David Robson's 2009 Iron Man Pro Review!

The 2009 Ironman Pro top ten line-up could be viewed as the best conditioned of all time with ultra-ripped and striated muscle being the order of the day in a contest that offered several surprises along with the usual assortment of top-line competitors.

The 2009 Ironman Pro top ten line-up could be viewed as the best conditioned of all time with ultra-ripped and striated muscle being the order of the day in a contest that offered several surprises along with the usual assortment of top-line competitors.

With a large field of 22 athletes, albeit one lacking several of its usual big name competitors, the 2009 Ironman Pro placed the spotlight on those who have assiduously worked their way up the rankings, to put them in a prime position to show what they really have to secure much needed exposure and top placements as the IFBB pro season begins.

With assumed frontrunner Phil Heath out along with the notable exclusion of heavyweights Toney Freeman and Gustavo Badell, the 2009 Ironman - as it celebrated it 20th Anniversary - did, as expected, showcase professional bodybuilding's premier smaller competitors in he final five, top of the list being the ever-impressive Silvio Samuel, Moe El Moussawi and Ronny Rockel who each displayed excellent shape and conditioning, overwhelming their competition to capture first, second and third places respectively.

Often viewed as a launching pad for formidable professional bodybuilding careers, the Ironman Pro, since its inception in 1990, with its inaugural winner and pro legend Shawn Ray, is a show that has introduced many major champions to bodybuilding audiences and given these athletes their first taste of competitive success with top five placements, or better.

As usual, the Ironman Pro held several surprises, not the least being this year's inclusion of Mohammed Bannout, nephew of 1983 Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout, who presented probably the most ripped physique onstage, and the continued pro stage presence of Don Long, who made an impressive return to bodybuilding in 2006 after sustaining a debilitating kidney condition, which continues to require dialysis and almost placed a final nail in his coffin. Though not showing the form the others displayed, he is continuing to do what he loves.

This year also highlighted the progression of bodybuilding in the Middle East with the inclusion of three Lebanese champions: the aforementioned Mohammed Bannout, top prospect and established pro Ahmed Haider, and Aiman Faour, all showing the great bodybuilding genetics with which this culture is blessed.

The 2009 Ironman Pro was surely one of the best ever. Who placed where and why? Did Ronny Rockel finally get his due? Did Marcus Haley, who promised to dominate this show, live up to the hype? Read on to find out. My top ten predicted placements were as outlined below. Featured below these is each competitor's actual placement and/or who, in fact, filled this position.

10th Place

dot Prediction: Evgeny Mishin dot

    At 2007's Europa Supershow the Russian Evgeny came from virtually nowhere to impress the judges and take sixth place with ultra-ripped conditioning and great balance throughout his physique. 2008 was an off year and Mishin found himself' slipping in the placements, but this can be typical for one new to the pro scene.

    He has the talent to hang with the established guys with his great V-taper and leg development, but will need to have made significant improvements to warrant a placement higher than tenth at this year's Ironman Pro.

Evgeny Mishin Evgeny Mishin
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Evgeny Mishin At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 16th dot

    Although presenting nice coloring and a winning attitude, this did not translate to a respectable placement for Evgeny Mishin, as his conditioning was way off.

    In a line-up of highly conditioned competitors - as this one was - sloppy conditioning automatically rules an already lesser competitor out of the top ten.

dot Tenth Place Winner: Johnny Jackson dot

    A late entry, Johnny came stacked and loaded with muscle as per usual, but was noticeably down on conditioning showing that even an athlete of his caliber will struggle against a full line-up of ripped to the bone competitors. Full muscle development, but flat.

Johnny Jackson Johnny Jackson
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Johnny Jackson At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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9th Place

dot Prediction: Adorthus Cherry dot

    Placing dead last in his pro debut at the 2008 Arnold Classic can't have been a strong boost to AD Cherry's ego, but it might have provided the kind of motivating force necessary for continued improvements. If so, then AD is highly likely to make the top ten at this year's Ironman based on his good basic shape, combined with small waist size and great stage presence.

    2008 saw AD competing smooth, but his physique showed enough promise to warrant optimism for future success on the pro stage. If he can come in shredded with added leg size and the same impressive upper body then he may even place as highly as seventh.

Adorthus Cherry Adorthus Cherry
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Adorthus Cherry At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 16th dot

    By all accounts, Adorthus looked great days before stepping onstage. Reports suggested him to be ripped, loaded with muscle and ready to achieve his best placing ever as a pro.

    Clearly this didn't happen as he either mistimed his peak in the final stages or fell victim to the last minute stress that can cause significant water retention and blur a competitor's lines.

dot Ninth Place Winner: Troy Alves dot

    With his usual great lines, beautiful shape and sufficient, but not overly freaky muscle mass, Troy has the kind of physique most guys strive to develop. Nothing really jumps out at you and everything is presented as a composite display of perfection.

    Why he doesn't place higher is beyond me. He was, however, slightly off at this show and fell behind the usual top six placing he achieves at such a contest.

