By: Justin Felisko
October 24, 2016
TUCSON, Ariz. – Kaique Pacheco may have retaken the world No. 1 ranking on the final night of the Built Ford Tough Series regular season Sunday, but he is far, far away from becoming the 16th different World Champion in the PBR’s 23-year history.
There is no question that Pacheco is one of the favorites to win the illustrious PBR gold buckle and its corresponding $1 million bonus in two weeks.
Yet the 2016 world title race is very different from 2015 when J.B. Mauney clinched the championship following Round 4 of the World Finals.
To clinch the world title before the last day of the World Finals will be much harder for any rider this year in Las Vegas for two reasons.
First, Pacheco leads No. 2 Cooper Davis by only 223.83 points. Mauney, third in the world standings, is 677.83 points behind Pacheco and No. 4 Joao Ricardo Vieira is only 1,750.33 points back.
Last year, Mauney began the Finals with a 1,300-point lead over No. 2 Vieira and No. 3 Pacheco.
“My confidence is very good right now,” Pacheco said before finishing in second-place at the Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride, presented by the Ak-Chin Indian Community. “Last year made me stronger. I am more confident. They are very good bull riders too. I am very happy for them riding good because it pushes me.”
The other major difference this year is the change in the amount of world points up for grabs at the World Finals.
One rider can earn a maximum of 3,300 world points with a clean sweep of every round and the event average at the 2016 World Finals. Last year, the maximum was 2,200 points.
Round wins at the World Finals will award a rider 300 points this year, compared to 200 in 2015, and the event average now pays a rider 1,500 points toward the world standings.
Any rider in the Top 16 of the world standings is mathematically still alive heading into the World Finals at the state-of-the-art T-Mobile Arena.
“I have been watching it for 22 years now, and I think this is the closest one I have seen – ever,” Davis said. “To be a part of it with two guy that possibly will be the greatest of all time is great.”
There were only five riders still alive last year heading into the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Mauney said. “I don’t really look at it like that. I just have to do my job and I don’t really worry about it or look at how tight everything is.”
A deeper dive into the numbers, though, shows the key margin for any rider is 2,000 points. Any rider within 2,000 points has a much stronger chance based on past World Finals performances.
Under the 2016 points structure, three of the past four World Finals event winners would have earned 2,000 world points or less. Davis would have earned 1,950 points last year, Silvano Alves would have earned 1,925 points in 2014 and Robson Palermo would have picked up 2,000 points in 2012.
However, 2013 is a prime example of why a rider, maybe such as No. 5 Jess Lockwood or No. 6 Eduardo Aparecido, still has a chance to overcome a deficit of over 2,000 points if the top riders in the world standings falter in Las Vegas.
Mauney would have earned a monstrous 3,005 world points during his historic 2013 World Championship performance. Mauney won four rounds, and placed second and third in two additional rounds, at the 2013 World Finals during his 6-for-6 come-from-behind championship surge.
It also should be noted that six additional riders in the last four World Finals would have earned over 1,000 points to the world standings.
“It is almost disrespectful to pick anyone except J.B. because J.B. is definitely one of the all-time greats,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “And he is the best bull rider we have ever seen in the PBR.”
Lambert explained he believes the 2016 World Championship is likely a three-man race between Pacheco, Davis and Mauney.
The three riders have demonstrated since August they are the three best riders in the world by winning eight (61.54 percent) of the final 13 events, including 15/15 Bucking Battles.
It will require the top three bull riders in the world to all have a poor showing at the World Finals, which, while not impossible, is probably unlikely for any of the other riders to overcome their deficit in the world standings,
“I would love to say it is a five-guy race or a 10-guy race, but that isn’t realistic,” Lambert said. “It is a three-guy race. The best three bull riders are one, two and three and are virtually tied. There is a reason they are one, two and three. I don’t see anybody beating all three of them. If you are picking someone to win the World Finals, and I got to pick third, I would only have one of those three guys to pick from because somebody else would pick those other two first.
If I was stuck with the third pick and it was Kaique, J.B. or Cooper, I would be happy with that pick because I feel like they all have a really good chance at winning it.”
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray agreed with Lambert that the world title likely will come down to one of those riders.
“It is going to be exciting,” Murray said. “All three guys are capable and have their strong points. I think what is going to be hard for Kaique is all of the attention. For him going in No. 1, which I think he can deal with, but that is something that doesn’t fit his personality. He would just love to quietly slip in there and win and go home and nobody would say a word to him.”
We can talk all about the world standings, points available at the Finals and deficits all we want, but Murray brought up the most important number of all.
“All three guys are very, very capable, but you have to understand now there is only six bull rides left,” Murray concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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