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A champion on the verge of a dynasty. A former champion trying to reclaim glory. A challenger one step away from the dream of a lifetime. A new beast on the horizon. These and other headlines are what will be decided when the thousands of hours of sweat and sacrifice come down to a single moment when one will ascend to the very top as Ultimate Nutrition presents the 2013 IFBB Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend, brought to you by Bodybuilding .com, Sept. 26–29 in Las Vegas, NV.
Defending and two-time champ Phil Heath will have to go through the toughest trial of his life if he is to win three consecutive Sandows and join the likes of Sergio Oliva, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, and Ronnie Coleman. Among the threats to his claim are last year’s runner-up Kai Greene, third-place finisher Shawn Rhoden, former Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson, and four time winner Jay Cutler, back after sitting out 2012. Also, making his Olympia debut is rookie pro, 286-pound man-mountain Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay. With perennial challengers Dennis Wolf, Branch Warren, Victor Martinez, and others, expect plenty of fireworks. Team AMI/Weider experts Dennis James, Chad Nicholls, and Fakhri Mubarak give you their unfiltered take on what could go down at the 2013 IFBB Mr. Olympia.
PHIL HEATH DATE OF BIRTH: Dec. 18, 1979 ■ HEIGHT: 5'9" ■ WEIGHT: 250 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2012, 1st; 2011, 1st; 2010, 2nd; 2009, 5th; 2008, 3rd
Dennis James: I don’t think he needs to come in any bigger. Phil’s got the kind of animated muscle that jumps out at you, and in order for that to happen, he needs to be dry. He needs to bring the condition he had in 2011. But there is no room for error, and he needs to be equally good on both nights. He’s built his delts up so much that he took care of the width problem that plagued him early in his career. Unless he’s off and the rest of the guys nail it, I don’t see anyone beating him. I see guys being able to give him a run for his money, but if past performance is any indication, he will do his homework and come in tight and coupled with his muscularity and fullness and that will be a very tough package to overcome.
Fahkri Mubarak: Many people say that Phil is good because of his genetics, but what they don’t know is that he works extremely hard every day and loves being Mr. Olympia. He’ll do everything in his power to keep being Mr. O. The only way to beat Phil is to be better than him overall. So you have to have a better structure than him, better lines, great tie-ins, a small waist, round muscle bellies, and conditioning so dumb that it looks unreal. Well, the problem is that Phil brings that to the stage all the time. He is one of the best of all time already by winning two Mr. Olympias, and he’s my choice to win it again.
Chad Nicholls: I see Phil winning the show; he has momentum, however, he’s definitely got his work cut out for him. It won’t be a walk in the park at all. Kai Greene was extremely close last year, but he’s looking at an entirely different scenario with the momentum Mamdouh Elssbiay has after his recent N.Y. Pro win. At the end of the day, Phil can be no less than 100%. When he is, his muscles display crazy depth and his conditioning stands out. He is a complete athlete, though we are noticing his structural flaws with more athletes pushing their size and conditioning against him. He needs spot-on conditioning. He hasn’t been very consistent and has been less than 100% onstage more times than he’s hit it on the money. If Phil shows up as he did in 2012, he loses if he comes in spot on, he will walk away with win No. 3.
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KAI GREENE DATE OF BIRTH: July 12, 1975 ■ HEIGHT: 5'8" ■ WEIGHT: 260 lbs ■OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2012, 2nd; 2011, 3rd; 2010, 7th; 2009, 4th
DJ: He is on a mission this year, and I believe we will see the best Kai yet. He has the size and structure to make it very tough for Phil in certain poses, and I believe he will push Phil even harder than he did last year. Kai’s learned over the past few years that he has enough size, and he’s been focusing on detail and downsizing his waist. His legs are phenomenal, he’s got one of the widest rear lat spreads, and he’s been improving his chest and delts. He will definitely be one of the last three men standing.
FM: Kai is a beast. He has worked his way up to becoming one of the best in the world. He is very determined and has been at this for a long time. He has lots of size, and when he’s peeled, which he has been over the past few years, he’s very hard to beat. In 2012 it was between him and Phil Heath, and I believe it’ll be between them both again this year.
