

One goes up, one goes down. Shohozan picks up his eighth win, and Sokokurai his eighth loss, in a bout that highlights all of Shohozan’s strengths. He starts with strong pushes to Sokokurai’s face, which Sokokurai defends by grabbing onto Shohozan’s arms and working inside for a belt grip. But Shohozan adapts well, using his own belt grip to swing Sokokurai around and set up the final push. With an overarm grip and a hand on the side of the head, Shohozan crushes Sokokurai to the clay.

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January 2018, Day 9, Sokokurai v Ryuden

Great battle for the belt in this one, with Sokokurai and Ryuden both gaining and losing grips on both sides, trying to be the first to land both hands solidly. It looks like they both lock up at about the same time, but Sokokurai’s grip has all the layers of Ryuden’s belt, while Ryuden’s grip just has the top layer of Sokokurai’s. So Sokokurai’s effort is directly transmitted to Ryuden’s center of gravity, and Ryuden wastes energy moving Sokokurai’s belt around without really affecting his body. This makes all the difference, and Ryuden can’t defend at the edge. Both men crash down to the floor below the dohyo, with Sokokurai landing in the lap of an elderly gentleman in the first row. A gentleman himself, Sokokurai makes sure the man is alright before getting up.

January 2018, Day 8, Sokokurai v Ishiura

Ishiura’s stays busy, trying an arm bar throw (tottari) that goes nowhere, and fending off Sokokurai’s arms before diving in for a left-handed inside grip. Sokokurai ends up on top, with Ishiura’s head tucked down into his chest. Not much Ishiura can do but charge forward and hope for the best, but Sokokurai leans over for a deep overarm belt grip that he uses to pull Ishiura onto his knees in the dirt.

May 2017, Day 12, Toyohibiki v Sokokurai

Both Toyohibiki and Sokokurai have losing records already, but neither one is going to throw in the towel on the tournament. Toyohibiki comes out hard with a slamming tachiai, and follows up with a strong left arm to the throat that Sokokurai is completely unable to handle. The general strategy seeming to be, “I’m going to push your head out of the ring. It’s up to you if your body follows.”

May 2017, Day 10, Sokokurai v Shodai

Shodai somehow slips suddenly sideways, surprising Sokokurai with his shockingly speedy slipperiness as Sokokurai steps southward out of the sumo circle.

May 2017, Day 7, Ura v Sokokurai

Sokokurai would love to get in close to grab Ura’s belt, but he can’t figure out how to do it. While his brain is occupied with the conundrum, Ura pulls hard on his arm to get him off-balance and headed for the edge of the ring. Sokokurai stops himself, but Ura is right beside him and on the attack. Good work by Ura for the oshidashi (push out) win.

May 2017, Sokokurai v Takakeisho

Sokokurai looks to be in trouble off the tachiai, driven backwards by Takakeisho all the way to the edge of the ring. But he pushes down on Takakeisho’s head while Takakeisho graciously forgets to move his feet forward, and Sokokurai hangs on with both feet balanced on the tawara, his heels suspended over the outside of the ring just long enough for Takakeisho to hit the ground first. The referee calls it for Takakeisho, but ex-Ozeki Kaio calls a conference and the ref’s decision is reversed.