Expanding Everyday! – DigitalMuscle.com features the most respected line-up of contributors in the bodybuilding & fitness industry. From Bob Cicherillo, Dan Solomon, Chad Nicholls, Lonnie Teper, Ruth Silverman, John Hansen, the list goes on. And now we present the much anticipated Mr. Olympia Predictions from one of the most respected insiders in the business!
The Swami Expects Heath to Be Challenged!
By Lonnie Teper
Well, I should have expected this…. happens every year around Olympia time. The Sandow isn’t the only crown at stake; so is the Swami’s turban. And I will personally give it up to Dave (Jumbo) Palumbo if he actually beats me in an Olympia prediction confrontation. Which, of course, has never happened. And he certainly won’t end the streak at the latest edition of the Big Dance at the Orleans Arena next weekend.
If you haven’t heard by now, let me fill you in. Palumbo was thrilled with Kevin Levrone’s announcement that he was returning to the Olympia stage after a 13-year break from competition. For those who remember, Levrone’s last appearance at the 0lympia was in 2003 when, at 39 years of age, he finished sixth.
Palumbo said Levrone’s comeback is the most exciting thing that has happened to the Mr. Olympia in 20 years. Said the now-52-year-old is going to take the Sandow away from Phil Heath, the Gift from Colorado, who will be aiming for his sixth consecutive victory.
I hear Palumbo has relocated from New York to Florida recently. Spending too much time in the sun, my man? First? As in Number Uno? I have to hand it to Palumbo…he may be right on his initial claim. The buzz on Levrone’s return to the Olympia stage HAS generated a staggering amount of interest. Robin Chang said VIP seats were sold out months ago.
And, I have to surprisingly admit, Palumbo ain’t the only one thinking Levrone is capable of walking off with the Sandow, and the 400K that comes with it. I say, no way.
Now, let me make it perfectly clear that Levrone will go down as one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, without question. Had 22 wins on the pro circuit after winning the 1991 NPC Nationals in Pittsburgh. I was there; he was awesome in besting, in order, Flex Wheeler; the late, great Paul (Quadzilla) DeMayo; Ronnie Coleman (yes THAT Ronnie Coleman); and Matt Mendenhall in probably the most talented class in Nationals history.
Levrone went on to brilliance at the next level—finished second, as a matter of fact, in his very first Olympia in Helsinki in 1992. Only Dorian Yates received a higher score, as the new kid on the block bested such noted vets as Lee Labrada and Shawn Ray.
Furthermore, some folks feel the “Maryland Muscle Machine” should have won the Olympia a couple of times. I don’t disagree. A first ballot Hall of Famer. One of my all-time-favorite bodybuilders, too.
But that was then, and this is now. Actually, Palumbo and other supporters who predict a Levrone victory parade in Las Vegas next weekend have put way too much pressure on him by tabbing him to record the biggest upset in bodybuilding history. Even Levrone himself says he just wants to be better than the last time he took the Olympia stage. Thus, taking fifth would make the long, arduous journey through the past six months well worth the pain and suffering.
To me, just his competing after all this time is a tremendous feat, and he should be saluted. If he does do the impossible and comes out on top, I will be the first to stand and cheer. And admit how wrong I was.
Enough babble…. on with the show. Crystal ball, who will turn out to be the buffest of them all? (Editor’s Note: Kai Greene chose not to participate, Dennis Wolf out with injury)
1) Phil Heath: Yes, Heath has been a tad “off” in the past few Olympias, but he still presents the best all-around package in the game today. At 5’9” and around 240 pounds, Heath’s full, round muscle bellies jump out at you as soon as he hits the stage. A tad narrow in the shoulders, yes, but who doesn’t have a flaw? Great guns, good wheels and calves, a back that resembles a relief map of Brazil…well, you get the picture. At 36, the Gift still has something to prove—that his best days are not behind him.
2) Dexter Jackson: If anybody can snatch the Sandow from Heath, it’s the Blade. This cat’s résumé is just plain stupid. Once called too small to be a factor on the pro level, the 5’7” 230-pounder tied Ronnie Coleman with a record 26 wins after his victory at the Arnold South Africa. Has been in the top five something like 70 times out of 76 pro contests. Set a new Arnold Classic record in 2015 of five wins. Can he unwrap the Gift? Sure. The 46-year-old anomaly has been my Bodybuilder of the Year for the past three years—but I’m sticking with the defending champ this time around in a down to the wire battle. (Note: DigitalMuscle.com Publisher Dan Solomon has predicted victory for Dexter!)
