My predictions were fairly accurate for the 2009 Iron Man. Here are my picks for the 2009 Arnold classic.
The 2009 IFBB Pro season continues with the Arnold Classic on March 7 in Columbus, Ohio. Second only to the Mr. Olympia, the Arnold Classic brings out the best physiques in the world to battle it out for the title.
Here are the competitors:
- Gustavo Badell
- Moe El Moussawi
- Toney Freeman
- Kai Greene
- Ahmad Haidar
- Marcus Haley
- Johnnie Jackson
- Dennis James
- Victor Martinez
- Ronny Rockel
- Silvio Samuel
- Sergey Shelestov
- Branch Warren
Predicting how 13 of the best physiques on the planet will place is no easy task. Taking into account several of the competitors are recovering from injuries, makes it even more interesting. Here's how I see the 2009 Arnold Classic stacked up against one another.
1st Place - Victor Martinez
Victor Martinez returns to the IFBB pro stage after recovering from a knee injury he sustained preparing for the 2008 Arnold Classic. Victor's last competition was the controversial 2007 Mr. Olympia where many thought he was the rightful winner. He had to settle for second place.
Martinez is the clear cut favorite despite recovering from a serious injury. All reports, however, state that he's ready to defend his Arnold Classic title.
Although I wasn't a witness to his supreme conditioning at the 2003 Night of Champions, I've heard that it was his best showing to date. I was, however, at the 2007 Olympia and can't imagine he was THAT much better in 2003. Regardless of his past showings, he needs to be at his all-time best to regain the Arnold Classic title. There are several guys waiting for Victor to make a miscalculation or an improper adjustment the last few days of his prep so they can capitalize on that mistake.
2nd Place - Kai Greene
This guy breaks the mold from other competitors. Love him or hate him, he is unique. Greene has made tremendous progress in the last few years since winning the Team Universe. His routines are spectacular and light up the crowd. (Personally, I'm from the old school and could do without the hip gyrations and lizard-eye contacts, but, hey, to each his own.)
Kai was looking huge in offseason form last September when I saw him walking around the Orleans Arena. He had to be over 300 pounds. That's his usual pattern - blow up in the offseason and chisel down during precontest. That's the same way Lee Priest used to do it. If he can drop the offseason blubber like he's done every time in the past, Greene will be pushing Martinez, but he'll still land in second if Martinez brings his A-game.
3rd Place - Toney Freeman
I saw a photo of Toney online last night where he's six weeks out and he is looking tremendous. Big and full and a tiny waist. Somehow Freeman is able to gain more size and keep his stomach in control all the while being well into his forties. If, and that's a big if, Freeman looks like he did at the Olympia or even better, and Green and Martinez are both off the mark, Freeman could win the whole enchilada here. But based on past performances of everyone, I think he'll come in third, possibly second.
4th Place - Silvio Samuel
Fresh off a win at the Iron Man, Silvio brings momentum into the show like no other competitor. Even though, Moe El Moussawi thought the Iron Man was closer than everyone else, Samuel won it fairly easily. (Personally I thought Rockel was closer to Samuel than Moe.) Silvio might have been a tad sharper at the Olympia last fall, but even at 95%, he's still sharper than almost all the competitors in every show he enters. With everyone being in shape, I see Samuel placing about 4th. If Freeman or Greene are off, he might place as high as third, but Samuel lacks the size to pull off a big win like the Arnold. Silvio's strong point is his conditioning. If he's ever off, he'll slip dramatically in the placings.
5th Place - Branch Warren
Coming off a triceps injury that required surgery, Branch Warren will be making his way back to competition at the Arnold Classic. During his prep for the Olympia last fall he fell while descending down the stairs at his home and tore his triceps while trying to catch himself. A few weeks after the surgery, I sat next to him at the Figure Olympia where his wife, Trish, was competing. I asked him how his arm was doing after the surgery and he said it was fine and that he was able to train around it and had just began light work with it (sooner than the doctor ordered, of course). Judging from the size of his arms, I'd say the healing process was doing well.
