Warren Wins, But Was The Real Victor Martinez?
Some big names and big surprises were the theme of this year's Arnold Classic, and Giles Thomas goes over his predictions and what he saw during the competition.
Finally, Big Bad Branch has won the Arnold after so many attempts - a 2nd place finish in 2006, 7th in 2007, 4th in 2008, and 3rd in 2009/2010.
After moving up at the Olympia with a 2nd place finish in 2009 and a 3rd place finish in 2010, it's no shocker that all Warren had to do was show up in decent shape to take home the Arnold title and a hefty check worth $140,000. Did his physique fit the bill?
Personally, once I got past the shock factor of Branch's freaky size and unreal physique, I began to break down his body, and the conclusion I came to was that he wasn't his all-time best for the Arnold; in fact, I would say both of his last two Olympia appearances overshadowed this one, big time.
After analyzing the photo shots, I noticed a thicker waist than we're used to seeing from Branch and maybe a drop in upper body size, but you can take a look at the pictures and see for yourself. I didn't predict Branch winning here today, and had my money on Victor Martinez.
In my opinion, Branch brought brutal size, a good physique, but to be honest a bit of a watery back (don't tell his prep-guru George Farah). And as far as what I expect from a pro bodybuilder, the Dominican Dominator checked off all the right boxes.
I must admit, my heart did sink when the Most Muscular Athlete trophy (the Arnold's own kiss of death) was awarded to Branch yet again. Still, Warren stormed to victory with a clean sweep of first places from the judges. Next stop, the Olympia - watch out, Jay!
Crazy width, tiny waist, and devastating poses that few could match - I had a hunch that Wolf would take 3rd here today, but I didn't think his weaknesses would allow him to pass Victor.
In the past 2-3 years, Dennis supposedly backed off on quads training to focus on his calves, hams and glutes - really? His quads are bigger than before and his calves are even smaller!
Still, he's figured out his tanning and has been nailing his contest conditioning. Even though I'd have placed him 3rd, 2nd is only one notch away.
If Dennis rectifies his weaker body parts, could we be looking at the next heir to Cutler's throne? I think so. At age 30, Wolf has time on his side to do it.
Someone call the cops, because Victor got robbed! I'll admit that he might only have deserved a 2nd place finish, but third... no way!
Give me a break, Victor has come back with a vengeance, and in my opinion, nobody in the IFBB pro ranks has this man's stunning combo of crazy lines, mass, conditioning, and overall look.
I look at Victor and dream what it would be like to own a killer shape like that, but he hasn't had the best luck if you've followed his career.
When I was backstage before all the guys went out, who would you guess all the eyes were on? Not Branch, not Wolf, it was Martinez.
I hope he gets justice at the Olympia, or I might completely lose faith.
Way to go, Big Evan! This was potentially one of the most anticipated appearances of the night - why? Well, in the three times Centopani has competed, he has won, making him undefeated coming up to the Arnold!
Trust the killer standards of the Arnold to bring that streak to a halt, but I was impressed by the size and condition (especially the rear double biceps pose) of Evan. Still, I couldn't get fired up over his shape.
He's not lacking anything in any areas, but he isn't dominating in any areas either. 4th was a fair finish for Evan, the judges did a good job. Not a bad placing for his first time here in Columbus.
After a few shaky appearances on stage at the 2009 Olympia and 2010 Arnold, many thought the steady descent of the Blade's placements indicated something, especially after winning the Olympia in 2008.
But then something happened, at last year's Olympia we were given arguably the best Jackson we've ever seen - even better than when he won the Olympia in 2008.
He seemed to be showing us that the best of Dex had yet to come! However, we saw the best-ever Blade 6 months ago in Vegas only to see the worst-ever Blade here in Columbus.
The Blade was definitely in need of a good sharpening, and I hope this isn't the beginning to an end. I'd like to see him regain his giant, killer look that he has given us time and again over the past 12 years.
No shock here - I knew popular Ronny would make top 6. Having made steady improvements with each successive show in the last 5 years, Rockel has a body that will most likely lock down a top 6 placement, every time.
Personally, I'd have moved him up a spot and placed Dexter at 6th.
Another big surprise for this year's Arnold was Johnnie. His legs weren't as much of a glaring weakness as in the past, and that rock hard condition he seldom achieves was definitely in pro mode at the Arnold.
Throw in one of the all-time thickest upper bodies in the IFBB and you have a solid finish for a great athlete.
Coming in 8th when you are noticeably "off" and still a rookie speaks volumes to how good Roelly is even when he turns up looking 2-3 weeks away from his potential condition.
I don't know how he did it, but Roelly looked a week sharper for the night show and truly gave us a glimpse of his limitless potential. I thought Winklaar might well have got the best posing routine here tonight, but he must have narrowly lost.
If Roelly was in the same kind of condition when he won the New York Pro last May, then I can tell you Dexter would probably have lost another spot!
Toney was better than at his 9th place finish at the Olympia last September - possessing a sharper and fuller physique. As one of the more gifted athletes in terms of structure and overall genetic shape, I'm a big fan of super-cool Freeman.
It's easy to see why they call him the X-Man when you see that killer shoulder-to-waist taper of his. He also owned the stage in what I think was his best posing routine to date - that guy is one smooth operator when he's doing his thing on the dais.
Ben was one of my biggest favorites of the day. Those crazy legs and deltoids are simply incredible. Judging from his massive lines, shape, and aesthetics - Ben checked every box.
10th at the Arnold is not a bad placing, but I have a feeling that a fierce young pup like Pakulski will want more from himself in the future.
At the rate he is improving combined with the attention his back and arms are getting, I could easily see Ben placing top 6 next year. I'm just hoping he goes on to qualify for the Olympia - I could see him making top ten in Vegas in September!
I think Sergey could have swapped with Fouad for this placing. I like Sergey's physique, and when he stands by himself he's an impressive sight. However, when you have such tough company, those weaknesses are highlighted and it's easy to be outshone.
Still, this was the best condition I've seen him in for a couple of years, so well done.
I'm not surprised with Fouad's placing here today. Despite making significant improvements to his entire physique in the last year, I see a lot of improvements for Fouad to focus on.
I believe he has what it takes to rise up a level and be a serious threat in any show he enters. A 3rd place finish at the Flex Pro two weeks previous, beating today's 4th place finisher Dennis Wolf, is an indication of Fouad's worth.
He told me backstage he needs rest and wasn't happy with his condition, but I was pretty impressed - ripped glutes and he was pretty dry to boot.
A very respectable showing, but at this level your game always has to have the letter "A" in front of it.
No way in hell did the Middle East's 2010 overall amateur and 2010 Europa Pro winner Essa deserve anything this low. He was by far the most solid guy in the entire line-up.
With last year's weaker areas brought up to almost perfect balance and some dynamite poses, I would have had no problem swapping him to Dexter Jackson's spot.
Was it a case of the newcomer paying his dues and all that jazz? Probably so, but I hope this stunning new professional gets some love thrown back his way at the upcoming British Grand Prix.
No huge surprise here - Robert taking last place in this group proves that bigger is not always better. I preferred Robert's shape back in 2006-07, when he was taking wins or top placements at the IFBB Euro-Elite amateur tours.
Robert was probably 20 pounds lighter back then, but the waistline was tight and his physique was unreal. But this is the IFBB, and the trend I'm seeing from this year's and last year's Olympia results is that size rules, period.