PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2017 Built Ford Tough Series season kicks off Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York and PBR.com will be counting down the final days of the offseason by taking a look back at the Top-5 bull riders at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
Today, we look at 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis.
No. 1 Cooper Davis
World Championships: 1 (2016)
Best World Standings Finish: 1 (2016)
2016 BFTS Stats:
Riding Percentage: 52.5 percent
Top Ride: 91.5 points on Crossfire in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Wins: 3 (Nashville; Tulsa, Oklahoma; San Jose, California)
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 1 (San Jose, California)
Round Wins: 11
Top 10: 19
Top 5: 12
90-point Rides: 2
2016 Recap: Cooper Davis made his push to the 2016 world title by winning back-to-back events when the Built Ford Tough Series resumed in August. First, Davis won the Music City Knockout in Nashville and then followed that up with a win in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to erase a 795.33-point deficit.
Davis then nearly won a third event in a row in Thackerville, Oklahoma, where he also took over the world No. 1 lead for the first time in his career.
However, Davis began to wonder after Thackerville if maybe there was something seriously wrong with his shoulder after injuring it in Tulsa a week earlier.
Davis had surgery on Sept. 14 to repair a broken clavicle. He missed only 17 days because of the surgery, which involved Dr. Tandy Freeman inserting a steel plate and three screws into his shoulder, and 32 days later he retook the world lead in San Jose, California.
In just his third event back in San Jose, Davis looked as good as he did leading up to the injury. He won the 15/15 Bucking Battle with an 89.5-point ride on Big Cat and then capped a 3-for-3 event win by riding Beaver Creek Beau for 89.75 points.
Davis then showed one more rally at the World Finals after losing the world lead to Kaique Pacheco. The second-year pro rode Catfish John for 91 points to win Round 5 and then watched on as Pacheco bucked off Gangster’s Wildside in the championship round to clinch Davis the world title.
The 2015 World Finals event winner went 4-for-6 at the season-culminating event for the second year in a row and concluded 2016 with a career-high $1.4 million in earnings.
Davis won the 2016 title with not just grit, but a tremendous amount of consistency. Even though he wasn’t really in the world title conversation in the first half of the season, Davis was always finishing in the Top 10 of events.
The 22-year-old only went rideless at four events and placed in the Top 10 at the other 19 events he competed in – an astounding 82 percent conversion rate.
Davis was also one of only three riders to post a riding percentage above 50 percent and his 42 qualified rides was third on tour.
Also lost in his 2016 season was that Davis became the first rider to conquer Crossfire. Davis rode Chad Berger’s 2016 World Champion Bull contender for 91.5 points at the Ty Murray Invitational.
2017 Outlook: History says the odds are not in Davis’ favor, but were the odds in his favor last year after he broke his clavicle?
Only once in the PBR’s previous 23 seasons has there been a back-to-back World Champion (Silvano Alves – 2011 & ‘12).
The majority of PBR insiders have placed Davis with J.B. Mauney and Pacheco as the early season favorites for winning the 2017 world title, but will Davis have that same burning fire to achieve another world title after accomplishing his childhood dreams last November?
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who finished sixth and 21st in his post-championship seasons, is curious to see what Davis does in his third season on tour.
“I will be anxious to see how Cooper Davis responds after winning the World Championship,” McBride said. “Is he prepared to go for another one and do what it takes? Or does he kind of want to take a breath? He is going to face things he never faced before. He is not really a media darling. He doesn’t really care to do that stuff. I think he will handle coming off a World Championship as good as anybody because he doesn’t get tied up in that stuff.
Some other defending World Champions have come close to repeating – i.e. Mauney last year – while others, including Alves in 2015, have seen their post-championship season cut short or riddled with injuries.
One benefit for Davis, outside of his riding ability, is that he is still only 22 years old, so his body should be able to still handle the rigors of a full BFTS season.
Davis has only been riding on the BFTS for two seasons and already has a World Finals victory, a gold buckle, a PBR Major win and a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory.
Most of all, Davis showed last year when his back is against the wall that he won’t throw in the towel.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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