SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The current world title race is primarily a two-man battle between J.B. Mauney and Joao Ricardo Vieira.
While a handful of riders sit within striking distance, the Top 2 riders in the world standings are separated by 252.5 points and each carry potential fantasy success into the PFI Invitational, presented by Bass Pro Shops.
In terms of the world title race, Mauney has caught Vieira and his two PBR Major victories by winning a Built Ford Tough Series-best 11 rounds – 1,100 points toward the world standings – and three events.
Meanwhile, Vieira has only won five BFTS rounds – 500 points – in 2015.
A deeper look into the numbers shows that Mauney has actually placed in the Top 5 of a round with 22 of his 27 qualified rides – an astounding 81.48 percent ratio.
In comparison, Vieira has placed in 20 rounds out of his 36 qualified rides – a 55.66 percent ratio.
Regardless, both are solid fantasy plays, but as of now Mauney is providing himself and fantasy players with a better reward for each qualified ride he posts.
Mauney has a good draw Friday night when he faces Spin Machine (0-5, BFTS), while Vieira may have a round-winner waiting for him when he attempts Red Moon (0-1, BFTS).
Mauney won Round 1 last weekend in Thackerville, Oklahoma, with a 90.5-point ride on Red Moon.
The rest of Tier A has strong opponents in Round 1.
Kaique Pacheco takes on Pearl Harbor (4-1, BFTS), Matt Triplett faces Lester Gillis (1-0, BFTS) and Fabiano Vieira will try for 8 seconds aboard Pile Driver (5-0, BFTS).
Pearl Harbor is undefeated this season (3-0) and Lester Gillis made a strong first impression last weekend by bucking off J.W. Harris in 3.55 seconds.
Cooper Davis nearly rode Pile Driver two weeks ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before bucking off at the 7.65-second mark.
TIER B: Will Silvano Alves continue to struggle?
Silvano Alves insists he is OK, but the results (2-for-8) simply haven’t been there since he has returned from left hip surgery.
On top of that, he has a rematch with a bull (I’m Trouble) that bested him in 4.56 seconds in Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this season.
More troubling is the fact that Alves withdrew from last weekend’s championship round instead of trying to put together his first two-ride weekend since the surgery.
While it is tough to bet against the three-time World Champion, fantasy users have to be wary of selecting Alves at this time – unless, of course, you like to roll the dice.
Cody Nance will try to build off his 2-for-3 showing in Thackerville against Icy Hot (1-0, BFTS). Icy Hot was only marked 42 points for a 2.02-second buckoff of Justin Paton, and Nance will be a stronger foe than Paton.
Harris may be a decent play against Legacy (3-1, BFTS). The bovine athlete had a sub-par outing (38.75 points) during his 2.83-second buckoff of Tanner Byrne last week, and Emilio Resende took him to the 6.76-second mark in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Brady Sims rode Legacy for 85.75 point in Kansas City, Missouri.
TIER C: Can Proctor triple the success on Buck Autism?
Shane Proctor has been putting together a very strong 2015 campaign after missing all but one event in 2014, and he is coming off his first BFTS round win in two years.
Now, Proctor will get a chance to win his second round in two weeks when he faces Buck Autism.
Mason Lowe, who is a right-handed rider like Proctor, rode the bovine athlete for 87.75 points last weekend, and Mauney took Buck Autism for a 91.25-point ride two weeks ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Proctor is a savvy veteran who knows he can’t let a good draw like this pass him up.
Keep an eye on Neil Holmes and his Round 1 matchup with Crazy Days.Reese Cates nearly rode Crazy Days (6.36 seconds) last weekend after remaining aboard him for 4.93 seconds two weeks ago.
Holmes is right in the thick of the race to qualify for the World Finals and he certainly will need to rebound from two consecutive buckoffs last weekend after beginning Thackerville with an 87.5-point ride on Stone Cold Crazy.
Tanner Byrne takes on Stone Cold Crazy (1-2, BFTS) on Friday night. Byrne has gone 3-for-12 since the BFTS resumed in August.
Renato Nunes rode Springsteen for 86.5 points in Thackerville. He will try to ride the bull’s brother, Glory Days, on Friday in Springfield.
Glory Days (0-1, BFTS) was ridden by Byrne for 86.25 points in Thackerville.
Nunes should have a good chance at finding success once again.
BULL POWER: World Champion contenders to collide
Three World Champion Bull contenders will be on full display Sunday afternoon in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round with SweetPro’s Long John (45.41 points per out), Smooth Operator (44.73 points per out) and Little Red Jacket (44.4 points per out).
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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