Six Pack Preview: Arnold Classic

Six questions, six different answers. Check out our first-ever Six Pack Preview of the Arnold Classic! See what Phil Heath, Jay Cutler and more had to say about this weekend’s action!

1. Lionel Beyeke is coming off his first career win at the FLEX Pro. What’s a more likely scenario for him – placing in the top 3 or outside of the top 6?

Phil Heath, Mr. Olympia: Out of the top six but neither is likely. He will probably be somewhere around 5th or 6th primarily because the guys he’s going against come in sharper than what we’ve seen out of him. If he can come in tighter than he did at the FLEX pro I could see him a solid 4th, maybe 3rd, but nothing higher than that.

Jay Cutler, 4x Mr. Olympia: Lionel has all the potential in time but at this point I can not see his conditioning putting him in the elite 3. He needs a bit more time and prep experience to really push the top spots there.

Peter McGough, MuscleMag International: I don’t see either option happening. In a field that includes Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Evan Centopani and Dexter Jackson, top three is a lot to ask. However, especially if he sharpens up from the FLEX Pro, he can secure fifth or sixth.

Greg Merritt, FLEX Magazine: Out of the top 6. When laying odds, I can easily come up with four guys above him on the depth chart: Centopani, Wolf, Jackson, Warren. He’d have to get by two of those guys to get in. Possible, but not very likely. At the same time, I see at least 4 more guys fighting for the top 6: Curry, Abiad, Pakulski, Rhoden. Beyeke has a great shot of getting by 3 of those for a posedown slot, but it’s more likely he won’t then he’ll land in the top 3.

Allan Donnelly: Out of the top 6. Lionel isn’t conditioned enough to beat any of the predicted top four – Branch, Wolf, Dexter or Evan – and he still needs to work on his presentation before cracking into the elite. That said, I don’t think he’ll finish out of the top six, but that is a more likely scenario.


2. Fact or Fiction: Dennis Wolf has solved the conditioning problems that plagued him at the 2009 Olympia and the 2010 New York Pro.

Heath: Fact. I think he’s starting to understand his body a lot more. Early on in his career he was doing it by himself, then he started working with lot of different people. That may have slowed him down. He keeps progressing, so I’m expecting him to be even better conditioned than we’ve seen him.

Cutler: Fact. Dennis Wolf is back and moving in full speed. His conditioning is good judging by the pics so far and don’t be surprised of he shows up in Ohio at his all-time best. He’s got the shape and proportions to overtake anyone on that stage as long as he is on time.

McGough: Fact …. sort of. At the Olympia when he first walked out he was “on”: full and conditioned.. But as the prejudging progressed he lost a little of that fullness and IMO was over penalized for it. He has to look as good at the end of the prejudging as he does at the beginning. With his sweeping lines, stature and width he will look the biggest onstage.

Merritt: Fiction. No one in bodybuilding has been more inconsistent than the Wolfman. With his structure, I still think he has a huge upside. But he just hasn’t proven that he can reliably bring a high-def look, and he still has areas to fill in.

Donnelly: Fiction. He has solved the problem of showing up in shape, but he still consistently fades throughout the prejudging and usually doesn’t show up as sharp for the finals. He’ll need to do both in order to win here.
3. Fact or Fiction. Branch Warren will be at 100 percent for the Arnold Classic.

Heath: Fiction as far as being 100 percent. I would say fact in regards to his heart and his dedication to the sport and to his physique. It’s a fact he gives everything to be his best. But I say fiction as far as being 100 percent because that injury has plagued a lot of different guys, one of them being Victor Martinez and we saw what happened to him. Overall he wont be 100 percent, but we saw last year he wasn’t at 100 percent and he still won.

Cutler: Fact. Branch is always improving so you cannot count this guy out. I think in fact he will show is his best here next week, but will his best still be enough? That’s the big question.

McGough: I’d have to say fiction and hope he proves me wrong. I don’t know anyone else who has suffered a leg injury of that severity and come back six months later at 100 percent. But the guy’s a warrior.

Merritt: Fact. This is a tough call, but I have to assume Warren won’t get on stage if his leg is a major issue, and, besides, he could afford to lose some lower body size. He was not at his best at last year’s Arnold, and he still won because he has that grainy, granite muscle that doesn’t need to be super-dry to look cut. So I think he’ll bring it, but this will be the biggest question on Saturday. We won’t know the answer till he peels down and oils up and gets under the lights.

Donnelly: Fiction. That injury has shown to take at least a full year – and more likely two – to fully recover from. If anyone can do it, it’s Branch, but I just don’t think it’s physically possible fully recover from that in this short a time period.
4. Who out of this group has the best chance to crack the top six: Brandon Curry, Ben Pakulski, Fouad Abiad, Eduardo Correa or Shawn Rhoden?

