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Congratulations to Dexter Jackson. It’s well deserved win.
This year’s Arnold Classic was a bit light, lacking names of the big players such as Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Kai Greene, etc. I believe only Dexter Jackson and Toney Freeman have ever placed in the Olympia top 5. (Dexter is a former Mr. Olympia and Toney Freeman placed 5th in the 2008 Mr. Olympia.)
That didn’t stop the others from competing for the top prize. This Arnold Classic was Dexter Jackson’s to lose. And if Dexter didn’t come in on target, that would have left the entire field open for Fouad Abiad, Ben Pakulski, Cedric McMillan, Johnnie Jackson, Marcus Haley, Michael Kefalianos, Ed Nunn, Hidetada Yamagishi, etc.
At the end of pre-judging, the judges made it quite clear Dexter Jackson was to win the contest and thus concentrated on the remaining field in an attempt to determine placements 2nd through 6th. 2nd and 3rd were between Toney Freeman and Ben Pakulski. But we were left wondering where the four others would place. For a bit there, it looked like Fred Smalls had broken the top 6 but that meant Cedric, Johnnie, or Hidetada would not have placed in the top 6.
We didn’t have much time to wait and ponder. There was only a 3-hour waiting period between pre-judging and finals.
Taking 6th, Cedric McMillan took it very well. He kept his head up high and is looking forward to the next competition for a bit of redemption. At the end of pre-judging, McMillan was a bit dejected and sat off to the side a bit sullen with Chris Aceto talking about what the steps would be to at a minimum break the top 6. Whatever it is they did, it worked bumping Fred Smalls out of the top 6 finalists.
In the 5th spot, Hidetada Yamagishi in my opinion dropped a spot as the evening went on. The more he posed the less defined he became. If you take into consideration he broke his wrist a month prior and the field he went up against, this was a very good placement for the Warrior from the Land of the Rising Sun.
In 4th, Johnnie Jackson got the attention he deserved. Huge round muscle bellies, JOJ exudes a size beyond what he weighs. But that’s bodybuilding, right? Look for JOJ to take a few shows under his belt this year. He’s improved working with Dennis James.
In 3rd, Toney Freeman was a potential winner. He has the size, shape and pedigree to have come in and taken this contest hands down with no competition. However, when he came out on stage for pre-judging, Toney was missing a bit of dryness that allowed Ben Pakulski to compete against Toney for second. One thing for certain, the more Toney posed, the harder he got. Freeman came out strong for the night show, and had he come in like this for pre-judging, there’s no doubt Freeman would have taken second.
Taking 2nd was Ben Pakulski. He came out on stage dry, sharp and with a mental determination that exuded off the stage. Many thought he challenged Dexter pretty well, and others did not. One thing for certain, though, Pakulski brought up his back to match those massive tree trunk legs of his. One issue many did not know, Paklski had been battling food poisoning and hadn’t eaten a thing up to 24 hours prior to stepping on stage. Had Pakulski been 100%, my prediction that Ben Pakulski would take the Arnold would have come true.
Last but not least, Dexter Jackson easily took his 4th Arnold Classic win tying Flex Wheeler’s record.
Final Results below:
2. Ben Pakulski
7. Fred Smalls
8. Edward Nunn
10. Fouad Abiad
11. Marcus Haley
13. Ronny Rockel