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What to Watch For: Caden Bunch Enjoying the Ride During Rookie UTB Campaign

By: James Youness

PUEBLO, Colo. — No doubt, there’s something to be said about enjoying the sights and sounds of the tour and all it has to offer.

Travelling around the world with some of your best friends, doing what you love: Riding bulls.

Occasionally entertaining some home state fans, signing a couple of autographs and then kicking back and having some fun or relaxing for the evening.

Typically taking some time to connect with the community, visit local news stations to help push event success and catch up with fellow competitors finding their way up and down the ranks, there’s a lot going on outside of the chutes these days.

Heading to the airport in the morning or starting another music-fueled truck ride home in the afternoon in the hopes of returning to family in a timely matter once any given event has concluded, it’s not all just about counting to 8 on this side of the business.

But at the same time, each of these men on tour came to ride bulls. The rest is just a bonus.

Sometimes, though, soaking up the little things and appreciating where you’re at, where you’ve come from and where you’re headed, can be just what the soul needs.

While Caden Bunch wasn’t able to put on the show he had hoped to produce for his friends and family attending the tour’s stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a few weekends back (as he lives just 30 minutes outside BOK Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma) he knew his good buddy Kaiden Loud would help fire him up when the pair set sails for Houston, Texas, the next weekend.

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“The home crowd was there and I kind of let them down a little bit. But that’s just bull riding, anything can happen,” Bunch shared.

“Me and Kaiden came down here together. We drove in a car. We always drive when they are somewhat close. Take a break from flying.”

Enduring the seven-hour drive together, the duo discussed topics from riding styles and getting out of their respective funks to music, family, World Finals and beyond.

 
Coming into Houston with an insanely unlucky 18-out buckoff streak (which included a pair of re-ride attempts that he wasn’t able to complete), Bunch knew he needed to shake things up if he wanted to continue his time on the world’s biggest stage.

Able to ride the highs of his season-opening event win in Tucson, Arizona, where the talented 20-year-old went 3-for-3 during his UTB debut, Bunch hadn’t recorded a qualified ride in nearly two months before going the distance during his Round 2 showdown with Don’t Come Easy for 86.75 points in Houston.

“It felt great to finally get one rode after Tucson,” Bunch shared.

“Hopefully I can keep it going. Happiness, relief, a little bit of both, for sure. I just need to keep it rolling into the next one. That’s how you build a lot of confidence and everything.”

 
Fist-bumping several riders atop the chutes and on his way back to the locker room, he was greeted with several congratulatory notes as he sat down and took a few deep breaths. Perhaps a sigh of relief or two in there, as well.

“You do remember how to ride one. Good job!” a wide-smiled Wyatt Rogers echoed down the hallway as he approached his good friend and slapped him on the vest.

Sure, he hadn’t won the world championship itself, but sometimes getting out of a double-digit buckoff streak feels pretty damn close.

And when the boys can give you props while watching the proverbial monkey jump off your back, even better!

“Oh yeah, everybody is pulling for everybody,” Bunch added.

“When you get back to the locker room, everybody tells you good job. When they’re riding, you do the same thing for them. We’re all winning, for sure.”

Unable to meet the requisite 8 in his opening round, albeit damn close at 6.96 seconds, with the win going to Boomerang, Bunch credited taking a step back, getting comfortable on some lower-powered bulls and understanding that pressure creates diamonds in being able to rid the streak in Round 2.

“I don’t really know what led to the streak. I just kind of went through a little bit of a slump. I went to some rodeos and got back to some smaller, easier bulls. Then I came back here and it’s worked out,” Bunch said.

“You feel pressure coming into every weekend, for sure. But when you’re falling off a good amount, you know the pressure keeps building. When you get a couple rode, the pressure comes off for sure.”

Occupying the No. 16 rank heading into this weekend’s second PBR Major of the season, Bunch is right where he’s supposed to be.

Not only within the Top 20-ranked riders in the world, but “bunched” right between a pair of friends he’s been competing alongside for quite some time, with No. 15 Kaiden Loud one spot ahead of him and No. 17 John Crimber one spot behind.

“I’ve rode calves and steer with all of them, so it’s pretty cool seeing them and us do it all together,” he shared.

“From little kids to now, it seems like we’ve come a long way.”

A long way indeed, Bunch will look to solidify his spot on tour beginning Friday night during a showdown with Regulator, while Crimber will go head-to-head with Smooth Steel. Travel partner Kaiden Loud awaits a challenge from Kamikaze as the trio represent three of six rookies making waves within the Top 20 this season!

With Unleash The Beast storming into event No. 10 this weekend inside Golden 1 Center and the world’s best bull riders set to invade Sacramento, California, for the second PBR Major of the season Feb. 2-4, let’s take a look at who’s drawing into the lineup during the PBR Wrangler Long Live Cowboys Classic:

