DigitalMuscle.com’s Coverage of the 2016 Mr. Olympia continues with this EXPANDED preview and prediction from bodybuilding insider and former Natural Olympia champ John Hansen. Be sure to visit our Olympia Section for more reports from the biggest names in the industry!
By John Hansen
The 2016 IFBB Mr. Olympia contest has more hype surrounding it this year than the biggest contest in bodybuilding normally has. The reason for all the excitement comes from the return of Kevin Levrone to the Mr. Olympia stage. One of the best and most popular pro bodybuilders from the 1990’s, Levrone is returning after a 13 year layoff from the sport and at the tender age of 52 years old. His comeback has the whole bodybuilding world excited over the possibility of a Hollywood “Rocky” style victory that would eclipse any climax to ever take place on a Mr. Olympia stage.
Although most comeback stories in the Bodybuilding world are disappointing and often times embarrassing, the return of Kevin Levrone promises to be a legitimate blockbuster. Levrone has incredible genetics and his response to the Bodybuilding lifestyle is dramatic and immediate. Also, Kevin loves the spotlight and he will be enjoying every minute of his return to the big stage. His confidence and pride will not allow him to show up looking anything less than his best so it’s doubtful that he will disappoint when it’s time to show what he has.
Levrone’s return to the Olympia is well timed because the Biggest Bodybuilding contest of the year will again be missing Kai Greene, Phil Heath’s number one rival (Kai was second to Phil for three years). The big losers in Kai’s decision are ultimately the fans. Bodybuilding’s greatest rivalry has been cut short and the fans are being denied the chance to see Phil and Kai posedown against each other.
Another top contender who will be missing from this year’s line-up is Dennis Wolf. Wolf has been one of three or four competitors who has had the potential of challenging Heath for the title over the last few years. Unfortunately, Dennis had serious back surgery this year and he will not be able to regain his normal top condition in time for the contest. Dennis is wisely skipping the contest this year in order to properly recover from his operation.
The following is my prediction for the Top 15 (from bottom to top). They are based on how they looked this year in previous competitions and their mindset and motivation as they approach the 2016 Mr. Olympia.
15th Place – Akim Williams – Akim is coming off his first professional win at the Tampa PBW Pro Show in August. One of the biggest and thickest pro bodybuilders competing today, Akim has struggled to show the lean conditioning and separation necessary to win. At the Tampa Pro, Akim was in his best condition to date, showing very hard development in his massive legs and a tighter look all around. He will be competing in his first Olympia so he will be one of the underdogs trying to gain the judges attention, but if he can repeat his stellar conditioning from earlier in the year he should make the top 15.
14th Place – Steve Kuclo – Steve has all the tools necessary to be a top contender at the Mr. Olympia. He is tall with a great structure, excellent muscle mass and good shape. He did not place in the top 15 at the Mr. Olympia last year, a surprising drop for Steve because he has consistently done well in his pro career. This year, Steve made the top five in the very competitive New York Pro and he won first place at the California Pro after a very tough battle with the promising new pro Nathan DeAsha. If Steve can bring in the same conditioning he did at the California Pro, he should be able to work his way into the top 15 again in this very tough Olympia line-up.
13th Place – Victor Martinez – One of the happier story lines from the 2016 IFBB Pro Season is the successful comeback of Victor Martinez. One of the nicest guys in the sport, Victor has been the unfortunate victim of bad luck over the last ten years. Now in his early 40’s, many experts have felt that the best days for 43 year old Martinez are in the past. This year, Victor displayed a physique that was dramatically improved in both size and conditioning. He took a strong third place in a tough New York Pro line-up and then won the Baltimore Pro in fantastic shape. Whatever Victor is doing different is clearly working and he has a good chance of placing high at the Mr. Olympia this year.
12th Place – Nathan DeAsha – Nathan is one of the most exciting new pros on the IFBB scene. He won the British Championships and has made an impact on the professional level right off the bat. Nathan placed high at the New York Pro and many people in the audience would have had him in the top three at that event. Soon after the New York Pro, he took a very close second place to Steve Kuclo at the California Pro. The showdown between Kuclo and Nathan went down to the wire with a special posedown between the two of them to decide who would win. Nathan took a close second place at that contest but redeemed himself when he won the Toronto Pro. Nathan has very good shape and full muscle bellies, reminiscent of Kevin Levrone, and he should make a big impact at his very first Mr. Olympia contest providing that he comes into the show in top shape.
