In stark contrast to the eagerly anticipated excitement that accompanied the 2013 Mr. Olympia, this year’s event has snuck up on us with little fanfare or media “buzz”. The ads for this year’s biggest event in bodybuilding have more to do with the 50th Mr. Olympia contest than the actual specific competition.
Last year, the bodybuilding world was extremely excited over the return of four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler to the Olympia line-up. After Jay’s remarkable comeback victory in 2009, many of his huge fan base were waiting to see the biggest upset in bodybuilding history as Teacher Jay would put his Student Phil back in his place. Unfortunately, the hype did not live up to reality and Cutler failed to show the mass or dominance that he displayed in 2009 as he limped into the sixth place position.
In 2013, there was also the hype over the next Big Thing in bodybuilding, the incomprehensibly massive Big Ramy aka Mamdouh Elssbiay. Ramy came out of nowhere (well, Egypt) and won the 2013 New York Pro Show over a struggling Victor Martinez. Pictures of Big Ramy in the gym tested the limits of reality and many in the bodybuilding community flirted with the idea of a virtual unknown competitor coming in and winning the Mr. Olympia title on his first try. Could this actually happen? As it turns out, it didn’t. Big Ramy was definitely big but he didn’t create the impact that so many had been anticipating when he stepped onstage at the 2013 Mr. Olympia. He ended up in eighth place.
As we rapidly approach the 2014 Mr. Olympia, the general consensus in the bodybuilding world seems to be one of predictability instead of surprise. Most experts seem to feel that Phil Heath will repeat again for another Mr. Olympia victory (his fourth). As for perennial runner-up Kai Greene, Big Ramy and this year’s Arnold Classic champion Dennis Wolf? The overall feeling seems to be wait and see. After last year’s disappointing showing by so many of the top contenders (how many Olympia competitors were actually ripped and in top contest shape in 2013?), the bodybuilding world this year will calmly sit back and wait to be shocked and awed. Mr. Olympia competitors, it’s your move.
Here are my predictions for the 2014 Mr. Olympia contest. This is based on past performance, gut instinct and total conjecture. I don’t know what any one of the competitors looks like one week out from the contest and the only thing that really matters is what will they look like when they step onstage with all the other competitors to contend for the 50th Mr. Olympia contest. Here we go…
19th Place - Ibrahim Fahim - Ibrahim is the least known competitor entering the 2014 Mr. Olympia. He qualified for the contest by winning the Amateur Mr. Olympia contest in 2013. Like Big Ramy, Ibrahim is from Egypt so he may surprise us with his physique and conditioning but he will need to be outstanding in order to be noticed in his first Mr. Olympia contest. From his pictures, Ibrahim looks to have an excellent upper body with good thickness and conditioning along with a small waistline. However, his legs don’t look in proportion to his upper body and this, along with his relative anonymity, will most likely place him near the bottom of the line-up.
18th Place - Jojo Ntiforo - Jojo is actually one of my favorite physiques competing in bodybuilding. I wrote in a review years ago that his physique reminds me a little of Lee Haney’s eight-time Mr. Olympia body. Jojo is blessed with full, round muscle bellies, a tapered waistline and big, sweeping quadriceps. Unfortunately, Jojo is never ripped enough to take advantage of these genetic gifts. This year, however, he seems to have come upon the correct diet regime necessary to compete both ripped and full. He placed fourth at the Europa Supershow and was 5th at the Golden State Pro. He will need to dramatically exceed that condition in order to make the top ten at the Olympia. If he slips a little and comes in too smooth, Jojo will be finishing near the bottom.
17th Place - Johnnie Jackson - Johnnie has been a pro bodybuilder for 13 years and it seems his best placings are now behind him. He placed out of the money at last year’s Mr. Olympia contest (below 15th place) and his placings this year have ranged from good to poor. He was second to Juan Morel at the Toronto Pro Show and third in the Europa Supershow in Dallas, but he dropped all the way to ninth place at the Golden State Pro. Johnnie has remarkable thickness in his upper body with crazy traps that Kai Greene could only wish for and super thick pecs and lats but his legs always let him down. If he comes in super hard and dense, he will have a better chance to make the top 15.
