So far, this year is looking to be another exciting year for the Mr. Olympia contest with Jay Cutler set to defend his title this weekend of the 15-17 in September of 2011. Had you asked me in 2008 if I felt that Jay Cutler would go on to win another two Mr. Olympia titles [and the Sandow trophy that comes with it], I would have said, not likely. However, based on how he looked in the past two years I would reconsider that proposition. With that said, he has some stiff competition so only time will tell how the chips will fall. But with Branch Warren out of the running, the main competition at this point would appear to be Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, and Kai Greene. Below is a list of the competitors currently slated to be on stage at the 2011 Mr. Olympia contest.
Jay Cutler was chasing Ronnie Coleman for many years for the Mr. Olympia title but it proved to be elusive for him, due to Ronnie's dominance. However, in 2006, Father Time caught up to Ronnie and a very good Jay ended up beating him at that contest
Since 2006, Jay has gone on to win three more times [in 2007, 2009, and in 2010 making him the reigning champion]. However, some would say that 2007 was a gift [I am one of them] and that Dennis Wolf or Victor Martinez should have won instead. Even in Jay's closing speech he said that he made some "last minute adjustments" between the prejudging and the finals and to me that was somewhat of an admission that Jay knew he came in off. I think Jay's victory at the Olympia in 2007 made judges look more harshly at him in 2008, even though he looked the same or better then compared to his 2007 performance. At that point I imagine that Jay knew that he would have to be at his all-time best or even reinvent his physique completely in order to regain his title as Mr. Olympia and hold onto it. He did that in 2009, apparently as a result of Hany Rambod's FST-7 training.
Jay Cutler more or less repeated his 2009 performance in 2010 although some would argue that he was as much as 5% off but still good enough to win. The end result was that he won once again and had the intention to compete again this year which is about to happen. My prediction is that if Jay comes in at his best or even repeats his performance from last year that he will be too much for Phil Heath and Kai Greene [his nearest competition] to handle and that Jay will win again. If Jay comes in a bit off however - say the way he looked in 2007 or 2008 - then I think either Phil or Kai can slip in and grab the top spot. Since Branch Warren is no longer competing in the Olympia due to injury, I think that Phil or Jay would most likely win it if Jay does not. Dennis Wolf and Dexter Jackson stand a chance too, but only a narrow one I believe and one based on Phil and Kai both coming in off as well as Jay.
Some photos of Jay Cutler at the 2010 Mr. Olympia contest are shown below. This is roughly what Jay looked like in 2009 although some would say he was around 5% better in 2009. In any event, this is also the combination of size and conditioning that I expect Jay to bring to the table this year:
If Jay can maintain the look that he is displaying in the photo above, it really won't matter if Phil Heath and Kai Greene are at their best ever or even make improvements for that matter, Jay will win.
Phil Heath is one of the most remarkable bodybuilders in bodybuilding history, especially in terms of how quickly he has made improvements over so many years. Between 2005-2010 he was improving literally at every show he competed at. Frankly I don't even understand how such a thing is possible within the realm of human potential - even amongst genetic freaks such as the ones we see in the world of bodybuilding. How a bodybuilder such as Phil Heath could gain even 3-5 pounds from one time of the year at one contest to another while improving his conditioning is remarkable. I remember Phil turning pro at slightly over 210 pounds by winning the overall title at the 2005 Nationals and continuing to improve since then. By the time of the 2007 Arnold he was around 222 which was still "small" for professional bodybuilding standards but he has gone on to put on around 20 pounds in the [almost] five years since then while simultaneously improving his conditioning and Phil's new combination of size and conditioning is mind-boggling. The only bodybuilder stopping him from winning the Mr. Olympia in my opinion is Jay Cutler and only if Cutler comes in at his best. Anything less than that and an all-time best version of Phil Heath will win in my opinion. While Branch Warren and Kai Greene are very close to Phil and capable of beating him if Phil comes in slightly off, if everyone is at their best the only bodybuilder I feel can take Phil is Jay Cutler. So with that said, I do believe Phil will be 2nd this year if he is at his best. I think he can be 3rd place [after Kai Greene] if both Jay and Kai are at their respective bests and Phil is slightly off. As for Dennis Wolf and Dexter Jackson, I think that they have an outside chance of beating Phil but that it's not very likely.
