As per the expectation, I didn’t get all of my predictions correct last week. That being said, my title is a bit deceiving this time around with the exception of one or two picks, I got extremely close with all of my top-10 picks. Let’s have a look at the correct top 10 in Men’s Open Bodybuilding at the Mr. Olympia from this past weekend, and how they compare with my predictions from last week.
10th: Mohammad Shabaan. Predicted: N/A
Poetically, we begin with the only entry in the top 10 I had predicted to finish outside of it. Shabaan qualified for the Olympia off of points, meaning he failed to win a qualifying show in the season leading up to this Olympia. I won’t lie, that did dampen my faith in him. However, I had been impressed with his recent showings, and felt he had been overlooked for far better placings. In fact I was justified in this when he comfortably beat Patrick Moore, who took 14th this weekend. Moore had beaten Shabaan to take the win at the California Pro this past year, with Mohammad finishing in second. But that order was corrected on Olympia weekend, as he brought far more size and grainier conditioning than the American. Personally, I’m quite a fan of Shabaan’s physique; he just fails to stand out in one regard or another to beat the big name competitors. I’m looking to see him kick on next year after a good showing this time around.
9th: Akim Williams.
Okay so I know I didn’t get this one exactly right, but I was damn close. Akim did exactly as I thought he would: he came in soft. That change in coach seemed to have the effect I was worried about. I will give Akim credit, he came in much tightened up at the night show, and I think moved up a placing as a result. He was being compared more with James Hollingshead, Mohammad Shabaan and Roelly Winklaar in prejudging, and ended up with more comparisons to Justin Rodriguez at the night show. Perhaps the most disappointing part of this for me is how good Akim looked in his last physique update post prior to show day. At one day out, he was peeled to the bone, but couldn’t carry that condition onto the stage. We’ll see if he figures it out next year.
8th: Justin Rodriguez.
Once again, so close yet so far. I predicted Justin to take 9th this year and match his 2020 placing, but he outdid me and took 8th. This was a reliably good package from Justin as we’ve seen all year so far, at Indy, New York, and the Arnold. He managed to outdo Akim on conditioning, but ultimately fell short of a first callout spot on a combination of structure and size, along the lines of what I predicted. Justin always comes in shredded, but isn’t helped by the proportions of his shoulders to his waist. It’s hard to pick out, but something about the lines in his physique’s upper body are confusing. Regardless, he always packs his frame with muscle; maybe the key for next year is to try for even more size.
7th: Iain Valliere.
I’m torn now, because for the third time in a row I’m off by one place. This does mean I managed to predict the exact order of three top contenders, but I’m still annoyed nonetheless. Iain, who I am not a fan of, matched his 2020 performance by placing 7th at this year’s showpiece. He brought what ended up being essentially an identical package as to his Arnold appearance two weeks prior; not at all unsurprising, given the quick turnaround. Still, I can’t help but feel Justin was robbed of a better placing. Iain carried more width, but a very unaesthetic physique in comparison to Justin, and they were on par with each other in terms of conditioning this past weekend as well. Some transparency on the part of the judges as to the criteria they look for, but alas we’ll likely never get that.
6th: William Bonac
And again, I’m one off the mark. William “The Conqueror” Bonac dropped further in the placings this year, ending just inside the top callout in 6th. Bonac will be highly disappointed considering he was second a mere two years ago. He will also have to qualify this year by winning another show (or on points) as only the top 5 automatically qualify for the next year’s Olympia. He didn’t look poor by any means either; I honestly believe the momentum of Nick Walker and its presence in the judges’ minds played a large role in this decision. Bonac also looked to be holding a little extra water, perhaps a tad softer than last year, which could be put down to the stress he experienced in the weeks leading up to the show due to his visa issues. At the end of the day, Bonac simply doesn’t have the illusion of mass like Nick Walker, Big Ramy or some of the other guys, nor is he over aesthetic. I think this lack of specialization hurts him, as the mass monsters and more aesthetic guys tend to beat him to the top placings. I think this may just be the motivation he needs to take his physique to the next level though, which would be brilliant. We always see the same slightly soft, bulky but not massive, tapered but not quite aesthetic, Bonac; I want to see that next level come to fruition.
5th: Nick Walker.
Nearly once more, Nick Walker dropped one place from my predictions on his Olympia debut. This was quite the showing from The Mutant, and he didn’t look out of place at all amongst the best on stage. Nick somehow managed to improve his physique even further after the Arnold, coming in with an extra level of condition that is rarely seen after the toll put on the body by going through four shows in a year like Nick has. Only Hadi could say he was more conditioned than Nick on show day. The only reason he didn’t place higher was likely down to his lack of aesthetic appeal. Nick has trouble showing a V-taper, as his front lat spread is easily his worst pose. Also, his midsection is naturally very blocky, which doesn’t help his case, nor do the (albeit genetic) varicose veins in his legs. And as we’ll see in our next entry, if faced with a decision between mass and aesthetics, the judges tended to go with aesthetics on the day.
Justin beat Akim for this reason, as did…
4th: Hunter Labrada.
…Hunter Labrada in beating Nick Walker. Hunter said during the pre-show press conference that he and Nick would be apples and oranges, and he wa dead on. I guess the judges preferred apples this year, as Hunter’s aesthetic physique beat out Nick’s mass on the Olympia stage. This was quite a controversial placing among bodybuilding fans, actually; social mediawas rife with outrage that Hunter had beaten Nick after the show. But it follows the aesthetic-over-mass trend that the show as a whole had, and honestly I’m on board with it.
Hunter matched Nick’s conditioning, brought an improved back (his weakness last year), and didn’t look outsized by anyone bar Ramy (who sits at over 300 lbs of stage weight, so fair enough). It was an impressive showing, but now he needs to kick on for one of those top 3 spots if he wants to be considered among the truly elite or even win the O one day.
3rd: Hadi Choopan.
Hadi was robbed. Straight up, no whining, Hadi should have won the show. I was right, and he came in more “on” than we’ve ever seen him. He was slightly downsized, which was the only criticism anyone could have. He was the most conditioned on stage with the most symmetrical, popping round physique around. That’s all I really have to say on that one. A disgrace.
2nd: Brandon Curry.
Say what you’d like about Brandon, he always improves. This time he had his typical size in the upper body, plus noticeable mass added in his quads, which had always been his weak point. Oh yeah, and his condition was on point. If it weren’t for Hadi, he’d have been the most cut guy on stage. If it weren’t for Hadi’s insane package, I’d argue he had a shot at winning the title. Still, he fell just shy at the final hurdle. The field needs to look out, because if Brandon continues to improve as he is right now, given he has probably another decade in the tank of top level bodybuilding, there are more Sandows to come his way. His only regret will being beaten again by that man, Big Ramy.
1st: Big Ramy.
So I got the important one right. Ramy wasn’t quite as on as last year, especially at prejudging, but he did enough to retain the crown. He also tightened up by the night show, and as a result his combination of massive size and good conditioning were considered unbeatable by the judges (you already have my thoughts on that). But we cannot take away just how freakily gifted Ramy is. He has the ability to bring size unlike any other, and he’s now proven he has the formula to come in conditioned figured out. This could be the beginning of the era of Big Ramy for many years to come.