16th Place - Fred Smalls - Fred is regarded as the most entertaining poser in professional bodybuilding today. His combination of dance, hip hop and raw energy is always a crowd pleasing performance. In bodybuilding competitions, Fred is more in the middle of the pack instead of at the top. He placed second at the Chicago Pro in 2012 but has not made the top five in any of the three shows he entered this year. He was out of the top ten at the Arnold Classic this year and only took sixth place at the Australia Grand Prix. Hopefully, Fred will provide another entertaining posing routine for the Olympia audience this year, but I don’t see him placing in the top fifteen.
15th Place - Essa Obiad - Essa is an excellent bodybuilder with his freaky combination of muscle thickness and grainy hardness. He usually places very well in the smaller pro shows like the Tampa Pro or the Europa Pro shows but never does well in the Mr. Olympia. Last year, Essa was out of the top 15 at the Olympia and I think he’ll place close to that again in 2014. He only competed once this year, taking second to William Bonac at the Golden State Pro. If he is fully rested and comes into the Olympia at his all-time best, he could crack the top ten. Essa looks better from the front with his strong points being his chest, delts and arms, but his back does not match up so this could hurt him in the biggest show of the year.
14th Place - Lionel Beyeke - It’s been a disappointing year for genetic freak Lionel Beyeke in 2014. After last year’s breakout season, placing second at the Chicago Pro Show and the Nordic Pro as well as a strong 10th place showing at the Mr. Olympia, Lionel doesn’t seem as hungry or as dominating as he was last contest season. Many had him as the winner in the 2014 Arnold Classic Brasil, but he placed a disappointing and controversial fourth. Maybe that contest took the wind out his sails because he has not peaked for a contest since then, taking fourth in the New York Pro and fifth at the Toronto Pro. Lionel was tenth at last year’s Olympia and he certainly has the potential to equal or better that placing but he needs to come in hard and super full again like he did last year. I’m betting that he won’t and will end up out of the top ten.
13th Place - Branch Warren - Predicting that Branch Warren will place out of the top ten at the Mr. Olympia contest is like saying Meryl Streep won’t be nominated for an Oscar next year or the New England Patriots won’t make the NFL playoffs. It borders on sacrilegious heresy. After all, Branch is one of the most popular and beloved competitors in the IFBB. He is a two-time Arnold Classic winner and was runner-up to Jay Cutler at the 2009 Mr. Olympia. However, training injuries and Father Time have incurred their wrath on the Branch Warren physique and he does not look as dominating in the line-up as he did only a few years ago. Although he did win the Europa Supershow earlier in the year, it was a close decision in a weaker line-up. How will he do against the top dogs like Phil, Kai, Wolf and Dexter? For that matter, how will Branch stack up against some of the young talented guns like Kuclo, De La Rosa and Morel? Branch placed ninth at last year’s Olympia, defeating some very tough bodybuilders like Lionel Beyeke, Victor Martinez, Cedric McMillan, Evan Centopani and Steve Kuclo. My guess is that he won’t have the ammunition to place that high again this time.
12th Place - Jonathan De La Rosa - Now in his third year as a pro, Jonathan De La Rosa will be making his debut at the Mr. Olympia contest. Jonathan had an excellent year in 2014, taking second place to Justin Compton at the Europa Show of Champions followed by top three placings at the Arnold Classic Brasil, New York Pro and the Toronto Pro. De La Rosa has great thickness in his physique and, if he can come in dry and conditioned, he has a good chance at making the top ten at his first Mr. Olympia. His shorter, compact physique will be challenged by taller and more aesthetic frames such as exhibited by Kuclo, Morel and Wolf, but De La Rosa seems to have the winning formula for dialing in his condition, so expect him to be near that coveted top ten.
11th Place - Juan Morel - Another bodybuilder making his Olympia debut this year is Juan Morel. Juan had an even more successful year than his fellow New Yorker, De La Rosa. He placed second at both the Arnold Classic Brasil and the New York Pro before winning the Toronto Pro. Morel is tall with a wide structure and round, full muscle bellies. His upper body seems ahead of his leg development but that didn’t seem to affect his placings with the judges this year. His strength is that he usually competes in top condition at every show he enters, displaying crisp definition to go along with his superior structure, fullness and size. Morel seems hungry and excited at his first chance to compete on the biggest stage in bodybuilding so I expect him to be in the best shape of his life and he should also be knocking on the door to the top ten.