CN: I have Kai currently in the third spot. Last year, I believe he beat Phil in the prejudging yet still wasn’t able to push Phil enough to dominate him in the end. I would have guessed Kai was at 90% last year, and we still have yet to see the crisp, crazy, and dry conditioning that I feel he’s capable of achieving. He always teases us with what could be, but never gives us exactly what we want. This year, he has stayed extremely lean in the off-season and does possess a tremendous amount of muscularity and thickness, but I see the problem between the off-season and contest phases. Just look at any of the guest posing Kai had with Phil and other top five Olympia contenders this year. He could easily be touted as the frontrunner but fast-forward to the final stage of prep and Kai loses that dominant off-season size and no longer has an edge over Phil. In 2012, Kai looked great but did not dominate Phil in the size/ fullness department. If Kai and his team can find the balance of holding on to the size and fullness that blows everyone’s mind in the off-season with the crazy conditioning we know he is capable of, then he will give Phil and everyone a run for their money and could easily take the title.
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SHAWN RHODEN DATE OF BIRTH: April 2, 1975 ■ HEIGHT: 5'9" ■ WEIGHT: 235 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2012, 3rd; 2011, 11th
DJ: What an unbelievable year in 2012. His condition was outstanding, but can he repeat that? You can chase that for the rest of your life, but if it was your all-time best it will be very hard to nail it again. You can ask any retired bodybuilder what his best was, and he will tell you the year and the contest. He’s like Flex Wheeler in that if he’s on, he looks spectacular, but if he’s a little off, his lines just aren’t there. And he’s not blowing people off the stage with size so he needs to be sharp. If he can do it again and bring more upper-body size, he will be in the mix. But he has to be bigger.
FM: Shawn had his breakthrough year in 2012 and established himself as one of the best in the IFBB. He’s right up there in terms of being genetically blessed with the best in the world. Shawn has not competed in 2013. I’ve seen him at a few shows hanging out, and he looks like he has put on good size. If he holds that size and comes in peeled like he did in 2012, he’ll be in the top three again. Symmetry, conditioning, and muscularity, he has it all.
CN: Shawn is genetically, one of the best athletes in the lineup. He is the closest we have seen to Flex Wheeler with beautiful lines and good conditioning last year, though still not great. Conditioning will be the deciding factor. He does not possess the muscle to hang with many of the key guys in the lineup— especially Phil, Kai, and Big Ramy. However, if Shawn comes to the show in spot-on conditioning, he possesses the overall package of shape and symmetry to give him an edge over many of the top, bigger guys. With that in mind, I see him in the top six, possibly as high as fifth or fourth depending on whether or not Jay Cutler does the show. The main issue with Shawn is going to be getting his skin thin enough and dry enough to show the intricate detail he is capable of displaying.
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JAY CUTLER DATE OF BIRTH: Aug. 3, 1973 ■ HEIGHT: 5'9" ■ WEIGHT: 270 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2011, 2nd; 2010, 1st; 2009, 1st; 2008, 2nd; 2007, 1st; 2006, 1st; 2005, 2nd; 2004, 2nd; 2003, 2nd; 2001, 2nd; 2000, 8th; 1999, 15th
DJ: After his biceps injury in 2011, he stopped training and just did cardio so it was a smaller Jay than we’ve been used to seeing. He’s adding size now, but I’m still not seeing the same off-season Jay from before. And he’ll be 40, and this is the time when your body doesn’t respond the way it used to. I went through it, and so have guys like Ronnie and others. And I saw signs of him going backward already. At his last Olympia (2011), it wasn’t the Jay we saw when he won the title in 2009. However, Jay is very good under pressure. He wants to be the guy doing the chasing, rather than have other guys chasing him. At this point in his career, I don’t see him beating Phil. I think he has to be 100% to make the top three.
FM: What can you say about Jay? He’s the ultimate professional in everything he does. When Jay first stated he was coming back many people said no way he’ll put back that size. He has, and it’s getting dense once again. Jay is freaky big at 5'9", and when he’s peeled he looks insane. Jay will be a problem, and I know he’s getting other competitors worried because they said he wouldn’t come back. If he comes close to what he looked like in 2009 and 2010 he’ll be in the top three.
