2005 Mr. Olympia: FIGHT NIGHT

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On October 15, the world's 22 best bodybuilders will square off the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, including the winner of the previous night's winner-take-all Wild Card competition that will give one more man entry into the biggest show on earth. Who's hot, who's not? AND WHICH ONE OF THE 22 IS NOW OUT? Here's an up-to-the-minute evaluation of the men who will duke it out for the Sandow.

1) MELVIN ANTHONY JR. (32 years old; 5'9", 240 pounds): There are two words going for Melvin: Belly ban. If the IFBB advisory is in full effect, Melvin in his best condition becomes an immediate threat for a top placing.

2) GUSTAVO BADELL (32 years old; 5'8", 250 pounds): Last year’s surprise with an unexpected top-three finish, Gustavo should roll in this year with plenty of confidence. Unless he comes in flat as a board and bloated as Dr. Phil, he's going to get those coveted early callouts, giving him a fair shake against all the other top contenders.

3) DARREM CHARLES (37 years old; 5'9", 235 pounds): Between 2002-2005, Darrem has won six pro shows -- how much longer can this guy slip under the radar of the Olympia judges? If he comes in spot-on and gets overlooked again for the posedown, call the cops, there's a robbery in progress.

4) RONNIE COLEMAN (41 years old; 5'11", 296 pounds): Here's the big daddy, the reigning champion, the man against whose physique all others are measured. With history staring him in the face -- a win would tie him with Lee Haney for the all time O record at eight titles -- Ronnie comes into the fray with a big target painted across his mighty lat spread. Jay Cutler probably should have beat him in 2001, and Gunter Schlierkamp did beat him in 2002 at the Show of Strength two weeks after the Olympia. Point is, the man's absolutely incredible, but he's not invincible.

5) CHRIS CORMIER (38 years old; 5'9", 262 pounds): Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Chris sure as hell doesn't want to exit the sport wondering "What if?" At one point, he was the odds-on No. 1 contender to the Olympia throne. A couple of less-than-memorable O outings since then have knocked him from that pedestal, but that could prove to be just the motivation he needs. He can win this damn thing, no doubt about it.

6) JAY CUTLER (32 years old; 5'9", 280 pounds): The three-time Mr. O runner-up is out for blood -- for the past year, he’s been laser-focused on the show, even forgoing the opportunity to pick up another check and Hummer at the Arnold Classic, which he won from 2002-2004. He's got something Ronnie Coleman has -- a truckload of steely mass -- and something he doesn't -- a tight midsection. If Jay can hold his own when the two turn around, it may be “lights out” on a seven-year Olympia reign.

7) KRIS DIM (32 years old; 5'5", 212 pounds): Can he win? Probably not this year. Can he slay a lot of giants and move up a few rungs in the sport's pecking order? Absolutely. As one of the numerous underlying stories in the contest, a top-ten finish for Kris would be a giant step in his young and promising career.

8) GEORGE FARAH (34 years old; 5'6", 215 pounds): What he lacks in size he makes up for in attitude. At the Charlotte Pro earlier this month, where he finished third to lock up a last-minute qualifying berth, George was obviously having a blast onstage during the judging rounds and the posedown, joking and jostling with the other guys. If not a threat to win it all, he is a guy who can keep the mood light. After all, all this is supposed to be fun, right?

9) ALEXANDER FEDOROV (27 years old; 6'1", 280 pounds): The enigma will finally be revealed on a pro stage stateside. Ever since he stood toe-to-toe with Ronnie and Jay at the 2003 Russian Grand Prix and was not found wanting for size or conditioning, his legend has grown. Then, when Flex and Muscle & Fitness put him on their covers, the controversy escalated to raging levels. Is he the real deal, or will he wilt under the scrutiny in the biggest show of his life? Love him, hate him, but don’t disregard him -- the kid works hard, trains hard, and he has nothing but respect for the guys he'll face Oct. 15.

10) JOHNNIE JACKSON (34 years old; 5'8", 235 pounds): Also a competitive powerlifter, Johnnie would likely win the Olympia if a bench-press contest suddenly broke out. (In fact, there’s a rumor that he may actually compete for Team MuscleTech in it's bench-off with Weider athletes, right after prejudging on Saturday.) He's a damn good bodybuilder too, and while he may not be Sandow-ready just yet, he will win some IFBB pro shows before all is said and done.

11) DENNIS JAMES (36 years old; 5'8", 258 pounds): He finished second at the Charlotte Pro Oct. 1 to Branch Warren, and Dennis is pissed. Some people pointed to a distended belly as the culprit, as Dennis was incredibly huge from his lats to his legs and crisp enough to contend. To be honest, his midsection girth certainly wasn't as pronounced as on some other top pros -- if he's focused and shredded, the Charlotte disappointment may be a distant memory come Olympia time.

