PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2019 Unleash The Beast premier series begins Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York with the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, presented by Ariat, and PBR.com will be counting down the final days of the offseason by taking a look back at the Top-5 bull riders at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
Fans can watch Round 1 exclusively on RidePass beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Today, we look at Kaique Pacheco, who finished the 2018 season first in the world standings.
No. 1 Kaique Pacheco
World Championships: 1 (2018)
Best World Standings Finish: 1 (2018)
2018 Premier Series (UTB) Stats
Riding Percentage: 50 percent
Top Ride: 92.75 points on SweetPro’s Bruiser (Last Cowboy Standing in Las Vegas)
Average Ride Score: 86.18
Wins: 5 (Tacoma, Washington; Last Cowboy Standing in Las Vegas; Springfield, Missouri; Fairfax, Virginia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 3 (New York; Sacramento, California; Billings, Montana)
Round Wins: 9
Top 10: 12
Top 5: 9
90-point Rides: 4
2018 RECAP: Kaique Pacheco’s bid at winning the 2018 World Championship appeared doomed when he tore his left MCL/PCL at the 2018 Velocity Tour Finals attempting to ride Fly Over just four days before the start of the 2018 PBR World Finals.
Instead, Pacheco put on a memorable performance of toughness and grit at the Finals by riding his first two bulls – 87.25 points on Rugby and 88.75 points on Smooth Wreck – and finishing 2-for-5 to hold off Jose Vitor Leme’s last-second push for his first world title.
The fourth-year pro concluded 2018 422.5 points ahead of Leme in the final world standings. Pacheco led the PBR with five event wins and three 15/15 Bucking Battle victories. He also was No. 1 in qualified rides after going 42-for-84 (50 percent) in 27 premier series events.
Pacheco used a third consecutive victory at Last Cowboy Standing in May, featuring a season-best 92.75 points on three-time World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser, to make up for the worst start of his career. The 24-year-old began 2018 a horrid 7-for-27.
The Itatiba, Brazil, bull rider took over the world No. 1 ranking with his Last Cowboy Standing victory, and Pacheco would not let go of the ranking for the final six months of the season.
Pacheco finished the year 35-for-53 (66.04 percent) following his slump.
The championship was a long time coming for Pacheco, who finished inside the Top 5 of the world standings in each of his first three seasons, including two runner-up finishes.
Pacheco also was red-hot during the 2018 PBR Global Cup in Sydney. The talented Brazilian was a perfect 3-for-3, winning the individual event aggregate title, and helped lead Team Brazil to its first Global Cup victory.
OUTLOOK: Pacheco received good news in the offseason when he learned he would not need to undergo surgery to repair his torn knee ligaments. Instead, Pacheco has been going to physical therapy and rehabbing his injuries back home in Brazil.
Pacheco appears to be eyeing a return to competition at the end of January or the beginning of February.
There will be plenty of early questions for Pacheco in regards to his title defense.
The first will be his health. Pacheco had never sat out multiple events because of an injury since he reached the premier series in 2015, and it will be interesting to see if he trusts his knee once he does return.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said it is hard to predict how a rider will respond to an injury.
“You never know how any guy is going to handle it,” Lambert said. “You can never tell if a guy is going to be all the way back or if he is all the way back yet. (Kaique) is hard to get a read on. He shows very little emotion. That is a really good thing, but it is hard for us to talk about what frame of mind he is in. But it is a really good thing for him to keep what he feels inside because when you ride bulls, that is the time to turn it loose – when you are riding, and not when you are on social media or pretending to be tough.
“There is a time where you have to really be tough, and that is when you are riding.”
The other question is motivation. Many World Champions struggle during their title defense season for a variety of reasons. Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves is the only rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles.
Last year, defending World Champion Jess Lockwood finished 12th in the world standings.
Nine-time World Champion and CBS Sports analyst Ty Murray has been high on Pacheco since he first saw him at Madison Square Garden in 2015.
Murray is extremely interested to see how Pacheco approaches the sport this season now that he has tasted the ultimate amount of success.
“I want to see what Kaique Pacheco’s destiny is,” Murray said. “I want to see where that goes. I started talking about him being a World Champion a long time ago. I felt like he had the ability and the mental toughness to do it a long time ago. For all different kind of reasons, it took him a while to do it. And now he did, in a tough environment and a less than ideal situation.
“This year one of the most interesting things is going to be what happens now. You very, very rarely see the guys have the drive to do it again. I don’t know what it is, but it is rare to see a guy come back and kick ass the next year.”
One thing is for sure: if Pacheco is able to return to his prior self, and he still has a burning drive to win additional gold buckles, then he certainly can overcome missing some time at the start of the year. Pacheco proved that last year by rebounding from his first half woes.
His determination to fight through his knee injury, which would have kept him out a minimum of 12 weeks under normal circumstances, was a new level of focus from the rider known as the Ice Man.
Pacheco has been the model of consistency during his first four years on tour, and his 171 qualified rides is the most in the PBR during the last four season.
If he continue to reach the 8 seconds more than anyone else, and continue to win big-time events, then you can expect Pacheco to be in the mix for a second world title in 2019.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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