Titan FC 71 preview: Whitney and AlQaisi battle for vacant title, Nate Marquardt returns

Titan Fighting Championship returns to action on Aug. 6 with Titan FC 71, featuring five main card bouts and taking place from the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, FL.

In the main event of the evening, an regional featherweight from the Southeastern U.S. and a UFC veteran will clash with the vacant Titan FC 145-pound title on the line, as Andrew Whitney (16-8) goes toe-to-toe with Ali AlQaisi (9-5).

AlQaisi was originally scheduled to face off with a fellow former UFC fighter in Jacob Kilburn (8-4) for the vacant strap, but Kilburn was forced to withdraw from the main event title bout earlier this week, allowing for Whitney to get the short-notice replacement call.

A Titan FC veteran coming out of American top Team, Whitney will be competing in his first fight in two years. Whitney enters this bout off back-to-back losses in 2019 and four losses in his last six fights. In his most recent contest, which came at Titan FC 56 in August 2019, he challenged Jason Soares (14-0) for the featherweight title, losing via second-round submission in what would be Soares’s final bout before signing with the PFL.

AlQaisi won five straight, including a perfect 3-0 run in Brave CF, before being signed by the UFC. His brief Octagon tenure didn’t go his way, dropping decisions to Irwin Rivera (10-6) and Tony Kelley (7-2) before parting ways with the promotion. He got back in the win column with a first-round finish of Furkatbek Yokubov (3-2) at UAE Warriors 20 in June.

While not the evening’s official co-headliner, another big featured attraction for Titan FC 71 is the return of popular UFC and Strikeforce veteran Nate Marquardt (35-19-2). Marquardt comes out of retirement to take on Contender Series alumnus Michael Cora (5-5).

Prior to his retirement at the end of 2017, Marquardt had a memorable run in professional MMA that lasted just under 20 years, competing for promotions like the UFC, Strikeforce and Pancrase. He’s a former Strikeforce welterweight champion and Pancrase middleweight champion, as well as the 2000 King of Pancrase middleweight tournament winner. Marquardt additionally holds the distinction of competing in both the first UFC Fight Night main event and the final Strikeforce fight ever.

Known as a great grappler with his skillset in jiu-jitsu, jujutsu and Pankration, Marquardt left MMA on a three-fight losing skid, dropping decisions to Sam Alvey (33-15-1, 1 NC), Vitor Belfort (26-14, 1 NC) and Cezar Ferreira (14-9) in 2017. His last win came at a UFC Fight Night event in Portland, OR, on Oct. 1, 2016, where he scored a late, second-round knockout of Tamdan McCrory (14-5).

A grappling-focused fighter himself, Cora is a veteran of Titan FC who lost to current Bellator fighter Sidney Outlaw (16-4) on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series. That marked the start of a current downward stretch where he has lost four of his last five. He last competed at Titan FC 66 in December, getting submitted via Ezekiel choke in about two minutes by Dilano Taylor (6-1).

In the co-main event, Ryan Kuse (3-0) will look to continue the unbeaten run he’s got going in his young MMA career so far, as he’ll face Amir Naser Kazemi (1-1).

Kuse, who has seen two of his three take place in Titan FC, fought at Tita FC 68 in March, scoring a decision win over Damian Attie (1-1) in his first pro fight to go the distance.

After a first-round submission in his July 2018 pro debut, Kazemi hasn’t fought since dropping a unanimous decision to Shane Torres (2-1) in May 2019. He was set to fight Steven Martinez (0-1) earlier this year in Combate Global but that fight never came to fruition.

The card will also see two welterweights, Devon Dixon (3-0) and Brandon Lopez (3-1), both look to continue the momentum they’ve got going when they’re paired to clash.

All three of Dixon’s fights so far have seen him victorious with first-round stoppages, most recently defeating Mauro Diaz (2-3) via doctor’s stoppage at the end of round one in their Titan FC 69 bout in May.

Lopez will be making his Titan FC debut here after a trio of bouts in Global Legion FC. Lopez last fought in March, scoring a unanimous decision over Daniel Cooper (1-2). Lopez’s only loss thus far came against Ryder Newman (3-1), who is on the ongoing 29th season of The Ultimate Fighter.

The main card for Titan FC 71 is scheduled to open with a lightweight bout between Richie Lewis (1-0) and Ernesto Rodriguez (2-0).

A Rutgers University wrestling alumnus who won gold at the U23 World Championships in 2017, Lewis made his professional MMA debut at Titan FC 68 in March, defeating Danny Vega (1-3) by unanimous decision.

This will be the first Titan FC appearance for Rodriguez, who fights out of Xtreme Couture. His pro-MMA run thus far, which started only earlier this year, saw him defeat Dylan Forzani (0-1) by unanimous decision and get a first-round TKO of Austin Wourms (2-3).

Titan FC 71 kicks off at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and can be watched on UFC Fight Pass.

Titan FC 71 Preliminary Card

Three bouts will comprise the preliminary card, topped by Gustavo Vilamil (3-1) taking on Christopher Daniels (4-2-1).

Vilamil, who has seen all of his pro fights in Titan FC so far, suffered his first loss at Titan FC 68, dropping a decision to Jason Eastman (6-3) in what was Vilamil’s first fight to go past the second round.

Daniels last fought in March 2020, seeing a four-fight win streak get snapped in a first-round TKO loss to Pablo Caballero (8-8). Titan FC had attempted to book Daniels against Edwin Sarria (5-3) twice, but that bout fell through both times.

Lightweights Johnathan Ortiz (2-1) and Walter Gomez (1-1) will both square off on the prelims as well.

Ortiz made his Titan FC debut at Titan FC 67 in February with a split decision win over Ronny Hauser (0-1). He was booked to compete at Titan FC 70 against Ray Paige (1-3) and Christian Pugh (4-5, am.), but both bouts didn’t come to fruition.

Gomez has not fought in MMA since a 44-second submission win over William Sizemore (4-4) in April 2018. Gomez’s only other fight came in November 2014, losing via third-round submission to Vinney Pantaleon (3-3).

Sean Mora (1-0) and Matt Hicks (1-0) will start off the prelims. Mora made his pro debut at Titan FC 69 with a unanimous decision over Luis Peralta (4-3). Hicks’s debut came at CFFC 97 in May, scoring a unanimous decision over Kyle Broadwater (1-3).

The Titan FC 71 prelims will start at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and can be viewed on the promotion’s Facebook page.