11th Place – Roelly Winklaar – Along with Big Ramy, Roelly is a true freak in the world of Bodybuilding. Blessed with full muscle bellies, Roelly has entered super freak mode over the last few years. His arms and legs are so big and blown up, you need to see it to believe it. The key for Roelly is to nail his conditioning to really enhance that incredible size and volume of his muscle bellies. When Roelly is off condition, his placing drops dramatically. However, if he can compete in the same condition as when he won the Body Power Pro contest this year or when he took second place to Dexter Jackson at the New York Pro, he will easily make the top ten. He can place much higher but it all depends on his conditioning and retaining that size as he diets down.
10th Place – William Bonac – Bonac is another underrated bodybuilder who can really do some damage this year. He placed 8th last year so he has proven the ability to place high in the Olympia. William is working with Flex Lewis’s coach Neil Hill this year and Neil has promised to bring Bonac into the Olympia in peak condition. With his thickness and good shape, a dialed in William Bonac will be dangerous at the Olympia.
9th Place – Justin Compton – Justin is hitting his stride right before the Mr. Olympia this year. He got off to a slow start by missing his peak at the Arnold Classic in Ohio in March, placing a disappointing fourth after some industry experts predicted he would be challenging Kai Greene for the title. After that show, Justin decided to do his own prep instead of relying on a contest prep coach. At the Arnold Classic Australia only two weeks later, Justin looked much better and moved up to the third place position. A few months later, Justin won his first pro show at the Golden State Pro followed by a second win at the Arnold Classic Asia. In those victories, Compton looked his best ever. His waist was significantly smaller and his incredible muscle mass and size was extremely impressive. Winning these two shows back to back has to inspire confidence in Compton, a serious but quiet competitor who works very hard. He is peaking right at the crucial time of year and may surprise some of the bigger names at the Mr. Olympia.
8th Place – Kevin Levrone – This is my most controversial prediction for the 2016 Mr. Olympia. Kevin Levrone is the sentimental favorite to do well in the contest. At 52 years old, to come back to the biggest contest in the world and challenge the best pro bodybuilders on the planet, most of whom are at least 20 years younger than him, is ballsy to say the least. If he can pull it off and step up onstage with the same physique that made him a legend, it will be one of the biggest events in the history of the sport. Kevin said his motivation for coming back and competing at the Mr. Olympia again was to show the fans what a 1990’s Mr. Olympia physique looks like. Many of the fans of bodybuilding have been complaining for years that today’s top bodybuilders focus too much on extreme size but they don’t have the same level of conditioning and aesthetic shape that the bodybuilders of the 1990’s did. By returning, Kevin hopes to show the world what his version of a Mr. Olympia physique looks like. He is realistic that he will probably not win the Mr. Olympia but if he can stir things up and make an impression, he will have accomplished his very lofty goal. In order for Kevin to make the top ten at the 2016 Mr. Olympia, he will have to build back the size he carried when he competed in the Mr. Olympia in the 1990’s to the early 2000’s. Kevin never won the Mr. Olympia but he took second in 1992 and 1995 to Dorian Yates and in 2000 and 2002 to Ronnie Coleman. His freaky arms and shoulders combined with his very aesthetic physique and excellent posing ability and showmanship onstage made him one of the most successful professional bodybuilders in history and also one of the most popular. Even at the age of 52, Kevin does not look any where near his age so that doesn’t seem to be a factor at all. According to his posts on social media, he has been training very heavy with high intensity so his body has held up during his time off. The success of his comeback revolves around his ability to build the same physique he competed with at the Olympia during his peak years. If he can pull this miracle off, I think the judges will award him with a high placing. At 52 years old and coming back after a 13 year layoff, this will be a total and complete victory. Kevin, The world awaits your comeback!
7th Place – Dallas McCarver – The biggest rising star in the pro bodybuilding field, Dallas is still in his early 20’s. He has continued to grow each year while still retaining a small waist and great shape. He looked amazing last year in his Mr. Olympia debut but was unfairly placed in 13th. This year, Dallas was bigger than ever and he easily won the Chicago Pro Show in July, securing his qualification for the 2016 Mr. Olympia. Dallas has all the tools to be Mr. Olympia. He is massive with great shape, tall, wide and proportioned. He is still working to bring up his back to match with the best pro bodybuilders on the planet but with the improvements he has made and the positive buzz surrounding him, this should translate into a top seven placing at this year’s Mr. Olympia. He will certainly be one of the biggest competitors onstage (along with Big Ramy and Roelly) but he has better shape and flow to his physique than they do. Look for Big Dallas McCarver to avenge his low placing from last year’s Mr. Olympia and place in the top five at this very competitive show.