ROUND 1 MATCHUPS

Dawson Branton vs. DirtyBru
Joao Henrique Lucas vs. Johnny Smooth
Mauricio Gulla Moreira vs. Hell Right
Felipe Furlan vs. Big Twist
Daylon Swearingen vs. Baldy
Clay Guiton vs. No Cigar
Mason Taylor vs. Erik The Red
Paulo Eduardo Rossetto vs. Heater
Cort McFadden vs. I’m Him
Silvano Alves vs. Shot in the Dark
Jesse Petri vs. Jersey Mike
Vitor Losnake vs. Full Throttle
Marco Rizzo vs. Sharp Shooter
Kaiden Loud vs. Kamikaze
Caden Bunch vs. Regulator
Ednelio Almeida vs. Cherry Bomb
Eli Vastbinder vs. Wild Bill
Brady Oleson vs. Dirty Dave
Alex Cerqueira vs. Hell Storm
Callum Miller vs. Lone Star
Nick Tetz vs. Happy Hour
Hunter Ball vs. Snoop Dog
Conner Halverson vs. Sneaky Situation
*Bob Mitchell vs. Off Campus
Leonardo Castro Ferreira vs. Pookie Holler
*Boudreaux Campbell vs. Oilfield Outlaw’s Yellow Feather
Wyatt Rogers vs. Tigger
Alan de Souza vs. Crooked Nose
Julio Cesar Marques vs. Nefarious
Sage Steele Kimzey vs. Cherry Bomb
*Koltin Hevalow vs. Night Hawk
*Brady Fielder vs. Pearl’s Ghost
Dalton Kasel vs. Time Bomb
Kaique Pacheco vs. July
Wingson Henrique da Silva vs. Bruisin’
John Crimber vs. Smooth Steel
Cody Jesus vs. Spice
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Little Tex
Joao Ricardo Vieira vs. War Train
Cassio Dias vs. Red Smoke

* denotes a rematch

OUT BECAUSE OF INJURY/OTHER

Austin Richardson
Jose Vitor Leme
Jess Lockwood
Dakota Buttar
Chase Outlaw
Marcus Mast
Derek Kolbaba
Colten Fritzlan
Tate Pollmeier
Joao Lucas Campos

ROUND 1 REMATCHES

Bob Mitchell vs. Off Campus (2.47 seconds in Glendale, Arizona)
Boudreaux Campbell vs. Oilfield Outlaw’s Yellow Feather (4.74 seconds in Nashville, Tennessee)
Brady Fielder vs. Pearl’s Ghost (4.77 seconds in Anaheim, California)
Koltin Hevalow vs. Night Hawk (2.39 seconds in Fort Worth, Texas)

NO. 1 DIAS LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK AFTER RARE 0-FOR-2 SLATE IN HOUSTON

After stringing together five consecutive Top 11 showcases during his previous five events, four of which included Top 6 results (including sixth, first, fifth, fourth and 11th place finishes), No. 1 Cassio Dias failed to record a qualified ride for just the second time in nine premier series appearances last weekend in Houston, Texas. Initially dispatched in 2.7 seconds during his opening round battle with Show Me, he extended his buckoff streak to two after being thrown to the dirt in 5.16 seconds in Round 2, courtesy of The Judge, a bull he’s had success on in the past. Thankfully for the tour’s top-ranked rider, he brings a quality 123-point lead over No. 2 Austin Richardson into this weekend’s event in Sacramento, California. But with Richardson expected to take some time recovering from an injury sustained earlier this month, it’s No. 3 Cody Jesus who represents the next closest competitor, albeit 354.5 points back. Dias will now attempt to get back into the ride column during his showdown with Red Smoke Friday night inside Golden 1 Center, while Jesus goes head-to-head with Spice.

 

ROOKIES CONTINUE TO ENJOY PREMIER SERIES SUCCESS

In a sport like bull riding, it definitely pays to be young. Just ask any of the tour’s Top 20-ranked riders who happen to be competing in their first trip around the circuit. Guys like Clay Guiton, who’s now 4-for-5 and ranked No. 26 in over the course of his past two events since storming onto the scene just a few weeks back. After going 0-for-2 in Chicago during his UTB debut, he returned to the following weekend’s competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a purpose. Eventually ripping off a pair of rank 90-point rides en route to finishing fifth, he quickly made a name for himself. Doubling down on his new reputation last weekend in Houston, he nearly captured his first UTB win, if not for bucking off at the 7.44-second mark. Still able to bring home a quality finish at third overall, his first podium effort, he’s now set to dance with No Cigar Friday night as he looks to keep the spicy start alive. With fellow first-year Marco Rizzo getting the nod to compete at his first UTB event last weekend, he began his premier series career with a quality 86.75-point ride, but after getting banged up in Round 2 and forced to doctor out of the championship round, he’ll look to build on the encouraging start this weekend in Sacramento, challenged by Sharp Shooter in Round 1. Obviously No. 1 Dias has enjoyed his fair share of success as well, but with No. 11 Julio Cesar Marques, No. 15 Kaiden Loud, No. 16 Caden Bunch, No. 17 John Crimber and company continuing to rank inside the Top 20 during their rookie campaigns, there’s no doubt this season has the potential to go down as one of the most successful in PBR history when it comes to ushering in the next wave of elite bull riding talent.

 

FOLLOW ALONG

Representing the second of three PBR Majors during the 2024 Unleash The Beast campaign, the three-day, four-round showcase inside Golden 1 Center is set to begin Friday, Feb. 2 at 7:45 p.m. PST, with Round 1 airing live via RidePass on Pluto TV.

Round 2’s action will begin Saturday, Feb. 3 at 6:45 p.m. PST, which is also set to be broadcast via RidePass on Pluto TV.

Set to air on CBS Television Network on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. PST, fans can tune into the PBR Wrangler Long Live Cowboys Classic: Bucking Battle as some of the world’s best riders duke it out for before a national audience.

The third round will begin on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 1:45 p.m. PST, with all of Championship Sunday’s action airing on CBS Sports Network Sunday evening beginning at 5 p.m. PST.

Fans can stay tuned to PBR.com and PBR social media channels throughout the weekend for the latest scores, wrecks, injury updates and beyond as Unleash The Beast prepares to invade Houston during the ninth event of the 2024 season!

Photo courtesy of James Phifer/Bull Stock Media

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