Speed is a factor in every single combat situation. I've taken a lot of flack from certain quarters over my love of Short Bladed weapons, so let me lay out the logic. Let's assume that you are equally skilled with Long Blades, Short Blades and Axes and that you have a Steel Katana, a Steel Wakizashi and a Steel Battle Axe. We'll further assume that every attack succeeds with all three weapons (it's a stretch, but bear with me), that a weapon speed of 1 means 1 attack per second, that you always attack with your weapon's best attack and that you're going to fight for 5 seconds.
Over the course of 5 seconds, you would have completed 7 attacks with your Katana (speed is 1.5), inflicting somewhere between 21 and 140 points of damage on your opponent (best attack is Chop at 3-20).
Over the course of the same 5 seconds, you would have completed 11 attacks with your Wakizashi (speed is 2.25), inflicting somewhere between 77 and 132 points of damage on your opponent (best attack is Slash at 7-12).
Over the course of 5 seconds, you would have completed 5 attacks with your Battle Axe (speed is 1), inflicting between 5 and 180 points on your opponent (best attack is Chop at 1-36).
At the low end of the damage spectrum, your Wakizashi has inflicted more than triple the damage of the Katana and more than fifteen times the damage of the Battle Axe. At the high end of the spectrum the Battle Axe has inflicted far more damage than either of the other two, though the Wakizashi comes awfully close to the Katana. Assuming average damage, though, your Battle Axe has done 90 points of damage, your Katana has done 77 points of damage and your Wakizashi has done 99 points of damage.
Think that's a stretch? OK, let's make the weapons Daedric weapons under the same conditions:
Battle Axe: 1-80 (chop) x 5 seconds = 5-400, with average damage being 200
Katana: 3-44 (chop) x 5 seconds = 21-308, with average damage being 161 points
Wakizashi: 10-30 (slash) x 5 seconds = 110-330, with average damage being 220 points
The point of the whole exercise is to demonstrate that more attacks is going to dish out more damage, on average. Sure, the Axe is going to get lucky every once in a while and hand out a massive swat, but that fast Short Blade is going to do more damage in the long run. And I haven't even tried to factor fatigue into the equation. Swinging that Battle Axe saps your fatigue at three times the rate of the Wakizashi. The Romans weren't stupid. That Gladius was a great idea.
This is not a never-fail method, but it works well enough and often enough that it can make your life easier.
If you open up any overland area in the Construction Set and take a look at what's there, you'll see a whole bunch of little black critters called "ninja monkeys". These are semi-random critters and they can be a major pain in the rear (I recall Cliff Racers being overwhelmingly voted as "most annoying" a few months after Morrowind's release). You kill the pesky things, collect the loot, leave the area and they're all over you again when you come back through. Yep, they respawn, and usually at the most inconvenient times.
You're faced with a couple or three choices in dealing with these guys. You can just plow through and fight 'em; stick to fast-travel methods like boats, silt striders and Guild Guides; or you can try to sneak through and not attract their attention. There actually is a fourth option: don't make 'em respawn. Sure, you still have to contend with them on the first go-through, but it's reasonably safe after that, at least for a day or two.
To temporarily keep a critter from respawning, don't dispose of the corpse. Take whatever goodies you want and leave the body where it is. This lets the game associate something with that little ninja monkey the next time the area loads so that it doesn't create a new critter.
Conversely, if you WANT the encounters, make sure that you always dispose of the corpse and you'll have a fresh batch every time you pass through. Ever beat up on a Dremora outside of a ruin and all he had was a silly Dreugh Staff instead of that lovely Ebony Longsword? Dispose of the corpse, enter the ruin, pop back out and take another shot at it. Or better yet, you beat up on a Scamp, but were kind of hoping for a Golden Saint? Assuming that your level is high enough to generate one, dispose of the corpse and make the area reload.
This works very well for characters who have a ranged area-effect spell capability and the Magicka (or item charges) to back it up. It's not so useful for those who don't. If you find yourself with a hostile creature or NPC bearing down on you and can manage to get behind a closed door somewhere, you can just blast away at them until they die. Creatures and NPCs will not open doors to follow you. They'll just keep running at the closed door until you're gone or until they're dead.
Those who do not have the capability can use the breather to heal themselves, lay on some buffs or protections, or just get out of Dodge with a teleport of some kind. But the creature or NPC will still be there if/when you return.