2008 Arnold Classic Preview
A few months ago, the winner of the Arnold Classic seemed to be somewhat of a foregone conclusion. After winning the event in 2007 and taking a close, controversial second at the Mr. Olympia, Victor Martinez seemed destined to put his second consecutive AC title on his competitive resume.
When a knee injury requiring immediate surgery took Victor out of the contest, the floodgates of potential competitors who could snatch the crown burst open. Let's take a look at the incredible field of competitors hoping to have the Governator hand them the overall trophy when the dust settles.
The Four Aces
1st Phil Heath
Fresh off a dominant victory at the 2008 Ironman, I have
Phil penciled in as the man to beat at the
Arnold Classic. Phil had as good an off season this side of
Dorian Yates' black sock gym photos, gaining fifteen pounds of pure muscle since taking 5th at the 2007 AC. And the muscle is in all the right places, dramatically improving his back and upper chest.
I can best describe his
Ironman condition as shocking, with muscular detail, separation and striations from head to toe. The wild card for Phil will be whether he can hold on to that condition in the two weeks between the shows without stringing out and losing any of his newfound size and fullness.
2nd Dexter Jackson
Make no mistake about it,
Dexter was the odds on favorite before the Ironman and is still considered the front runner by most. I'm a huge fan of Dexter's physique and have long argued that he should have at least one Sandow and another AC on his mantle with the two sitting there already.
He has been the most consistent competitor in the pros for many years, has incredible symmetry and has set the standard for contest condition. Every bodybuilding fan in the country is chomping at the bit for that first callout when Phil and Dexter will stand next together and go at it, pose for pose. If you aren't attending the event, make sure to see it for yourself here at Bodybuilding.com on the free
3rd Melvin Anthony
Melvin gave fans a sneak peek at the Ironman when giving out a trophy and looks to be dialing it in perfectly for the Arnold. With consecutive 5th and 6th place finishes at the last two
Olympias, Melvin was already a force to be reckoned with before his most recent improvements.
His shape is second to none, with a crazy back tapering down to a miniscule waist and flaring quads. Melvin has closed the gap between he and Dexter over the last two years, but has he gotten close enough to overtake him? The biggest problem for Mel will be looking conditioned when standing next to the crazy hardness that Dex and Phil will almost surely have on display.
4th Gustavo Badell
Gustavo looked incredible at the Ironman, vastly improving on the package he displayed at the Olympia. His midsection was more streamlined and his legs were bigger, while his condition was reminiscent of when he took third at the Olympia a few years ago.
Gustavo tends to look a little off when the prejudging starts and then gains momentum as he sheds a slight film of water. Last year, he came from behind to finish 4th and beat Phil and he holds victories over everyone in this lineup, so it's all going to come down to who nails it on Saturday.
The Wild Cards - In No Particular Order
Moe El Moussawi
Moe was the shock of the Ironman, placing third and getting the special invite to the Arnold. He weighed 232 at the Ironman, but told me that he was 248 in the same condition before flying over from his home of New Zealand. He plans on coming in at the AC at least ten pounds heavier in even better condition and could turn out to be the surprise of the AC as well if he does.
Word on the street is that
Branch is in crazy condition for this show, which makes him dangerous. The real question is what the judges will do with Branch. Standing in this lineup next to the large number of more shapely, streamlined physiques will invoke the ultimate apples vs. oranges debate.
Kai looked amazing when he brokeout in 2007, winning the
Colorado Pro show. Rumors have it that he competed around 240 and got as high as 312 pounds in the off season. If that's true, I could see Kai having trouble nailing his condition, which he must to do to be competitive here. If he has improved his chest and nails his condition, he could take down an ace or two.
I'm not sure anyone has more at stake at this show than the X-Man. After taking 14th at the Olympia and a disappointing 8th at the Ironman,
Toney must nail his condition and score a top six placing to get back on track. He has incredible size and shape and was close enough at the Ironman to use the two weeks to nail it. If he does, he's immediately in contention for a top three to five spot.
The world's busiest bodybuilder looked great when he placed fourth at the Ironman. While his condition was on the money and he looked tremendous from the front and side,
Sil needs to thicken his back and hamstrings to knock out an ace. I don't expect that to happen at this show, but if he takes a break from competing and focuses on adding that muscle, he'll be knocking on the door of the upper echelon come Olympia time.
You've got to be really good to beat
Lee Priest to win a pro show in Australia and
Ronny is that good. He has great arms and legs with very dense, refined muscle throughout his physique. He has beaten Branch numerous times, but I don't see him breaking the top six in this lineup.
Johnnie Jackson & Desmond Miller
These two battled for the last qualifying spot at the Ironman, with
Johnnie taking 5th and Desmond 6th. They have opposite physiques, with
Desmond displaying one of the best sets of legs in bodybuilding and a very weak back while Johnnie is light in the legs and has a great back. If JOJ dials it in, he could jump to the top of the wild cards.
After taking tenth at the Mr. Olympia,
David slipped to 12th at the Ironman where he failed to display the extreme condition he needs to if he is going to be competitive with the larger athletes. If he is shredded to the bone, he can get in the sixth to tenth mix.
Adorthus Cherry & Deshaun Grimez
Welcome to the big leagues, boys.
Adorthus won his class at the 2007 Nationals while
Deshaun got his pro card at the 2007 USA. To say this is a jump in class is like saying
Jay Cutler is a pretty big guy...a gross understatement. Good luck to both of them.
Remember to watch the exclusive, free webcast of the event that I'll be co-hosting along with my PBW teammates, Dan Solomon and Bob Cicherillo here on Bodybuilding.com!