6th Place – Josh Lenartowicz – Another young rising star in the pro ranks is Josh Lenartowicz from Australia, the winner at both the San Marino Pro and the Ferrigno Legacy last year. He continued that strong momentum at the 2016 Arnold Classic in Columbus, taking third place behind Kai Greene and Cedric McMillian and beating top names Justin Compton, Branch Warren and Juan Morel. At that show, Josh was big with outstanding conditioning. After placing fourth at the Arnold Australia two weeks later, Josh went into off season mode to prepare exclusively for the Olympia. If Josh can repeat his top shape from the Arnold Classic, he could easily break into the very competitive top six at the 2016 Olympia.
5th Place – Mamdouh Elssbiay – The man they call “Big Ramy” will be entering his fourth Mr. Olympia this year. He placed a disappointing 8th in 2013, followed by 7th place in 2014 but he moved up to the top 5 last year in 2015. No one has the extreme amount of muscle mass and size that Big Ramy possesses. His thighs are the biggest in the sport and his tremendous mass makes him the biggest bodybuilder competing in the Olympia this year. The question concerning Big Ramy is always his ability to attain the lean separation and definition needed to highlight all that size. This could be the year Big Ramy reaches his unrealized potential. He has been working with top contest prep coach Chris Aceto for the greater part of this year. Chris has been in the bodybuilding industry for decades and he is a true expert at guiding his clients to their absolute peak condition. He understands that Big Ramy needs to come in shredded in order capitalize on his huge muscle mass. If Chris can find the right formula for Ramy, he potentially could be challenging Phil and Dexter for those top spots at the Mr. Olympia. If he is slightly off, I think he will be just outside the top five.
4th Place – Cedric McMillan – The favorite pro bodybuilder of the old school bodybuilding fans is Cedric McMillan. He looks like a bigger version of Lee Haney, the most dominant bodybuilder of the 80’s. Cedric’s only criticism is that he is sometimes off condition and doesn’t show the same hardness or graininess that some of his pro competitors do. Many people in the bodybuilding industry (Lee Haney and Arnold Schwarzenegger among them) have mentioned Cedric as the type of physique that should be awarded the top titles in bodybuilding because he has the qualities that define the ultimate bodybuilding physique – size, shape, symmetry and proportion. Bodybuilding legends like Arnold want to see the sport of bodybuilding go back to rewarding more shapely and aesthetic physiques like Cedric to help bring back the type of physique that more people would be attracted to and want to look like. . Although Cedric has won pro bodybuilding contests in the past, he had never conquered a big show like the Arnold or the Olympia. Unfortunately for Cedric, he lost the posing round to Kai Greene in Columbus and took a disappointing second place, but the fact that he was regarded so highly by the judges at the Arnold Classic is a positive sign. Fans of the old school Bodybuilding are keeping their fingers crossed that Cedric will continue to move up the ladder by placing in the top five at this year’s Mr. Olympia. He has all the tools to be a legitimate Mr. Olympia winner if the judges give him a fair look and he competes in top shape. Cedric is also working with top contest prep coach Chris Aceto and Chris has been promising all year that Cedric is going to surprise some people with his incredible condition. Hopefully, Chris is right and Cedric looks even better than at the 2016 Arnold Classic. Now, if only the Olympia judges will give him his due by rewarding his type of physique.
3rd Place – Shawn Rhoden – Shawn has been one of the top challengers for the Mr. Olympia title for the last few years. His combination of shape and size along with excellent muscularity and definition has set him apart from most of the contenders. Shawn has placed either third or fourth at the Mr. Olympia for the last four years.
Last year, Shawn had a great opportunity to move up and possibly unseat Phil Heath. Phil was decidedly off his best at the prejudging on Friday night. Shawn, Dexter Jackson and Dennis Wolf were all in top shape with Shawn looking the best of the those top four competitors. Unfortunately, Rhoden was not aggressive enough in the comparisons and seemed too laid back during a very critical part of the competition. He was even completely relaxing in between poses at times. Many experts feel that Shawn could have pulled into first place at the Friday night prejudging ahead of Heath if he had been more aggressive and hungry. Instead, Heath managed to place first in the prejudging comparisons before coming back Saturday much improved and easily retaining the title. Going into this year, Rhoden has all the potential in the world to move to the top again. He has the physique that most competitors would die for. He just needs to come into the show in top condition again and, this year, show up onstage hungry and fight for the title just like Heath does every year. It’s frustrating to see a competitor with the incredible physique of Rhoden lacking the fire and drive to win when it counts. Maybe Shawn will take the criticism from last year to heart and truly compete at the Mr. Olympia this year to win!
