Willie Faloon suffered a shoulder injury in training and is unavailable for selection so Robbie Diack is promoted from the bench to start at number 8.
As a result, Pedrie Wannenburg moves to blindside flanker and Chris Henry switches to the openside flank. Thomas Anderson, who will join Connacht in the summer, will start on the bench as back row cover.
The province's back-line is unchanged from the win over Connacht at Ravenhill two weeks ago, with Darren Cave and IRUPA Young Player of the Year Nevin Spence continuing their centre partnership.
Ulster require only a losing bonus point against the Dragons to ensure progression to the Magners League play-offs.
However, a win for the Ulstermen, coupled with a defeat for Leinster against Glasgow, would secure a home semi-final spot for Brian McLaughlin's side.
ULSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Adam D'Arcy; Conor Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best (capt), Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Paddy McAllister, Jerry Cronin, Tim Barker, Thomas Anderson, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Conor Gaston.