A Shake Up Hits L.A. As Centopani Takes The 2011 Flex Pro Contest!

Going into the 2011 Flex Pro contest, Dexter Jackson was the odds-on favorite to win. Only someone forgot to tell that to Evan Centopani, who shouldered past The Blade with room to spare.

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A Shake Up Hits L.A. As Centopani Takes the 2011 Flex Pro Contest!

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Three weeks out from the 2011 IFBB Flex Pro Bodybuilding Championships and much of the talk regarding this event centered on the foregone conclusion by most that former Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson would snatch his first pro win of the year. Such a victory would nicely set up the multiple Arnold Classic champ for another shot at this year's version of that event - a fourth Arnold win would give him the deserved bragging rights that accompany equaling the four-time-champ record set by professional bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler in 2000.

It was not to be but perhaps, in light of his next closest competition, Evan Centopani, should have been (we will get to this soon). As for the remainder of the Blade's competition there were a few standout performances - most notably from, and as expected, Ben Pakulski, Fouad Abiad and Dennis Wolf - but little else to threaten the veteran athlete.

Evan Centopani At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Evan Centopani At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Evan Centopani At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Having spoken to several confirmed Flex Pro athletes three weeks out from their first competitive outings of 2011, at the Flex Pro, it was apparent to me that all were gunning for their career best performances.

The general feeling - among these competitors and others in the trenches preparing for battle - was, considering the high stakes (Arnold Classic qualification and the establishment of supremacy early in the pro season, which would inevitably enhance their success in further 2011 outings) and post off season urge to compete and show what they had worked so hard for, that everything each had would be placed on the table and all - body, mind and spirit -would be given in the pursuit of achievement.

Based on what the audience witnessed on Saturday, almost all of the Flex Pro athletes onstage clearly had presented their best physical development to date, with gargantuan size and shredded conditioning being the order of the day. Those who had the shape without the requisite mass and eye-popping detail were left struggling for the minor placements, such is the modern professional bodybuilding arena where size and conditioning, sometimes at the expense of shape and aesthetics, rule.

So who in this event lived up to their reputations? Were there, as there almost always are in pro bodybuilding events, any new threats to have emerged from the line up? Who, as represented by their subpar development and conditioning, failed to back up their words with respectable placements? Here is your Flex Pro Bodybuilding Championships top ten. Were the placements justified? You decide.


Tenth Place: Omar Deckard

In his best showing yet as an IFBB pro Omar Deckard looked very sharp with great conditioning, especially through his upper body, his leg development, as it always has tended to do, lagging behind his massive arms and shoulders. His physique flows nicely and has sufficient mass to dominate...the amateur division.

If he is to do any major damage in the pro ranks Deckard may need to join Branch Warren in some real hardcore training to up his mass to a more respectable level; with his height and long limbs he, as many other taller bodybuilders have done, tend to get lost among the shorter freaks of the sport. Nice aesthetics can, these days, only take you so far on the pro stage.

Omar Deckard At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Omar Deckard At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Omar Deckard At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Ninth Place: Stan Efferding

Perhaps unlike Omar Deckard, bodybuilder-turned-power-lifter-turned-bodybuilder Stan Efferding certainly packs a lot of mass onto his tall frame, no doubt, in part, as a result of all the pressing and pulling of tremendous weights he has done over many years. In bringing to the Flex Pro his best physique to date, Efferding has secured his highest pro bodybuilding placement ever (previously he had placed 12th at the 2010 IFBB Europa Show of Champions).

Now the big guy will be looking to improve on his current form as he plans his 2011 ascent up the pro rankings. With his comparatively uneven development and wide waist he will need to make a few improvements but as strong minded as he is this should pose no problem for the confirmed world's strongest bodybuilder.

Stan Efferding At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Stan Efferding At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Stan Efferding At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Eighth Place: Vladimir Sizov

Why this guy did not place higher is beyond this author's comprehension. With near-perfect balance, some of the best conditioning ever seen and full muscular development the only thing to have stopped the Russian champ could have been his overall lack of size, and insufficient name recognition.

Perhaps a victim of the Ronny Rockel judging stipulation - which neglects to award that, which, despite great balance and aesthetics, is not deemed freaky enough - Sizov, it could be said, will need a few more years' proving his abilities before he breaks into the big time. Still, with his ability to achieve razor sharp definition and his great symmetry and proportions he may not have to wait long.

Vladimir Sizov At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Vladimir Sizov At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Vladimir Sizov At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Seventh Place: Grigori Atoyan

Larger and more muscled compared with Vladimir Sizov, Grigori Atoyan did not, however, appear to be in the ripped Russian's league as far as pleasing shape and overall muscle refinement is concerned. But he did have the mass factor, which does count for much in pro bodybuilding today.

His shape is not too bad either but, at the same time, he did not have the degree of flow some of the lighter competitors possessed; very impressive from a body part perspective but not complete. There is however much to recommend this up and coming pro and he will, should he continue to balance out his physique, be amongst the sport's best someday soon.

