By: Slade Long
The 2021 Unleash The Beast: American Roots edition begins Saturday afternoon with the first Competition of the PBR Monster Energy Invitational. Round 1 and Saturday’s championship round can be seen on RidePass (2 p.m. ET) and CBS Sports Network (10 p.m. ET).
Round 1 Matchups to Keep an Eye On
J.B. Mauney on 391 Slingin’ Tears:
This is a prime matchup. Slingin’ Tears bucked Mauney off right at the whistle at the 2020 PBR World Finals for what probably would have been a round winning 91-plus, point-ride. It’s the only time these two have met. This bull is not the perfect fit for Mauney’s style, but he’s not a bad fit either. He should go to the left, and he focuses on the spin, generating a lot of centrifugal force. Slingin’ Tears may not have been on Mauney’s radar before the Finals, but he’s probably on the hit list now, and that is an important factor here. Mauney with revenge or conquest on his mind is a tough opponent for any bull.
Jose Vitor Leme on 681 Dirty Sancho:
This is a pretty good matchup for Leme. He’s obviously the top gun right now, and on paper, this bull should not beat him. No PBR World Champion has followed a championship season with as good or better numbers the next year. There are obvious reasons for this. Winning a title is physically and mentally taxing, and there’s every reason to believe that Leme won’t maintain his 2020 pace in 2021, because that’s the way it’s always been. There’s also a chance that Leme will use that to motivate himself, and we’ve already seen what a motivated Leme can do.
Dalton Kasel on 309 Millenium’s Buck:
This is a tough, veteran bull who won’t be easy. Kasel has looked good at times since returning from injury in October, and he has to be excited about the upcoming season after spending much of 2020 on the sidelines. If he can stay healthy, Kasel is potentially a serious contender, and, like Jess Lockwood, he’s looking to rebound from a disappointing season.
Cannon Cravens on 1305 Mickey Mouse:
We’ve seen this bull at east coast events occasionally over the past few years, and he’s been very rideable. He’s given up six scores in eight UTB level outs. Cravens is a talented rider who missed the last half of 2019 with injury and hasn’t really come back strong from that. He had a lackluster season in 2020, and he’s a better rider than we saw last year. He should be looking to get things going the right way, and this bull could help him do that.
Kaique Pacheco on 514B Constant Sorrow:
Pacheco was 86.5 points on this bull in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in October. Constant Sorrow has been pretty good to right-handed riders overall. Down the stretch last season Pacheco was as good as anyone not named Jose Vitor Leme. We saw a little of the ice-cold clutch competitor we had been missing since his title run in 2018.
Jess Lockwood on 603 Detroit Lean:
We don’t know very much about this young bull, but he posted a 44.5-point bull score a couple of weeks ago in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Touring Pro Division event. Lockwood on a 44+ point bull usually means a 90-plus point score. Lockwood is another highly motivated guy coming into this season. He missed too much time last year with injury, and that must be frustrating to him. He can be every bit as dominant as Leme was last year. He’s only 23, but he rides with the mature awareness of a seasoned veteran. He has game, and he will need it because he likely has to compete with Leme for the rest of his career.
Derek Kolbaba on 43 Roulette:
Daylon Swearingen and Brennon Eldred both had big rides on this bull at rodeos last year, but we haven’t seen him very often at the UTB level. He should be a good fit for Kolbaba. Roulette goes to the left and has great timing and a lot of intensity to go with it.
Cole Melancon on 4596 Dang It:
Dang It is a better fit for a left-handed rider, but he does have timing, and Melancon is very good on bulls that go away from his hand. Melancon is also coming off a solid showing at the World Finals where he finished fourth overall and second in the short round with 92.25 points on Spotted Demon.
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Cody Teel on 23 Shownuff:
This is a solid veteran bull who doesn’t have a lot of tricks, but he does have the power get the top riders on the ground consistently. Teel has been on him three times and is 0-3, but Shownuff is always a good draw because he’s reasonably honest. He can be a little unpredictable, and could have a little forward movement sometimes, but he’s a textbook bucking bull in most respects. This is a hard working bull against a hard working rider and a reasonably even match despite their past history.
Silvano Alves on 60 Midnight Rock:
By the numbers, Alves has been in a remarkably smooth and steady decline since he won his first title in 2011. He was so dominant then that even though his overall performance was waning, he still won the title two more times in the following three years. It feels odd to think of a three-time World Champion as an underachiever, but considering what he was when he first came to the United States, he’s spent the last five years not living up to his own standards.
Alves did make some noise late last season, winning Tulsa in August and going 3-for-5 at the World Finals. He has an outstanding draw here. Midnight Rock likes to go to the right, and he’s given up a few big scores, mostly to right-handed riders. He would have been a huge underdog if this matchup happened a decade ago, but this is a fairly even match now and a great opportunity for Alves.
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