With less then a month to go before the 2011 Arnold Classic and reigning champion Kai Greene and runner up Phil Heath both sitting out this year who do you predict will be crowned the new Arnold Classic champion?
Here is some background history and my thoughts on the competitors.
Evan Centopani: Probably my favorite pro bodybuilder at this point. He won his pro Debut at the 2009 NY pro. He took the 2010 season off and from the pictures Austin posted it looks like he put on a significant amount of size. If he comes in condition he could place very well and possibly even win the whole thing, though at this point he is still a wild card.
Roelly Winklaar: He turned pro by winning the 2009 Arnold amateur classic. Probably one of the most promising new pros he also won the 2010 NY pro. He got a respectable 7th place finish at last years Arnold Classic followed by a disappointing 14th place finish at the Olympia. However if he comes in condition he could definitely best his previous 7th place finish.
Branch Warren: Branch is my personal pick to win the title this year after having placed third in 2009 and 2010. With Phil and Kai sitting out he is probably the most likely candidate to win at this point, and you can bet he is going to show up with the crazy conditioning everyone has come to expect from him.
Dexter Jackson: Dexter already has 3 Arnold Classic wins under his belt and definitely want's another one to tie up Flex Wheeler's record of 4 wins. He also won the 2008 Mr Olympia. However he has been placing behind Branch the last couple of years and his placing has been steadily declining. However with Kai and Phil out of the picture his odds of winning are the best they have been in a while.
Victor Martinez: Winner of the 2007 Arnold classic he unfortunately suffered many set backs the past years including injury and the murder of his sister. Coming off a disappointing 8th place finish at the Olympia he hopes to step back up into the winners circle. However he has been held back by a lack of conditioning. Hopefully he can nail his conditioning this time around.
Johnnie Jackson: Winner of the 2009 Worlds Strongest Bodybuilder contest. His best placing at the Arnold Classic thus far being 9th. Given this years line up i can't see him placing much higher then that if at all.
Essa Obaid: Last March he won the overall title and a pro card at the Arnold Amateur. He also won his pro debut at the 2010 Europa super show. Although a top placing seems very unlikely at this point.
Dennis Wolf: After a rather disappointing couple of years he finally recovered with 5th place finish at the 2010 Olympia. If he can show up in the same condition he had at the Olympia a top 5 finish at the Arnold Classic is definitely within reach.
Robert Piotrkowicz: He earned his pro card in 2009 and made his Arnold Classic debut last year and placed 10th. I find it unlikely he will place higher then that this year.
Ronny Rockel: His best placing in all 4 of his previous Arnold classics has been 6th place. Last year he also got 6th place at the Olympia. I think he has a very strong chance to place top 6 this year with a solid possibility of placing even higher. One thing is for sure you can count of him being in top condition.
Ben Pakulski: Winner of the 2008 Canadian championships. He is now working with Charles glass to bring his best package ever to the pro stage. He also has some of the most insane calves in bodybuilding.
Toney Freeman: The tallest and oldest competitor on the stage this is his 7th Arnold Classic. His best placing at the Arnold has been 3rd back in 2007. However he promises to bring his best ever package to the Classic this year proving that the x-man hasn't become the ex-man.
Sergey Shelestov: He placed dead last at the Arnold last year followed by a disappointing 11th place at the 2010 NY pro. It's safe to say that he won't be making a splash on the pro scene anytime soon.
Mohammed Touri: He was the overall winner of the 2010 IFBB world amateur championships. However being much lighter then the other competitors and being a brand new pro it's likely he will be fighting to not place last rather then first.
Fouad Abiad: He sat out the 2010 season hoping to bring a much better package this year. Prior to that his best placing at a pro show was 2nd at the 2009 Pro bodybuilding weekly championships. I suspect that he will place near the bottom of the pack.