Ah, the 2014 season is upon us. Fresh story lines will develop over the coming months as winners of contests (and those who fall short) add their names to the mix in the countdown to the season-ending show of shows, the Olympia. To be sure, a lot will happen between now and then, but one thing for certain is that the biggest headline of them all will likely take place at the very first IFBB Pro League men’s bodybuilding contest on March 1, in Columbus, OH. That’s when the winner of the 2014 Arnold Classic will be announced, and though it’s still way early in the game, you can bet the name that reverberates across Veterans Memorial will ring out all year as a serious Sandow threat come Sept. 19–20.
So with the top two bodybuilders on the planet, reigning, three-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath and 2012–2013 runnerup Kai Greene, sitting on the sidelines until September, and defending champ Dexter Jackson focusing on the launch of his new supplement line, all eyes will be focused on a select list of names such as Dennis Wolf, who, in 2013, finished behind only Heath and Greene at the Olympia and the Arnold Europe, and Shawn Rhoden, who finished behind only Wolf at the same two shows. Plus Victor Martinez, Branch Warren, Evan Centopani, Ben Pakulski, and others who want that instant top-contender buzz that only a contest the magnitude of the Arnold can generate. So who will be the man most likely to sit atop the vacant throne and crash the Heath-Greene party at the O? IFBB pro Dennis James and the original “guru” Chad Nicholls tell you how things could play out at the 2014 IFBB Arnold Classic.
DENNIS JAMES: Evan doesn’t do many shows. He’s been very systematic at picking which shows to enter but I think competing more would help him fIgure out his body better. He’s got plenty of size, so that’s not an issue. He needs to nail conditioning. I would also like to see more polished stage presentation. He’ll have a tough time getting past the guys who beat him at the last Mr. Olympia. He can be dangerous but he needs to be 100% and we haven’t seen that yet from him.
CHAD NICOLLS: This is a lineup made for Evan. He comes into the show as one of the bigger guys but needs to put together the last piece of the puzzle, which is the “finished, polished” look. Leading into the show he has conditioning and hardness, but when he hits the stage he loses that. Once he’s able to dry out without losing fullness/conditioning, he’ll do well in any lineup.
DENNIS JAMES: Brandon has a beautiful physique but his legs are still too far behind his upper body, and at this point, I have to think that they’ll never catch up. The only other option is to downsize his upper body for better balance or come in bone-dry to of set weaker legs. The 212 division might be a better option for him. Of course, he’d still have to deal with Flex Lewis, David Henry, and the rest but he wouldn’t have to contend with those who have the potential to outmuscle him.
CHAD NICOLLS: Genetically great, but struggles to get in shape. He has two major fLaws: legs and getting in shape. With his structure he doesn’t have to be the hardest guy onstage, but he does need to be in shape, and his last few outings he hasn’t been close. In this lineup, conditioning will rule.
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