With South African duo Johann Muller and Robbie Diack making way, Tim Barker and Pedrie Wannenburg take over in the second row and back row respectively.
There is one notable switch in the backs, as Paddy Wallace, who was rested last weekend, gets some game-time at out-half as part of the IRFU's player management programme in the build-up to next year's Rugby World Cup.
Wallace comes in for Niall O'Connor who drops to the replacements bench.
The bench also included recent Ireland cap Dan Tuohy who is set to make his return from injury.
Only two points separate these provincial rivals in the Magners League table, with Ulster coach McLaughlin admitting: "I imagine it's going to be a very tight game, so we know we can't afford to let chances slip away. We really are going to have to take them.
"Connacht have made a tremendous start to the season. They're playing a very reasonable standard of rugby, and moving the ball a bit more than may have been the case in the past.
"The Sportsground is never an easy venue, and it certainly isn't going to be easy this weekend given that Connacht have started the season so well. But we've made a good start ourselves, and are determined to get the result."
ULSTER (v Connacht): Jamie Smith; Paul Emerick, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Andrew Trimble; Paddy Wallace, Paul Marshall; Bryan Young, Rory Best (capt), Tom Court, Tim Barker, Ryan Caldwell, Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, BJ Botha, Paddy McAllister, Dan Tuohy, Willie Faloon, Ian Porter, Niall O'Connor, David McIlwaine.