Lonnie Teper's 2006 Arnold Classic Preview!

Find out right here what I predict the winners and losers will be at the 2006 Arnold Classic. This could be a tight race. Read on for the details.

So, wanna know who's going to win the Arnold Classic this weekend? Like, should you EVER doubt the Swami?

Who Won't Be There

Well, let me start off by telling you who, absolutely, will NOT win the 'Classic.' It's a guy who set a record; he wants no part of six consecutive runner-up finishes. In at least half of them, he felt (and so did many of the folks in the audience) that he should have worn the crown.

But, from what I hear, Chris Cormier won't be around (to snap the Best Man jinx), at least not on stage and taking on defending champ Dexter Jackson and the boys this Saturday at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio.

Chris is coming off a 13th place bashing at last season's Mr. Olympia and word has it Cormier was off to England and under the tutelage of six-time Mr. O Dorian Yates. Since Chris needs to requalify for The Big Dance, set for the last weekend in September in Las Vegas, he'll have to compete again before getting yet another chance to prove he's still among the game's elite players.

Where that will be is anybody's guess, but I think the Shawn Ray Colorado Classic, and the New York Pro, held back to back weekends on May 13 and May 20, would be good shows to consider.

Anyway, back to the people who will be posing it out Saturday. Here's a close look at the field:

Dexter Jackson, Gustavo Badell.

The Blade is well rested; Dexter hasn't competed since finishing second to Cormier at last year's San Francisco Pro one week after winning it all in Columbus. I haven't seen him, in person or in pictures, but when is the last time we've seen Dexter Jackson NOT in top shape?

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Dexter @ The 2003 Mr. Olympia.

Badell had a great year in 2005 with a victory at the Iron Man and third place finishes at both the Arnold and the 'Olympia. Oh yeah, even though I loathed the segment, we can't deny Badell's victory in the now-defunct Challenge Round last year at the Orleans Arena as well.

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The Challenge Round.

The Frican Rican, now residing in Las Vegas, has size and thickness on Jackson; Dexter gets the edge in overall shape and sharpness. At least in previous events. Badell now knows he belongs among the best in the industry and says no one will stand in his way of winning both the 'Classic and the 'Olympia this year. This one can go either way. Let's call it Dexter for another giant payday.

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Lee Priest & Gustavo @ The 2005 Ironman.

Top Contenders:
Lee Priest, Victor Martinez.

Priest is coming off a $15,000 win at the Iron Man two weeks ago when he bested fast rising star David Henry by a wide margin not only in the voting by the judges, but in all other polls connected to the contest. In one of them, the Bodybuilding.com Fans Choice poll, Priest picked up another $1,000 presented by Russ DeLuca.

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Lee Priest.

He also won a grand in Pasadena for being named the winner of the Vince Gironda Award for Posing Excellence, so The Blond Myth is on a roll.

Martinez is an enigma. When he's on, he's one of the best. Matter of fact, Ronnie Coleman says Victor, not Jay Cutler, is heir to his throne. I'm not convinced of that, but Vic can battle for this title if he comes in even better than he was at last year's 'Olympia, where he landed in fifth right behind Priest.

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Victor Martinez.

Chasing The Top Contenders:
Melvin Anthony, Darrem Charles, Branch Warren, Troy Alves.

Anthony, a lock to pick up another 10K to repeat his win in the posing competition, was fifth last year and plans on moving up this time around. Marvelous, Darrem and Troy have three of the "prettiest" physiques in bodybuilding, and this terrific trio has the goods to be top six, for sure.

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Marvelous, Darrem & Troy.

Warren was last year's breakout star, winning both the Europa and Charlotte Pro shows before nabbing an impressive eighth in his 'Olympia debut.

If the terrific trio is known for shape, Branch brings to the table pure hard-core beef. The man, to put it in flattering terms, is a freak and is out to prove that 2005 was just the beginning, not a fluke.

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Branch Warren.

Don't Forget:
Johnnie Jackson, David Henry, Mustafa Mohammad, Kris Dim, Ahmad Haidar, Toney Freeman, Chris Cook.

Johnnie was the most overlooked guy in last year's 'Olympia line-up, showing up in by far the best shape of his career. If he looks this good in Columbus, and gets a long, fair look by the judges, he is top six material.

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Johnnie Jackson.

Henry is no longer the Rodney Dangerfield of the sport; after not getting the respect a lot of us felt he deserved the past two years, Henry brought his best package yet at the Iron Man and gave Priest some nervous moments before settling in second.

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David Henry.

Mohammad, coming off a 10th place finish at the 'Olympia, was not a happy camper when called out for sixth place at the Iron Man. If he tightens up by the time he hits the stage this weekend, the man with loads of muscle could make things interesting.

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Mustafa Mohammad.

Dim placed fourth behind Alves at the IM, just missing out on an 'Olympia qualifying berth. He's not the biggest guy in the line-up, but he'll be one of the sharpest. A top 10 candidate, for sure.

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Kris Dim.

Freeman took 10th last year but is much bigger, and better this time around. At 6'2", he's the tallest guy in the line-up, but also one of the most aesthetic. I like this guy's physique and expect him to be much sharper than his seventh place showing at the IM.

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Toney Freeman.

Another physique I am fond of belongs to Haidar, who was nowhere near his best at the IM. But, this seasoned pro will not show up two contests in a row "off." I say 10 pounds lighter in Ohio, and "Abzilla" is back.

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Ahmad Haidar.

Cook took 10th at the IM and will have it tough to duplicate that finish at the 'Classic. Chris has huge guns, delts, and calves and is hoping to prove naysayers wrong that he won't be a huge factor on the pro level.

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Chris Cook.