Arnold Schwarzenegger and jubilant Samson Dauda. / Instagram
Samson Dauda won the 2023 Arnold Classic, but this one was suspenseful until the final announcement. When three competitors were called out for the last prejudging callout of the 2023 Arnold Classic, it was a contrast in two physique types. The two Nigerian-born musclemen, Samson Dauda and Andrew “Jacked” Obiekea are tall and aesthetic with dramatic X-frames. The American Nick Walker, winner of this contest in 2021, is, well, The Mutant, more compact but celebrated for his consistent high-def conditioning. Who would come out on top? And what about two-time Mr. Olympia Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Ellsbiay, at his all-time biggest? Ramy made the final four-man callout on Saturday to throw another physique type into the mix: gigantic. Fans will likely continue to debate the results and what they portend for pro bodybuilding’s future, but Samson Dauda is the new Arnold Classic champ.
Coming off his surprising sixth-place finish at the Mr. Olympia, Samson Dauda was the early favorite for the Arnold Classic, but when the prize money was hiked 50% to $300,000 and Walker, Jacked, and Ramy jumped in, his path grew crowded. In the end, the late arrivals didn’t matter. The 5’11” Dauda, who was fourth in last year’s Arnold, sports classical lines and nearly proportionate development, with tremendous legs for a tall guy. He still needs to fill out his back a little more, but it was great to see such an aesthetic bodybuilder get the nod in bodybuilding’s second-most prestigious contest. Knocking off Walker and taking the Arnold, sets him up as a top contender for this year’s Mr. Olympia.
Coming off his third in December’s Mr. Olympia, Nick Walker lacks the ideal structure (and height) of the two Nigerians, but he continues to maximize his potential. His arms were the best in the contest. And, like always, his conditioning was crisp and grainy, best evident in his back double biceps with its panoply of lines and divots. Walker won the most muscular award and it’s $10,000. The Mutant didn’t take a step back. He’s right where he was as a top Olympia contender. But when he gets caught in a shape show, he’s in trouble.
6’2″ Andrew Jacked calls himself “Mona Lisa,” for his artful physique, and he delivered here, in the shape of his life. His abs and quads are stupendous strengths, as are his flowing lines in the front shots. He’s the new X-Man. He could’ve been tighter in the back shots, his forearms lag, and his lower body is undersized from the side (get those hams up to match the quads), but Jacked is also now a top Mr. Olympia contender. (He still needs to qualify for this year’s Olympia.) He won the best poser award, pocketing an extra $10,000. It’s remarkable to note how far he’s come in a year: Jacked won the Amateur Arnold Classic to turn pro just one year prior.
And then there was Big Ramy, winner of the 2020 and 2021 Mr. Olympias, who suffered a humbling fifth at last December’s Olympia. He surprised many by jumping into the Arnold after the prize money was hiked. He wanted redemption after a horrible prep for the Olympia, and he didn’t want to wait a year to show everyone he was still “Big Ramy.” He was certainly BIG! At 306 pounds, the Egyptian was at his heaviest ever contest weight, and yet he also sported striated glutes. The problem was his waist was also big and protruded during posing transitions. Was this a successful “bounce-back” for Ramy? He definitely looked much better than at the Olympia. You can’t write him off. But two of the guys who were behind him at that same Olympia, Dauda and Jacked, moved ahead of him here, and are probably only going to get better. Can he get his belly under control and contend for the Olympia title again, or will the aesthetics of Dauda, Jacked, and others continue to eclipse mere bigness?
Two-time and current 212 Mr. Olympia Shaun Clarida stepped up to this prestigious open contest, and despite giving up a foot to Jacked and over 100 pounds to Ramy, the 5’2″ 190-pound champ did himself proud by making the first prejudging callout (with Jacked, Walker, Dauda, and Ramy) and finishing a strong fifth. He looked a little fuller, especially in the arms. On the other hand, William Bonac, who won this title in 2018 and 2020 and was second last year, was blurry and couldn’t hang with this tougher lineup.
The debate rages. Did Walker deserve to repeat? Did the right aesthetic, X-shaped, Nigerian-born bodybuilder win? Is Ramy washed? How high can Dauda and Jacked climb as they continue to fill out? The Mr. Olympia is only eight months away.
2023 ARNOLD CLASSIC RESULTS
March 3-4 / Columbus, Ohio
1. Samson Dauda ($300,000)
2. Nick Walker ($120,000)
3. Andrew “Jacked” Obiekea ($70,000)
4. Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Ellsbiay ($37,500)
5. Shaun Clarida ($20,000)
6. Akim Williams ($12,500)
7. William Bonac ($2000)
8. Justin Rodriguez ($2000)
9. Kamal El-Gargni ($2000)
10. Patrick Moore ($2000)