FORT WORTH, Texas ― Even a quick glance of the world standings looks unusual.
While it might not seem strange to see the two-time defending World Champion atop the standings, until this year, Silvano Alves has never been the No. 1 rider in the world prior to the summer break from the Built Ford Tough Series.
This year he's been the top-ranked rider for the entire month of January.
While any rider ranked in the Top 35 is capable of winning any given event, recent years have shown it a bit unusual to see the likes of Shane Proctor, Douglas Duncan, Jordan Hupp and Jory Markiss all ranked in the Top 10 after four of 25 BFTS events leading up to the World Finals.
Of the four, only Proctor has ever finished a season ranked in the Top 10 ― that was in 2011 when he finished ninth ― but he's coming off an injury-plagued season in which he missed qualifying for the Finals.
But even more unusual is the fact that after Robson Palermo won the opening BFTS event in New York, the next three BFTS events have been won by a trio of alternates ― Billy Robinson, 19; Proctor, 2, and Sean Willingham, 6 ― who are set to be seeded in the Top 35 following this weekend's event in Sacramento, Calif.
"That just goes to show that the guys (who) are riding at the Touring Pro (Division) are just as hungry as the guys (who) are riding here each and every week," Willingham said. "When you get that opportunity you (have) to capitalize when you get here."
All of which leads to the most unusual statistic (or lack thereof).
After years of Brazilian dominance the single-most asked question is: what happened to the Brazilians?
"That's a good question," Ty Murray said.
"You're also looking at a group of American bull riders, that the last few years, are getting a little sick of Brazil dominating them," said Murray, in his weekly Podcast, "and Brazil has been - no question. It's almost like there's a tide in sports and I don't know if it's the start of seeing those guys get to a point where they're ready to rise up and do what it takes to compete with these guys or if it's just kind of different injuries we're seeing throughout the guys right now, but it can be a lot of factors."
Murray's entire Podcast can be found HERE on iTunes.
There are only two Brazilians - Alves, 1, and Palermo, 8 - ranked in the Top 10 after a season in which seven finished 2012 in the Top 10 and the Top 6 finishers in the average at the Finals were all Brazilian.
Equally surprising is the fact that only six are in the Top 20.
However, perhaps, they're still on their way given the fact that five more are ranked between 21st and 35th.
Alves was 0-for-3 in Oklahoma City and has bucked off four in a row. He's never bucked off as many as five BFTS bulls in a row since making his debut in April 2010 and only two other times has bucked off four in a row (both streaks took place in 2010).
Guilherme Marchi rode back-to-back bulls in Rounds 2 and 3 this past weekend to break a career-long streak of seven consecutive buckoffs.
Along with Marchi, Edevaldo Ferreira and Emilio Resende have gotten off to slow starts, while Renato Nunes and Marco Eguchi have been inconsistent and, of course, Fabiano Vieira and Valdiron de Oliveira have been injured.
Vieira and Oliveira are expected to miss significant time.
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Vieira will be out six to eight weeks after fracturing his right ankle. He elected non-operative treatment. Oliveira is believed to have undergone back surgery in Brazil and his return is uncertain. However, fellow riders have said the 33-year-old ― Oliveira turns 34 in June ― is planning to return to the U.S. at some point in February.
In the meantime, relative newcomers like Nathan Schaper, 11, and Brant Atwood, 17, continue riding their way up the world standings.
Schaper won the first 15/15 Bucking Battle, in Winston-Salem, N.C., when he covered RFD HD for 89 points. The second of several 15/15 events will take place this weekend in Sacramento.
Atwood, who earned an alternate spot last in Oklahoma City, has finished in the Top 10 in three of the four BFTS events he's competed in.
The 25-year-old has ridden in one event in each of the previous three seasons, but is finally poised for a breakout season in 2013.
In addition to Willingham and Atwood, eight other riders could still find themselves inside the Top 35 after this coming weekend. Among those riders are Robinson, 19, Joao Vieira, 20, Eduardo Aparecido, 22, Troy Wilkinson, 28, Zack Brown, 31, Jason Malone, 32, Reese Cates, 33, and Chris Lowe, 35.
A lot could and likely will change over the course of the next nine months.
The Top 10 are within 1,000 points of one another.
Seven riders right outside of the Top 35 are all within 100 points of Lowe, who is the 35th-ranked rider and 15 riders are within 200 points.
In keeping with the unusual theme of 2013, six riders who began the season in the Top 35 have some ground to make up this weekend.
Stormy Wing, 37, and Brendon Clark, 38, are less than 50 points behind Lowe, while Caleb Sanderson, 43, and Harve Stewart, 44, are slightly less than 150 points outside of the Top 35.
Austin Meier, 62, and Ryan Dirteater, 63, are right at needing to make up 250 points to qualify for the Anaheim, Calif., event and already 1,900 points off the world title pace.
"I feel like my old self again, I guess you would say," Meier explained, "where I'm not trying to force things to happen. Now I feel good again … but in this game it's a two-part course. You've got to have the right bulls and on paper I had the right bulls to win."
He added that one bull hipped himself and another had a less-than-typical trip.
As a result, Meier said it's important for him to stay excited. "That's the thing right now, now that I feel good again in myself and how I'm doing, I can be excited because I feel like it's not so much that I'm not doing this right or I'm not doing that right, it's just waiting on my moment."
Oliveira has yet compete in 2013, but will have five injury exemptions when he returns.
The only other rider who was initially ranked among the Top 35 and not currently there is Davi Henrique. The second-year pro from Brazil has been suspended from BFTS competition and the World Finals for one year. He is eligible to compete at international and Touring Pro Division events.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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