Lee Haney vs. Samson Dauda: Breaking Down a Fantasy Bodybuilding Matchup – Fitnessnacks

    Samson Dauda made a statement when he won the 2023 Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH, back in March. In taking the title, he solidified his place in the top echelon of the Men’s Open division alongside elite athletes like Hadi Choopan, Nick Walker, Derek Lunsford, and Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay.

    It was also a victory for fans of bodybuilding’s bygone era as Dauda’s physique and presentation are reminiscent of a past Mr. Olympia who dominated the sport back in the ’80s: Eight-time Sandow Trophy winner Lee Haney.

    And ever since the Arnold, bodybuilding fans online have wondered what would’ve happened if Dauda and Haney met on the same stage for a posedown in their primes?

    That obviously can’t happen, but we can compare their attributes, popularity, and training styles to determine if the fantasy matchup would’ve lived up to the hype.

    Bodybuilders Lee Haney and Samson DaudaImage: @lee_haney_official and @samson__dauda on Instagram

    [Related: Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Chris Bumstead: Breaking Down a Fantasy Bodybuilding Matchup]

    Bodybuilding Accomplishments

    When it comes down to a comparison, overall accomplishments may be the toughest aspect. Dauda is in his early 30s and is just getting started; meanwhile, Haney was 31 years old when he retired in 1991 after his eighth Olympia win. The sport also has more top competitions now that weren’t around for much of Haney’s reign.

    Dauda is in his sixth professional season, having made his pro debut in 2018. So the compromise we made here is to compare Dauda’s full career with Haney’s first six years (1983-1988) in the IFBB.

    Lee Haney’s Accomplishments

    Haney had a busy schedule during his rookie year in 1983. According to Muscle Memory, he competed seven times and placed in the top three at every show, with wins at the Grand Prix Las Vegas and the Night of Champions. He also made his Mr. Olympia debut in 1983, placing third behind champion Samir Bannout.

    [Related: 10 of the Worst Exercises for Bodybuilding]

    One year later — and every year of his career after — he only competed in and won the Mr. Olympia, except in 1987 when he also won the Grand Prix Germany. So by the end of his sixth season, he already had five Olympia wins and eight victories overall. Here are Haney’s career highlights through six years as a pro:

    • Five-time Mr. Olympia (1984-1988)
    • 1983 Grand Prix Las Vegas
    • 1983 Night of Champions
    • 1987 Grand Prix Germany

    Samson Dauda’s Accomplishments

    According to NPC News Online, Dauda made his pro debut in 2018 at the Romania Muscle Fest Pro, where he placed 11th. His first pro win came at the 2021 Prague Pro, which qualified him for his first Olympia appearance at the 2022 show. He placed sixth in that contest.

    The Arnold Classic marks his only other victory as of April 2023, and his next planned contest is the 2023 Mr. Olympia in Orlando, FL, in November. The Arnold Classic win is a fine notch in Dauda’s belt, but that contest didn’t debut until 1989, which was well into Haney’s run as Mr. Olympia. The eight-time Mr. O never competed at the Arnold. 

    [Related: 10 Facts About the Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Competition]

    Dauda still has plenty of time to build up his portfolio of wins, but this portion of the matchup clearly goes to Haney for now. Here are Dauda’s top bodybuilding victories through six years as a pro:

    • 2021 Prague Pro
    • 2023 Arnold Classic

    Training Style

    When it comes to training styles in the gym, the two men have different approaches. Both are 5’11”, but Dauda is the heavier of the two men. Haney weighed in at 243 pounds during his Olympia debut and got up to 254 pounds at his final Mr. Olympia in 1991. Dauda competes around 275 pounds or so, with his off-season weight going up to as much as 330 pounds.

    Lee Haney’s Training Style

    The eight-time Mr. Olympia trained and coached himself throughout his career (though he did have training partners to add a “second set of eyes” on his progress.) He coined the mantra “stimulate, don’t annihilate,” meaning that you shouldn’t be beating the muscles up with heavy weights and lots of sets.

    Sure, he would push himself in the gym, but he never took the sets to the extreme as someone like Dorian Yates may have. Instead, he used phases in his training.

    Phase one would be a simple off-season workout. Phase two would have more volume, and finally, phase three would be pre-contest training with the highest volume. He was a fan of free weights as well.

    If you were to look at one of Haney’s routines, they’re pretty simple and straightforward — here’s a pre-contest routine he shared with Muscle & Fitness.

    Sam Dauda’s Training Style

    Dauda works with coach Milos Sarcev for his contest preps and has used several training styles over his career. He’s done single body-part training, supersets, and even Sarcev’s signature giant set workouts using mostly machines.

    [Related: The Best Bodybuilding Shoulder Workout]

    For Dauda, variety is the spice of life and muscle growth. However, he does occasionally train with straight sets, such as this delt session he shared with Hosstile:


    When it comes to fan support, there is no real way to compare the two because the internet wasn’t around in Haney’s era and magazines are few and far between today. What we do know is both champions have a great deal of fan support.

    Lee Haney’s Popularity 

    Haney was a mainstream star in the 1980s and early 1990s. He had television shows on ESPN, could be seen in videos with pro wrestlers, and was a Weider athlete throughout much of his career. You could also see him on the covers of bodybuilding magazines on the newsstands regularly.

    [Related: 9 of the Most Controversial Moments in Olympia History]

    One of Haney’s biggest honors came in 1999 when President Bill Clinton appointed him to the Council chair of the President’s Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. He served from 1999 to 2002.

    Even though he’s been retired for more than three decades, Haney still has almost 275,000 followers on Instagram and is a fixture on bodybuilding podcasts.

    Samson Dauda’s Popularity

    Dauda is still making a name for himself in the sport. The man from Nigeria now calls the United Kingdom home, and his popularity is climbing by the day. As of this writing, he has 269,000 followers on Instagram and 14,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. He’s sponsored by Hosstile, and is a regular contributor to their podcasts and social media.


    While Dauda’s posing and presentation may remind older fans of Haney’s greatness, he still has quite a bit of work to do if he wants to be as accomplished as the eight-time Mr. Olympia winner.

    Nonetheless, the potential is definitely there, and Haney himself has even noticed it, putting his own stamp of approval in an Instagram post.

    [Related: Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Muscle Gain, Weight Loss, and More]

    They won’t ever face off as competitors, but it will be great for fans to watch Dauda build up his own resume with Haney supporting him along the way.

    More Bodybuilding! 

    Be sure to check out more bodybuilding features below:

    Featured image: @lee_haney_official and @samson__dauda on Instagram

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