2nd Place – Phil Heath – The Mr. Olympia over the last ten years has often been full of surprises and upsets. Before Jay Cutler shocked the world by defeating 8 time champ Ronnie Coleman in 2006, no current Mr. Olympia had been beaten since Lee Haney wiped out Samir Bannout at the 1984 contest. During the years of Lee Haney’s reign, followed by Dorian Yates’s six year domination of the title and then moving into Ronnie’s eight year winning streak, no reigning champ had ever lost his throne to a challenger. When Jay beat Ronnie that year, the crowd inside the arena went into pandemonium! This was history, an unprecedented event that the sport had not seen in 22 years. Since that day, we have seen it happen three more times. Dexter Jackson unseated Cutler in 2008 only to have Jay come back one year later and win back the crown in 2009 and then Heath took the title from Jay in 2011. These turn of events have made the Mr. Olympia contest much more exciting and unpredictable. This year, I think it will happen again. Phil Heath is now closing in on what could be his sixth Mr. Olympia title. This would put him in very high standing as one of the best Mr. Olympia winners in the history of the sport. Over the last two to three years, Phil has not been a dominating winner. In fact, the last two years, Heath was off the mark on Friday night during the prejudging but was able to retain the title by coming back dramatically improved on Saturday. The feeling among many fans of the sport is that Phil is a lucky winner. He’s not facing the same level of competition that Dorian or Ronnie did over the last ten to twenty years and he’s barely squeaking by with a victory each year by winning with a physique that is off the mark from his best. I predict that the lucky streak will end this year. For some reason, Phil and his trainer Hany Rambod have not been able to replicate his incredible winning physique from 2011. I know Phil wants to win just as badly as anyone on that stage but he is still off the mark each year. Maybe his body is changing, maybe he’s past his peak, maybe they just don’t have the formula that works for him any more. Some other bodybuilder is going to win the Mr. Olympia this year and it won’t be Phil Heath. The cocky champ will be defeated if he is off his game again on Friday night. The competition is too good and many of the top contenders have seen the chinks in his previously impervious armor. Phil Heath will finish his career with five Mr. Olympia wins.
1st Place – Dexter Jackson – Dexter shocked everyone last year by placing second at the Mr. Olympia. To his credit, Dexter realizes that he is at the tail end of his career and he is doing everything possible to try and win another Mr. Olympia title before he retires. In 2015, Dexter was bigger than ever before and in his standard ripped condition. This year looks to be his year. He trains every day at the famous Gold’s Gym Venice under the expert eye of his trainer Charles Glass. They must have a formula that is working because Dexter has dramatically improved his physique over the last few years. Recently, Dexter guest posed at his own contest that he promotes in Jacksonville, Florida and he looked contest ready – big and hard. He brought in his rival Shawn Rhoden to guest pose with him and they appeared together onstage to the delight of the audience. From the pictures and video from the contest, Dexter looks to be much better than Shawn. It’s amazing that Dexter won the Mr. Olympia way back in 2008. Over the last six years, his hunger and determination has grown. He knows that the clock is ticking and his window of opportunity for winning another title is coming to an end. Because of his increased dedication to the sport, Dexter has defied the odds and has continued to improve at the age of 47. After placing second last year, I feel that Dexter now fully believes he can win the title again and defeat Phil Heath. I think Dexter is going to make history by being only the second Mr. Olympia winner to come back and win the title again after losing it and also be the oldest Mr. Olympia winner in history. It’s his time and this will be his year!
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A three-time Natural Mr. Universe and the first Natural Mr. Olympia champion, John is the author of the book Natural Bodybuilding (2005, Human Kinetics). A 14 year columnist for Ironman Magazine, John is the founder of FloridaPhysique.com where he covers the NPC Florida Bodybuilding scene and interviews legendary bodybuilders. John is also the promoter of the NPC Natural Suncoast Classic and offers consultations on training, nutrition and posing – in person and online.