Rafael Carvalho will make his first Bellator MMA middleweight title defense against Melvin Manhoef in the Bellator 155 headliner on May 20.
The California-based promotion announced the contest on Friday night. Bellator 155 takes place at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho and will see Georgi Karakhanyan face Pat Curran at featherweight in the evening’s co-main event.
Carvalho pulled off one of 2015’s biggest upsets when knocked out Brandon Halsey with a body kick in the second round to claim 185-pound gold at Bellator 144 last October. The Brazilian has not lost since his MMA debut in 2011 and has stopped 10 of his last 12 opponents.
Manhoef earned his shot at the belt by punching out Hisaki Kato in the opening round of their November encounter at Bellator 146. Prior to that win, the veteran striker had been knocked out in back-to-back bouts, though his February 2015 defeat to Alexander Shlemenko was later overturned.
Curran will enter the cage after a nine-month layoff looking to build on his June 2015 win over Emmanuel Sanchez. “Paddy Mike” had lost three of his previous four outings, including five-round decisions in title fights against Daniel Straus and Patricio Freire.
Karakhanyan will attempt to rebound from a December decision loss to Daniel Weichel at Bellator 147. The Millennia MMA product missed out on a chance to challenge for the Bellator featherweight belt when a torn ACL took him out of a June 2015 meeting with Freire.