The 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix: The Bodybuilding.com Preview.

Our scribe answers questions about those bodybuilders looking to rise up Down Under.

The 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix

Q: So the top IFBB bodybuilders are going to trek to Australia from Columbus-and then head to England for another contest?

A: Some will. At first glance, this packed IFBB schedule does appear potentially detrimental to the success of the Australian Pro. Many battle-wary competitors may forgo long-distance travel in favor of shows closer to home.

Promoter Tony Doherty has already signed several big names, most notably recent Arnold Classic runner-up Dennis Wolf, emerging threat Ben Pakulski, and the ever-improving Johnnie Jackson.

Also, 2009 Ironman Pro victor Silvio Samuel has shown a strong interest in competing and indicates he'll make this contest his comeback show.

Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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Q: When and where is the show?

A: The Plenary on Saturday, March 13. Along with the increasingly popular professional men's show, the 2001 Australian Pro Grand Prix weekend will host a great deal more muscle and shape in the form of a full men's (bodybuilding) and women's (figure) amateur lineup, from which the winner of each division will walk away with a well earned pro card and the chance to battle it out with the elite of the sport at the weekend's pro figure and bodybuilding events. The pro qualifier is a first for the Australian Pro Grand Prix.

For the first time in its history, the Australian Pro will, also feature a packed sport and fitness expo, Fit X. This will be held at the Melbourne Exhibition Center on March 12-13.


Men's Finals At The 2010 Australian Pro
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Men's Finals At The 2010 Australian Pro.

Included in this expo will be a strongman competition, the winner of which will be in the running to contest the annual World's Strongest Man event. There will also be a bench-for-cash showdown, which is open to the public and sure to draw many aspiring strength freaks.

And what sporting and fitness expo would be complete without the inclusion of the world's fastest-growing sport, mixed martial arts.

Fit X covers the extreme fighting game, too, with a formidable contingent of UFC stars featuring former light heavyweight champion, the ever-popular Forrest Griffin; up-and-coming lightweight contender Clay Guida; and current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.

Q: What's the men's contest's most intriguing subplot?

A: The 2011 Australian Pro may serve as the comeback show for the great Silvio Samuel, who, in a cloud of controversy, departed from the pro game shortly after the 2009 Mr. Olympia, where he placed, by his lofty standards, a dismal 11th.

It is also possible that this comeback show could also be his third pro win.

Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Olympia. Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Olympia.
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Silvio Samuel At The 2009 Olympia.
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Q: What are your predictions for sixth through third place?

A: I'm picking Grigori Atoyan to place sixth. Competing as a pro since 2009, Atoyan is relatively new to the professional bodybuilding game, yet he has continued to make steady improvements, as evidenced with his excellent showing at the 2011 Flex Pro, where he took seventh.

Always loaded with plenty of quality muscle and presenting a respectable degree of symmetry and proportion, Atoyan is a popular inclusion in any pro show. However, one aspect of his presentation he needs to work on is his conditioning; he tends to look smooth when compared to those who have clearly done their homework.


Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
View More Pics Of Grigori Atoyan At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.

If he can nail his conditioning to come in ripped to the bone while presenting his usual muscular fullness, he is likely to repeat his Australian Pro performance of 2010 by snatching a respectable sixth place.

Fifth place should go to Michael Kefalianos. What a physique this guy has! With striation upon striation adorning a beautifully flowing physique, Michael Kefalianos-who drives a cab on the Greek Islands when he's not striking fear into the hearts of those who have slacked on their pre contest diets-is definitely one to watch in 2011.


Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show. Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show.
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Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show.
View More Pics Of Michael Kefalianos At The 2010 Europa Super Show.

With three fourth-place and two fifth-place finishes in 2010-each time narrowly missing out on Olympia qualification-he could also be the IFBB's unluckiest pro. Although a very strong competitor with conditioning that is seldom rivaled on any pro stage, Kefalianos does not, as yet, have the grade-A mass of, say, a Branch Warren or the lines and symmetry of a Victor Martinez.

