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2008 NPC USA Bodybuilding & Figure Championships Preview: Lifter's Hot List!

This year over 300 competitors will roll the dice on the competitive stage. Many of them have dieted 12, 14 or 16 weeks... Get details right here as I take you through the men's & women's bodybuilding and figure competitor hot list!

By: Isaac Hinds

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2008 NPC USA Bodybuilding & Figure Championships Preview!
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Tanned people from across the nation will be emerging on Las Vegas next weekend, July 25-26, for the annual NPC USA Bodybuilding & Figure Championships. This is one of the biggest and best shows in the NPC and one not to miss.

Promoter Jon Lindsay works months in advance to bring this show to fruition each year. Competitors and fans alike consider this a show not to miss in the NPC. It certainly doesn't hurt his cause that the event is held in Sin City as many people will try their hand a little gambling or basking in the sun.

This year over 300 competitors will roll the dice on the competitive stage. Many of them have dieted 12, 14 or 16 weeks for this event. Some have taken a year or more off in preparation for the show. Others have been competing in earlier shows this year and looking for that elusive pro card. The competition will be fierce again this year and I'll break down a few of the ones to watch.

Before I get into the competitor hot list, let me first comment on my noticeably slimmer, yet still wrinkled and folically challenged friend, Lonnie Teper. Lonnie, aka the salami... errr, I mean the Swami, will be the mic again this year.

Lonnie does an excellent job of keeping the show moving. The fans and competitors are out at a decent time despite there being hundreds of competitors to run through. Lonnie often joins myself and Ron "Yogi" Avidan for "The Experts" video predictions and show wrap-up.

Now LT will have you believe he is the mastermind behind this three stooged circus and well he's right on that. What he's not right on more often than not are his predictions. The Swami's crystal balls are getting a little dusty as of late and he's even gone so far as to bring in replacements for his predictions video to make himself look like he knows what he's talking about.

Last year Ron Avidan was thrown out of the wrap-up video by IFBB Pro and past USA champ Omar Deckard. Who will kick Yogi to the curb this time? Will the Swami pick 5 people again and then proclaim he had them all along? My vision is a little better than Lonnie's and I say, yes he will predict no less than three guys in each class to potentially win. Enough jibber jabber about the "experts" let's break down my hot list for Sin City.

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Men's Bodybuilding
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The men's bodybuilding will be a shootout. Two IFBB pro cards will be rewarded to the overall winner as well as one other individual who was victorious in their height class.

dot Bantamweight dot

    No disrespect to the lighter-weight guys but I'm not that familiar with the classes and some of the competition. There are currently 11 guys in the Bantam class. Last year Bleu Taylor took home top honors. This year Alan Watari and John Ligsay, Jr. will return and look to improve upon their fourth and fifth place finishes from last year.

Alan Watari
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Alan Watari From The 2007 USA's.

dot Welterweight dot

    The welterweights packs ten guys in the class and again I'm not sure on any of these names. Some expert I am, huh?

    One guy I am aware of and familiar with in the class is first time national competitor Yusef Al-Awaji. He's found victory at the 2007 NPC Rocky Mountain as well as placing third in a heavier class at last weekends NPC Colorado State Championships.

    He has an aesthetically pleasing physique and I look for him to be in the top five of the welterweight class. He'll have his hands full as Shavis Higa will return to the stage this year after winning the lightweight class last year.

Shavis Higa
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Shavis Higa From The 2007 USA's.

dot Lightweight dot

    The Lightweight Class currently has only six guys and who knows which one of them will bring their best. It's an opportunity for someone to pick up some fairly easy hardware in this class.

dot Middleweight dot

    The Middleweight class was won by long time competitor Jose Raymond last year and followed up by Tamer El-Guindy. Neither of these two will return to this class however third place finisher Arleigh Bumanglag will. He has to be considered the front-runner in the class for 2008.