10th Place - William Bonac - One of the biggest surprises in the pro bodybuilding world in 2014 was the emergence of William Bonac. Bonac showed promise last year but he really came to the forefront this contest season with a win at the Golden State Pro and two runner-up spots at the Australian Grand Prix and the Tampa Pro. Bonac is short in stature but super thick and massive (he has even been compared to the legendary Bertil Fox by some). His conditioning has been spot-on all year and if he can bring the same package to the Olympia, he could prove an upset and move all the way into the top ten. He certainly has momentum on his side after his win at the Golden State Pro and then a close second place to winner Victor Martinez at the Tampa Pro one week later. Many see Bonac as one of the new, young future stars in the sport and I’m betting his fabulous physique will not be denied on Bodybuilding’s biggest night.
9th Place - Steve Kuclo - This will be Steve Kuclo’s second consecutive Mr. Olympia contest and I think he will move into the top ten this year. Kuclo has all the tools needed to be at the very top of the sport with his big structure, good shape and symmetry and excellent muscle mass. He has had two controversial wins over the last couple of years, beating a rock hard Essa Obiad in 2013 at the Europa Supershow and then coming in first place again this year at the Arnold Brasil over Lionel Beyeke, Jonathan De La Rosa and Juan Morel. Despite the debate over his victories, the general consensus is that Kuclo has the look that the judges like. If he comes into his all-time best condition at the Mr. Olympia this year, I think he will be rewarded by moving into the elite top ten in the world.
8th Place - Victor Martinez - Victor Martinez is back, as evidenced by his impressive win at the Tampa Pro show this summer. After one disappointing setback after another, Victor has overcome his many obstacles and finally arrived in top shape just in time for the Mr. Olympia. With his excellent shape and muscle mass, Victor should move up the ladder several notches from the 2013 Olympia when he was lodged in 11th place. At the Tampa Pro show, Victor looked improved from his fourth place finish at the Arnold Classic earlier in the year. If he can come into the Olympia just a little harder and more refined, I think Victor will have no problems with making the top ten and he may even make the posedown if he really nails his condition.
7th Place - Roelly Winklaar - I think Roelly will be the surprise competitor at the 2014 Mr. Olympia. Last year, Roelly took a step forward in his conditioning by winning the Chicago Pro Show and then entering the 2013 Olympia in fantastic shape. He eventually placed seventh but could have conceivably been one or two places higher. Just when he had all the momentum behind him, Roelly was involved in a bad motorcycle accident at the beginning of this year and had to drop out of the Arnold Classic. He repeated his Chicago Pro show win this year although he didn’t look quite as dominating as a year ago. However, based on recent internet pics of Roelly as he prepares for the Olympia, he looks like he is peaking just at the right time. With his freaky, out of this world thickness and mass, if Roelly comes in full and ripped, he will shock some of the top contenders. I think he will finish in at least seventh place and he obviously has the potential to move up the ladder even more depending on the condition he steps onstage in.
6th Place - Mamdouh Elssbiay (“Big Ramy”) - The Biggest Sensation in the bodybuilding world last year is set to make another impact at the Mr. Olympia in 2014. Similar to Roelly, Ramy had a slow start this year. He became ill in the weeks leading up to the New York Pro show with a congestive virus in his lungs and it looked like he was going to have to compete later in the year to quality for the Olympia. However, Big Ramy decided to compete in the New York Pro after all and he won the show quite handily. Although not quite as conditioned as the year before, Big Ramy was just way too BIG for the competition and he dominated the show. Some bodybuilding experts criticized him for not being in the same shape as a year ago but this can be explained because of the illness he had to contend with leading into the show. With several months of training and dieting behind him, I’m sure Big Ramy will be at this all-time best for the 2014 Mr. Olympia. His coach Dennis James knows Ramy’s physique well and will bring him into the biggest show in bodybuilding in top condition. Last year, Ramy did not make the impact that was expected of him and he placed a disappointing eighth. I think he will have less pressure on him in 2014 and he will be a big surprise on how well he stacks up with the Olympia favorites. I am predicting Big Ramy will make the posedown this year at the Mr. Olympia.
5th Place - Shawn Rhoden - Shawn Rhoden is one of the top Mr. Olympia contenders, as evidenced by his impressive fourth place finish last year and his close second place at the Arnold Classic this year. Shawn went on to win the Australian Grand Prix after the Arnold before taking some time off to prepare for the Olympia. Shawn’s strong points are his excellent symmetry and shape, highlighted by his tiny waist and flowing lines. He looked superior to Dennis Wolf in the overhead abdominal and hands on hips most muscular poses when they faced off against each other at the Arnold. If Shawn was able to add a few quality pounds of muscle in the months leading up to the Olympia, he should easily make the top five again. Like the champ, Phil Heath, Shawn is always in condition when he steps onstage and he was one of the few competitors last year at the Olympia that really hit his peak. Look for Shawn Rhoden to defeat some of the mass monsters again at this year’s Mr. Olympia.
