We are now just 4 weeks away from the 2022 Arnold Classic, now back to its normally scheduled date in early March. At this proximity to the show, some competitors are beginning to drop out, and based on the physique updates we see them posting, the real contenders are becoming clear. This week I’d like to predict my top 5 (in order, which always leads to great success of course; just look back at my Olympia predictions for proof of that) and explain a little as to why I’ve picked the lineup I have
5th: Akim Williams
The big issue with Akim as I have said before is always conditioning. He is always freakishly massive, and he always brings good proportions, but he is rarely (if ever) as cut and dry as the other competitors. Still, I think he has enough to pull 5th place here. Modern bodybuilding seems to have a fetish for size over aesthetics. The days of Lee Labrada, Frank Zane, Bob Paris and more turning bodybuilding into an art are long gone now. In decades past, I would have had the smaller and more aesthetic Brett Wilkin or maybe even Regan Grimes in this spot, but when size wins the prize, then size IS the prize to make my top 5, so Akim squeaks in.
4th: Justin Rodriguez
Justin is commonly overlooked in bodybuilding for some reason, and I think it’s about time that changed. While he is not by any means the most genetically gifted bodybuilder in history, his physique flows incredibly well, he brings consistent conditioning, he keeps his midsection in check, and his proportions are always very good. Justin simply gets overlooked because he doesn’t have a freak factor like other top pros. Akim, for example, has some of the biggest biceps the sport has ever seen. Hadi Choopan brings the craziest conditioning I’ve ever seen. Big Ramy is, well BIG. Justin is more arguably more complete than 99% of professional bodybuilders, and even has a decent posing ability, but get set aside for that reason. But in recent times his placings have been improving, and it seems judges may be coming around. He placed 8th at the Olympia, above Akim in 9th, and I think if for nothing other than the sake of consistency, he’ll repeat that small victory here, even if it isn’t enough to crack the top 3.
3: Steve Kuclo
I think Steve is going to repeat his 2021 placing here and take third. Steve is another one of these freakishly big bodybuilders without a lot of aesthetics, which unfortunately I think means he’ll top Justin in the placings. But what Steve brings that other bigger guys like Akim bring is conditioning. Last year he should arguably have won the show, let alone come third, on account of the fact that he paired size with a look that can only be described as diced to the bone. If he repeats that look this year, I don’t think he’ll win on account of the two guys we have to come, but he should be a runaway winner for the best-of-the-rest.
2: William Bonac
My next prediction is the 2020 winner will come second in his return to the Arnold stage. He missed last year’s show due to visa issues, and so will be looking to come back firing and defend his title two editions on. Sadly for him, I don’t think that will be the case. Bonac will definitely have a good run at first place, and I would not be surprised if he does in fact lift the trophy at the end of the show, but something in his physique has always been lacking to me. He’s a shorter guy, which to his favor means he is a very densely packed bodybuilder with the illusion of carrying even more freaky size than he does; however he does seem to struggle with conditioning to me. He never maintains the deep cuts in his legs that other top pros do, and while his arms are crazily big and round, the separation from bicep to tricep, as well as the horseshoe in the tricep, never seem to pop like they should. He’s a top professional for sure, and very consistent, but for me Bonac is a very “eh” contender, even if I could never come close to the physique he carries. That bias places him second in my list.
1st: Brandon Curry
Who else could it be but the only former Mr. Olympia in the lineup. Brandon somehow always improves between shows, and has year on year. He has come second in the Olympia twice since winning it in 2019, with it seeming that only Big Ramy can stop him winning shows. With the big Egyptian not in this Arnold lineup, there is no one in Brandon’s way to reclaiming the title he won back in 2019 as well. I have not always been a fan of Brandon, but he has proved me wrong time and time again. His legs were his weakness for years, but now they don’t look out of place among the best. His upper body has always been massive, and he has one of the best V-tapers out there. The thing with Brandon is while he may not be the best at one thing necessarily, he’s in the top 2-3 in the world in everything, so next to him everyone else’s flaws pop. I believe this will happen at this year’s Arnold. He will out condition and proportion Akim, outsize Justin, have better aesthetics than Steve, and out condition Bonac as well to claim the title.