Phil Heath claims in the interview below that he has made improvements going into the 2011 Mr. Olympia Contest:
I'm not sure how much Phil's improvements will matter given what Jay is looking like above. Also keep in mind that Phil may be close to Jay in many areas and even trump him on general conditioning, but that Jay has superior width to just about every bodybuilder competed including Phil Heath. This is especially noticeable in the back poses and I don't think that Phil could have made enough improvements in only a year to catch up to Jay in this area.
Once again I should point out that this analysis is based on the hypothetical scenario of every bodybuilder competing at their best. If this happens, I would put Phil in second, although Kai at his absolute best vs. Phil Heath at his absolute best are very close. I only have one reason why I feel that a top Phil beats a top Kai and that is because Phil is only 31 right now [turning 32 in December of this year, 2011] and Kai is 37. I have not seen Kai improve much in recent years whereas Phil is still making consistent improvements. Even if Phil makes no improvements from last year, I think that an all-time best Phil as he looked in 2010 beats and all-time best Kai as seen at the 2009 Arnold Classic. Unless Kai is at his best and Phil is just so slightly off, I do not see Kai coming in 2nd place. Nor do I see Kai winning which I believe would only be possible if both Jay Cutler and Phil Heath come in off.
Dexter Jackson - assuming he is somewhat close to his best and especially if he is improved over his 2010 performance - I believe is still capable of pushing the top bodybuilders at this contest. Dexter is turning 42 in December but he can still shred it up with most of the best of them and if he has made improvements as his trainer Charles Glass claimed [see video below] then he will be able to make the top four with an outside chance of placing higher than that, but only if one or more of Jay/Phil/Kai comes in off. Otherwise, I would say that Dexter is guaranteed a top six position almost under any circumstances, if not higher. Most likely I foresee Dexter coming in the top four with spots 4/5 being open for him. I don't realistically think he could make enough improvements to place higher and even then, it would only be based on others coming in off. But if both of those do happen, he could indeed place higher and be somewhere in the top three.
I felt that after a lackluster performance by Dennis Wolf in 2009 that he may have been somewhat of a one hit wonder or simply someone who progressed quickly in the bodybuilding world and burnt out quickly, even at the relatively young age of 31 which is the age he turned just after the 2009 Mr. Olympia [Dennis was born in 1978 and will be 33 soon]. But Dennis surprised me by coming in to the 2010 Mr. Olympia contest in fantastic shape and placing in the top five. After that he went on to place 2nd at the 2011 Arnold Classic after a very good Branch Warren and he also won the Australian Pro. Overall, I think it's safe to say that Dennis has redeemed himself from a poor performance in 2009 and that it was in fact Dennis coming in off which was a one time deal. I do feel that Dennis does not have the back thickness to compete with those who I feel will place higher than him [Jay/Phil/Kai/Dexter] and I would also say that Branch Warren has a better back than Dennis and would beat him in the back shots if he was competing at this contest. If not for his back being weak in relation to his competition, I think Dennis could full well be a future Mr. Olympia winner. As it stands, I think top five is quite realistic and perhaps even a little better if one or more of his nearest competition comes in off. Only time will tell and one thing is for sure - Dennis remains a fan favourite and is extremely popular in the world of bodybuilding.
Ronny Rockel is a bodybuilder who has been around for a while - he has been competing in the professional ranks since 2003 - but only recently has begun to receive very high placings. This is a combination of different things, I think predominantly the massive improvements he has made in both size and conditioning in that time and also as a result of getting increased exposure as a result competing in the Mr. Olympia between 2005-2010 has made this happen. Ronny may be shorter in stature than the previous five bodybuilders listed above [Ronny is around 5'5 and 1/2"] but he has incredible thickness which allows him to be competitive with almost anyone on the stage. I think if he comes in at his best, which I have every inclination to believe he will based on his "weeks out" photos, that he will be in the running for a top 6-8 placing at this contest. I highly doubt he will place outside of the top 10 unless he comes in considerably off and I don't expect him to do much better than placing around 6th unless some of the competition who I expect to place ahead of him comes in off. Anything could happen so we will have to wait and see.