4th Place - Dexter Jackson - Dexter, the 2008 Mr. Olympia winner, is always one of the most consistent competitors in the Mr. Olympia contest. While much of the pre-contest talk may center on other competitors, Dexter can always be relied upon to enter the Olympia in top shape. “The Blade” gained that nickname by always being in top condition every time he steps onstage. This year promises to be one of the highlights of Dexter’s stellar career. At 45 years old, Jackson looks like he may be in the biggest and possibly best condition of his life. Deciding to sit out the Arnold Classic this year, Dexter has gained considerable size in the off season. The combination of his new found muscle mass with his trademark conditioning could make Dexter Jackson one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 Mr. Olympia.
I saw Dexter guest pose at his NPC Dexter Jackson Classic in early August and was shocked at how big and hard Dexter looked. Jackson has been working relentlessly with Master Trainer Charles Glass out in Venice, California just to make sure he is the best he can be. My prediction is that Dexter is going to shock some people when he stands onstage at the 2014 Mr. Olympia.
3rd Place - Dennis Wolf - Dennis Wolf proved that his impressive third place finish at the 2013 Mr. Olympia contest was no fluke when he won the Arnold Classic earlier this year. Always considered one of the few pro bodybuilders who could possibly win the Mr. Olympia, Wolf routinely had a difficult time hitting his peak for the Big Show. Last year, Dennis nailed his condition perfectly and almost upset pre-contest favorite Kai Greene for that coveted runner-up spot at the Olympia. After his Arnold Classic win earlier this year, Dennis promises to improve upon that condition for the Mr. Olympia by competing bigger and fuller while retaining his stellar definition.
With his extremely wide shoulder width tapering to a small waistline, Dennis has a structure that won’t be matched on the Mr. Olympia stage. Wolf had his fair share of critics leading up to the Arnold Classic, predicting that the Big, Bad Wolf was a one show wonder and he wouldn’t be able to repeat his surprising Olympia performance. Now that Dennis has proved them all wrong, he has both the momentum and the confidence to step onstage and shock the world at the 2014 Mr. Olympia.
2nd Place - Phil Heath - Here is where it gets interesting! Is it possible that Phil Heath could lose the Mr. Olympia title this year and end up in the runner-up position? Heath has been a dominating Mr. Olympia winner since 2011 by competing every year in peak condition. Phil is called “The Gift” because of his amazing genetic endowments, including his full muscle bellies, amazing muscle separation and his freaky 3-D appearance onstage. Combine these amazing physical attributes with an aggressive stage presence, a “win at all costs” attitude and supreme confidence and Phil Heath is one intimidating bodybuilder.
Phil’s only criticism of his physique is his relative lack of shoulder width based on the length of his clavicles. His back development, one of his few weak points when he entered the pro ranks, is now one of the best on the Mr. Olympia stage. Although many other bodybuilders in the Mr. Olympia are bigger and wider than Phil, there are not many who can beat Heath in crazy muscle separation and freaky fullness. Phil Heath is just plain outrageous and he practically WILLS himself to victory every year by demanding that the judges award him the title over everyone else.
So, how can Phil Heath lose the Mr. Olympia this year? Every Mr. Olympia winner, no matter how dominating and intimidating they might be, eventually competes a little bit off, showing signs of weakness in their armor. Arnold Schwarzenegger came in “off” in his third Mr. Olympia win in 1972 and very nearly lost the title to Sergio Oliva. Lee Haney was pretty much perfect until his sixth Mr. Olympia win in 1989 when he competed too heavy and was pushed hard for the title by Lee Labrada. Dorian Yates seemed unbeatable until his third Mr. Olympia win in 1994 when he barely hung on for a victory with a torn bicep muscle over Shawn Ray and Kevin Levrone. Ronnie Coleman won three convincing Mr. Olympia titles but came very close to losing his fourth title to a surprising Jay Cutler in 2001.
