PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2019 Unleash The Beast will officially get underway on Friday night in New York, and with that season-opening event comes the first 15/15 Bucking Battle of the season.
The special bonus round awards 150 points toward the world standings and $7,000 to a bull rider’s wallet.
The 150 points may not seem like a lot, but each 15/15 Bucking Battle can play a pivotal role by the time the 2019 PBR World Finals roll around on Nov. 6-10 in Las Vegas.
Just look at reigning World Champion Kaique Pacheco.
Pacheco won a PBR record three 15/15 Bucking Battles last season for 450 world points. In total, he went 5-for-10 in 15/15 Bucking Battles and pocketed an extra 600 points in the world standings.
Those points can be viewed as one of the reasons he beat runner-up Jose Vitor Leme by 422.5 points in the final standings. Leme was only 2-for-8 in the 15/15 Bucking Battles for 210 points.
The difference between Pacheco and Leme in 15/15 Bucking Battle points was 390 points.
All eyes will be on Leme Friday night with the 2017 Rookie of the Year entering the 2019 season as the early-season favorite to win the 2019 World Championship, especially with Pacheco expected to be out of competition until early February as he continues to recover from his left torn PCl/MCL.
Leme squares off against Cochise (45-10, UTB) in one of the marquee matchups of the 15/15 Bucking Battle at Madison Square Garden.
Cochise bucked off Leme last year in 1.5 seconds in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Cochise is a very big and strong bull,” Leme said. “It is not the style of bulls that I usually like to ride. When I rode him, I ended up not being able to follow him right out and it was easy for him to take me down. He is a bull that does not admit mistakes and I hope to try my best this time and not make a mistake.”
Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle exclusively on CBS national television Saturday at noon ET.
15/15 Bucking Battle Matchups
Dakota Buttar vs. The Don (21-4, UTB)*
Chase Outlaw vs. Prayer Warrior (5-0, UTB)
Fabiano Vieira vs. Losing My Religion (31-4, UTB)*
Matt Triplett vs. Peep Show (5-2, UTB)
Jess Lockwood vs. Udder Lover (20-6, UTB)
Derek Kolbaba vs. Bezerk (19-5, UTB)
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Stunt Man Ray (10-7, UTB)*
Cody Nance vs. Scarface (2-2, UTB)
Ramon de Lima vs. Pneu-Dart’s Muscles & Shovels (9-0, UTB)
Cooper Davis vs. Budakon (11-3, UTB)
Luciano de Castro vs. Short Pop (3-1, UTB)
Marco Eguchi vs. Bootdaddy.com (8-0, UTB)
Claudio Montanha Jr. vs. Lester Gillis (37-4, UTB)*
Cody Teel vs. Lil 2 Train (1-2, UTB)
Jose Vitor Leme vs. Cochise (45-10, UTB)*
$ Rider has successfully previously ridden the bull
The 15 riders competing in this weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle are no strangers to the 15/15 Bucking Battle. Every rider except for Claudio Montanha Jr. and Dakota Buttar have won at least one 15/15 Bucking Battle in their careers.
Montanha has struggled mightly in the 15/15 Bucking Battle and is 0-for-16 in his career, while Buttar is 1-for-7.
The 15 riders competing in New York are a combined 75-for-308 (24.35 percent) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle, which is another reminder of just how tough the bonus round of competition can be.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert is tasked with selecting the top bulls to compete in the 15/15 Bucking Battle and said it is unrealistic to expect riders to have a similar riding percentage in the 15/15 Bucking Battle compared to their normal average.
15/15 Bucking Battles are a different level of competition compared to a standard round at a premier series event.
“It is mostly the bulls,” Lambert said. “It is a really tough pen of bulls, and nobody is going to have their normal riding percentage against these kind of bulls. There has never been events like the 15/15 round. There has been a championship round here and there like that, and there is the World Finals, but there is never an event like a 15-15 round.
“Everybody in there has a better chance of getting bucked off than they do riding.”
Part of is also circumstances, especially later on in the season when injuries begin to pile and riders have started to get on multiple bulls over the course of the year.
Friday night the riders will be relatively fresh, but that will change in a month or so.
“There are a lot of different conditions,” Lambert said. “A lot of times they have already just ridden a rank one and they don’t always get on one fresh. They get on sometimes sore, sometimes tired. The 15/15 rounds are tough, tough events. There are all different circumstances.”
Some riders have fared better than others in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
One of those riders is Eduardo Aparecido.
Aparecido is tied with Pacheco for the most career 15/15 Bucking Battle wins at five.
He also is 11-for-43 in 15/15 Bucking Battles. Aparecido’s 11 qualified rides is second to Fabiano Vieira’s 15 among riders competing on Friday night. Both riders have attempted 43 bulls.
Aparecido may be in line for a record-setting sixth win on Friday night when he takes on Stunt Man Ray. The 28-year-old previously rode Stunt Man Ray for 90.75 points last year in Glendale, Arizona.
Meanwhile, 2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel has the highest riding percentage among the 15 riders in 15/15 Bucking Battles at 41.67 percent (5-for-12).
Teel takes on Lil 2 Train.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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