The Arnold Classic is one of the premiere shows in bodybuilding and it's an honor to win a show like this; Branch Warren was bestowed that honor for the second time in as many years. Having just finished watching the Arnold, I feel that it would be appropriate to give my review of the top 6. In my humble opinion, no one really brought their best package; it was disappointing to both spectator and competitor. Frankly, given the field the judges had to judge, I think they did a pretty good job at nailing it down.
Lionel Beyeke was by far the least conditioned of the top six. The judges got this one right; I don't feel that he was really competing for the fifth spot at any point during the show. He appeared to have gotten much smaller than two weeks ago and lost his crazy fullness. Again, in my opinion, it was a mistake for him to drop weight. Lionel needs to find a way to come in with his trademark fullness and be in condition. Whatever they did in trying to prepare him for the Arnold, it was a mistake. While I am a big fan of his physique, he needs to nail his conditioning consistently if he wants to stay relevant and not just be a flash in the pan.
Dexter Jackson came in fifth place; quite a drop from where he once was, atop Arnold Mountain. I will spare you all the typical, run of the mill, uncreative Dexter Jackson comments. He's ripped, freaky and just plain ol' Dex. Unfortunately for Dex, he didn't come in shredded enough to break into the top three and certainly not the top spot. He was big and full but he just wasn't at Blade level conditioning. Everyone has said this before and it almost seems lazy of me to say this, but it is just the freakin' case with Dex. He has set the bar so high for himself conditioning wise, he always has to come in peeled to the bone or he gets marked unfavorably. Dex should probably focus on conditioning and if he does this, you'll see him winning a bunch of shows on the bodybuilding circuit.
Ben Pakulski finished in a shocking fourth place. I'm proud of my friend and fellow Canadian for representing so well up there. He has made steady improvements and the kid has got the freakiest wheels in the business, with wide-ass shoulders to match. Not only did he have that going for him, he was in the best condition of his life. If he can keep bringing this level of conditioning while bringing up his back/arms, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. He definitely has the freak factor going, from his grapefruit sized calves to his bowling ball shoulders, the kid has freaky written all over him. Not only that, but he has now enshrined himself among some pretty impressive company by beating the legendary Dexter Jackson.
Evan Centopani finished in third and he was early favorite to win the show. It wasn't in the cards for Mr. Centopani this year even though he made marked improvements to his chest and back from last year. I believe he was seated with third because he came in holding a film of fluid under his skin and he was a bit flat. I saw some video/pictures a few weeks out and he looked drier and fuller there than he did on stage. He probably peaked a little bit early and lost about 5% by show time. There is no doubt in my mind that Evan will win this show in the future and possibly take the Mr. Olympia crown in the next few years. He just needs to stay focused, dial it in 100% and this guy is going to be crushing the competition.
Dennis Wolf placed second and after pre-judging, he was my pick to win. Again, this is just my opinion, so Branch, please don't hunt me down like a wild boar – I've seen the videos. I liked his structure, posing and shape better than Branch. And, if I am going to be perfectly honest here, I just enjoy a taller bodybuilder. I am not going to go Quincy Taylor on the sub 6'2" inch bodybuilders and call them ankle biters, I just enjoy the taller physique more. I'm biased, I'm tall. Everyone criticizes his lower back but the overall package he brought, combined with his presentation made him my pick for first.
Mr. First Place, Branch Warren, is now sitting proudly above Mount Arnold in the top spot. Branch is Numero Uno! That was a Pumping Iron reference for all you uninitiated bodybuilders out there. Anyway, most bodybuilders would have called it quits or would never have been able to really come back from a quad tear, but Branch did. Hard work and dedication is what pump through this guy's veins and I don't think anyone that has watched his DVDs can deny that. He has had his structural issues but the guy has accomplished what so many bodybuilders never do, fixing their imbalances. Even though I have my biases towards taller bodybuilders, Branch deserved the victory and I hope he stays injury free for the remainder of his career.
All articles by Greg Kovacs have been edited and arranged by Jeff Pearce since April 2011. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions e-mail him at [email protected] .