Arleigh Bumanglag
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Arleigh Bumanglag From The 2007 Nationals.

dot Light-Heavyweight dot

    Now we get into the big classes and the divisions that get people jazzed to see. Again no diss on the guys in the lighter classes but the heavier classes draw greater attention and typically where the pro cards are awarded. Last year Peter Putnam won the class but many felt that Al Auguste should have prevailed. It's a moot point as neither of them will return this year.

    A few guys to keep your eye on and are my picks for the top spots. Curtis Bryant - this guy is packed full of muscle and if he makes the light-heavy class he will be at the top of the weight class. He was 7th at last year's Nationals and followed it up with an overall win at the '07 Excalibur. Look for him to be the front runner in this class.

Curtis Bryant
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Curtis Bryant From The 2007 Nationals.

    A few people will disagree with me and with good reason. Another guy who is un-doubtly a top pick is Brandon Rey. He took home top honors in the 2007 Jr. Nationals light-heavyweight class and has had a year to grow. He's fresh and will be coming into the show not having competed in Chicago.

    Tamar El-Guindy moves up a weight class after finishing second in the '07 Middleweight division. He will be one to watch in this class as well. Also a legit threat to the title is 2006 Middleweight champ, Gregory Peeples. He has a great upper body and some time off should serve him well in this move up in weight.

    Pete Ciccone could be in the mix if he finds the right combination for his conditioning. One guy who will most likely miss the top callouts but will have some of the best wheels in the show is Colorado competitor Shawn Mack. His upper body lacks the size of his legs but his legs are ridiculously cut and pack a ton of size.

Shawn Mack
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Shawn Mack From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

dot Heavyweights dot

    The heavyweight class is stacked with talent and will be one of the toughest classes of the whole show. Ones to watch in this class... Brandon Curry: He was third at the 2007 Nationals behind eventual Pro AD Cherry. He'll definitely be a threat to the title at this show. He looks great front to back and if he can nail his conditioning he will be compared for the title.

    Brandon Curry is many people's pick for the win in this class as well as the overall. Brandon has improved over his last two shows and from the preview photos on FLEXonline.com days out from this event it looks like he will be in shape. Brandon will definitely be in the mix for the win. He's balanced and has tremendous shape, the question will be can he bring the conditioning to edge out his competitors.

Brandon Curry
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Brandon Curry From The 2007 Nationals.

    Michael Liberatore has been on a winning streak this year and is coming off a win in this class at the 2008 Jr. Nationals. He has the size and conditioning that could prove troublesome for his competitors.

Michael Liberatore
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Michael Liberatore From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    I like this former collegiate cheerleader's chance at victory but it won't be an easy win for him. Also in the mix for this class is Jeff Long. He is one of the shorter competitors but packs a ton of muscle. Crazy calves and dense muscle but has yet to really nail his conditioning. Watch for him to put it together this time and be in the top five.

Jeff Long
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Jeff Long From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

dot Super-Heavyweights dot

    The big boys will be coming out to battle and it is going to be a showdown in this class. The largest guy on the stage this weekend will be "Big" Sean Allan (BSA). Sean towers above his competition at 6'4" and weighing around 290lbs on stage. He's coming off consecutive overall wins at the NPC Atlantic States and the NPC Jr. Nationals.

    Many people dog him out on his legs and while they do lag a big behind his upper body, his sheer size is tough for anyone to overcome. Photos don't do him justice, when you see him on stage you'll know what I mean.

Sean Allan
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Sean Allan From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    One guy who thinks he has what it takes to end Allan's win streak is Californian Grigori Atoyan. He was second at the 2007 NPC Nationals and second at this show last year, losing to Ben White the eventual overall winner. He did win his class at the '07 North Americans, so he is definitely a top contender in this class again this year.

Grigori Atoyan
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Grigori Atoyan From The 2007 Nationals.

    Edward Nunn is another tall competitor but has tremendous shape and is looking to improve upon his fifth place finish at the '07 Nationals. Look for him to be in the mix for the top five at this show.

Edward Nunn
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Edward Nunn From The 2007 Nationals.

