The Winner Of The 2011 Arnold Classic Will Be ...

Seldom has that question been harder to answer. But we offer some intriguing clues.

The Winner Of The 2011 Arnold Classic Will Be...

Why is this year's Arnold generating so much buzz?

Things really heated up for the Arnold Classic when Evan Centopani knocked off Dexter Jackson to win the 2011 Flex Pro on February 19. I started to write this preview article a few weeks before the Flex Pro, but when I got back from Santa Monica on Saturday night, I decided to scrap it and start over.

Until Saturday I was certain it would be Dexter going to head-to-head with Branch Warren for the 2011 Arnold Classic title. Well, they still could be, but I'm not nearly as certain as I was a few weeks ago.

What does The Blade need to do to turn the tables?

Dexter camp needs to step it up a bit if he's going to defeat Branch and that other guy, Evan Centopani, aka "Ox" if you're a fan of the Animal web site by Universal Nutrition. Jackson has been training with Charles Glass at Gold's Gym in Venice in attempt to add some additional mass to his physique.

At the Flex Pro I couldn't see any, and he was a little smoother than I've seen him in the past. He was noticeably holding water in his hams. His upper body was still sharp, but his legs lacked their usual crispness.

Whether Dexter was using the Flex Pro as a only warm-up for the Arnold is open for debate. If, indeed, that was the case, we should see sharp improvements in Dexter's conditioning.

Personally, I think Jackson should pull out all the stops and use the two weeks in between shows and come in completely peeled. Forget about adding mass. He places better when he's the sharpest guy in the show.

Will Branch be able to crunch the momentum of upstart Evan Centopani and finally become the Arnold Classic Champion? Nothing has changed in the Branch Warren camp. He's still out in Texas where he's hoisting up tremendous poundages, eating fresh bison he hunted himself, doing his cardio and dieting down for the show.

His focus is keen and he's ready to bring home another trophy in addition to the "most muscular" award he wins every year. He wants that coveted Arnold statue so he can proudly display it in his home in Texas.

So can Centopani win again, this time in Columbus?

He's the wildcard. If he can come in the same shape as he was at the Flex Pro or even improve a bit, he'll be a legitimate threat to Branch and Dexter (if Dex is sharper, of course).

It's difficult to predict how Evan will look when he does two shows in a row. The guy only competes once every two years or so and then he goes back to offseason mode. Whether he can hold a peak for two shows is something that needs to be seen because he's never done it before.

Dude, what's the story with Victor Martinez?

Victor Martinez is another competitor with a legitimate chance of winning this year's Arnold Classic. Martinez won the show in 2007, placed second at the Mr. Olympia the same year, and then injured his knee in preparing to defend his Arnold Classic title in 2008. The resulting surgery knocked him out of competition until the 2009 Arnold Classic where he placed second.

Victor has struggled to revive the look he displayed at the 2007 Mr. Olympia. (Many of his loyal fans still argue on the forums that Vic should have won that show!) His 2009 and 2010 showings at the Mr. Olympia were disappointing. It seems he hasn't been able to live up to the potential many people say he has.

He's under the guidance of Oscar Ardon this year. Having Oscar overseeing his prep might be the determining factor in Victor's quest to come in totally shredded instead of having that slight film of muscle-blurring water hanging out just beneath his skin. How about the rest of the field?

Dennis Wolf is finally in the show this year. He's bypassed it several times because of injury or other reasons, but this year he's throwing his hat into the ring with rest of them.

It's difficult to predict how he will fare in this competition. He hasn't been known for consistency and it's been a few years since he's done any back-to-back shows without at least a few months in between competitions. Since he just competed in the Flex Pro, it might be helpful for him to make a few adjustments in his diet to come in at his all-time best. That plan might backfire too and he could come in worse than he was at the Flex Pro.

Wolf placed fourth at the Flex Pro and he might have been as high as third had he tightened up a bit for the finals, but he didn't and Abiad did. Fouad Abiad placed third because of that.

If Dennis is on, he has the potential to place in the top six. If he's off, more off than the Flex Pro, then he's looking at a top-ten spot. He really needs his conditioning to be on point to place well. His sheer size just isn't enough to carry him through to the top six because of the other high-quality competitors.

Sixth-place Olympia finisher, Ronny Rockel is back for another try at the Arnold Classic. Last year I thought he might have placed as high as fourth, but the judges saw him in sixth place. Ronny keeps making steady progress and he might be land in the top six again this year.