CN: This could be a very tricky spot, but if Jay competes this year, this is where I see him placing. His extremely demanding travel schedule simply did not allow him to add the size I felt was necessary (especially after coming back from his surgery) to be competitive against Phil. Jay was able to gradually put on a small amount of muscle from January through May, and then only during June this year was he able to really commence with hard weight gain. He has definitely begun to fill out, but it is all new weight. The only problem with this plan is that any weight added from June to the point where he would begin his hard contest diet, would also be the first weight to diet away since it would not be seasoned, mature muscle. I’m simply afraid his front stance is not going to show the dominance it once did and that any muscular inconsistencies in size and symmetry will stand out. If Jay does compete this year, I see him falling to around the fourth to fifth spot. Personally, I see him pulling out of the show sometime in August. I just don’t think things will come together the way he is hoping because of his schedule. I do give him credit, as I felt he gave it an incredible effort, but in the end, I feel his travel schedule is what will put a crimp in his prep.
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MAMDOUH ELSSBIAY DATE OF BIRTH: Sept. 16, 1984 ■ HEIGHT: 5'9" ■ WEIGHT: 286 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: Rookie
DJ: I am 100% sure that he’ll be the biggest guy onstage, and he will make a very strong impression in his Olympia debut. In New York, no one knew who he was, and up against a hometown favorite in Victor Martinez, he won it hands down. It wasn’t even close. He will push the top guys very hard. The game plan is more detail and separation. He’s been training for only three years so that will come with time. Once he gets that, he will look even crazier and he will be very hard to stop. The personal goal is top three, but I definitely see him cracking the top five.
FM: Man, let me tell you, this guy has the potential to be a Hall of Famer easily, and he’s done only one show. He impressed the hell out of everyone at the N.Y. Pro. When Dennis James showed me his pics I was blown away. Ramy is ridiculously big. DJ has said he can get harder for the O. Let’s think about this, if he doesn’t put on one more pound of muscle ever, he’ll still be one of the biggest pros on earth. He’ll put on more muscle and will be 300 pounds onstage soon. Ramy will be top two or three in the world over the next couple of years.
CN: I believe Big Ramy is the biggest threat this year. Many will say he is untested at this level, but he brings an enormous amount of muscle and thickness. He won’t be challenged in those areas. The difference between Ramy and those who are considered “mass monsters” is that his structure and the flow of his physique are good to go along with the size. He has a very flat midsection and his core area is put together nice and tight, and this helps to over-exaggerate everything else. Ramy’s main downfall is conditioning. In New York, I felt he was around 80%. Showing up as he did in New York could be good enough to garner fifth and every 5% improvement from that point I can see him moving up a spot. Also in Ramy’s favor is the fact that his physique is different from Phil’s, and this could be a determining factor in a “changing of the guard.” As I see it, conditioning could be the only thing separating Big Ramy from a rookie Olympia win!
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DEXTER JACKSON DATE OF BIRTH: Nov. 25, 1969 ■ HEIGHT: 5'6" ■ WEIGHT: 235 lbs OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2012, 4th; 2011, 6th; 2010, 4th; 2009, 3rd; 2008, 1st; 2007, 3rd; 2006, 4th; 2004, 4th; 2003, 3rd; 2002, 4th; 2001, 8th; 2000, 9th; 1999, 9th
DJ: Dexter just keeps going! He will be peeled, and if he comes in with the fullness he had at the 2012 Masters Olympia, he can be top five and even upset some of the top names. There’s no pressure on him to add size because that’s never been Dexter’s game. He just needs to be the Dexter of old, with shape, fullness, and detail that allow him to battle with guys who carry a lot more mass than him.
FM: His lines are ridiculous, and he’s known for his conditioning. People thought he was slipping a little in the rankings until he showed up at the 2012 Masters Olympia in sick shape. In my opinion, that was the best Dexter since he won the O in 2008. He might not be as heavy as he was a few years ago, but at 5'6" he has always carried enough muscle to compete against the bigger competitors (he’s beaten most of them). A peeled Dexter at the O will be very interesting this year.
CN: Dex is one of those athletes who are almost mind blowing. He has not only reinvented himself but has also figured out how to get back to his signature conditioning and keep the youth in his physique at an age when most athletes are just hoping to be noticed at the end of their career. Dexter has shown us he found the fountain of youth and is learning how to push the boundaries. At the end of the day, he needs to be a bit more conditioned and a bit sharper than he was at the 2013 Arnold, but if he can do this and keep his stomach nice and flat along with it, he could grab the sixth place spot.