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.
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Sixth Place: Ben White

Although bringing his best ever development to the Flex Pro - including, as expected, conditioning that was among the competition's best and thick, round muscle bellies - Ben White was, when the dust settled, simply out-massed by Dennis Wolf and his equally massive peers.

With the possible exception of the exceptional Dexter Jackson, who really should have won this event, the Flex Pro top five featured more muscle than any professional top five - excluding of course the premier Olympia and Arnold events - in recent memory. White, though ready to do battle - on any other stage he may have trumped the field - was overlooked in favor of the more massive competitors, who had brought their respective A-games. Ben will be back.

Ben White At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Ben White At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Ben White At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Fifth Place: Ben Pakulski

The "other" Ben was a different story entirely. On his relatively short frame Pakulski had made significant improvements on top of those he first presented in his professional debut at the 2010 New York Pro. With legs to rival Branch Warren's and an upper body reminiscent of a career-best Dennis James - with perhaps a smaller waist and greater frontal detail, but a weaker back, compared to the Menace - Pakulski presented a physique that will most certainly be right in the mix for all successive 2011 events.

Perhaps not as well balanced as some of his closest pro rivals the big Canadian surely has the conditioning and mass along with respectable proportions to make major waves in the IFBB.

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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Fourth Place: Dennis Wolf

Fourth place at the inaugural Flex Pro was probably not a fair placement for Dennis Wolf given the improvements in shape and conditioning he appears to have made since 2010. In the minds of many the most impressive competitor onstage, Wolf was, as readily observable, ready to win. At prejudging his stage presence indicated that he would be the victor, and who could blame him?

As the widest, most muscular man onstage and with what appeared to be career-best conditioning few would have complained had he won the show outright. With a structure that seemed less blocky than it had previously been and with his next closest competitor, Fouad Abiad, showing less balance and refinement, Wolf should probably have placed third at worst.

Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Dennis Wolf At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Third Place: Fouad Abiad

Touted as a possible threat to win the Flex Pro the massive Canadian - what do they put in the water supply over there? - Fouad Abiad did not disappoint. With top to bottom mass and complete develop to rival the best, Abiad was from the very first pre judging comparison clearly in the running for top five.

Making perhaps the biggest impact of any pro over recent years, Abiad continues to climb the pro rankings. Should he continue to make improvements to his overall balance while dialing it in as he did on the weekend, he will consistently challenge for the major placements for many years to come.

Fouad Abiad At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Fouad Abiad At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Fouad Abiad At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Second Place: Dexter Jackson

Age does not appear to have affected Dexter Jackson's ability to year after year present a tight, near-perfectly balanced physique heaped with quality muscle. In fact, I think such veterans call it muscle maturity. Either way, Jackson continues to be a pro bodybuilding force to be reckoned with. Last weekend's Flex Pro was no exception for the former Mr. Olympia and three-time Arnold Classic champion.

A majority of the hype surrounding the first ever Flex Pro Bodybuilding Championships was directed at Jackson's inclusion and centered on the almost universal agreement among fans and insides alike that he would win this show. At prejudging he certainly looked on track to be the first athlete to win the Flex Pro; though not as inhumanly ripped as he has been for previous outings he was in great shape and as cut as any athlete onstage was (Jackson's shredded conditioning standards do not apply to other pros who simply achieve a "ripped" state rather than "Dexter-like" refinement).

Add to this the fact he was the most balanced competitor in attendance with his usual degree of symmetry and proportion combining to make him one of the most aesthetically gifted pro bodybuilding athletes ever and you had a definite recipe for success. Although he did not have the immense size of eventual winner Evan Centopani, why he didn't win this show based on his superior overall physical development and shape remains a mystery.

Dexter Jackson At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Dexter Jackson At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Dexter Jackson At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Winner: Evan Centopani

I will not be bashing Evan Centopani here as he is a phenomenal bodybuilding athlete and deserves respect as being one of the sport's best: undoubtedly he will be amongst the IFBB top tier for a long time. His win at last year's New York Pro - his debut - was well-deserved. His Flex Pro victory appeared to be a different story.

Looking almost unbeatable in some shots - especially those from the side - Centopani makes a huge onstage impact. Combine such an imposing presence with great conditioning and you have a benchmark for modern-day pro bodybuilding success. But even on size and conditioning alone a good argument could be made for Dennis Wolf (my choice of the massive competitors) or Fouad Abiad (I presume many others would have sided with Abiad as being the eventual winner) winning this year's Flex Pro.

Evan Centopani At The 2011 Flex Pro Show. Evan Centopani At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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Evan Centopani At The 2011 Flex Pro Show.
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What made Centopani the desired choice, however, may have been the improvements he has made since early 2010 - though he still has several obvious weak body parts, a wide waist being one - and the shock factor his immense size may have created in the minds of the judges. Perhaps the IFBB wish to inject some new blood into the pro bodybuilding game to keep the sport interesting as we begin 2011? Whatever the case, Centopani's win could be considered a controversial one.

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