Our biggest takeaways from the 2023 Arnold Classic.
The 2023 Arnold Classic is over as fast as it started – and it presented one of the most exciting Men’s Open showdowns than we’ve seen in recent memory. After the prejudging – it was truly up in the air who could win between Nick Walker, Samson Dauda, and Andrew Jacked. It was so close that experts and onlookers couldn’t quite predict who would ultimately stand on top. In the end, Samson Dauda won the title by an inch. You can check out our full results report for all divisions of the 2023 Arnold Classic.
But in the bigger picture, it doesn’t really matter who specifically won the 2023 Arnold Classic. What is most interesting is that the battle was between three bodybuilders who are relatively new to the pro league, that Shaun Clarida was able to place top 5 among other longtime Men’s Open competitors, and that the old guard such as Big Ramy and William Bonac are taking a side seat.
We are truly in a new era of the IFBB Pro league. Here are our three biggest takeaways from the 2023 Arnold Classic and it’s implications for the future.
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1. The New Generation Is Has Taken Over
Just three months ago, Andrew Jacked placed eight at the Mr. Olympia. Samson Dauda placed sixth. Nick Walker placed third. Walker’s meteoric rise was already apparent and his high placing last year solidified that he was a true threat to the title and a likely future Mr. Olympia champion. In just a matter of three months, eight place, sixth place, and third place suddenly became the top three at the Arnold Classic.
This isn’t for lack of competition either. Many of the bodybuilders who faced off at the Mr. Olympia were also present at the Arnold Classic. William Bonac returned as well as Big Ramy. Andrew Jacked overcame both of them this weekend. Samson Dauda also further rose up to defeat Big Ramy and Nick Walker.
The fact of the matter is that all three of these competitors improved immensely between the Mr. Olympia and Arnold Classic. Even Big Ramy improved compared to his 2022 showing – but it still wasn’t enough to overtake the younger generation of bodybuilders who have now finally fully formed.
Samson Dauda, Nick Walker, and Andrew Jacked are no longer the new generation. They are the current generation that will be the people to beat moving forward.
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2. Shaun Clarida Should Do The 2023 Mr. Olympia
In 2022, Shaun Clarida stated that he wanted to compete in both Men’s Open and Men’s 212 at the Mr. Olympia. After a long period of waiting, it was determined that he was not allowed to compete in both divisions. Clarida chose to stick with Men’s 212 and earned another victory at the Olympia.
After his victory, he made an announcement. Clarida would be competing at the Arnold Classic 2023 in the Men’s Open division. This wasn’t the first time he competed in Men’s Open (he did this once before at the Legion Sports Fest Pro and won). But this would be the first time that he faced off against some of the best Men’s Open competitors in the world.
For fans that were seeing this as a test of sorts, they weren’t alone. Shaun Clarida himself stated that the Arnold Classic would determine if he would compete in the Men’s Open at the 2023 Mr. Olympia. The Arnold Classic would be proof of whether or not he could hold his own with the best Men’s Open bodybuilders currently competing.
Shaun Clarida didn’t win the 2023 Arnold Classic. But he did place in the top five. Despite not winning the entire show, it’s in this humble outlet’s opinion that Clarida should continue to move forward with competing in Men’s Open. Clarida looked even better this weekend than he did at the 2022 Olympia. It may have been the best physique of his entire career.
Now that he has claimed a top five spot in Men’s Open – we believe that this could further push Shaun Clarida to new heights. As is often said, the quality of your competition helps improve your own quality.
Shaun Clarida can continue to compete in Men’s Open and continue to win for quite some time. Sure that will bring him in some cash, and maybe that’s worth it, but he could also challenge himself further in the Men’s Open. Just like Hadi Choopan and Derek Lunsford before him – this challenge can take him to brand new heights.
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3. Big Ramy’s Future Is In Jeopardy… Should He Take A Break?
Beyond Shaun Clarida, there was one other person who saw the 2023 Arnold Classic as a test. That person was Big Ramy. After going from the 2021 Mr. Olympia champion to dropping five places down in 2022 – Ramy had a lot of recalibration to do. He decided to do the 2023 Arnold Classic. This would give him three months to tighten up and prove to the world that he can still be a threat at the Mr. Olympia.
Unfortunately, his placing this weekend didn’t lead him down that path.
Big Ramy placed fourth at the 2023 Arnold Classic. In that placing, he fell behind competitors who previously placed below him just three months earlier at the Mr. Olympia. It’s important to note that Big Ramy was much improved compared to his Olympia physique… but so was everyone else.
Yes, that improvement shows that perhaps Big Ramy can continue to change things in the time between now and the 2023 Mr. Olympia. That’s very possible. But now the momentum and the psychology has changed. Instead of going into the 2023 Olympia as a frontrunner with regained confidence, he’s going in as a man still chasing the younger generation who have beaten him multiple times now.
Big Ramy isn’t old, but he is much older than the rising tide of new champion bodybuilders. Now in his 40s, preparing for each show will become more and more challenging. Nothing is impossible, that’s the beauty of sports and bodybuilding. But the question is how much time should Big Ramy take to recalibrate?
Would jumping into another show this year be a mistake? Perhaps Big Ramy take a full year off to best prepare in 2024? Or would that put him further behind as the rest of the younger generation continue to succeed?
Instead of building more confidence, the 2023 Arnold Classic only brought up more questions for Big Ramy.
The 2023 Arnold Classic was a truly exciting event and lived up to the name’s reputation. There were plenty of interesting storylines providing human drama on top of the talent on display. The new generation is here to stay. Because of it, the fans are getting some incredible competitions as of late.
You can check out the rest of our 2023 Arnold Classic. We have exclusive interviews, the biggest updates, and the full recap of the results.