To answer the question about why a site with fewer links will outrank a site with a ton, or how to get your website with a few links to outrank one with a few hundred thousand you need to look at what a link is.
Before we had smartphones, schema, and concepts like E-A-T, the search engines needed a way to determine the trust of a website and a specific page within that website.
Now that PageRank doesn’t exist (at least as we knew it back then), we have other ways to help build the trust and authority of our website.
If your website and the page in particular meet these trust and authority signals, you may now have the ability to compete with the website and webpages that have more links.
You can build trust by have licensed and credible people in the niche create or sign off on your content.
Just because someone is your CEO does not mean they are credible or established. That is one of the hardest pills for an executive to swallow.
Yes, quality backlinks will help you rank more easily than merit alone, but there are things you can do while you begin acquiring links so that you can beat a website or webpage that has 10X or 100X the amount of links you do.