Victor Martinez is a bodybuilder who at his best I believe could give a run for the money of just about any bodybuilders at this contest. While Jay/Phil/Kai are all amazing bodybuilders, a Victor at his best [circa around 2007] would be pushing all of them to the max and really turning the heads of the judges. However, since 2007 I think Victor has not quite been back to the versions of himself that we have seen from that time and before it. I felt that this was the result of the murder of his sister and his ownership of a Muscle Maker Grill but perhaps it could be his physique not responding to the demands of professional bodybuilding as it once did which could be a simple result of age. However, Victor is only 38 years old! He is hardly old for a bodybuilder with competitors like Toney Freeman and Troy Alves who are both seven years older than Victor and looking better than ever. I also think that 38 is just about the perfect time for many bodybuilders who finally develop the muscle maturity and density to look better than they ever have before. So for me to say age is a factor for Victor is not something I want to necessarily commit to since Occam's Razor would have me believe that Victor is in fact busy with his personal life and thus not able to give bodybuilding the focus he once did. That said, he is still quite capable of surprising a lot of people and as a former Arnold Classic champion I do believe what I said previously and that he can push Jay/Phil/Kai if he is at his best. If he comes into the contest looking as he did in recent contests he has done I would say that he will be in the top 10 for sure, but that pushing into and beyond the top six will be difficult.
Hidetada looks very good and has been pretty consistent in coming in full and hard in his most recent contests. I think he has looked more or less the same in many of his most recent contests which is not necessarily a bad thing. While making improvements is a sure way for Hidetada to go up the ranks in terms of his placings, I think that even if he stays as good as he has been looking lately, he should be able to be in the top 10. If he has made some improvements he can place a little higher and give some of the others here a run for their money, but if he attempts to rewrite the book and come in with added size which is nothing more than extra water, he may find himself relegated outside of the top 10 or even the top 15. As it is, I feel that Hidetada is fairly consistent so I do believe he will narrowly make the top 10. I would be surprised if he places in the top six but I would also be a bit surprised if he places outside of the top 10 and I would be especially surprised if he placed outside of the top 15.
Toney has been somewhat akin to the Energizer Bunny lately in that he is now 45 and yet still showing up to contests at his best. I know that Toney had injuries which made him stop participating in bodybuilding between the years of 1996-2002 but I am still rather surprised that he is going so strong at his age despite this time off that he took. I was quite amazed to see him looking as good as he did at his contests this year because I felt that eventually age would catch up to him but so far it seems to have not. I would also that that Toney is not just looking his best, but even improving in certain ways in his contests with no obvious signs of regression to me. I would say that his back is as wide or wider than it has ever been and that his waist is as small as it has ever been since turning pro. Toney continues to impress me and even if everyone shows up at their respective best I would expect Toney to be in the top 10. If a few bodybuilders show up off, I could even expect Toney to be a little higher. I would also not be surprised at all if Toney places in the top six. Beyond that would require several top bodybuilders to show up off, but that is still quite possible. Toney continues to impress me as he shows up looking like a freak show after show, even now older than 45.
Here are some photos of Toney Freeman in the time leading up to the Mr. Olympia contest. Toney has a tendency to take similar pre-contest shots but it still gives a good idea of his size and conditioning and it looks to me that he is ready to do well in the contest:
As said above, if Toney places outside of the top 10, I would be rather surprised.
Other Notable Bodybuilders Competing at the 2011 Mr. Olympia Contest:
There are 30 bodybuilders who are qualified for the 2011 Mr. Olympia contest but not all of them are going to ultimately end up competing so I will comment on five additional bodybuilders who I feel can make the top 15.