12) VICTOR MARTINEZ (32 years old; 5'9", 250 pounds): When he's on, he has a beautiful physique, with aesthetics to spare. When he's off, well . . . it represents another missed opportunity by a guy who can become a force in the IFBB. Which version of Victor will show up? We hear it's the "on" version.

13) MUSTAFA MOHAMMAD (38 years old; 5'8", 264 pounds): At the Charlotte Pro Oct. 1, he was a little smooth in the all-important prejudging rounds, but seemed tighter and fuller at the night show. That's the package he needs at the Olympia -- he was 17th last year, but that is well below his ultimate potential. If he nails condition he could be the surprise of the whole event.

14) LEE PRIEST (33 years old; 5'4", 205 pounds): Lee didn't want to tell the editors of the Olympia program how much he weighed, claiming such information unfairly influences the judges ahead of time. When pressed, he said he would come in between “150–280.” So let’s say this -- if he comes in at either end of that spectrum, he’ll lose; if he comes in somewhere around the middle with a package a touch stronger than the one that earned him second at this year’s 2005 Ironman title, watch out, he’s definite top six at the very least. Which is now academic ‘cos we just heard he’s withdrawn for the event.

15) CRAIG RICHARDSON (31 years old; 5'7", 220 pounds): He’s smaller than many of the guys he’ll be competing against, he’s only in his second Mr. Olympia ever, and he’s never won a pro show. Now the good news: Two top-five placings from earlier this year, at the New York Pro and Toronto Pro means he can scrap with the big boys, and the man has a physique all of us can aspire to. Don’t worry about him, Craig can more than hold his own.

16) RONNY ROCKEL (33 years old; 5'7", 225 pounds): Like Craig Richardson, Ronny is a smaller guy in a land often dominated by giants. But he’s been in 11 IFBB contests since 2003, and his reputation is growing. One of the more interesting things about the Mr. O is that you don’t necessarily need to win the whole thing to consider it a victory — if he contends with a few big names, and leapfrogs some of them in the placings, Ronny will be setting the stage for future success.

17) MARKUS RÜHL (33 years old; 5'10", 285 pounds): Ruuuuuuhllll is huuuuuuuugggge. Seriously. He may have some symmetry issues, but he’s big. If you’ve never seen him live in person before, get ready for a freak — and we mean that in a good way. Feel free to join in the “Ruhl” chants every time he takes the stage, and watch as he tries to improve on his solid fifth place of last year.

18) GÜNTER SCHLIERKAMP (35 years old; 6'1", 305 pounds): Here he is, the only man on earth to defeat Coleman during his Mr. Olympia reign — a stunning upset at the 2002 Show of Strength. The mission for Gunter now is simple: Repeat that magic mix of size and condition once again, and he may indeed be the last one standing come the coronation ceremony at the end of the night.

19) MIKE SHERIDAN (34 years old; 5'5", 215 pounds): He’s brand new to the Olympia, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere. This is Sheridan’s year to come in strong, get a few looks from the judges, and establish himself as a bona-fide top pro competitor for years to come.

20) QUINCY TAYLOR (36 years old; 6'4", 290 pounds): Quincy has made some huge strides in his physique, and it shows in two top five placings in the month leading up to the Olympia. He knows he has a little bit of work left to do in putting on some finishing touches, but his fellow competitors should be on high alert — once Quincy puts it all together, he has the structure and the size to collect a lot of hardware on the pro circuit over the next few years.

21) BRANCH WARREN (30 years old; 5'7", 240 pounds): Two weeks, two titles: That’s the story of Branch Warren’s run up to the Mr. O. He won the Europa Super Show Sept. 17, then the Charlotte Pro Oct. 1. The knock against him in the past was how his huge legs overpowered his upper body — no more. He’s complete, and in those two winning outings, he was dialed all the way in. Look out, top six, there may be a party-crasher in your midst.

22) WILD CARD WINNER: Currently scheduled to compete in the Friday night Wild Card Showdown, with the winner punching their ticket to the Olympia the next night — in fact, he’ll be the first guy to hit the stage Saturday to kick off the prejudging — are Eddie Abbew, Brian Chamberlain, David Henry, Rusty Jeffers, Mike Morris, Greg Rando, Frank Roberson, Armin Scholz and Luke Wood. You can call David the favorite, but it sure ain’t a lock.

Will Ronnie Coleman win an eighth Olympia title or will a new Mr. Olympia be crowned on October 15? Book your place in history to find out. Go to 2005olympia.com, flexonline.com or muscleandfitness.com for full details about Joe Weider’s 2005 Olympia Weekend.

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