Phil Heath won his first title in 2011 over Jay Cutler after barely losing to him the year before. In 2012, Phil was surprised by a peaked Kai Greene at the Olympia and bodybuilding fans all over the world were split by who they thought was the deserving winner. Last year, Kai came in too heavy for the prejudging and was out of contention. Phil, in fact, was sent back to the line-up after one series of hitting the mandatory poses, cementing his win decisively.
This will be Phil’s fourth win if he is successful. After last year’s dominating performance, this could be the year when Heath is finally vulnerable. He recently severed his business relationship with Muscle Tech to start up his own supplement line. Will these professional changes in his career affect his performance onstage? Phil seems too mentally strong and confident to let anything deter him from reaching peak condition again, but he is only human. The time might be ripe for an upset.
1st Place - Kai Greene - The curse of being Mr. Olympia is that it doesn’t take long before the fans want to see the King dethroned so the Underdog can be the new champion. No matter how dominating or well liked the current Mr. Olympia is, after a couple years of the same person winning, the bodybuilding fans want to see a change in the status quo. It makes the contest more exciting.
Kai Greene has been the “people’s champion” for the last couple of years. His gentle, sensitive demeanor is in stark contrast to the cocky and dominating personality of Phil Heath. The disparity of the two competitors was glaringly emphasized to dramatic effect in the film “Generation Iron”, a documentary released in 2013 that promised to be the new “Pumping Iron”. After the release of that film, Kai gained an even larger fan base and became the real People’s Champion.
Physically, Kai and Phil are perfect opponents. At basically the same height, each of them has dominant characteristics that the other cannot match. Phil has round muscle bellies with freaky separation and outrageous proportions. Kai is a massive, thick freak of muscle with legs and glutes that don’t look human and lats that bring to mind Coleman at his biggest. For the last two years, Phil has hit his peak perfectly with the right combination of fullness and hardness. Kai, on the other hand, has competed a little flat (2012) or too puffy (2013).
Kai’s coach, George Farah, has an explanation for Kai’s missed peak last year. After coming in a little flat at the Saturday night finals in 2012, George decided to correct that error by bringing Kai in big and full last year. They went a little overboard and Kai was holding too much water for the Friday night prejudging. By the time they corrected their mistake, Kai looked much improved for Saturday night but he had lost too much ground on Friday night to make up the difference.
One week later, Kai and Phil met again onstage at the Arnold Classic Europe in Spain. Many of those in attendance thought Kai Greene was the dominant winner, displaying freaky mass and thickness with shredded muscularity and conditioning. When Phil Heath was announced the winner, most of the crowd loudly booed the decision.
In 1997, one year before his surprising win at the Mr. Olympia contest, Ronnie Coleman took ninth place at the Olympia. The week following the Mr. Olympia, many of the top competitors (not including the current champ Dorian Yates) competed in Europe for a series of Professional Grand Prix events. Ronnie took sixth place in the first Grand Prix event but improved with each show. By the time of the final Grand Prix contest, the 1997 Grand Prix Russia, Ronnie Coleman surprised everyone by winning the contest. He defeated Kevin Levrone, Nasser el Sonbaty and Chris Cormier among others. The following year, Ronnie did the impossible by winning the 1998 Mr. Olympia.
In 2000, Jay Cutler placed a distant eighth place at the Mr. Olympia contest. Following the Mr. Olympia contest, Jay competed in Europe for the Professional Grand Prix events. At the final Grand Prix, the Grand Prix England, Jay hit his peak and looked outstanding. He took a very close second place to Ronnie Coleman and served notice to the bodybuilding community that he would be force to be reckoned with the following year. In 2001, Jay Cutler shocked the bodybuilding world by beating Ronnie Coleman at the Mr. Olympia prejudging and had him on the ropes going into the finals.
Can history repeat itself in 2014? Will Kai Greene’s dominating performance at the 2013 Arnold Classic Europe portend an upset at the 2014 Mr. Olympia contest? It won’t be the first time Phil lost to Kai. At the 2010 Arnold Classic, Kai Greene did defeat an upcoming Phil Heath to win his second Arnold Classic title. If he did it once, he can do it again. The promoters of the 50th Mr. Olympia have promised that this year’s event will be one for the history books. There will most likely be surprise guests in attendance such Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Sylvester Stallone along with possible appearances of past Mr. Olympia winners including Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, maybe the 2014 Mr. Olympia will be remembered most for the surprise decision that takes place when the first place winner is announced on Saturday night.