Troy is a very good bodybuilder who has had success recently at winning pro contests and it is something that is very exciting to see for a bodybuilder who turned pro somewhat late in the game at age 36  and at age 45 is honestly still looking as good as ever if not improving in certain ways. I would like to see Troy place in the top 10 although I'm uncertain how likely that is. That said, I do think that Troy can be very close to the top 10 which I think is a great placing for a "smaller" bodybuilder like Troy, who competes at around 212 pounds but with spectacular shape and conditioning. It is precisely due to the size of some of his competitors that Troy tends to get relegated outside of the top 10 at the Olympia, but even something just north of the top 10 is quite respectable and a very good placing for Troy I think. Troy is very grateful to his fans and extremely friendly and just overall a very good face and personality for the bodybuilding world. I look forward to seeing him at this show.
Edward Nunn has quite an impressive frame for bodybuilding given his small waist and wide shoulders. I will say that Edward's lats look somewhat thin when compared to his broad delts and massive legs. If he could bring up his lats it would really emphasize his X-frame even more than it already is. He is a great bodybuilder and I think he could be around the top 10 if he comes in as he did for his recent win at the 2011 Tijuana Pro.
Since Marcus Haley placed 13th at the 2010 Mr. Olympia contest, I see no reason why he can't repeat his performance this year. He looked better than ever at the recent 2011 Phoenix Pro where he placed 4th and climbed up the ladder even higher in Tijuana where he placed 2nd to Ed Nunn. I do think that the competition will be as strong as it was last year if not stronger so I think that the best Marcus can expect is to be somewhere in the top 10-15 which is hardly a small feat for any bodybuilder. I'm not sure how long Marcus expects to compete for but if he continues to compete and improve I would not be surprised if he eventually becomes a top 10 bodybuilder in the world.
Johnnie O. Jackson is a perennial top 15 Mr. Olympia competitor with his best ever placing being 9th in 2007. As a result, I would imagine he will place somewhere in the 10-15 spots this year as is quite typical of Johnnie. He is a good bodybuilder although he is 40 now and not putting on any additional size so the best we can hope from Johnnie is for him to come in at his best which is possible. If he does come in at his best or close to it [as he has at recent contests], I think he can be around the top 10-15 area which is no insignificant feat.
Roelly Winklaar is a high caliber bodybuilder although it will take some time to add the size for him to be competitive with most/all of the bodybuilders listed above. In other words, if everyone above comes in shape I would expect them all to beat Roelly. I would expect Roelly to place just south of the top 10 if he is at his best though, which is no small feat given the caliber of competitors on this list. It's unfortunate that Roelly is not competing at the Olympia this year as he would most likely
Fouad Abiad is a great bodybuilder who is tall for a bodybuilder at 5'10 and competes at over 250 pounds. Fouad beat Dennis Wolf at the 2011 Los Angeles Pro show where he placed 3rd and Dennis was not exactly looking bad at that contest. I think that really goes to show how amazing Fouad can look when at his best. As a result, I think Fouad can definitely be in the top 15 and he is somewhat of a Dark Horse to me because his conditioning can make or break things for him. He has a physique where being a little bit off can put him much lower in the placings. However, if he comes in at his best ever, I think top 6-10 is quite possible. Top 15 is a virtual guarantee for Fouad though as I do not expect him to place very far outside it even if he looked worse than he has been in the recent past. I look forward to seeing how Fouad will look at the contest.
Overall, I think this Mr. Olympia can be one of the best ever. With 30 qualified competitors, it certainly has the potential to be one of the biggest. There are a lot of good bodybuilders at this contest and if they show up at their best, it will be a high quality show. I believe that Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, Kai Greene, Dexter Jackson, Dennis Wolf, and Ronny Rockel will comprise the top six, assuming each of the competitors are at their respective bests. If one or more of them come in off, this prediction can be changed although I don't imagine the end result will be radically different from that predicted above, at least based on photos and videos I have seen of some of the competitors leading up to the show. I look forward to the expo and the contest and will come back with a full contest report and review once it is done. Stay tuned!