2011 British Pro Grand Prix Championships: The Bodybuilding.com Preview

Twenty-six top pros, including many new faces eager to earn their place in the pro game’s pantheon of champions, will make the stage creak and groan under their collective weight. Will it hold? And who will win?

To be held at the Excel Center on March 19th and 20th, 2011, the IFBB British Pro Grand Prix and Fitness Expo weekend promises to be one of the most exciting events of the 2011 fitness and sporting calendar.

With MMA, fitness modeling, extreme sports, arm wrestling and grappling, strongman competition, and a world first, the IFBB Mr. Olympia Amateur Bodybuilding Championship and IFBB International Cup, this event is expected to attract fans of many codes and stripes, but all with one common goal: to enjoy a total entertainment experience and to see the world's best strength, bodybuilding, extreme sports and fitness athletes strut their stuff.

And as its full title suggests, the 2011 British Pro Grand Prix will, in both men's open and 202 pound classes, host some of the best professional bodybuilders to sport 20-inch guns, 30-inch quads and skin of a shrink-wrapped consistency.

Twenty six of the IFBB's best, featuring many new faces eager to earn their place in the pro game's pantheon of champions will make the stage creak and groan under their collective weight as each competes with one all encompassing objective in mind: to win a fair percentage of the combined $70,000 prize money on offer as well as a place in the most prestigious contest of them all, the 2011 IFBB Mr. Olympia.

With ten athletes from the UK including established stars James "Flex" Lewis and John Hodgson slated to throw down with athletes from as far afield as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Lithuania, France, Macedonia, Spain, South Africa and, of course, the US of A, the men's open and 202-pound pro bodybuilding events will have a truly international flavor.

Given the inclusion of relative unknowns such as Dainius Barzinskas (Lithuania), Hennie Kotze (South Africa) and Cvetko Stojmenovski (Germany)--try pronouncing either of these names with a mouthful of chicken and rice--it will of interest to see who of them will emerge as potential pro threats while more seasoned athletes such as Ronny Rockel, Toney Freeman, Roelly Winklaar and Arnold Classic champ Branch Warren look to dominate the field.

Questions one might ask on the eve of what promises to be two phenomenally contested bodybuilding showdowns are: Who will walk away as a formerly unknown, but new breakout champion for 2011, and who of the current roster of elite top tier competitors (Warren and Rockel being two) will reign supreme? Below is my assessment of how the open men's top six placements will unfold:

Open Men's

Sixth place: Essa Obiad

Making a tremendous splash at the 2010 Europa SuperShow, his first pro event which he won in convincing fashion, UAE athlete Essa Ibrahim Hassan Obiad has justifiably been touted as the next big pro bodybuilding star.

Though not living up to the expectations of many at this year's Arnold Classic--where despite being excellently balanced and in shredded shape he landed in 12th--the man has top tier potential written all over his densely muscular frame. With a little more fine-tuning and pro level experience under his belt he will certainly be in the running for major professional success.

First up he will want to redeem himself at the 2011 British Pro Grand Prix championships. If he can hit his mark as he did in 2010 he will easily make the top six and may even place as high as third.

View Essa Obiad's Contest History Here.

Fifth Place: Toney Freeman

After a disappointing start to 2011--with his ninth place Arnold Classic finish--big Toney Freeman will be out to improve his professional record at the upcoming British Pro show. With all the pro bodybuilding potential in the world, Freeman has yet to win a major bodybuilding title.

Being as talented as he is yet never securing a major competition win must be frustrating for Toney, who has reigned supreme in six smaller pro shows to date. Yet it is his conditioning that is the wildcard; he either nails it convincingly or comes in slightly soft.

When he nails it he is difficult to beat; when he is soft he gets lost in a stew of shredded beef. One suspects he will be putting it all on the line at this year's British Pro Grand Prix. If he does, the other athletes had better be at the top of their respective games.

View Toney Freeman's Contest History Here.

Fourth Place: Johnnie Jackson

In placing an impressive second to Dennis Wolf at last weekend's Australian Pro Grand Prix, and a career best seventh at the Arnold Classic a week before the Aussie show, to say veteran pro Johnnie Jackson is on roll would be an understatement. His powerful physique brought about through years of power bodybuilding is always a highlight of any pro show he enters.

His side chest shot and anything he hits from the back is spectacular. If he can hold his Australian Pro conditioning, he should again be respectably placed. His predicted fourth placement here is given on the assumption that Roelly Winklaar--who placed one spot behind him at the 2011 Arnold--improves his conditioning of two weeks ago.

Roelly, who is better balanced and more muscular overall, has greater pro potential compared to Jackson. But there is much to be said about experience gained through many years at the pro bodybuilding coalface, and it is such sustained practice that will give Jackson an edge over most of his pro competition.

View Johnnie Jackson's Contest History Here.

Third Place: Roelly Winklaar

In placing ninth at the Arnold, Winklaar defied predictions that he may finish as high as top three. Yet he is still considered one of the sport's best and will be out to prove this belief.

At a mere 5'6" Roelly weighs an average of 230 pounds ripped and looks much larger. A true freak, he also has the lines and shape to compliment mountainous size. With one of the best V tapers around and some of the most impressive upper-to-lower-body balance in the pro ranks today, he is sure to achieve his athletic potential very soon. And this is not good news for his competition.

View Roelly Winklaar's Contest History Here.

Second Place: Ronny Rockel

It is widely known that success begets success, and Ronny Rockel is another man whose momentum has propelled him on to further physical improvements. In 2010 he proved that his time in pro bodybuilding is far from over, despite being in the game since 2003.

With his 2010 improvements--a little more muscle and better conditioning overall--many felt that we and finally seen him exhaust his potential. Wrong assumption. As 2011 unfolds Ronny has not only built on his ability to peak, he has unveiled a five pound gain in pure muscle mass, which has increased his chances of success against the more massive competitors.

With his sixth place finish at the recent Arnold Classic, Rockel is, based on the current field, the likely contender for second at the British Pro Grand Prix.

View Ronny Rockel's Contest History Here.

First place: Branch Warren

After many years' aiming for the top, professional bodybuilding's most hardcore athlete, Branch Warren, finally won the Arnold Classic in 2011. Following his first pro win at the 2005 Europa SuperShow, Warren has added a string of pro victories to his ever-growing resume.

Now he is aiming for further success with a first-place finish at the 2011 British Pro Grand Prix. With his status as frontrunner for any professional bodybuilding show he enters firmly secured, there is little chance that anyone from this year's British Pro field will beat him. Having the mass, conditioning and, now, balance departments well and truly covered, Warren has found a winning formula that will make him hard to beat in any pro show.

Although Rockel might have him on balance and Winklaar might have better lines and bigger arms, Branch has a well-rounded package that is heavily in line with the mass requirements of modern day pro bodybuilding. Winning the British Pro will be the next logical step in his quest to win the coveted Mr. Olympia title.

View Branch Warren's Contest History Here.