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2017 Arnold Classic Predictions

Branden Liezert


By Branden Liezert

The second biggest show of the year is nearly upon us. Columbus, Ohio, will gather a plethora of elite bodybuilders all vying for money, prestige, and momentum. Kai Greene (last year’s winner) is out of the picture, so this year’s men’s open competition is wide open. Even though the entirety of the arguable top-five competitors in the world are skipping this illustrious competition, the competition is still dense with top-tier IFBB Pro talent. Who takes the crown? Well, here’s my take.

1. Cedric McMillan

To me, this show has “Big Mac” written all over it. McMillan has finally proved in 2016 that he can bring consistently good condition to the IFBB Pro stage. At this show, McMillan has a distinct advantage over most other competitors: the posing round is judged. McMillan certainly poses with an extreme amount of professionalism, showcasing his strengths and hiding his weaknesses. The interesting thing about McMillan’s prep this time is that he hasn’t released a single picture to judge upon. His last Instagram post was in December, and his coach, Chris Aceto, hasn’t said a single thing about Cedric since then either. Will he show up and shock everyone in the building? Will he show up like his 2014 and 2015 versions in terms of conditioning?

“Big Mac” was the runner-up last year, but without 2016 champion Kai Greene in the lineup, I see him as the favourite. McMillan will have the best back double-biceps in the entire show; couple that with his wasp-like waist, flaring quads, and monstrous chest development, and you have yourself a winner, barring conditioning errors.

2. Dallas McCarver

Have you been following along with this guy’s progress? McCarver teamed up with “The Diet Doc” Chad Nicholls for this year’s Arnold Classic prep. Nicholls was the great Ronnie Coleman’s coach during his Olympia reign. McCarver is holding 305-plus pounds through his prep and is clearly bigger, harder, and denser with tissue than he was during his Olympia prep. He says he has never enjoyed a prep this much (not always a good thing) and cannot wait to get onstage in Columbus.

“Big Country” is a gym warrior! He deadlifts 800 pounds, squats 675, and benches 495 for reps. The knock on Dallas is that his waist has definitely thickened in correlation with his 40-plus pounds of gains elsewhere. He has made clear improvements to his overall mass and his already amazing arms in the past few months. Will his conditioning relegate Cedric from the winner’s circle?

3. Josh Lenartowicz

“The Koala-Kangaroo Hybrid” made a huge splash with near-perfect conditioning at last year’s Arnold Classic Ohio. The package he presented last year was good enough for third place behind winner Kai Greene and runner-up Cedric McMillan. He ended his IFBB Pro season with a top-10 finish at the Olympia, solidly locking down his place as an elite bodybuilder.

Some are comparing Lenartowicz to Dorian Yates. Personally, I don’t see it—but Josh is good. He won’t have the mass to roll with McCarver, and he doesn’t have the lines to out-pretty McMillan, but Josh could upset one or both if he comes in sharp and they miss the mark, even slightly. Josh will be carried by his shoulder development and dense, striated quadriceps. His hands-on-hips most-muscular might just be the best in the business.

4. Juan Morel

“Diesel” is back in action in Ohio. I personally think Juan’s greatest overall package was his 2014 New York Pro physique, and I think he has struggled to replicate as good of an overall package since. Juan Morel is known for crazy back width, thickness, and overall development. In some shots, Juan will battle for best-in-show: side chest, rear lat spread, most muscular. However, Juan’s leg development will hold him from propelling higher through this lineup.

Morel’s upper body will keep him from dropping out of the first callout unless he is way off, but he has missed condition before, and I’m aware that there are many other good competitors lurking in the shadows to claim a coveted top-five in Ohio. Due to his mind-boggling cheat meals and carb-up techniques, I would even go as far as to say it’s more likely that he is lower than this placing than higher at the end of the weekend.


5. Fouad Abiad

One of my favourite IFBB Pro bodybuilders, Fouad Abiad is coming to Ohio to make a statement. “Hoss” is going through prep without any cheat meals, as coached by John Meadows. From Meadows and others in the know, Abiad is more focused for this show than any other pro show he has entered. He is currently dieting on 3,300-plus calories, and, judging by pictures, is right on track to be utterly shredded onstage. Abiad always brings density and overwhelming mass, but this might be the most consistently big lineup he has ever faced. Nearly top to bottom, the competitors he’s up against are going to be at least 250 pounds come showtime.

