By: Justin Felisko
October 29, 2016
LAS VEGAS – The last-second dash to qualify for the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals gets underway tonight at the South Point Arena with the 2016 BlueDEF Tour Finals.
Much will be on the line for riders ranked in the 30s in the world standings, but there are also the five wild card positions up for grabs that will fill the final positions for the 40-rider draw at the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Here are five riders to watch for at the BlueDEF Finals:
Fabiano Vieira: The No. 7 ranked bull rider in the world standings is 2,430 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco and is the highest-ranked rider competing at the BlueDEF Tour Finals. Vieira can transform himself from outside world title contender into a likely contender if he can sweep the competition in Vegas.
One rider can earn a maximum of 520 points if he wins every round (80 world points per round win) and the event average (200 points). Vieira really needs to get to within 2,000 points of Pacheco to have a greater mathematical chance to win the 2016 world title.
However, numbers aside, the bigger question mark is can Vieira contend with his two unstable shoulders?
Vieira has not been the same 2016 world title contender since dislocating his left shoulder at the Calgary Stampede in July. Since then, Vieira, who also dislocated it again in August at the Music City Knockout, is only 5-for-25 (20 percent) and hasn’t put together multiple rides in a single event.
This is also the same rider that has been competing with an unstable right shoulder (free arm) for the past few seasons.
It is unlikely Vieira’s shoulders will hold up against 10 bulls in a span of nine days, but Vieira has shown before that he is one of the toughest cowboys in the PBR locker room.
The 34-year-old has drawn Brown Town in Round 1.
Sage Kimzey: The long-awaited debut of two-time PRCA bull riding champion Sage Kimzey has finally arrived. The 22-year-old pulls into Las Vegas as a highly-talked about rider with the potential to one day ride full-time on the Built Ford Tough Series, if he so chooses.
Kimzey has been training for PBR Finals Week this week, posting a video to his YouTube page of him working on his core strength, and, as Slade Long noted this morning, there will be plenty of eyes watching Kimzey this week.
He will need to finish in the Top 2 of the BlueDEF Finals event to qualify for the World Finals on Wednesday. A Top-5 finish may also give him a bid at the World Finals potentially.
Kimzey finished the PRCA regular season No. 1 in the bull riding standings.
The Cheyenne, Oklahoma, High School product won a second consecutive gold buckle last year by going 7-for-10 at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He went 8-for-10 to win the 2014 NFR event average and is 20-for-26 in Las Vegas at non-PBR bull ridings.
According to ProBullstats.com, Kimzey has a 66.07-percent riding average (259-for-392) at all levels of competition since 2013. He has ridden over 70 percent the past two years.
Kimzey has drawn Switch Hitter.
Cody Hudson: Much has been talked about the invitation given to Kimzey, but another rider to keep an eye on is 2016 College National Finals Rodeo champion Cody Hudson.
The Walla Walla, Washington, Community College product bucked off his first two bulls in Casper, Wyoming, in June at the College National Finals Rodeo, but he got some help and rode his final two bulls to win the 2016 national title despite an injured collarbone.
“He was hurting bad,” WWCC rodeo coach Buster Barton said in June. “We talked about it, and he had a chance to win it. There was no way he wasn’t going to ride! But I know it hurt him.”
The 20-year-old drove to Las Vegas with Rookie of the Year contender Derek Kolbaba, who is third in the BlueDEF Tour standings, and also attended Shane Proctor’s bull riding school in Washington as a kid.
According to Proctor, Hudson rides well and just needs experience.
Hudson went 0-for-1 at the St. Louis BFTS event in 2014. This will be his first PBR-sanctioned bull riding since July 2014.
Hudson is taking on Over The Top in Round 1.
Dener Barbosa: 2016 has been all about the year of the young gun and the rise of a group of riders with superstar potential.
There may just may be another rider joining that group in Dener Barbosa.
The 2016 PBR Brazil champion got a last-minute visa approved in the nick of time and will arrive in Las Vegas as a rider with a ton of unknown potential.
Barbosa, a left-handed rider, was sensational in Brazil this year. He went 5-for-5 at the prestigious Barretos event to win the 2016 championship and only bucked off six of the 60 bulls he attempted at PBR Brazil events.
There is no way Barbosa will ride 90.91 percent of his bulls in the United States, but he was able to defeat 2015 Brazil champion Luciano de Castro, who also is believed to have the ability to be a top rider in the United States someday.
Barbosa missed all of 2013 because of a shoulder injury.
Outside of 37-year-old Wallace de Oliveira, there hasn’t been a new Brazilian rider to crack the Top 35 for good this season.
Barbosa, who has been compared to Robson Palermo and Joao Ricardo Vieira in Brazil, may just be the next Brazilian BFTS rider in the making. Only time will tell.
He has a Round 1 meeting against Simon Says.
Fraser Babbington: The 29-year-old is trying to become the first Kiwi cowboy to ever qualify for the World Finals. He currently holds the last guaranteed draw spot as the No. 35 bull rider in the world standings.
Babbington leads No. 36 Nathan Schaper by 7.5 points in the standings and there are still world points up for grabs at the BlueDEF Finals.
Health will be a factor for Babbington. Last weekend, Babbington went back to a normal grip with his bull rope after going with an over-the-top hold because of an elbow injury but still went 0-for-2 at the Portland, Maine, BlueDEF Tour event.
He has bucked off five in a row at all levels of competition.
Babbington believes he likely has a torn ligament in his riding arm, underneath his forearm, and also said he is riding with a hand and shoulder injury on his riding arm.
He became a quick fan favorite with his never-quit attitude, and he will need to bear down through any injuries if he hopes to punch his ticket to the World Finals.
Babbington faces Pill Pusher on Saturday night.
Additional riders to keep an eye on: J.W. Harris, Matt Triplett, Chase Outlaw, Dakota Buttar, 2004 World Champion Mike Lee, Keyshawn Whitehorse, Paulo Lima, Derek Kolbaba and Valdiron de Oliveira.
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