Arnold Classic 2023 predictions

Saturday, Mar. 4 will see the 2023 installation of the Arnold Classic, the world’s second most prestigious bodybuilding show. This year’s men’s open division lineup features many of the world’s best bodybuilders and promises to be the most entertaining since the days of Kai Greene and Phil Heath. Arnold Schwartzenegger has also upped the prize money to a monstrous $300,000, which has only created further tenacity among the competitors to come out on top. The show will feature multiple former Arnold Classic winners, a former 212 Mr. Olympia champion and several top Olympia competitors from last December’s show. The show promises to be a classic, as the Arnold Classic ought to be. With that said, here are my predictions for the top placers ahead of next week’s competition.  

In fifth I’m predicting William Bonac, one of two Arnold Classic champions. Bonac won the Arnold twice in 2018 and 2020 in addition to placing in the top three in the Mr. Olympia as recently as 2019. But despite his historical pedigree, Bonac has been very clearly slipping in recent years as he ages. In 2020 he slipped to fifth in the Olympia, which was followed by sixth and nineth places in the same show in the following two years. Bonac did convincingly win the Boston Pro in 2022, but that show was simply not on the same level as the Arnold, with his closest competitor in that instance being Justin Rodriguez, who has never placed higher than eighth at the Olympia and was not at his best in Boston by any means.  

That being said, Bonac does make it difficult to rule him out of being a true contender. Recent physique updates look promising, with his back in particular looking as crisp as it did in his 2016-2019 prime, as opposed to holding water like it did at this year’s Olympia. Further, the Arnold always seems to bring the best out of Bonac. There is a serious argument to be made that he should be a three-time Arnold Classic champ after he placed 2nd to Brandon Curry last year, with large swathes of fans pointing out that Bonac’s mass and conditioning were both on par, if not better, than Curry’s last March. In the end, predicting him fifth is a tough call, but even if Bonac shows up improved from the Olympia, his structure is still far inferior to some of the other competitors in the show, and I just don’t believe Bonac will ever recapture his best from five years ago. fifth it is.  

Mamdouh Elssbiay, a.k.a. Big Ramy, I’m predicting in fourth after the prize money was increased, and in doing so has thrown this show wide open. Ramy divides opinion in the men’s open division unlike anyone else. On one hand, he has shocking amounts of muscle mass and has won two Mr. Olympia titles to prove himself. On the other, he has never come into a show looking as complete as fans always hope for. Even in his Olympia-winning performances in 2020 and 2021, Ramy was less than convincing against relatively weak lineups compared to the mid-2010s, when Phil Heath reigned supreme. In both years he looked soft and watery, winning mostly on the merit of his sheer size. Come 2022, his physique slipped further as Ramy came in with significantly downsized arms, no lower back definition, and strange lumps on his quads and glutes, presumably from some complication with injectable anabolic steroids. He reports to have fixed these issues with stem cell treatments to fix an underlying nerve issue that impacted his ability to train, but is less than three months really enough to correct a very poor Olympia showing that saw him slip to fifth? I don’t think so. His size alone will snag him fourth, but no more.  

I’m predicting a repeat of Nick Walker’s third-place finish at the 2022 Olympi. Walker is very clearly one of the best young bodybuilders in the world at the moment. He is as densely muscled as Big Ramy, hence his nickname: “The Mutant.” Walker’s only issue remains his lack of any aesthetic aspect to his physique. He comes in gigantic and peeled show after show, but has yet to manage to fix his extremely blocky look. Hard work only goes so far; you can’t out-train a wide waist and narrow shoulders.  

We can’t count Walker out, that’s for sure. He has always had his haters, and he disproved large groups of them by winning the New York Pro and 2021 Arnold. Now in his return to Columbus, he’ll be seeking to go two-for-two in front of Arnold Schwartzenegger. But I simply don’t see that happening with some of the more aesthetic guys in this lineup. Walker will place third for the second show in a row.   

Coming in second I have Samson Dauda, a favorite among many big names in bodybuilding to win the Arnold this year after his surprise sixth place placing at the 2022 Olympia. Dauda made massive improvements between the 2022 Arnold, where he placed fourth, to the Olympia. In the process, he beat several top pros, including Bonac, Rafael Brandao, Hunter Labrada, Michal Krizo and Chinedu Andrew Obieka. Samson is another mass monster, but with a difference: he also has a very aesthetic structure, with a narrow waist and massive shoulders. He has also learned to make the most of this structure, as his posing routines brilliantly show off his V taper. Dauda placed behind Walker and Ramy at the Olympia, but he looks very much poised to take the next step in his career and jump them both at the Arnold. His one issue at the Olympia looked to be conditioning, as he looked to be holding some water in his midsection, especially at finals. But recent updates have shown him to look both larger and in better condition, which will be a very dangerous combination for his competition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Samson wins the entire show, but for now I’ll predict him as the runner-up.  

Those who follow professional bodybuilding will perhaps be a bit shocked by this call, but I am confident Chinedu “Andrew Jacked“ Obieka can win the Arnold. He only placed eighth at the Olympia in December, barely scraping past Bonac ,who I have in fifth. Why, then, would he jump so many top competitors in Columbus?  

There are several factors that have led me to this thought. First and foremost, he is one of, if not the most, aesthetic men’s open division pro in the world at the moment, and Arnold Schwartzenegger’s shows tend to favor more aesthetic winners historically, as Arnold is a well-known proponent of the older eras of the sport, when aesthetics were valued much more than they are today. Second, his performance at the Olympia was hindered by illness. Obieka has always struggled to get his conditioning to keep up with his crazy muscle mass, but this was made worse by illness, including a 102-degree fever for several weeks of his prep. Now healthy and with a more hardcore coach in Chris Lewis, I have faith he will come in peeled. Third, Obieka has some of the best genetics bodybuilding has ever seen. I am not referring to structure either, but the fullness of his muscle bellies. He tends to pop out to the eye on stage more than any other competitors as a result of his natural tendency to look as full as a house. All of these factors together make me confident Obieka can win the Arnold and shock many in the process.