The 2012 IFBB Pro will begin the year with the Second Annual Flex Pro in Santa Monica, Calif., February 18. This year's 16 competitors will bring the oiled and striated heat to compete for an Olympia qualification. The Flex Pro will set the tone for the rest of this year's competitions.
Last year's competition was fierce: Evan Centopani was the champion, followed closely by Dexter Jackson and Fouad Abiad. Neither Jackson nor Centopani are competing this year, leaving Abiad next in line for the title. Don't put all of your eggs into Abiad's basket though. The experts on the Bodybuilding.com forums have a little something to say about who they think will win. As do I, for that matter.
Let's start with my take on the top contenders. The spotlight - lighting makes these giants look even bigger - is on these 6 front-runners:
Fouad Abiad is the favorite going into this competition. Though he placed third last year, he was good enough to beat Dexter Jackson.
At the Arnold Classic a couple of weeks later, Abiad had some water-retention problems and lost his sharpness. Keep your eyes on him this year, though. I expect him to dial it in 100 percent.
HollywoodJohn on the forums thinks, "Abiad is able to get that thin-skinned, grainy look like Dorian, but only when he completely nails his conditioning. If he has that, he wins the show. If, (and this is a huge if), Beyeke doesn't come in completely shredded, which he has yet to do."
Microspot agrees, "Fouad placed third at this show last year on a line-up composed of Evan Centopani, Dexter Jackson and Dennis Wolf. This year's line-up is much weaker; it's his show to lose. I bet he will show up in shape and take it."
Lionel Beyeke gained 30 pounds since his pro debut in 2009. Beyeke impressed a lot of fans with his dynamic showing at last year's New York Pro.
If he can bring up his conditioning, Lionel could give Fouad some trouble for the first-place trophy. He's also working with coach Hany Rambod, and "The Procreator" has one heck of a track record.
Forum expert Davis Forman believes Beyeke has work to do: "Having the greatest genetic potential at the show by far, Lionel is another one of the favorites heading into the first show of the 2012 season. However, Lionel is quickly becoming known for showing up with poor conditioning. Last year, he was beat by smaller competitors who were simply sharper than him. In this stacked line-up, Lionel will need to come in sharp to place well."
HollywoodJohn thinks along the same lines: "Beyeke is a bigger guy than Fouad and is arguably more genetically gifted. Better lines, better muscle bellies, better insertions and tie-ins. Yes, he has the striations and the separation, but he always shows up with that watery, soft look to him. If he shows up dry enough, he's likely to win the show."
Eduardo Correa didn't compete last year because he was resting after surgery on his torn triceps. This former 202 competitor is giving the open class the ol' college try.
Correa is known for his amazing conditioning and displays incredible striations over his entire body. He'll be in the top five, but I can't see Correa winning since he's up against some guys who are much bigger than him.
HollywoodJohn calls Correa the "Dark horse."
Red-cat also thinks Correa has a sporting chance: "Without having to meet the 202 weight requirement, you've got to think that Correa will bring a thick physique. Couple that with his solid conditioning and he could really do some damage in this lineup."
Ben Pakulski is one of those competitors who could do really well or really poor. When he came out on stage last year he looked incredible. As the judging progressed, however, he deflated before our eyes; he smoothed out and his fullness disappeared in a matter of minutes. He can avoid that this year with better carb and water manipulation.
"Ben showed up last year with less-than-stellar conditioning, but has shown in the past that he is capable of coming in peeled. Although he will be one of the biggest competitors at the show, he also brings a number of weak points with him: his back and arms could be major trouble for him. If he has made improvements to these areas and can bring the conditioning he's proven capable of, he will be a tough man to beat," said DavisForman.
HollywoodJohn disagrees. He thinks that Pakulski has "the worst chance." But he also says that Pakulski "has proven that he can be dangerous. At the ASC last year, Ben beat Fouad. If he can replicate his 2010 New York Pro conditioning, he could likely beat anyone."
Shawn Rhoden has great shape, but I think he will look small next to Abiad, Beyeke and Pakulski.
I see Rhoden in about fourth place, but if the other guys aren't conditioned well, he could easily move higher.
Microspot agreed. He thinks the only thing holding Rhoden back "is his size, which most likely won't be much improved since the Olympia."
Red-cat, on the other hand thinks he has "the best lines in the show. Regardless of what other people say, I think he has the mass to hang with bigger competitors."
For the most part, I agree with the guys in the forum, but I add Mark Dugdale as a strong contender. I don't see him placing ahead of Abiad, but I could see him breaking into the top four.
A former 202 competitor, Dugdale plans to come in at 215 pounds for the Flex Pro. He'll also compete a week later and a few pounds lighter at the 212 Show in Arizona at the Desert Muscle. 212 is a better weight for Dugdale.
He had a rough time trying to suck down to 202, and sacrificed too much of his size.
Because he's competitive by nature, Mark will do fine in any category. If he can bring the conditioning from the 2009 202 showdown and add another 10-15 pounds of muscle, he could end up in the top five.
The Competitor List
|Fouad Abiad||Canada||6'2"||284 lbs||Yes|
|Grigori Atoyan||Armenia||5'8"||230 lbs|
|Lionel Beyeke||France||5'10"||232 lbs||Yes|
|Lionel Brown||U.S.||5'9"||274 lbs|
|Eduardo Correa||Brazil||5'7"||202 lbs|
|Omar Deckard||U.S.||6'1"||260 lbs|
|Constantinos Demetriou||Australia||5'8"||220 lbs|
|Mark Dugdale||U.S.||5'6"||198 lbs|
|Stan Efferding||U.S.||6'0"||260 lbs|
|Oleg Emelyanov||Russia||5'11"||244 lbs|
|DeShaun Grimez||U.S.||5'10"||228 lbs|
|Rusty Jeffers||U.S.||5'9"||230 lbs|
|Ben Pakulski||Canada||5'10"||270 lbs||Yes|
|Shawn Rhoden||U.S.||5'9.5"||238 lbs||Yes|
|Vladimir Sizov||Russia||5'9"||220 lbs|
|Mehmet Yildirim||France||5'9"||240 lbs|