    Keith Williams is coming off an overall win at last weekend's Flex Wheeler Classic and was second in this year's Jr. Nationals. He's added some size since his 8th place finish at this show last year. Look for him to be in the top callouts.

Keith Williams
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Keith Williams From The 2008 Flex Wheeler Classic.

    Todd Jewell placed third at the Jr. Nationals last month and will look to overtake Williams and Allan at this show. Can he do it? I don't think he'll be able to best either one but should be in the mix for the top five.

Todd Jewell
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Todd Jewell From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    Another competitor to keep an eye on is Aaron Rhea from Denver, Colorado. He's a huge guy and if he can nail his conditioning he could be in the mix. His conditioning is his downfall and any misstep at this show will keep him out of the top callouts.

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Women's Bodybuilding
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The overall winner of the women's bodybuilding will reach IFBB Pro eligibility. On the women's side of things bigger doesn't always equate to better. The direction of female bodybuilding this year as go in way of a more streamlined physique, nice muscle tone and not overly dry or shredded.

dot Lightweight dot

    The smallest competitor in the women's division will most likely be Barbara Fletcher but don't let her height fool ya. I believe she is under 5'0" but she is my pick at a top spot in this class.

    Making the switch from figure to bodybuilding, Tracy Bodner should find herself in the running for a top spot at this division. She recently guest posed at the Colorado State show and she looked like she was contest ready, two weeks out. As long as she doesn't come in too dry and shredded look for this division be between her and Barabara.

dot Middleweight dot

    This class has some talent and could prove to provide the eventual overall winner of the show. Keep your eye on Kira Neuman, Diana Tinnelle and Claire O'Connell in this one. Kira was second at this year's Jr. Nationals and brings a feminine, pleasing package to the stage.

Kira Neuman
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Kira Neuman From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    Claire was first in the lightweight class of the '06 USAs but dropped to seventh in the '07 Nationals. The issue with her will be "too hard". Her conditioning will be there but she will need to find a balance and not come in overly dry and shredded as that looks seems to go unrewarded as of late.

    It doesn't mean soft of or out of shape wins, it means (in my opinion) the judges are rewarding shape and muscle tone over conditioning with the women. Diana Tinnelle is my pick for victory in this class. She was second last year to the eventual overall winner Jennifer Sedia. She could get challenged by Kira but I'd put money on it going one and two between them.

dot Light-Heavyweight dot

    Karen Choat placed third at this show last year and should be a favorite for the class win. She will go up against Holly Geersen and Anne Dudash for the title in this class. I like Choat's chances at victory and she's hungry for a win coming off third places finishes not only at this show last year but also the '07 Nationals.

Karen Choat
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Karen Choat From The 2007 Nationals.

dot Heavyweight dot

Marry Hobbs
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Marry Hobbs From The 2008 Jr. USA's.

    The odds on favorite for the entire show has to be Isabelle Turell who has taken some time off from competing and should bring a nice balance of muscle and conditioning to the show.

    Dianne Solomons placed fifth in the class and could also be in the mix for this class. Anne Dudash is another name to watch to make a run at the top five. If I had to pick the battle in this class it would go to Sabo and Turell.

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Figure
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Figure is the biggest competition of the show. Hundreds of women will show up for this contest and each of the height class winners will reach IFBB Pro status. Six women will walk away with the chance to compete on the next level with the rest left to decide on their next amateur show.

dot A Class dot

    My pick for the class win in the shorties is Jamie Costa. She won this class earlier in the year at the 2007 NPC Jr. USA and took a little break from competing to do this show.

    Skipping the Jr. Nationals should prove to be a good move for her and with the guidance of Kim Oddo on her diet and training I look for her to come in on point.

Jamie Costa
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Jamie Costa From The 2008 Jr. USA's.

    She'll be pushed by Carin Hawkins, who was second in this show last year. Third place finisher in '07, Mary Cencich returns looking to move up. She wasn't at her best at this year's Jr. Nationals but some added time to diet she could be in the mix again.

