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Martins Licis keeps winning—and The King Dragon’s position at the of the strongman world is even more justified. Licis won the 2020 Arnold Strongman USA competition in Santa Monica over the weekend in dramatic fashion, defending his 2019 win at the event in the process and qualifying for the 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic competition later this year.

The reigning World’s Strongest Man came from behind to leapfrog four-time World’s Strongest Man winner Brian Shaw and upstart Max Boudreaux in the final event of the competition, the Bag Carry. Licis wound up edging Shaw for the title by a single point, winning 52 to 51.

The strongman celebrated his win on Instagram, giving credit to his competitors, coaches, and Arnold himself. The Governator responded with just one emoji: 💪.

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What an unbelievable moment. Going into the last event, 4.5 points behind first place, behind @shawstrength and @max.boudreault23 (they were SAVAGE competitors!)… to then put to test all my mettle and will on the final event, to snatch back the victory I was determined to take. – @arnoldsports Finals, Ohio, HERE I COME! – Giant thank you to my sponsors: @reignbodyfuel (for keeping me energized! ⚡️) @kindafitkindafat_apparel (for keeping me kinda stylish, and extremely/hilariously relatable!), @sbd.usa (for the best supportive equipment I could ask for! 🦾) @roguefitness (for the best training equipment 💪) and of course, I couldn’t do this show without the incredible support of my closest friends and team; giant thank you to @romarkweiss for being by side through all of the training that went into this and making sure the World sees the great work we do! Thank you @joneck74 for being my handler and helping me score those valuable points in throwing (onwards and upwards, were just getting started). Thank you @mrgura for checking in on me daily to make sure I was stretching and eating, and just all around giving me great love and support! Thank you to @probodycoach for the best nutritional guidance for BEASTLY STRENGTH! Thank you @mike_gillert for coaching me and making sure my head game was strong! It made a huge difference! Thank you @reddpanduhh for the oranges, titty slaps, and the warmest hugs! Thank you to @lindseybowenn for being in my corner again, and being laser-focused with your attentiveness! You’re a pro! Thank you @o_sardana_wrestling For believing in me and being a great training partner! Thank you @freeyourself83 for working on my neck and keeping me healthy! Thank you @phil_sturnasko for holding the fort, and being a great help during my training! Thank you @henrypenzi for taking me on and believing in me! Thank you @oddhaugen for the amazing community of strength we are all a part of, and for making all of this possible! Thank you, @schwarzenegger and @njustin916 for putting together the best strongman show that exists!

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Shaw, meanwhile, was disappointed with the results, but ultimately stayed humble about his second place finish in his own Instagram post. Due to the loss, Shaw won’t qualify for the 2020 Arnold Strongman Classic, the first time he’ll miss the contest in 11 years, according to Barbend.

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The Arnold Santa Monica is a wrap and it was an amazing event! Thank you to @schwarzenegger and everyone involved for putting on a great event! – I didn’t have the contest that I was hoping to have, but I am very proud to have fought through the adversity I had to face around the contest. At the end of the day none of that matters and only the end result is what is important and the bottom line is I came up one point short of winning. Congratulations to @martinslicis on his win and @max.boudreault23 on his great 3rd place performance – Thank you to my sponsors @redcon1 @trifectasystem @roguefitness @getnewage for all of their support and always being in my corner! Thank you to @probodycoach for helping me to get back on track with my diet and performance. And of course thank you to my team for everything (you know who you are)…last but not least thank you to my wife @fitmommy_kerishaw for your unwavering love and support…I couldn’t do it without you! – Thank you to all of you for your support! Big things are coming in 2020! @evolutionathleticsgear #shawstrength #begreat

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Licis walked Men’s Health through his winning training split ahead of the competition, sharing his best tips on a lower body pull workout with his trademark mix of silliness and raw strength. He didn’t wind up winning the deadlift event at the competition like he predicted in the video (Rauno Heinla took the event with 9 reps), but Licis’ prep clearly paid off.

Licis will face a strong field when the Arnold Strongman Classic rolls around later this year in March. He’ll look to knock off defending champion Hafthor Björnsson, a.k.a. The Mountain, who Licis defeated as an underdog to take the WSM title last year. Björnsson wound up taking third after injuring his foot. Both competitors look to enter the event healthy, giving fans a top-level clash at one of the sport’s premier events.

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