3) Shawn Rhoden: Don’t sleep on this cat. Like Jackson, Rhoden has the goods to upset Heath if Heath doesn’t show up in prime-time condition. People have been talking about Levrone’s lines. Have they seen Rhoden’s shape? The new age Sultan of Symmetry, if you will, with my apologies to Flex Wheeler. Rhoden has the size, at 5’11” and 245 pounds, and the shape, to beat anybody on that stage. He’s getting tired of third place, and he aims to do something about that this season.
4) Justin Compton: Going out on a limb with this selection. Originally had Big Ramy in fourth, but Compton looked so improved in winning the Golden State and Arnold Asia titles in August, I’m taking a chance on the 5’8 ½”, 250-pounder. The 27-year-old was 15-20 percent better at these shows than at the Arnold Classic in March. Gone was the tummy bloat; his back was way more detailed and the legs more separated. More balanced than Big Ramy, especially with Compton’s huge calves. The next Jay Cutler? Highly possible.
5) Big Ramy: People may think I’ve spent too much time in the California sun by putting Compton ahead of this 5’11”, 290-pound behemoth. A behemoth who’s been moving up the Olympia ladder, bit by bit, each year. He’s the largest man in the field, with some of the freakiest bodyparts on the planet, but Compton is more balanced, and, IF he’s in his top shape, may be able to hold off Big Ramy for fourth. Say, would you pass me the sun block?
6) Cedric McMillan: Might have the best genetics in the whole show, if you consider height, weight, symmetry and conditioning. McMillan stands 6’2”, weighs in the neighborhood of 270 pounds, and has the small waist that sets off his classic V-taper that so many people feel is “the look of Mr. Olympia.” Still hasn’t hit the stage at 100 percent, and if and when he does really nail his conditioning, all of the names above could fall in line BEHIND MacMillan. As successful as he’s been to date, McMillan still needs to work on is his confidence. Once he can convince himself he does belong in the battle for the Sandow, look out!
7) Roelly Winklaar: It’s hard to fathom anybody being bigger than Big Ramy onstage next weekend, but this dude very may well be. Have you seen pictures of the 5’6”, 265-pound beast lately? Talk about a cartoon character! Will he come in too heavy, as in the past? If he does, may not make the top 10. If he delivers, could move up a notch or two in the final placings.
8) Dallas McCarver: I really liked this kid last year and thought he deserved a higher placing than 12th. He should complete that task this year. The youngest guy in the lineup at 25 (Levrone was 27 when McCarver was born?), he’s a 6’ 260-pounder with good symmetry and is usually in spot-on condition. He gave the world a preview of things to come when he won the IFBB North American Championships a few years ago at a record 21 years old and should be ready to break through in his second Olympia competition.
9) Josh Lenartowicz: Say, what? Say, yes to the latest Thunder From Down Under, who established himself in the past year as one of the world’s top physiques. The 2015 San Marino and Ferrigno Legacy champ, the 5’11”, 260-pounder opened the year with a second-place finish to McMillan at Levrone’s Pro event in Poland before placing third behind Kai Greene and McMillan a week later in Columbus at the Arnold Classic. Taking a chance with this pick, putting Lenartowicz ahead of some pretty terrific physiques. In your hands (or arms) now, Josh.
10) Victor Martinez: Okay, so Martinez isn’t the same Martinez he was prior to his knee surgery, but the man is still one of the best bodybuilders in the world. Don’t let the third-place finish at this year’s New York Pro fool ya—the two dudes who finished ahead of him go by the names of Jackson and Winklaar. Now 43, Martinez has an agenda for this Olympia—to prove he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
HANGING CLOSELY ON THE OUTSIDE, LOOKING TO GET IN: William Bonac, Steve Kuclo, Kevin Levrone, Ben Pakulski, Nathan DeAsha. These gents are all capable of fighting for a top-10 landing, most likely in the eight-to-10 slots.
Hey, this prediction stuff is not getting any easier! Best wishes to all of the Olympia competitors; just qualifying for the Big Dance is quite an achievement. This one should be among some of the best in recent years. Yes, even without Kai Greene and Dennis Wolf.
Swami sez…over, under and out!
Author’s note: I wrote this without seeing any of the contestants prior to the show, with the exception of Kevin Levrone in a tank top and Justin Compton guest posing four weeks out. I’m basing the picks on the premise that all competitors will show up in prime-time condition.
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One of the most prolific bodybuilding emcees in the history of the sport, Lonnie Teper has also made his mark as a journalist, promoter, and longtime correspondent for Iron Man magazine. Also known as “The Swami”, LT has had a front row seat to many of the biggest moments in bodybuilding history.