Troy Alves Troy Alves
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Troy Alves At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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8th Place

dot Prediction: Hidetada Yamagishi dot

    Displaying a compact physique with hardness a ton of viagra could not accomplish, combined with good balance, razor cuts, excellent posing and a winning attitude, Hide is a definitely drawcard in any pro contest he enters.

    Unfortunately, when standing alongside competitors who have greater overall muscular fullness and size he often fades into the background. In a contest of smaller guys, Hide is one who I suspect will not be killing any giants or slaying any dragons on this particular occasion.

Hidetada Yamagishi Hidetada Yamagishi
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Hidetada Yamagishi At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 4th dot

    Hide brought his best package to date and couldn't have been more shredded. A good amount of muscle mass for his size - he probably couldn't fit any more on his relatively small frame - and some of the best posing onstage. This was a good placement for Hide among tough competition.

dot Eighth Place Winner: Mark Dugdale dot

    I originally had Mark Dugdale in fifth, though many had him higher than this. Size-wise, Mark appeared to be at his best with a few additional pounds of quality muscle in all the right places.

    He was, however, smooth compared to his usual high conditioning standards: a great physique, but one similar to Troy Alves in that for it to impact the competition, it must be razor sharp.

Mark Dugdale Mark Dugdale
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Mark Dugdale At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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7th Place

dot Prediction: Eddie Abbew dot

    Placing third in this contest in 2007 after showing one of 2006's best emerging physiques at the Austria Grand Prix where he placed sixth alongside a stacked line-up of top tier pros, has positioned Eddie Abbew as a competitor who, when he nails his conditioning, can land in the top placements.

    With impressive size, particularly in the back, arms and chest, Eddie will tip the scales at well over 260 pounds at this year's Ironman Pro.

    Not exactly Mr. Consistency, Eddie has had a mixed record on the pro stage, sometimes coming in completely off and other times displaying one of the sharpest physiques onstage. If he can hit it 100 percent in one week's time, expect him to land well inside the top ten.

Eddie Abbew Eddie Abbew
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Eddie Abbew At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 6th dot

    Though not a his best ever, a shape which would, and has, landed him in the top three at this contest, Eddie did finish in the top six against some impressive competition and displayed the largest physique in the top order.

    Having improved his leg development and conditioning compared to his 2008 outings, Eddie is still making great progress at over 40. He is one man that truly loves what he is doing and that is evident each time he takes to the stage.

dot Seventh Place Winner: Mohammad Bannout dot

    With a most impressive pro debut, Mohammad Bannout has certainly shown that he will be back to pressure the top competitors in future contests and, all going well, may become one of the main players himself.

    With probably the best conditioning onstage, and some impressive body parts, Bannout did show he has potential to do some damage at future shows. He will first need to improve his chest and lower lats and make a few subtle adjustments to his overall shape.

Mohammad Bannout Mohammad Bannout
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Mohammad Bannout At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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6th Place

dot Prediction: Ahmed Haider dot

    Of Lebanese extraction, Ahmed Haider possesses the shapely musculature, seemingly razor-etched abs and full round biceps development his fellow countrymen bodybuilders typically display.

    A very impressive bodybuilder displaying, at his best, conditioning second to none, great skin tone and the kind of 'mass with class' exemplified by none other than the great Lee Labrada, Ahmed is truly one to watch. I have him placed comparatively low here based on his recent failure to time his peak perfectly.

    He is one of those bodybuilders that when on looks unreal, but when off almost completely fades into the distance, and is consequently ignored during prejudging.

Ahmed Haider Ahmed Haider
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Ahmed Haider At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 5th dot

    If there is a new drug or nutritional practice responsible for creating the super-shredded physiques that rounded out the top five at the this contest, I haven't heard of it, but Ahmed Haider is one who evidently has.

    Presenting his best conditioning to date with perfect skin tone and onstage display, Ahmed, save for comparatively weak lower leg development, displayed a look reminiscent of Olympia winner Frank Zane - with more muscle - especially in the front double biceps pose and when standing 'relaxed'. Very impressive physique.

dot Sixth Place Winner: Eddie Abbew dot

5th Place

dot Prediction: Mark Dugdale dot

    Of similar shape and size to Ahmed Haider with his crisp, clear lines and striking conditioning and proportions, Mark Dugdale is another class act, one that has placed as high as second (in 2007) in this show.

    Being one of the smaller guys has not hurt Mark's chances as far as being a fan favorite and impressing with his near perfectly symmetrical and proportionate physique. Again, as with Ahmed, Mark will need to be 100 precent on to fulfil his potential at this show, otherwise he will be unlikely to crack the top five.

dot Actual Placement: 8th dot

dot Fifth Place Winner: Ahmed Haider dot

4th Place

dot Prediction: Marcus Haley dot

    I spoke to Marcus recently and he told me he will shock the bodybuilding community at this year's Ironman Pro with a physique 10 pounds' heavier and with striations everywhere (including his ears?).

