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the phaser cannons are a defiants primary offensive weapons, which as seen in multiple DS9 episodes, are extremely powerful against Cardassian, Dominion and Klingon warships, and only doing minimal damage to the Borg Cube in First Contact. A defiant's weapons are all pointed foward (at least on screen no aft weapons have been seen fired, although the mirror defiant did fire a phaser in the mirror universe), so its flown to where it weapons are pointed, and due to it's size, it is very manuvreable, so it's capable of being flown like a fighter. Remember is a gunboat in essense, a warship by design, large and powerful weapons strapped to a spaceframe and a warp engine, not a explorer like a galaxy class. As seen in many battles in DS9, the Defiant wieving in and out between enemy starships, using it pulse cannons to rip the enemy to pieces

The Defiant is shown using both the solid beam and short pulse shot settings on the phaser cannons many times

Also the defiant like most starship classes includes aft torpedo launchers it just doesn't use them often

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