By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2020 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast is now only two weeks away from getting underway on Nov. 12-15 in Arlington, Texas.
The World Championship race appears to be shaping up into a battle between world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme and 36-year-old Joao Ricardo Vieira, who is currently No. 2 in the world standings and only 459.09 points behind Leme.
Can Leme finally get over the hump and win his first world title following back-to-back runner-up finishes, capping what could be one of the greatest seasons in PBR history?
Or can Vieira become the second-oldest PBR World Champion and join Adriano Moraes in the record books with a comeback for the ages?
We are getting closer to answering these questions, and Leme and Vieira will give fans a World Finals preview at the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals on Nov. 6-7 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Let’s take a look at how the top two bull riders have set themselves up for the 2020 World Championship and the $1 million Monster Energy bonus, as well as a brand new Ford truck.
No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme
UTB Event Wins: 7
15/15 Bucking Battle Wins: 1
UTB Events Competed In: 19
UTB Rides: 41
UTB Attempts: 60
Riding Percentage: 68.33%
Average Ride Score: 88.10
90-point Rides: 8
Top Ride: 94.25 points on Chiseled (Salt Lake City)
Round Wins: 15
Top 10 Event Finishes: 13
Top 5 Event Finishes: 11
Total World Points: 1,341.5
World Points Earned on UTB: 1,242.50 (92.62%)
World Points Earned at other events: 99 (7.38%)
No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira
2020 UTB Event Wins: 2
15/15 Bucking Battle Wins: 2
UTB Events Competed In: 19
UTB Rides: 31
UTB Attempts: 63
Riding Percentage: 49.21%
Average Ride Score: 81.77
90-point Rides: 6
Top Ride: 92 points on Foghorn Leghorn (Sacramento, California)
Round Wins: 6
Top 10 Event Finishes: 10
Top 5 Event Finishes: 7
Total World Points: 882.41
World Points Earned on UTB: 863.91 (97.90%)
World Points Earned at other events: 18.5 (2.09%)
Analysis: It is not a surprise to see Leme ranking ahead of Vieira in almost every statistical category this season. Leme has been the more consistent bull rider of the two, something which Vieira has stated publically, and Leme is putting forth one of the best seasons in PBR history.
As a reminder, Leme is one win away from tying Justin McBride’s PBR record for event wins in a season (8), and is a couple percentage points away from being the first PBR World Champion since 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi to ride more than 70% of his bulls on the premier series.
Leme would have to win all five rounds of the PBR World Finals to break two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney’s record for round wins (19) in a season, so that record may stay in tact.
Case in point, though, Leme is putting up gold buckle numbers across the board, and the 2020 World Finals may just be a coronation of King Leme if he continues to ride like he has all season long. Following two runner-up finishes in the world title race, Leme is in control of his destiny.
However, the winner of the 2020 PBR World Finals will earn a minimum of 560 world points, so Leme will need to continue to ride his bulls if he wants to hold off his challengers, in particular Vieira. One rider can earn a maximum of 1,060 world points by winning every round and the event average at the World Finals.
Both riders have competed in 19 UTB events, while Vieira has competed in two more 15/15 Bucking Battles (8) than Leme (6).
So how has Vieira kept himself in the running for a world title with only two event wins compared to Leme’s seven?
Well, the biggest reason Vieira is within striking distance of Leme is two performances before the COVID-19 pandemic. Vieira has always risen to the challenge during PBR Majors, and once again, his showings at the PBR’s largest events has him in contention for a world title like they did earlier in his career (2015 & 2016).
There were only two PBR Majors in 2020 before COVID-19 led to the cancellation of Last Cowboy Standing at Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Music City Knockout in Nashville, and Vieira went 7-for-9 at PBR Majors in New York and Los Angeles in the winter.
Vieira won the season-opening PBR Major in New York City, and he then finished runner-up at Iron Cowboy in downtown Los Angeles. Those two events accounted for 36.6% of Vieira’s total point total this season. The 2013 Rookie of the Year outgained Leme by 263.5 world points in those two events.
Vieira also has a career-best six 90-point rides this season.
There is only one World Champion in the past five seasons without a PBR Major victory – 2015 World Champion J.B. Mauney. Of course, this year has been a different season with only two PBR Majors, but Leme has the same pedigree as Mauney (consistent, round-winning ability). Leme very well could join Mauney in the record books and it would not be a surprise to see him finally get that first world title in two weeks.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photos courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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