There are three personnel changes up front. Declan Fitzpatrick is named at loosehead prop with Paddy McAllister listed among the replacements. Andi Kyriacou and Jerry Cronin complete the front row.
Lewis Stevenson comes in to partner Dan Tuohy in the second row, with Neil McComb providing positional cover on the bench.
In the back row, Robbie Diack will start at number 8 and stand-in captain Chris Henry switches to the openside flanker berth.
Mike McComish is poised to make his first competitive appearance for Ulster from the bench, having tasted some action in pre-season.
With Cardiff notching two bonus point wins in the opening two rounds, this is expected to be Ulster's toughest test yet this season. Brian McLaughlin's men are also in good form, especially at home where they have won all eight of their games in 2011.
Tickets are still available for Friday's match and can be bought online at www.ulsterrugby.com or by calling 02890493222 (option 2).
Ulster Rugby is reminding supporters that this season ticket zoning and scanning will be in operation at the ground. Supporters should check their tickets to ensure that are entering through the correct gate. More details are available here.
Fans coming to the game are also encouraged to avoid parking along Onslow Parade/Ravenhill Park and Mount Merrion Avenue as traffic control will be in operation.
ULSTER (v Cardiff Blues): Jared Payne; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Ian Whitten; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Declan Fitzpatrick, Andi Kyriacou, Jerry Cronin, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry, Robbie Diack.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Paddy McAllister, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, Adam D'Arcy.