Heath: I would probably say Brandon Curry. There are some mass guys in there but Brandon beat Ben, he beat Shawn … Eduardo comes in so hard but I don’t see Eduardo in the top 6. Fouad, that’s tough, but Brandon showed what he was made of at the Olympia and if he can improve on that i could see him in there, especially if some other guys don’t show up in shape.

Cutler: Best shot at the top 6 is either Ben or Brandon. Ben has the mass, he’s in shape and he’s hungry. Brandon has the shape, the youth and the potential to even get in the top 5. These 2 will end up one spot apart from my observations but who will prevail?

McGough: If Curry prepares full throttle for this and comes in sharp and full he can do it. If it was on condition alone Correa would be up there. Personally I think Pakulski is always underrated by a couple of places or so.

Merritt: Curry. He almost made it at the last Olympia, where he was eighth against a tougher lineup. If he can bring that conditioning with bigger wheels he should be in the mix.My second choice is Pakulski, who has momentum after the FLEX Pro where he brought the fine detailing. And Pak-Man should have the best legs on stage.

Donnelly: Pakulski. He really impressed me at the FLEX Pro. He wins a lot of poses on sheer size and conditioning. The jury is still out on Brandon and if he can consistently come in shape. He did at the Olympia, but that was really the first and only time he’s done it. Correa will run into the same problem he did at the FLEX Pro – he’s just not big enough.
5. Who out of this group is most like to place OUTSIDE of the top three: Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf or Evan Centopani?

Heath: Probably Evan. I didn’t think Branch was 100 percent last year and he still won whereas Evan placed 4th. I know Evan probably brought up his physique but did he bring it up that much? If I put him in there, that means he would be a front runner to win and I don’t see him winning the show. Dennis Wolf is bigger than Evan, from the pictures I’ve seen. Evan does bring that sharpness though and he’s been more consistent than Dennis, but I really have to see him compared. For me, there were things missing last year. I don’t think Evan is as complete as some of these other guys. I don’t see Branch placing out of the top 3 at all even with the injury

Cutler: I would say Evan at this point because he hasn’t been right there yet. Predictions are based on past performance and Wolf and Branch have outstanding records, so you give respect were respect is due. This top three is gonna be a dogfight. I wouldn’t want to judge this!

McGough: Tricky question as they probably will be in the top four with Dexter Jackson. But of the first named trio I think Warren, because of the quad injury, is the most vulnerable.

Merritt: Wolf. This is a tough call between him and Warren. I’m going to assume Warren’s leg won’t be an issue and he always brings the grainy conditioning. Wolf is less consistent.

Donnelly: Centopani. Lots of hype, but like Phil early in his career, he still hasn’t proven he can beat the elite. He will someday, but there are still too many question marks to say he’s more of a lock than proven commodities like Branch and Wolf.
6. Who is the favorite to win the 2012 Arnold Classic?

Heath: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say Dennis Wolf. I feel that Branch can do it … damn I’m really having a hard time not saying Branch Warren! But Dennis was right on Branch’s heels last year and some people thought he could have won then. From what I saw and what I’ve been hearing, he’s improved. Now if Branch is 100 percent then it’s his show, but going in my money almost has to be on Dennis Wolf. I wish I could give it to them both because even though Branch looks nothing like me and I look nothing like him, I have all the respect in the world for what he brings to the table. i just don’t see it being his time. Dennis, if he can come in round and hard, it could be game over.

Cutler: Branch Warren is the returning champ. He has been runner up at the Olympia. He never comes in out of shape. He trains his ass harder than anyone in the biz. He’s got something to prove. This is Branch’s show to win!

McGough: From general scuttlebutt it seems defending champ Branch Warren is favorite. But this truly is a contest where any one of four guys can take it: Warren, if he’s complete; Wolf is he’s crisp and dry; Centopani who’s making the improvements he needs to; Jackson, if he repeats his Masters form. I’m tipping an in-shape and full Wolf to be last man standing.

Merritt: Centopani. After a somewhat disappointing fourth at last year’s Arnold, this is his chance to step up into that elite group of Olympia contenders. If we see the best Evan we’ve ever seen, he’ll be the new Arnold champ.

Donnelly: Branch Warren. I don’t think he’ll be at 100 percent, but he wasn’t last year either. The one place he can afford to lose a little size is in his legs, it’s just a matter of how big a discrepancy there is between them. Wolf’s conditioning, Evan’s experience, Dexter’s age, Branch’s leg – everyone here has question marks, so I give the edge to the defending champ.