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A Big Opportunity

PUEBLO, Colo. – The opportunity to compete in 15/15 Bucking Battles this season will carry more importance than in year’s past because of the increased round points available for riders compared to a normal Built Ford Tough Series round.

Now that ride scores no longer factor into the world standings, riders need to take full advantage of any opportunity to place high in individual rounds and the 15/15 Bucking Battles will offer points to the Top-5 finishers like a regular Built Ford Tough Series Round.

However, unlike a BFTS round, the 15/15 winner will receive 150 points compared to 100 for winning a round in a regular BFTS event. Second place will receive 90 points, third 75 points, fourth 60 points and fifth 45 points. These points will not factor into the event standings.

The first 15/15 Bucking Battle of the season takes place Saturday night following Round 2 of The Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden and can be seen Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on CBS.

There will be five rematches, highlighted by Ryan Dirteater’s sixth matchup against I’m a Gangster Too.

“Man, I usually pick him,” Dirteater said. “I have been on him so many times. The bull has a lot of kick and he has a lot of action and is wild. First time I got on him, I really liked the way he felt. He made short work of me, but when he bucked me off it really made me mad because he felt so good. I just made a little mistake and I knew I could ride him, so I just kept picking him and finally I got it done.”

Dirteater has a 1-3 record against Jeff Robinson’s bull – Dirteater was awarded a re-ride in one matchup – with his only successful 8-second ride coming last year at the BFTS event in Des Moines, Iowa, when he picked up 89 points. I’m a Gangster Too averages 44.44 points per out against Dirteater and Dirteater has lasted an average of 3.44 seconds in his three buckoffs.

“He is not the rankest, but sometimes he can be,” Dirteater said. “He really shows proof that he can be a World Champion bull. When guys do ride him they are some points on him. I can’t stump my toe though. I have to give it a 110 percent and be on my A game when I nod my head because he is going to give me everything he’s got and I have to give him everything I got and hopefully score a lot of points.”

Dirteater was bucked off by Air Bender in 7.82 seconds in Round 1 of the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden on Friday night. He experimented with a new small pad on his riding hand to protect it from further injury.

While some riders on the BFTS don’t like to pay much attention to the world standings, Dirteater is one of a group of riders that has kept an eye on how things have worked so far this year with the new points system.

Dirteater has started the season 4-for-7 and his 185 points have him 10thin the world standings.

“I like to stay up to date on stats and points and stuff like that because this is what I do for a living,” he said. “These (15/15) bonus points are really good, so I have to take advantage of that and get it done. Ride him 8 seconds and hope I get some bonus points out of him.”

Other rematches in Saturday night’s 15/15 include Marco Eguchi vs. Stanley FatMax; Cody Nance vs. Raven Flyer; Guilherme Marchi vs. Percolator and Eduardo Aparecido vs. Southpaw.

Nance said earlier this week that he thinks the third time may be the charm against Raven Flyer. He faced the undefeated (26-0, 18-0 BFTS) bull in back-to-back 15/15 Bucking Battles last year in Nampa, Idaho, and Billings, Montana.

“I am stoked,” Nance said. “I really like that bull. I have been wanting to get on him again.”

His second time on Raven Flyer went much better than the first. The Paris, Tennessee, native lasted until the 5.59-second mark after being blasted in 1.67 seconds during their first bout in Nampa.

Raven Flyer was marked 44.25 points in the second meeting, which is .25 points away from his career-high marking. He averages 43.21 points per BFTS out.

“When I got on him the second time he did that little wiggle deal where he one jumped me the first time; and instead of trying to charge or anything like I did on the first time I got on him, I just kind of sit there and relaxed,” Nance said. “When he came out he just felt like a little wiggle and he kind of sat down and lunged. He lost his back feet when he sat down. When he did that my rope slipped through my fingertips a little bit and he turned back to the right a little bit.”

The 5.59-second buckoff was the longest any rider had lasted on Raven Flyer at the time. However, Jordan Hupp took Raven Flyer to 7.41 seconds at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals in his last out and a few weeks earlier Zane Lambert made it to 6.74 seconds.

“I have seen a lot of guys really start good bull rides on him like Jordan did, but then he just pulls them over the front,” Nance said. “You have to stay up under that rope.”

Nance isn’t the only rider trying to solve a close-to, 2,000-pound riddle on Saturday night.

Eguchi will attempt to ride Stanley FatMax, who is also riding a streak of 18 consecutive buckoffs on the BFTS, after being called for a slap on him at the 7.11-second mark in Eguchi’s first-career BFTS event in 2011.

“I rode him before,” Eguchi said. “Yeah, but the judges called me for a slap. He is too strong and he is no easy bull, but I give my best to ride him.”

It has been a tough start to the season for the 25-year-old bull rider from Poa, Brazil. He is 1-for-5 this year and has yet to accumulate any points toward the world standings.

Eguchi is hoping to change that in Round 2 and the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Saturday night.

“The season has just started and almost everybody is with the same points, but I don’t make any points,” he said. “So I need to. That is really important. If I can get some points and be first, that is my plan.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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