    If the final placements were based on unbridled enthusiasm and an optimistic attitude I would give Marcus the title now, but as we all know, talk is one thing, backing up one's assertions quite another.

    However, based on previous competitive outings it would be realistic to assume that Marcus will land in the top five based on his size, particularly from the back (hams and back development specifically) - where his competition are likely to trail - and overall physical presence.

    A larger bodybuilder (he says he will be close to 240 pounds ripped to the bone come contest day), Marcus will have no trouble obscuring the opposition with his hefty lat development. But will he have the necessary class to defeat Silvio and company. Watch this space.

Marcus Haley Marcus Haley
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Marcus Haley At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 9th dot

    Pictures taken two weeks out from this show had Marcus as a clear favorite for the top three and certainly one who had made significant improvements since a devastating injury ruled him out of bodybuilding around a year ago. His comeback has been miraculous given his quad tendon injury was considered the wost of its kind.

    Though he did look great onstage, and there is no denying his thick upper body size and impressive shape, he was a little down on conditioning, especially from the back - a last minute problem perhaps? - and his leg injury site may have been noticeable enough to attract the judges attention, all of which pushed him well out of the top six.

dot Fourth Place Winner: Hide Yamagishi dot

3rd Place

dot Prediction: Moe El Moussawi dot

    Placing third in this contest in 2008, narrowly edged out by behemoth Gustavo Badell, significantly altered the bodybuilding destiny of Moe El Moussawi to where he is now seen as a legitimate threat to all of the smaller shows he enters, and a potential top competitor in the biggest of them all, the Mr. Olympia (he placed 9th in his 2008 debut).

    With some of the best conditioning seen on any pro stage in recent memory, combined with great shape and size, Moe will be aiming to land his first pro win this weekend, and many commentators feel he will do just that.

    However, with two better-established and arguably more complete competitors standing in his way, this remains to be seen. One thing is for sure: Moe is a verifiable bodybuilding force that will fight hard for the win.

Moe El Moussawi Moe El Moussawi
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Moe El Moussawi At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 2nd dot

    Topping his 2008 form - a major achievement in itself - Moe presented an even greater degree of muscle mass with deeper cuts and crazy conditioning to take a close second. Out-muscling Silvio and more impressive as a complete competitor, what kept him out of the top position could have been the lack of hype he had generated compared to the eventual winner.

    Still, Moe can be extremely happy that he has brought his best shape ever and he definitely will be one to watch at this year's Olympia.

dot Third Place Winner: Ronny Rockel dot

    Another who came in at his best was Ronny Rockel. Supposedly tired of being routinely overlooked, Ronny presented the largest most ripped physique possible with nothing lacking - his presentation had even improved - and walked away with third place.

    Personally, based on this show's final results, I would have had Ronny first by virtue of the fact he appeared to have greater size and was better balanced between body parts compared to both Moe and Silvio, both of whom may have had Ronny slightly in conditioning.

Ronny Rockel Ronny Rockel
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Ronny Rockel At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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2nd Place

dot Prediction: Ronny Rockel dot

    When the judges finally decide to give Ronny Rockel the respect he deserves he will be the man to beat in the so-called smaller shows. With nothing lacking save perhaps stage presence and posing ability, Ronny combines all the right qualities necessary to dominate the pro stage, or at least fight for the top placements, when he is on point.

    For some mysterious reason he often finds himself placing out of the top five to lesser competitors (2008's New Zealand pro show being a case in point). Can the man with the perfect proportions and thick muscle development get his due at the 2009 Ironman Pro? I would not bet against it should he arrive at his best.

dot Actual Placement: 3rd dot

dot Second Place Winner: Moe El Moussawi dot

1st Place

dot Prediction: Silvio Samuel dot

    One of the today's top pros - with a top seven finish at the 2008 Mr. Olympia and a win at the Europa Pro earlier that year - with undeniably crisp conditioning and full round muscle bellies, Silvio is one competitor who is nowadays always in the hunt for a pro win.

    This weekend will prove no exception as he aims to maintain the reputation he has built for himself over recent years. Although it would be fair to say that Silvio could be overrated and that there are others (like Ronny Rockel) who have better genetic qualities, the overall combination of factors he presents (adequate size, perfect conditioning and flaring muscle groups) combined with consistency in bringing his best package to the stage, give the judges no choice but to reward him for the high physical standards and sets, and achieves, every time.

    And although he will be giving up much size to his fellow competitors (around 30-pounds to Haley alone, it is expected), the detail and fullness of his physique will, as always, obviate this discrepancy. Look for Silvio to win and claim his second open-class pro victory.

Silvio Samuel Silvio Samuel
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Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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dot Actual Placement: 1st dot

    All of the pre-show hype had Silvio winning this event, and so it transpired. Granted, Silvio does have impressively round, full muscle bellies and phenomenal conditioning on his side, but his physique, at least from my perspective, does not have the impact of a Moe or a Ronny.

    These three competitors all has their own strengths and weaknesses, but in considering all of these, the top three were very close, probably closer than ever at this show.