In a clinch-heavy three-rounder, Lyman Good was better than Jim Wallhead every step of the way.
Only a late-fight point deduction for an errant knee diminished the ex-Bellator champ's performance in the opening round of Bellator's season 7 welterweight tournament.
All three judges still gave Good the fight by unanimous scores of 29-27 in the headliner of Bellator 74, which took place at Caesar's Atlantic City in Atlantic City, N.J. Main-card fights served on MTV2 following prelims on Spike.com.
Goodman afterward said the win was a first step toward getting back the gold that was once around his waist.
"It's a good way for me to start my adventure back to getting that belt around my waist again," he told Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith.
In addition to his across-the-board scores of 29, Good earned a triple-word score for describing the field of semifinal opponents as a "plethora of good talent."
Good and Wallhead barely gave each other enough distance to extend punches, preferring to spend much of the fight in the clinch. But when they did, it was Good's arrow-straight jab that repeatedly found Wallhead's face and aggravated a cut opened in the midst of a flurry of strikes in close.
By round two, Wallhead had run out of answers for Good's work inside and provided an increasingly stationary target for the jab. His attempt at a takedown was thoroughly stuffed, and leg kicks didn't help his mobility.
A final push late in the third round only prompted a flurry of punches from Good, who counter-charged and landed a knee south of the border that prompted referee Dan Miragliotta to take a point (an earlier inside leg kick was Good's first offense).
It was almost a shutout, however. Good (13-2 MMA, 6-2 BFC), who won the belt in season 1 and ceded it to current champ Ben Askren following season 2, now improves to three straight wins following a loss to Rick Hawn in the season 4 semifinals that halted his comeback.
Wallhead (23-7 MMA, 1-2 BFC) goes back to the drawing board following notable wins over Frank Trigg and Joey Villasenor.