DENNIS WOLF DATE OF BIRTH: Oct. 30, 1978 ■ HEIGHT: 5'11" ■ WEIGHT: 275 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2012, 6th; 2011, 5th; 2010, 5th; 2009, DNP; 2008, 4th; 2007, 5th
DJ: Dennis doesn’t have a problem getting into shape. Dennis needs to stay full. That’s been his big problem. If he loses just a little bit he gets marked down because he’s got such a tall, wide frame. Toney Freeman has the same problem. At the Pittsburgh Pro (guest posing), Dennis and Kai killed everyone. If he can hold on to that combo of size and fullness, he’ll be battling for a top spot.
FM: Dennis is a very good bodybuilder. He is tall and has fi lled up his upper torso and lower lats. What has plagued him is his conditioning on a few occasions. A lot is expected from him because of his potential. Dennis needs to just come in sliced and diced. If he does that he can be top five or six.
CN: Overall, Dennis has the size to hang with any of the top guys. Though he does not display the incredible overall thickness of Ramy, Dennis’ small joints, muscle bellies, and height make his muscle jump of the bone and give him the illusion of being much larger. He also has a great “wow” factor. What will make or break Dennis is whether or not he has found the formula that will maintain his conditioning throughout the entire prejudging. Dennis usually starts out full and in good shape, then for whatever reason, the more he poses the more his physique fades, pushing him further down the pack. If Dennis can ever nail how to maintain his conditioning, he could defi nitely move up the ladder and break out of his perennial fourth-fifth place at the Olympia. However, in this year’s lineup, if he brings the same package to the stage and continues to fade, I can definitely see him falling out of the top six.
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BRANCH WARREN DATE OF BIRTH: Feb. 26, 1975 ■ HEIGHT: 5'7" ■ WEIGHT: 245 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2012, 5th; 2010, 3rd; 2009, 2nd; 2006, 12th; 2005, 8th
DJ: I don’t see him making top five or six again, but every time I say something like that, Branch proves me wrong. Since the injury, the right leg has been down and he can’t match the overall flow of the top guys. A couple of people need to have an off night for Branch to crack the top six. But as I said, he always proves me wrong.
FM: I never bet against Branch. Hard work has paid of for him. The man is scary when he trains. He doesn’t have the X-frame like a few of the others, but he’s dense and gets grainy. Branch has never cared what any critic has said about him. He’s proved them all wrong by winning the Arnold twice and finishing as high as second at the Mr. O. With as much crazy muscle as Branch carries, he can easily break the top five if he comes in as sliced as he has in the past.
CN: Branch is definitely a guy who could move way up the list this year. With a solid of season under his belt, we should potentially see the best Branch Warren we have seen in years. Not only has he had an extended period to put on size but also his muscle has matured and he has brought back his leg fully. Condition-wise, he can be one of the hardest guys on stage, and with his size he can hang with anyone, especially when he is able to dial in the hardness to his muscle. The harder, freakier and more grainy Branch’s conditioning is, the larger he looks. If Branch can bring this to the Olympia stage this year, he’ll move back up if not, he’ll fall into the mix.
VICTOR MARTINEZ DATE OF BIRTH: July 29, 1973 ■ HEIGHT: 5'9" ■ WEIGHT: 255 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2011, 4th; 2010, 8th; 2009, 6th; 2007, 2nd; 2006, 3rd; 2005, 5th; 2004, 9th
DJ: Victor at the New York Pro wasn’t as big and full as usual, but it was the best conditioning we’ve seen from him since 2007. He has time to gain a couple of more pounds, and if he can do that and bring the same condition he had earlier in the year, he could battle for those last couple of top six spots.
FM: What I admire about Victor is his determination and his heart, not just as an IFBB pro but as a man, which is more important. Victor finished second to Ramy at the N.Y. Pro and then won the Toronto Super Show a week later, and in my opinion, he was about 80%. This year he wasn’t as big as he’s been in the past. His conditioning was good and with enough time until September, I hope he can regain some of his size. If he can do that, he’ll be a threat.
