Guessing time is over! The Arnold Classic Invite List is out and there are a few surprises. In my previous article, we laid out who was not going to participate. I even went so far as to state who would win it without even seeing the list. Bold move, I know, but I am going to stick with my call – Ben Pakulski for the win.

Dexter Jackson is the most senior athlete competing in this event. From an experience standpoint, the only way Dexter can lose this contest is by defeating himself. He hit it right on the money a few weeks ago at the 2012 Masters Olympia, but in my opinion, it's too short of a turnaround time to replicate his conditioning again in March 2013. Sorry, Dexter, but I just have my doubts.

The two athletes I did not anticipate competing are Cedric McMillan and Ed Nunn. Lee Haney has boldly declared Cedric as the next Mr Olympia. However, Cedric is balancing his Army career, family and bodybuilding. If Cedric can focus for the next 2.5 months, he can upset the whole standing. However, I don't see it hapenning. In my opinion, making E-9 in the Army is much more important than a few bodybuilding contests. Ed Nunn, another of my favorites, has been creeping up the ranks by increasing his leg size. Couple that with learning how to better show his best features – while camouflaging his weaker ones – and you have a definite threat for a top placing.

I'll tell you who greatly improved last year, and I don't know where to rank him, is Johnnie Jackson. Something about that Texas water. His placing at the 2013 Olympia was unjust. He looked better than his training partner and would much rather have seen them switch places.

Last, I can't leave out my boy Fouad Abiad. Hoss has been on a mission:  'Rebuild 2013' as he calls it. If Abiad is on and others haven't watched their step, he can quite well move right on into a top 3 spot.

There's an element missing from the Arnold. Athletes like Kai Greene, Phil Heath, Jay Cutler, etc are not participating in the 2013 Arnold Classic. That's a good thing. I don't want to see an Olympia repeat or a 2012 Arnold Classic repeat. I want to see up and coming pros that have been waiting on the sidelines to be given the stage and allowed to battle it out for all us fans.

This should be one of the better Arnold Classic contests in a while and I am very much looking forward to being there.

–> Previous assessment

Release from Arnold Sports Festival:

Dexter Jackson Aims For Record-Tying Fourth Arnold Classic Title

Six-Time Champ Iris Kyle, Oksana Grishina, Erin Stern, Nicole Nagrani Lead Women’s Fields

Dexter Jackson will gun for his record-tying fourth Arnold Classic title when he leads a field of 13 men’s professional bodybuilders the 25th Anniversary Arnold Classic at the 2013 Arnold Sports Festival.

Jackson, who will compete in Columbus for the 14th time, won the Arnold Classic in 2005, 2006 and 2008. A win in March would tie Jackson with the popular Flex Wheeler, the Arnold Classic champ in 1993, 1997, 1998 and 2000. Cedric McMillan, making his Arnold Classic debut; Ben Pakulski, fourth in 2012; and Toney Freeman, fifth in the 2012 Arnold Classic Europe, are expected to challenge.

In the Ms. International, six-time champion Iris Kyle returns to the Veterans Memorial stage after sitting out 2012 due to injury. Kyle will be challenged by five-time winner Yaxeni Oriquen, last year’s winner, and Deb Laszewski, who finished second in 2012.

Five-time Fitness International champ Adela Garcia will not compete in 2013, leaving the door open for Oksana Grishina, Bethany Cisternino, Tanji Johnson and Myriam Capes to battle for the title among a field of 12. Grishina beat Garcia heads up to win the 2012 Arnold Fitness Europe, while Cisternino (fourth), Johnson (fifth) and Capes (sixth) will look to improve on impressive showings in 2012.

A new champion will also be crowned in the Figure International. Three-time defending champ Nicole Wilkins will not compete, leaving 2012 Arnold Figure Europe winner Erin Stern as the favorite among a field of 18. Candice Keene, Ava Cowan and Heather Dees all return after top six finishes in 2012, while Camala Rodriguez makes her Figure International debut after finishing second in the Fitness International in 2012.

Nicole Nagrani, winner of the inaugural Bikini International in 2011; India Paulino, second in 2012; Jamie Baird, third in 2012; and Nathalia Melo, fifth last year, lead a pack of 18 in the Bikini International.

Olga Puzanova (Ms. International), Melinda Szabo (Fitness International), Olga Gallardo (Figure International) and Ashley Kaltwasser (Bikini International) earned automatic invites in the IFBB Pro League events based on overall victories at the 2012 Arnold Amateur IFBB/NPC Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.

The 25th Anniversary Annual Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International, Figure International and Bikini International contests will be held March 102 at Veteran Memorial and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio during the Arnold Sports Festival. Visit for more information and for ticket information.

The Friday and Saturday night shows in Columbus will have a slightly different look in 2013. The Fitness International, Fitness International and Figure International will be held on Friday, March 1, while the Arnold Classic, Ms. International and Arnold Strongman finals will be held on Saturday March 2.

2013 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International, Figure International and Bikini International Official Invite Lists:

Arnold Classic (13)
Fouad Abiad
Darrem Charles
Toney Freeman
Marcus Haley
Dexter Jackson
Johnnie Jackson
Michael Kefalianos
Cedric McMillan
Ben Pakulski
Edward Nunn
Ronny Rockel
Fred Smalls
Hidetada Yamagishi

Ms. International (12)
Brigita Brezovac
Kim Buck
Tazzie Colomb
Angela Debatin
Alevtina Goroshinskaya
Elena Kavva
Iris Kyle
Debi Laszewski
Cathy Lefrancois
Yaxeni Oriquen
Jeannie Paparone
Olga Puzanova

Fitness International (12)
Myriam Capes
Bethany Cisternino
Regiane DaSilva
Nicole Duncan
Ryall Graber-Vasani
Oksana Grishina
Fiona Harris
Amanda Hatfield
Tanji Johnson
Melinda Szabo
Kizzy Vaines
Trish Warren

Figure International (18)
Cheryl Brown
Ava Cowan
Heather Dees
Olga Gallardo
Mallory Haldeman
Aleisha Hart
Candice John
Candice Keene
Candice Lewis
Kamla Macko
Camala Rodriguez
Giada Simari
Nicole Sims
Erin Stern
Gennifer Strobo
Alea Suarez
Ann Titone
Natalie Waples

Bikini International (18)
Noy Alexander
Jennifer Andrews
Jamie Baird
Tiffany Boydston
Abbie Burrows
Lacey DeLuca Lieto
Tawna Eubanks
Ashley Kaltwasser
Lexi Kauffman
Nathalia Melo
Justin Munro
Nicole Nagrani
Noemi Olah
India Paulino
Jessica Paxson
Yeshaira Robles
Marcela Tribin
Anna Virmajoki

2013 Arnold Classic

Arnold Classic 2013