Carin Hawkins
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Carin Hawkins From The 2007 USA's.

dot B Class dot

    This is a loaded class with 26 competitors as of writing this. Monica Mark looked a bit over-depleted at this year's Jr. Nationals however she has what it takes to find the winner's circle when she puts it all together.

Monica Mark
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Monica Mark From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    Liza Kampstra is sitting this one out and will compete at the Team Universe contest (placing second at Jr. Nationals in this class). JulieAnn Kulla exited by winning the overall title at Jr. Nationals.

    Many of the competitors from this class at Jr. Nationals will not be competing here. It leaves the door open for women like Jennifer DeJoya and Jennifer Jackson to move up into the top five at this show. There is no clear cut favorite in this class but look for the women I mentioned to make some noise in the top couple of callouts.

Jennifer DeJoya
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Jennifer DeJoya From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

dot C Class dot

    The largest group of the show at nearly forty competitors, the C Class is going to be tough. Whoever wins this class should be damn proud, h#ll if you're even in the top five you are doing very well in this division.

    A few names to watch who could be posing it out for a top spot are Chrissy Burton, Bea Fox, Kristin Nunn, Grace Rivera, Elissa Schlichter and Ana Tigre.

Chrissy Burton
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Chrissy Burton From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    My dark horse for this class is Kristin Nunn. She competed at the Jr. Nationals and found herself out of the top five. She has great shape and is very balanced. I'd be shocked to see her out of the top five at this show. Ana Tigre has been consistently in the top five at Jr. USAs and Jr. Nationals, she also won her class at this year's IRONMAN figure.

Kristin Nunn
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Kristin Nunn From The 2008 Junior USA's.

dot D Class dot

    Nearly 30 competitors stack this class and there is no clear cut favorite going into the event. As of writing this, Terri Turner is not entering the event. She's won this class at both the Jr. Nationals and the Jr. USAs this year but missed out on her pro card each time.

    You'd have to like the chances of Kristy McKinney based on her third place finish at the Jr. Nationals. One competitor who I think can and will be in the top callouts looking for the win is Illinois competitor, Alicia Harris. She has a sporty, healthy looking physique and you can spot her on stage very easily... she's the one who is always smiling.

Kristy McKinney
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Kristy McKinney From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

dot E Class dot

    I like two competitors hailing out of Colorado in this class. They finished second and third respectively at Jr. Nationals. Jenny Lewis has continued to improve from show to show and could find the winner's circle this time around.

Jenny Lewis
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Jenny Lewis From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    Relative newcomer, Jaime Meade placed third behind fellow Performance Ready teammate, Jenny Lewis at the Jr. Nationals. She has a very balanced physique and should do well again in Vegas.

Jaime Meade
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Jaime Meade From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

dot F Class dot

    The tall class will have some beauties in it. Keep your eyes on Christine Aguilar who placed 4th at this year's Jr. Nationals in this class. Ali Huston who could have won this class at Jr. Nationals will be back looking to find the top spot. The Nebraska native has shred some muscle, toned down her conditioning and could find herself in the winner's circle here.

Christine Aguilar
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Christine Aguilar From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    Also in the mix will be Alicia Marie, the popular fitness model and BSN spokesperson. Watch Veronica Ramirez to also be in the top couple of callouts.

Veronica Ramirez
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Veronica Ramirez From The 2008 Junior Nationals.

    Two competitors who have not made their way to the national stage but could prove problematic for their competitors are Monique Minton and Rachel Cammon. Both of these women are beautiful competitors with great physiques. Minton calls Texas home while Cammon calls Colorado home. These two women could and should find themselves in the top callouts at their first nationals show.

Monique Minton
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Monique Minton From The 2008 John Sherman Classic.

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Conclusion
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As you can see this is going to be a great event with stiff competition. You can purchase tickets to the event at Jon Lindsay's web site, musclecontest.com. If you're unable to attend or have family and friends who'd like to see the action, they can do so here on Bodybuilding.com with the free webcast.

2008 NPC USA Bodybuilding & Figure Championships Preview: Lifter's Hot List!
isaac@liftstudios.com

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