CN: Victor is the one who could really move up this list. Earlier this year, though his conditioning and separation were pretty good, he still lacked the overall size necessary to make a statement. From the front, his lats weren’t as full as they should have been and he did lack front-to-back thickness. His physique didn’t yet possess the overall size, flow, and balance that we are used to. If Vic can fill out, bring his lats lower, and get back his overall stage dominance, especially with his front stance, I could see him sixth, fifth, or even higher. The key with Vic is going to be whether or not he’s had enough time after N.Y. and Toronto to put on enough size to be competitive in Vegas.
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CEDRIC McMILLAN DATE OF BIRTH: Aug. 17, 1977 ■ HEIGHT: 6'1" ■ WEIGHT: 265 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: Rookie
DJ: I doubt he will be a factor this year. He’s had so many mishaps getting ready for shows. He has a great physique, but if he’s not on, all the size, shape, and proportion in the world won’t help him. He needs to get his head together. Physically, everything is there for him to live up to the potential we all talked about when he turned pro in 2009. But it’s been one thing af er another every year. I don’t think he deals with pressure very well, and until he can learn to focus on what he needs to do, we won’t see him be the bodybuilder we all know he is capable of being.
FM: Cedric has a lot of potential. He has the structure of a classical physique. When he’s conditioned he wins. He’s tall so if he could carry a little more mass, he’ll be right in the mix with the top five guys in the world. His small waist creates the illusion of more size and sets him apart from many competitors. I hope to see him peeled and a little bigger.
CN: In a year or two after Cedric figures out the keys to his physique, he will be one of the last guys standing onstage. Genetically, he is one of the best athletes in the sport today. Personally, I don’t see him competing in the Olympia this year. He competed so much this year and his physique has been through so many ups and downs, I see Cedric taking a break, letting his body rest, and figuring out what his next steps will be. I would like to see him take plenty of time to fill his physique out, mature everything, and recuperate and come back in 2014.
ROBERT PIOTRKOWICZ DATE OF BIRTH: Jan. 17, 1974 ■ HEIGHT: 5'8" ■ WEIGHT: 251 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2011, DNP; 2010, DNP
DJ: He’ll be grainy, hard, and full, but he just doesn’t have the structure and shape to get past the top guys. If some of them are off, he might crack the top 10, but it’s going to be very tough for him. He will need to be his all-time best because these other guys just have superior lines and will look more pleasing next to him. Top 10 in the Olympia would be a great achievement for him.
FM: Robert comes in hard as nails. His structure is not among the best in the world, but his conditioning wins shows. He will have to be at his best this year to do well. So far he hasn’t placed at the Olympia. I know he works hard, and I hope he can accomplish his best showing to date.
CN: Robert always possesses great conditioning with a decent amount of muscle for his structure, but his overall structure and symmetry are not quite in the league of many of the top contenders. I believe he will come to the stage with good conditioning, yet will still have trouble in the lineup.
BRANDON CURRY DATE OF BIRTH: Oct. 19, 1982 ■ HEIGHT: 5'7" ■ WEIGHT: 225 lbs ■ OLYMPIA HISTORY: 2011, 8th
DJ: He impressed me at the Arnold Brazil. He has a great physique with beautiful shape and lines, but the question mark with Brandon is condition. He’s struggled with it his entire career. He will need to be harder than he was in Brazil to compete with the big boys on the biggest stage. I like that he brought his quads up. It shows that he’s been working very hard. They can still be bigger, but when he’s on and they’re separated, they look good. If he can bring the condition he had at the 2011 Olympia (Curry placed eighth) along with the added size he has now, I can see him cracking the top 10.
FM: Brandon has very nice lines, small bones and joints, and is pleasing to look at. At the Arnold Brazil, he looked very close to the way he did at the 2011 Olympia. Brandon’s problems in the past have been his conditioning. If he can nail it, he’ll make the top 10 once again. Once he brings up his lower body a little bit more he could be a top six threat.
CN: Genetically, he is great. He won his first pro show this year, but overall in this lineup, he will have a hard time as he simply is not big enough. With great overall balance and structure, he doesn’t have to be a mass monster by any means, but he needs to be more complete, and for now, he’s not quite there. For his size he is fairly wide, but he still needs quad sweep and a bit more thickness if he wants to make an impression against the top contenders. When you couple the lack of size with a struggle to hit his conditioning, it’s going to make for problems.