PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2017 World Championship race continues to be a jumbled, exciting logjam between the top riders in the world standings.
With only three Built Ford Tough Series regular-season events remaining until the 2017 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals begin on Nov. 1-5, no rider has been able to run away from the field and create separation from his challengers.
Therefore, with only 577 points between No. 1 Eduardo Aparecido from No. 5 Cooper Davis, these final three events will play a pivotal role in determine which rider will leave Las Vegas on Nov. 5 as the World Champion and $1 million richer.
Even more so, this weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle in Nampa, Idaho, could also potentially be a difference-maker says two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Justin McBride.
“The way this race is, this is huge,” McBride said in Colorado Springs. “Which guy is going to show up and not go, ‘Ah we have to get on another rank one. Instead, I get to get on another rank one for a lot of points.’
“150 points are huge in this race.”
Riders earn world points for finishing in the Top 7 of a 15/15 Bucking Battle (150, 90, 75, 60, 45, 25, 10).
Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle exclusively on CBS national television Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
15/15 Bucking Battle Matchups
Marco Eguchi vs. Burn It Down (11-2, BFTS)
Claudio Montanha Jr. vs. Cochise (29-5, BFTS)*
Stetson Lawrence vs. Smooth Operator (43-3, BFTS)
Dener Barbosa vs. Moto Moto (17-5, BFTS)
Rubens Barbosa vs. Catfish John (24-7, BFTS)
Cody Teel vs. Beaver Creek Beau (55-6, BFTS)
Cody Nance vs. Speed Demon (10-2, BFTS)*
Joao Ricardo Vieira vs. Joe Blow (14-0, BFTS)
Fabiano Vieira vs. Mystikal (16-1, BFTS)
Stormy Wing vs. Spotted Demon (30-3, BFTS)*
Chase Outlaw vs. Pearl Harbor (28-3, BFTS)
Cooper Davis vs. Gambini (10-0, BFTS)
Derek Kolbaba vs. Cooper Tires Semper Fi (36-14, BFTS)*
Kaique Pacheco vs. Deep Water (19-2, BFTS)
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Fire & Smoke (36-13, BFTS)*
$Rider has successfully previously ridden the bull
Speaking of rank matchups, Chase Outlaw – the No. 6 ranked rider in the world standings – will have his hands full in a marquee matchup against Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor, who is currently tied with 2016 World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser for the No. 1 ranking in the World Champion Bull standings, is coming off a 3.21-second buckoff of 2016 World Champion Davis.
Outlaw could really use a big weekend in Nampa as he tries to cut down on his 1,275.84-point deficit between him and Aparecido.
The 25-year-old hasn’t won an event this season, but he has placed first or second in three of the last five BFTS rounds.
Outlaw went 1-for-3 at the Rumble in the Rockies with an 87.5-point ride on Mar-A-Lago. He was bucked off by Bad Beagle in 2.82 seconds when the Jared Allen Pro Bull Team bovine athlete used a little bit of a stutter-step to dispatch the Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider.
Meanwhile, Pearl Harbor needs at least a 45.75-point bull score or higher to increase his 46.28-point World Champion Bull average and gain sole possession of the No. 1 bull ranking with Bruiser not competing in Nampa.
“They don’t match up well on paper, but I know Chase believes that he can ride him, and that’s enough for me to take the little Outlaw,” McBride said.
Aparecido may have a hard time increasing his lead atop the world standings when he squares off against Fire & Smoke.
Fire & Smoke has only been ridden 14 times in 80 outs at all levels of competition and the 6-year-old bull is 31-1 against right-handed riders.
However, that one ride came last weekend when Davis rode Chad Berger’s bull for 85.75 points.
“He is very difficult for those who ride with his right hand,” Aparecido said via text message Tuesday morning. “He already has knocked me down twice. I’ll try to get as much as I can in front of him.”
Aparecido said he has watched Davis’ ride, but added that it would be a little hard to take much from the ride seeing as the two have different riding styles.
Davis – the No. 5 rider in the world standings – will try to become the first rider to conquer Gambini at the BFTS level on Saturday night.
He trails Aparecido by 576.67 points in the world standings.
Gambini has given some of the PBR’s best a hard time this season too. The 5-year-old bucked off Aparecido in 3.42 seconds three weeks ago in Austin, Texas, and he bucked off Outlaw in 2.39 seconds at Last Cowboy Standing.
No. 3 Derek Kolbaba was also bucked off two times in less than 4.2 seconds early in the season.
Speaking of Kolbaba. The red-hot rider brings his streak of six consecutive rides into Nampa and will have a rematch against Cooper Tires Semper Fi.
Semper Fi has bucked off Kolbaba four times at all levels of competition, including this past summer in Big Sky, Montana, when he got knocked out immediately coming out of the chutes.
“Chest out, feet down,” Kolbaba responded when asked about Semper Fi on Tuesday morning.
Kolbaba trails Aparecido by 452.5 points.
No. 2 Kaique Pacheco has lost ground in the world title race during the last two events, but he still remains only 365 points behind Aparecido.
Pacheco has drawn Deep Water, who made easy work of Mike Lee (2.97 seconds) in Colorado Springs.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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