Branch is one of those physiques that don't fit the standard x-frame mold. Other competitors look like they are carved from marble; Branch looks like he's blasted out of granite. He's huge and when he comes in shredded, he's a force to be reckoned with. Although, I don't see him knocking off an in-shape Martinez, Branch could place as high as second or third.
6th Place - Dennis James
The new and improved Dennis James showed up last year at the Olympia. If that same guy shows up with even a little more polish and just a slightly tighter waist, he could actually be battling it out for a top-six spot. It'll be tough for him; he has his work cut out for him. He was up to doing two hours a day of cardio before the Olympia. It paid off. Hopefully he'll keep the same amount of cardio for the Arnold.
7th Place - Ronny Rockel
If the IFBB passed a rule that the posing trunks had to cover the entire butt, Rockel would be winning shows. It seems every show is decided by who has the driest glutes followed by sharp hamstrings. If that same criteria was in effect when Flex Wheeler was competing, he'd have less wins in the record books. Except for his glutes and hams, Rockel has very few weaknesses. His presentation is even dramatically improved. Like many people, I'd like to see him placing higher in the big shows and winning many of the smaller shows. If Ronny comes in sharper at the Arnold he has the ability to land a top-six spot, maybe even top-five.
8th Place - Moe El Moussawi
Big Moe added 15 pounds from last year. He did look bigger but not better. If he weighed 15 pounds more, he should have cut five or more pounds of that and came in 10 pounds heavier. His waist was much bigger than last year. El Moussawi can't play the size game. He found his niche last year with a streamlined and shredded physique. Moe needs to bring that back. If he does and comes in lighter, he could be in the top six or seven, but I see him around 8th place.
9th Place - Gustavo Badell
When Gustavo Badell burst onto the scene in 2004 with a tremendous showing at the Iron Man and Olympia, he looked poised to be a major threat for Ronnie and Jay in the coming years. Somewhere along the road, however, Badell lost the edge that catapulted him into the limelight. His legs aren't as full as they once were and he barely made the top ten at the 2008 Mr. Olympia a few months ago. If Gustavo can regain the look from three to four years ago, he'll be in contention for a top-six spot. If he can't, he'll continue to slide to lower and lower placings.
10th Place - Ahmad Haidar
Haidar really impressed me at the Iron Man. He is the epitome of an aesthetic physique. Although Troy Alves has been called the modern-day Frank Zane, I have to disagree. Ahmad Haidar is the rightful owner of that title. He has tremendous muscle control when displaying his back poses and his lower back actually has separation from his spinal erectors and obliques. Nearly all the pros seem to blend in around the lower back area. One glance at his abs and you can say, "Best In Show." Haidar gives up a lot of size because he only weighs 215, but it's 215 pounds of perfection. Unfortunately, due to his lack of size, I see him placing only around 10th, but I'd like to see him closer to 6th or 7th.
11th Place - Johnnie Jackson
The world's strongest bodybuilder might need to concentrate solely on bodybuilding and not powerlifting if he hopes to achieve consistently better placings in pro bodybuilding competitions. Laying off heavy deadlifts might help his waist size a bit and spending more time in precontest mode than offseason-powerlifting mode can help bring out more details in his physique. He's beginning to look blocky with less of an x-frame. He looked very smooth at the Iron Man and he could change things up dramatically in the few weeks between shows, but I'm predicting he won't.
12th Place - Sergey Shelestov
When it comes to the big shows like the Olympia or the Arnold, Sergey doesn't fare too well. At some of the smaller European shows he does great. Shelestov has great potential with plenty of size and good shape, but he seems to be still searching for a perfect formula that produces a predictable, dry physique. Once he masters that formula, he will be placing higher in every show he enters. Until then, he'll still be placing in the lower end of the spectrum. If Jackson comes in smooth, however, he could place in front of him.
13th Place - Marcus Haley
Coming off a severe leg injury, Haley looked very good at the Iron Man, but in judging standards he looked fair. He wasn't flexing his legs correctly during most of the prejudging. He added size with the time off, but he needs to step up the conditioning if he hopes to do better at the Arnold. If his conditioning is the same as the Iron Man, he'll be battling it out for last place.