Standing alone onstage he looks like a miniature Mr. Olympia; however, when up against the sport's best, he's somewhat overpowered and lacks the overall impact the larger men make. Still, he is always a threat in the smaller shows and will make life difficult for the Australian Pro field.

In fourth, look for the stupendously strong Texan Johnnie Jackson, who's on a definite roll, having placed seventh at the recent Arnold Classic. Jackson is turning up the heat on his competition and proving that age is no barrier to pro bodybuilding success.

Approaching a decade of pro bodybuilding competition during which time he has thrown down the with IFBB's best each year without fail, it was beginning to look as if Johnnie was finally wearing himself out-especially in light of his rare failure to break the top ten at the 2010 Mr. Olympia. Now that he is back to his best form, we should see him climb further into 2011.


Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View More Pics Of Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Although he beat Ben Pakulski at the recent Arnold Classic (where Ben placed tenth), one feels that Pakulski will have a slight edge at the Australian Pro, as he could have been a little fuller at the Arnold, whereas Jackson appeared to have peaked to perfection for this event and thus may be slightly underdone in Aussie.

Either way, the battle between Ben and Jackson will definitely be worth the wait and one to watch. Having said this, should Jackson arrive with sharper conditioning compared to the form he showed at the Arnold he could climb as high as second.

In third, look for Ben Pakulski. The professional bodybuilding public has over recent weeks been served up a treat with his fresh muscle and freaky proportions.

Taking a backseat to no man in the pure mass department, Pakulski has the added beneficial dimension of being as aesthetically gifted as any large competitor in recent memory: his wide shoulders accentuated with a small waist and ultra wide lat muscles, capped off with arguably the largest legs in the modern pro game, has given Ben major momentum as he serves notice to all hopeful pro contenders.


Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Ben Pakulski At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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His recent tenth place finish at the 2011 Arnold Classic is not to be taken as a reflection of his true potential: indeed, he had at this contest made conditioning improvements and showed a degree of presentational flair that appeared to be missing at the Flex Pro two weeks earlier, most likely an indicator of his increasing confidence levels.

As his meteoric rise continues we will be hearing a lot more about this popular champion. Should Silvio Samuel not contest this year's Australian Pro, the door will be left wide open for Ben Pakulski to achieve his highest professional placement yet and present him with an excellent opportunity to pose down for top honors.

Q: Okay, so who do you see placing one-two?

A: In opting to make the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix his comeback show, Silvio Samuel will-should he compete-send a strong message to his IFBB peers: You had all better be in shape for the remaining 2011 shows.

Famous for his ultra-shredded conditioning and full muscle development, Samuel cut a swath through the IFBB top order from 2007 through 2009 to establish himself as one of the sport's very best.

A regular top-three finisher and winner of three pro shows-the 2007 Europa Supershow, 2008 Houston Pro, and 2009 Ironman-Samuel has placed as high as second at the Australian Pro (where he fell behind a pretty muscular guy named Kai Greene).

Rumors circulated that he has experienced heart problems or become disillusioned with what he considered to be unfair judging.

Now it appears he is back and ready to again stake his claim as being one of pro bodybuilding's very best. Based on his proven track record of always arriving in unequalled shape, second place at his comeback show seems likely.

With his recent return to form and subsequent runner up placement at this year's Arnold Classic, it's hard to position Dennis Wolf anywhere other than in the winner's spot for the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix.


Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View More Pics Of Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

The bodybuilding media have for several years been speculating on the great potential Dennis Wolf has and how his genetic gifts will someday be translated into contest wins.

With 2007 and 2008 being standout years for Wolf-with a win at the Keystone Pro and top six placements at the Mr. Olympia-the German champ was on schedule to dominate the pro division.

However this was not to be as in 2009-10 he lost the form that had made him successful, and drifted off course. Now he is well and truly back and better than ever.

If he can replicate his 2011 Arnold Classic shape and conditioning, he should have no difficulty winning this year's Australian Pro. If he can make further improvements as 2011 unfolds, Wolf may give Branch and Jay nightmares going into the Olympia. He may even snag his first win at the Big O.

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