PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney was standing in the out gate alleyway as world No. 1 bull rider Jose Vitor Leme prepared to do an event-winning interview on CBS Sports Network for a third week in a row.
Mauney briefly congratulated Leme on his victory at the PBR Ariat Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, and then slipped out of the way.
The future Ring of Honor inductee has followed Leme’s dominance this season during his six-month recovery from reconstructive right shoulder surgery, and Mauney had no doubts in July that Leme would continue his mad push for his first world title once the second half of the Unleash The Beast resumed.
“Your 2020 World Champion is going to be Jose,” Mauney told PBR.com. “You’re not going to stop him. He rides way too good, and the way the season has been, not very many points, and he is going everywhere he can.”
Leme has proven Mauney’s predictions right so far during the second half, and he joined Mauney in the record books this past weekend in Billings, Montana, with his third consecutive event win on the premier series.
Leme, Mauney and two-time World Champion Chris Shivers are the only riders in PBR history to record three straight victories at the PBR’s highest level of competition.
The situation around Mauney’s historic streak, which is a PBR record of five consecutive wins, and Leme’s current streak are actually different in ways, but still involve a similar mentality.
Mauney won the final three regular-season of the 2013 season. It was then that he was amidst a historic come-from-behind surge to usurp reigning World Champion Silvano Alves and win his first world title. Mauney had to go a perfect 6-for-6 and win the 2013 World Finals event title, which was his fourth consecutive win, to defeat Alves for the gold buckle.
The North Carolina native then began the 2014 season by splitting the season-opening victory at Madison Square Garden in New York City with Fabiano Vieira.
Mauney had to be a savage wolf to catch Alves in 2013. Winning was a necessity for him to find a way to overcome a 3,056-point gap in the world standings in the old PBR points system. Alves was not going to buck off his bulls, and was content to attempt to stack up as many qualified rides as possible in an effort to hold off Mauney. To this day, the 2013 World Finals was one of the most exciting World Championship races.
Leme is on the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Mauney in 2013.
The 24-year-old does have the same burning desire to win his first World Championship that Mauney had seven years ago, but Leme is in the driver’s seat instead of chasing. Leme has been the No. 1 bull rider since Feb. 1, and he has refused to let up.
“Jose is the top at the pile, and everybody is chasing him,” Mauney said this week while driving his Prism Motorhome from Billings to Abilene, Texas. “It doesn’t look like to me that he is trying to hold on to it. He is riding to whip everybody’s ass.”
Mauney can see Leme has the same hunger he had in 2013 even though he easily could have become complacent sitting in the No. 1 ranking.
While it was not as dominant a run as Leme’s right now, Mauney began to run away with his second World Championship during the 2015 season. He went on to clinch his second world title by Round 4 of the World Finals.
“That is what separates the men from the boys,” Mauney said. “When guys are just trying to get by, they will tighten up. They are not moving. He never tightens up. One turns back, and he will go to spurring. He is there to win every time.”
The 14-time PBR World Finals qualifier has also been impressed with Leme handling the pressure of being the No. 1 rider in the world.
Leme is set to take a 593.09-point lead into Des Moines, Iowa, this Saturday and Sunday for the PBR Lucas Oil Invitational. Round 1 airs exclusively on RidePass beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET.
“Once you crawl into the bucking chute, everything has to be the same, but the time between you getting on that first bull and the second bull that day, and then every day leading up to the event, everybody wants to do interviews with you,” Mauney recalled.
“Everybody deals with pressure different. If you are sitting first in the world, you are riding everything, and they put all the pressure on you. They have cameras in your face every time you turn around and you are doing interviews. I have noticed Jose is level-headed. Nothing ever changes, no matter what they do or what he has to go do. When he crawls into that bucking chute, he is looking to win.”
Here is a comparison between Mauney’s three consecutive regular-season wins in 2013 and Leme’s 2020 run
Age: Leme (24) / Mauney (26)
Season: Leme (4th) / Mauney (8th)
Rides: Leme (10) / Mauney (10)
Outs: Leme (12) / Mauney (13)
Riding Percentage: Leme (83.33%) / Mauney (76.92%)
Most Consecutive Rides: Leme (7) / Mauney (5)
Average Ride Score: Leme (89.73) / Mauney (86.43)
90-point Rides: Leme (2) / Mauney (1)
Top Ride: Leme (94.25 points on Smooth Operator) / Mauney (93.25 points on Western Way)
Lowest Ride: Leme (86.5 points on Nailed) / Mauney (81.25 points on Pull The Trigger)
Round Wins: Leme (6) / Mauney (4)
Chris Shivers won three consecutive events in 2000. His three wins came early in the season in February. Here is how his numbers compare to Leme’s.
Age: Leme (24) / Shivers (21)
Season: Leme (4th) / Shivers (4th)
Rides: Leme (10) / Shivers (8)
Outs: Leme (12) / Shivers (8)
Riding Percentage: Leme (83.33%) / Shivers (100%)
Most Consecutive Rides: Leme (7) / Shivers (8)
Average Ride Score: Leme (89.73) / Shivers (88.06)
90-point Rides: Leme (2) / Shivers (3)
Top Ride: Leme (94.25 points on Smooth Operator) / Shivers (96.5 points on Jim Jam)
Lowest Ride: Leme (86.5 points on Nailed) / Shivers (80 points on Swamp Dog)
Round Wins: Leme (6) / Shivers (2)
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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