Last year's new sensation at the Arnold Classic was Roelly Winklaar. He impressed a lot of people with his seventh-palce finish. He went on to win the New York Pro a few months later.

His first shot at the Mr. Olympia was disappointing for Roelly because he was not at his best. He most likely tried to fit in too many shows last year. Nonetheless, he had a great rookie year and had a few months to rest. Roelly is one to look out for if he's in shape and full.

Fouad Abiad came on strong at the Flex Pro and earned a well-deserved invite to the Arnold Classic. Fouad surprised a lot of people when he placed ahead of Dennis Wolf at the Flex Pro. In this lineup, Abiad is probably looking at a top-ten finish, but if he holds his peak, he might be in the top eight.

Essa Obaid is the dark horse for this event. He was last year's Arnold Amateur Champion and won his pro debut at one of the Europa shows last summer. He bypassed the Olympia and is concentrating on the Arnold Classic.

His physique isn't the prettiest, but he's got lots of size and crazy conditioning. he could be in the top ten, but there are to many quality physiques in this competition to place higher. But then again, I picked Roelly to finsh last in 2010 and he ended up in seventh. So who knows?

Toney Freeman is not thinking about retiring yet. He still has things to accomplish on the competive stage so he's not backing down just yet. If Toney is full and ripped, he's top five. If he's ripped and flat, he'll be n the top ten. If he's smooth he's out of the top ten. You never can tell with the X-Man. Which X-Man will show up?

What big names are missing from this year's contest?

The biggest news for this year's Arnold Classic, before Evan won the Flex Pro, was that neither Kai Greene or Phil Heath will be in the show.

Both athletes have decided to bypass it and concentrate on the Mr. Olympia in September of this year. Kai Greene won the 2009 and 2010 Arnold Classics and Phil Heath placed an unforgettable and controversial second last year.

With those two absent, it opens up the possibility for a new champion to be crowned. Or a former champ could reclaim the title. Anyway you look at it, a great show is in the making.

All right, bro-so who's gonna win this thing?

The Arnold Classic has been one of the more difficult competitions to predict the outcome. I thought seeing a sneak preview of a few of the competitors at the Flex Pro would make it easier. It hasn't; it made it tougher.

Branch Warren has shown remarkable consistency over the last few years and if he continues in that trend, he'll be very difficult to beat. He's placed ahead of Dexter several times now and he's been ahead of Victor and Wolf too. Branch has not faced Evan yet so that match-up will be something for the history books.

Almost any of the guys who I think will make the top ten could easily be in the top six. The top three is not out of the realm of possibilities for many of them. As every competition goes, it'll depend on who comes in shape.

At this level, very small details will be the difference between first, second and third. Fourth through seventh is always very close in most shows and the guys who place 8th through 11th or 12th are always just a few drops of water away from the place in front of them or behind them.

So again I will stick my neck out (as I always say) and give my predictions for the 2011 Arnold Classic. Here goes nothing:

  • 10th: Toney Freeman
  • 9th: Essa Obaid
  • 8th: Fouad Abiad
  • 7th: Roelly Winklaar
  • 6th: Dennis Wolf
  • 5th: Ronny Rockel
  • 4th: Victor Martinez
  • 3rd: Dexter Jackson
  • 2nd: Evan Centopani
  • 1st: Branch Warren

Here is the complete competitor list and some of their stats:

Fouad Abiad

Age: 32
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 245 Pounds

Evan Centopani

United States
Age: 29
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 250 pounds

Toney Freeman

United States
Age: 44
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 295 pounds

Johnnie Jackson

United States
Age: 40
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 255 pounds

Dexter Jackson

United States
Age: 41
Height: 5'6-1/2"
Weight: 235 pounds

Victor Martinez

Dominican Republic
Age: 37
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 255 pounds

Essa Obaid

United Arab Emirates
Age: 31
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 250 pounds

Ben Pakulski

Age: 29
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 255 pounds

Robert Piotrkowicz

Age: 37
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 250 pounds

Ronny Rockel

Age: 38
Height: 5'6"
Weight: 225 pounds

Sergey Shelestov

Age: 32
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 245 pounds

Branch Warren

United States
Age: 36
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 245 pounds

Roelly Winklaar

Age: 33
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 250 pounds

Dennis Wolf

Age: 32
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 270 pounds

Mohammed Touri

Age: Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 215 pounds