Fouad doesn’t have any lights-out poses, but he isn’t particularly weak in any mandatory either. He shines in the side shots due to his front-to-back thickness. For as wide and thick as he is head-to-toe, he still manages to keep a tight and smallish waist. He will battle for spots 4 to 8, and it really is quite hard to mark him down as low as second callout, but it’s a thickly competitive lineup this year. One thing’s for sure: Abiad is a gamer and will be battling it out onstage as hard as anyone.

6. Luke Sandoe
This British monster has nothing to lose and everything to prove in the IFBB Pro league. Sandoe might be the absolute best bodybuilder onstage in Ohio from the back. No wonder—the Matt Jansen training disciple has put out videos of rack-pulling eight plates (yes, a side) for reps. He truly has a Yates-esque rear lat-spread, a great side chest, and an overwhelmingly daunting front-double biceps.
In a recent video, he announced that even with five weeks to go to showtime, he’s feeling the effects of the training and diet. That certainly isn’t always a bad thing. The primary reason I have him this low is the theme of “paying your dues” in the IFBB. I think there is a very high chance that Sandoe shows up looking so good that they cannot deny him a first callout though.

7. Lionel Beyeke
Lionel finally put it together at the post-Olympia shows in 2016. Beyeke teamed up with George Farah and won the 2016 IFBB San Marino Pro in stunning fashion. I wasn’t sure he would duplicate the conditioning he brought to the 2014 Arnold Classic Rio ever again, but he did in Italy when he took home top honours. Beyeke has truly excellent aesthetics and round muscle in all the right places. Even though his hams and glutes aren’t shockingly good, his back double biceps will be one of the best in the competition. When he’s on, he has deep striations in his quads from origin to insertion and eye-popping most-muscular shots.
Opposite to Morel, I think it’s much more likely Beyeke jumps ahead of my predicted seventh place than he drops lower. It’s just too soon to say that Farah and Beyeke have squashed the conditioning problems totally.
(Photo courtesy of Instagram)


8. Maxx Charles

Another bodybuilder primarily stationed out of the East Coast Mecca, Charles has been spotty with condition, but when he’s on he gives everyone in this lineup trouble. It will be interesting to see him walk out for prejudging. I think a 100 percent conditioned Charles battles for top three, but if Maxx shows up anything less than perfect, he’ll be struggling to make the top callout. Charles has great biceps, triceps, deltoids, and pecs. He has evened his symmetry by bringing his quads up.

To me, from the pictures and videos he’s putting out leading up to the show, he looks a little behind schedule. Now, gym pictures and videos really mean next to nothing during prep. It all comes down to perfection on peaking onstage. I would say that Maxx’s placing is more dependent on conditioning than probably anyone else in the whole show. Again, as with Morel, I would say it’s likely that if his condition is off, he plummets down this lineup.
(Photo courtesy of Instagram)


9. Michael Lockett

Lockett will battle to win the second callout if he’s on. So, take a look at his Instagram page—he is peeled. Lockett always brings insane conditioning and full muscle bellies. Of course, there was much discrepancy between quad sizes, but with every passing show it has diminished.
Lockett will have the most detailed deltoids in the entire show; mix that in with his killer biceps and triceps and his quickly improving back, and we could have a surprise competitor fighting for a first callout if the legs finally match up 100 percent.
(Photo courtesy of Instagram)

10. Vitaly Fateev

Fateev had a flash-in-the-pan glimmer of success a few years ago, but immediately followed that performance up with a couple of disappointing showings that were themed with significant stomach distension. If you look back at his amateur career, Fateev shows that he really has unbelievable potential with his physique, but has that been squashed in the search for typical IFBB Pro mass?

Fateev has the ability to be a good IFBB Pro bodybuilder, but his lines are thrown off when he is distended. He doesn’t have the mass others will have to miss on his conditioning either, so he’s definitely in tough here. He won’t be battling to get into the first callout, but surely has a shot to compare well in the second if he controls his stomach and is full and hard.

11. Will Harris

Big Will Harris is making a comeback at this year’s Arnold Classic Ohio. Harris made it to the Olympia in his prime, but can he reclaim that physique in 2017? Harris isn’t starting from total scratch, so I think he will look respectable. Don’t get me wrong; I think he will absolutely show up in good condition and he will look like an IFBB Pro bodybuilder—not quite a Arnold Classic Champion, though.
At his best, Harris was a middle-tier pro bodybuilder with a few strong body parts. He won’t be able to keep up with these young, hungry, huge bodybuilders. However, I don’t think Harris would make this his comeback show if he wasn’t confident that he could show up in 100 percent contest condition. Shredded and full or not, he isn’t a factor for the first callout. He could knock off Fateev and Lockett if they miss the mark, though.